Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Camera - Canon SX50 HS

I haven't been watching new equipment announcements so I didn't know about the Canon SX50 HS until a friend told me. I was dismissive at first because it was so inexpensive I had a hard time seeing how it could generate high quality images at a 1200mm equivalent angle of view but it nagged at me because of the times I've had to pass on photos simply because my lens wouldn't pull in the subject. I had a chance to get one on sale and on an impulse I bought it. This is a mini-review which is to say I'm not going into the kind of detail that review sites like DP Review do. Just my impressions in my (so far) limited use of it.

The photos here come from an outing yesterday to a local trail along the Racquette River. I took the SX50 HS but not a tripod. I was on snowshoes and did have one hiking pole with a small ballhead on the camera screw under the knob. I shot 65 photos. I lost one series of 4 or 5 photos because some water drops got on the lens and I missed seeing that until I got home. My fault, not the camera's.

The photos below were shot with the lens at or nearly at full extension. I used the hiking pole and a convenient tree for stabilizing the camera. Both have been subjected to my 3 stage sharpening (Detail controls in Lightroom, export to Photoshop, apply USM 15/60/0 and Smart Sharpening 75% at 0.3 radius). The Smart Sharpening settings I use vary according to final image size and the type of output. These are settings I frequently use for an 800 pixel wide web image.
 For reference below is a broad view, although not the full width of the widest angle the camera can do, taken from exactly the same position as the two icicle shots. All were shot as RAW images. The icicle shots both come from the area outlined in red, they are left and right at the base of the rock. The water's edge on my side of the river was about 8-10 feet in front of me.
 I'm still getting used to the controls which are significantly different from my other Canon cameras. The buttons on the back are too easily pressed, causing unintended changes in settings and the power button not easily enough. You have to press it with some deliberateness to turn the camera on or off. I lost 2 or 3 shots at the longest focal length due to camera movement, not surprising for such a long lens. A tripod would have been better than the pole and a cable release would help too. For the money though, and with care, the camera is quite a good performer.

 The closeups were 1/13th sec. @ f/6.3. The lens only stops down to f/8 and wide open is f/3.4. Neither closeup image was cropped, they are the full 3000x4000 pixels so at 240ppi I could print them 12'X16". At 300ppi they would be 10"x13".

This camera won't replace the 7D but  will be more like a supplement for when I need the kind of reach that I don't have and can't afford for the DSLR, not to mention that a DSLR lens of similar length could be a weight concern. The longest SLR lens Canon makes is 800mm. It weighs 9.9# and costs $14K. To get to approximately 1200mm you'd need a 1.4 Tel-extender which weighs only ½# but adds another $500. The SX50 HS cost me $400 on sale. Would the performance of the 7D with a tel-extender and 800mm lens be $14,100 better? I don't think so, at least not for me. I don't do that much telephoto shooting. The SX50 may replace the G11 for hiking when photography is not the object of the hike but I want a camera along.

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