Canon EOS 50D faces up to Live View

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Canon has today officially announced the 15.5 megapixel APS-C EOS 50D. This is a 1.6X factor sensor, packing a density well in excess of the Alpha 350 – if Sony was to make an Alpha with the same pixel density it would be 17.5 megapixels, and a full framer would be 38.5 megapixels.

EOS 50D with 17-85mm

EOS 50D with 17-85mm

The camera was pre-announced (or accidentally leaked) a week or so before the official news release which we have reproduced on

What it interesting is that Canon must have fixed the almost-unusable Live View with off-sensor AF, moving on from the 1000D and earlier LV implementations. None of these could be considered suitable for photographing people, as the focus was too slow off sensor for moving subjects, and the mirror-flip mode mode with regular AF offered no advantage over using the optical finder.

But for the 50D Canon states it has:

“3.0 Inch Clear View VGA LCD with Live View mode & Face Detection Live AF”

It is not possible to imagine Face Detection Live AF unless the LV mode is changed beyond all recognition. None of the earlier Canon models with Live AF would be suitable for pictures of people, taking anything up to 3 seconds to adjust and lock focus even on static subjects. This is clearly not just a new addition of Face Detection, it must also be a radically improved Live View.

Another intriguing statement from Canon:

“A new Creative Auto mode offers automatic focus and exposure – while still allowing creative ‘tweaks’ to settings such as background sharpness.”

Settings such as Background Sharpness? This is an entirely new setting. There has never been a DSLR with a setting called Background Sharpness, or a mode controlling it, though the old barcode system for the film-based EOS models, and the Creative Expansion Card system for the Minolta Dynax models of the early 1990s, offered portrait and depth of field control modes.

It appears to be just an aperture adjustment made through a simplified interface – background and foreground sharpness, not background alone. This interface also positions the 50D as a consumer camera, which has never been the case with the XXD series before now.

The feature list given for the EOS 50D is:

  • 15.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 6.3fps continuous shooting, max. burst 90 JPEGs with UDMA card
  • DIGIC 4 processor
  • ISO 100-3200, expandable to 12800
  • 9-point wide area AF
  • 3.0” Clear View VGA LCD with Live View mode & Face Detection Live AF
  • Magnesium alloy body, with environmental protection
  • EOS Integrated Cleaning System
  • HDMI connection for high quality viewing and playback on a High Definition TV
  • Full compatibility with Canon EF and EF-S lenses and EX-series Speedlites

The EOS 50D (body only) is available from end of September 2008 priced at £1199.99 / €1599.99 RRP inc. VAT.  The EOS 50D EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM kit is available from end of September 2008 priced at £1499.99 / €1949.99 RRP inc. VAT.

These UK/Ireland prices also help preview the likely (higher of course) cost of Sony’s Alpha 900 – or indeed any Alpha 700 successor. The Euro prices given for Ireland may not necessarily be for the whole of Europe.

18-200mm IS lens

Canon 18-200mm IS EF-S lens

Canon 18-200mm IS EF-S lens

Answering a long-felt need, Canon has also finally respond to public demand and designed a superzoom (we presume it has not been bought-in from Sigma!). The new 18-200mm ƒ3.5-5.6 (one third of a stop faster at the long end than the Tamron/Sony 18-200mm, and matching Nikon’s VR specification) will cost £549 RRP inc VAT UK (approx $900 before tax, US equivalent). Design? Somehow the silver ring makes it look worth less than £549. It would have been better in an all-black finish.

At the time of this announcement, the Sony Alpha 200 complete with 18-200mm SAL lens is generally offered for £489/499, as a kit.

Canon chose to release this information at 6.00am on the same day that Nikon staged a UK new product press conference in London. The competition is clearly sharpening knives all round. Wait for our news from the Nikon conference, whatever the D90 may turn out to be…

– DK

One comment

  • There is no doubt in my mind that the advent of Sony on the DSLR scene has spurred both Canon & Nikon to accelerate product development and release. It would seem to me that both the 4/3 system promoters and Pentax/Samsung are finding it hard to keep up. Would I like a Canon 50D with a 15.1 Mp sensor? Probably if I had not invested in a Sony system based on A700/350 DSLRs. It looks good but I feel that with current technology I have reached a point where new cameras do not add anything to what I want to achieve. I mainly focus on photographing landscape, architecture and travel for Alamy using mostly low ISO settings. The high ISO “problems” on the A700 in ACR are “lost” on me. Both my Sony cameras and lenses perform better than what is basically required for my purposes. Would I need better software than CS3/ACR 4? The answer is no. This combination can do everything I need to do. What would get me back into the DSLR market when my A700 might want early retirement? The A700 body & feature set upgraded to incorporate LV as in the A350 but using 3″ screen and a CMOS sensor at 17.5 Mp (see DK above) with the resolution detail and low noise as Canon claims for their 50D as opposed to what it may actually achieve. We will see what Sony proposes to do in 2009 when they have got their A900 released but the battle between the “big three” is definitely hotting up. On the D90 I have read comments on the Video function and it does appear to be pretty rudimentary in its function. I really feel that it will be difficult for the DSLR producers in future to produce the “big leaps” in terms of useful feature sets at lower prises they were able to achieve from the introduction of the ground-breaking Canon A300. The current cameras are just so good for normal work that reasons to “trade up” will diminish progressively. What am I looking at instead? The performance of the Panasonic LX3 with Leica’s 24-60 equivalent F2 lens. That might just be the job for my pocket when I am away without a DSLR and the sun is shining. Waiting for the price to drop to around £250 to equal what I paid for my excellent LX2 (as long as I shoot raw at ISO100). Best offer just now is just above the £300 mark.

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