Canon recently released the latest of its successful EOS series of digital SLR cameras: the 50D. It is an excellent camera. The 50D comes out less than a year after the previous EOS model: the Canon EOS 40D. It, too, is an excellent camera.
Being how both models are so excellent the question becomes: Which is the more excellent? Or, more accurately phrased: Is the 50D worth the extra $250~400 above what the 40D costs? Spot Cool Stuff compares the two Canons and provides the answer . . .
Camera Body Build & Design
In terms of look and feel, the Canon 40D and 50D are virtually identical. The bodies of each have the exact same dimensions, though the 50D weighs in at 822 grams (1.8 lbs) or a minuscule 14 grams lighter than the 40D. The 50D also has slightly better weatherization (including sensors that are more dust-resistant), an HDMI output jack, and a significantly more vibrant LCD display. (The 40D screen is a little hard to see in direct sunlight).
But the biggest design difference is one you can’t see or feel: The 50D will take approximately 800 shots on a single battery charge while the 40D will take a whopping 1,100. In other words, the newer 50D can only take 70% of the photos the 40D can on a single charge.
If Canon’s marketing is to be believed, the 50D’s most significant upgrade is its 15 megapixel sensor; the 40D’s sensor is 10 megapixel. Spot Cool Stuff, however, encourages you to ignore this difference. A photo taken at 15 megapixels isn’t any higher quality than one taken at 10 megapixels. Indeed, all those extra pixels can cause a photo to be of lower quality (see below). Above 6 megapixels the only thing more pixels really gets you is the ability to make a larger print. A10 megapixel shot, such as those taken by the 40D, can produce a full-resolution 13 x 19 inch (33 x 48 cm) print. Unless you want to make prints larger than that you’ll be fine megapixel-wise with the 40D. The 50D, however, does have some other features that the 40D does not. Here are some of them from most to least important (as judged by Spot Cool Stuff):
- The 50D has more intuitive controls including a Quick Control screen that gives you access to the most frequently changed settings.
- The auto ISO goes to 1600 on the 50D, versus to 800 for the 40D. In manual mode, the 40D works in ISOs from 100 to 1600 with a 3200 “high” setting. For the 50D, those figures are 100 to 3200 with two “high” settings: 6400 and 12800.
- The 50D’s auto mode now includes facial recognition that will adjust photo settings accordingly.
- The 50D takes photos in a new sRAW format, or a RAW image that’s half the size of the full fledged RAW.
- The 50D offers Lens Peripheral Illumination Correction. In other words, the 50D’s software makes sure that the lighting at the edges of your photo matches that in the middle.
It is unlikely that you find any of those new features earth-shattering. Click here for the complete list of the feature differences between these two EOS models.
Photographers who have extensively used both cameras are divided on which produces the better images, though almost all would agree that the differences are slight. Some say the 50D’s more advanced processor produces the better result. Others say that the 50D’s photos are a little darker and less colorful. From our own use Spot Cool Stuff is ready to call it a tie. In normal conditions, the 40D and 50D take virtually identical photos.
It is in low light conditions where the differences become a little more apparent. At least to some eyes. While the 50D can work at higher ISOs than the 40D, the high-ISO performance of the 40D might be a bit better. To the extent this is true it is because the 50D has an additional 5 megapixels to process. Check out the difference for yourself . . .
. . . below are two photos taken under the most similar conditions possible. The left half was taken with a 50D, the right half with a 40D. Both photos were taken at 3200 ISO, the speed at which the quality difference between the two cameras is greatest (and the photos are at their most noisy). If you can’t tell the difference, or don’t care about the difference, then consider the these two EOS cameras equally capable of taking great photos.
So which camera should you buy? The Canon EOS 40D. Probably.
For most people there are not enough new features on the 50D to justify the extra expense. This is particularly true if you have a fixed budget for all your camera equipment. For you, it would be a far, FAR superior strategy to get the 40D and then put some of that savings into a higher quality lens. A good lens on a 40D will easily produce higher quality photos than an average lens on the 50D. Certainly, if you already own a 40D it is not worth upgrading to a 50D.
That said, there is one significant group for whom we would recommend the 50D. If you’ve never owned a digital SLR camera, are looking to get into SLR photography in a semi-serious way, and have enough money to purchase a decent lens for your camera then you’d be better off with the 50D. This is because the user controls on the 50D are significantly more intuitive and because, in auto mode, the 50D behaves more like the point-and-shoot you are used to than does the 40D.
Regardless of which camera you select Spot Cool Stuff suggests you buy the body only and NOT the starter kit. The lens that comes in the standard Canon kit is rather mediocre. You would be better off purchasing lenses a la crate. Here some of the lenses we suggest (lenses are interchangeable between the 40D and 50D):
- Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS – If you are looking for one great all purpose lens that won’t explode your budget, this is it.
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L – Semi-expensive but still the best telephoto lens with image stabilization. Very highly suggested.
- Sigma Zoom Super Wide Angle AF 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 – Superb value in a wide angle lens. This Sigma, combined with the Canon telephoto (above) makes the perfect lens duo for your new Canon, giving you a combined zoom of 17-200mm.
- Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM Super Telephoto – Our dream lens. Very expensive but unbelievably good for sports and animal photography.
- Lens set: Tamron 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 and 75-300mm f/4-5.6 – We hesitated mentioning this two-lens set because neither one of these lens are outstanding. However, they produce about the same quality of photos that the lens that’s included in the standard Canon kit does while providing a much greater range of focal lengths. This Tamron lens set is an ideal purchase if you are starting out in photography or if you absolutely can’t afford one of the better, more expensive, lenses above.
- 50mm f/1.8 – No zoom but super fast, very light and an amazing value at only $80. We carry it along with a $1,000 lens and when both are at 50mm this cheap lens might even be better. It is a must-have 2nd or 3rd lens no matter what your budget is.
The Best Backpacks For SLR Cameras
The Ratio of Megapixels to Photo Print Size
Why the Olympus Evolt E420 Should Be Your First Digital SLR
The Cool, Pocketable Flip Mino Camcorder (HD)
Professional, Super HD with the Sanyo Xacti HD1010 Camcorder