Shooting extreme close-ups of subjects requires a good super-zoom lens, especially when it comes to wildlife and architecture. A DSLR with a super telephoto lens (the ones you see in sports photography during matches) would be any photographer’s dream. However, only the lens would cost as much as a mid-size car! A cheaper alternative would be an enthusiast-class super-zoom digital camera, which would cost as much as an entry-level DSLR.
One such option is Canon’s latest flagship super-zoom camera, the PowerShot SX50 HS, which is the first to feature a 50x zoom lens. Let’s find out what it has in store for shutterbugs.
A versatile super-zoom with a 50x zoom lens
Design and features
The SX50 HS is the successor to the SX40 HS—this time Canon has gone all out with upgrading the feature set. The most significant change is the 50x zoom lens, up from 35x featured on the SX40. The lens of both the SX40 HS and SX50 HS start from 24 mm; however, the latter goes way up to 1200 mm (35 mm equivalent). Thus, you have a good focal range to play with—be it macro, wide landscapes, portraits or capturing the minute details in distant objects, one lens does it all.
24 mm - fully wide
220 mm - almost 1/4th way to full zoom
1200 mm - full zoom, handheld!
Now, you may think it would be difficult to capture blur-free shots at 1200 mm with the camera handheld. Canon has been thoughtful about this and has provided two buttons on the side of the lens. The topmost Seek button when pressed and held zooms out so that it’s easy to locate subjects, or relocate the subject zoomed into and lost track of. When released, the lens resumes the set focal length. The Lock button does exactly what it says—when kept pressed, the IS mechanism kicks in and helps maintain a steady frame and keep the focus locked on the subject. Obviously, 50x optical zoom is most comfortable to use with the camera mounted on the tripod, but the Seek and Lock button go a long way in helping to locate subjects and getting crisp hand-held shots at full zoom.
Seek and lock buttons on the side
The 12 MP CMOS sensor that the SX50 HS features, is borrowed from its predecessor. The largest image size is 4000 x 3000 pixels, which translates to an aspect ratio of 4:3. The ratio can be set to 1:1, 5:4, 3:2 and 16:9 from the settings, but the resultant cropping will lead to lower resolution photos. Those who are meticulous about getting pristine results will like the support for RAW format added to the SX50 HS. It’s the first time that Canon has added this feature to its flagship super-zoom model. Hot-shoe for external flash is also a new addition. It allows using Canon Speedlite EX flash strobes to enhance low-light capabilities.
Swiveling display makes shooting easy
Like the SX40 HS, the latest model also features a 2.8-inch LCD display that tilts and swivels, but the resolution has been doubled from 230K to 461K. This was badly needed and it’s a big relief from the low-resolution display with chunky pixels. Another big improvement is the larger range of ISO speed. The SX40 HS had a range of ISO 100 to 3200 and the increments were in full steps (100, 200, 400 and so on). The ISO speed in SX50 HS can be set anywhere between 80 to 6400 in 1/3-step increments (100, 125, 160, 200 and so on).
12 shooting modes, hot-shoe for flash and EVF
The mode dial has 12 shooting modes, which include two custom modes, PASM, Auto, Scene, Effect filters and Video. The Scene and Effect filter modes don’t have a raft of presets, which at times can be confusing to choose. Instead, Canon has chosen to include only the ones that would be most useful. There are 10 preset scene modes including Portrait, Smooth skin, Handheld Night Scene, Snow, Fireworks, Sports and Stitch Assist. The Panorama mode, which automatically stitches 180 and 360 degree panoramic shots on-the-fly, is seen in many mainstream and super-zoom cameras. This would have been a nice addition instead of the Stitch Assist mode that only helps you align the panned shots; the stitching has to be done on the PC. The selection of effect filters is excellent and this is one of the features that makes the SX50 HS fun to use. You can choose from 10 filters including HDR, Fish-eye, Miniature, Toy Camera and Color Accent (selective colour). While some cameras allow shooting videos with the filter effects enabled, this one doesn’t. However, you can set the white balance and use colour settings to enhance the colours in recorded videos. You can either choose to go sepia or black-and-white, darken or lighten skin tone or enhance saturation of selected colours for more vibrant results. The SX50 HS can record videos at up to full HD resolution with the option to use the entire focal range while shooting. Since the lens features an ultrasonic motor for zooming in and out, there’s no question of the mic picking the distracting sound of the lens motor.
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