In the end it was the reliability that did it. Over the last few months my trusty 300D has been coming up with odd errors, refusing to recognise memory cards and generally getting cantankerous. Luckily I have always been able to coax it back to life but in the end the thought of travelling somewhere and have it fail became more painful than the anticipated hole in my bank account.

I decided to stick to Canon since I already have a couple of decent lenses. Having discounted the 450D and 5D Mk II for performance and cost reasons respectively, the 50D pretty much selected itself.

What follows is not a review of the 50D; there are plenty of those already. Instead it’s my subjective experience moving up from Canon’s consumer DSLR range to its enthusiast/semi-pro range. Unless you’re the kind of person who upgrades every eighteen months you may also be surprised at how much things have changed in five years.

First impressions were positive. It feels good and solid. Playing around with it before I got it home it seemed heavy. However side-by-side with my 300D ((I bought it in North Carolina so it’s badged as a “Digital Rebel.” Since it’s called the 300D here in Europe and as “Rebel” is a stupid name, I’m going to ignore the label and use its numeric code.)) the difference wasn’t as great as I had initially feared. There’s a much greater difference between the 300 and 300D than the 300D and the 50D. I guess most of the pictures and comparisons you see are with the 400D and 450D which are much smaller and lighter than the five year old 300D ((One disadvantage of trying to take a picture of both your old and new camera is that you have nothing decent left to actually take the picture on! This is taken on my iPhone.)).

Canon EOS 300D vs EOS 50D
Canon EOS 300D vs EOS 50D

Other superficial comparisons are pretty much night-and-day. A short list of immediately obvious differences: the 50D’s screen on the back is nearly twice the size and much brighter; the viewfinder seems huge and bright; it’s better balanced with my 17-85mm lens; the buttons are more numerous and have a more positive action; the “clunk” of the mirror flipping up even, somehow, sounds better. Basically, it’s more expensive and feels like it.

There are a few things that don’t feel like improvements, though I’m sure I’ll get used to them. On the 300D there are a number of buttons to the left of the screen. You can happily prod them with your left thumb while holding the camera normally. Those same buttons are below the screen on the 50D, presumably because they wouldn’t fit anywhere else. The main thing, though, is that with the 300D you could have the review — the image that appears on the screen for a couple of seconds after you take the picture — display with a histogram rather than just the image. I’ve not figured out how to do that with the 50D yet. [Update: Turns out that the option is “sticky,” unlike on the 300D where it’s a menu item. Thanks to the friendly people on for answering that.]

My first outing was on the south bank of the Thames between London Bridge and Waterloo, from about five-thirty to six-thirty. The idea was to get a feel for the camera, try to get familiar with the controls and test out the low light performance.

Having used the 300D for five years, the first thing that struck me was how fast it was. I’ve been used to waiting five seconds for the machine to switch on, a pause while it writes the image to the memory card, a further pause while it displays the image on the rear screen. There’s none of that with the 50D, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that it’s working with fifteen mega-pixel images rather than “only” six. Maybe all moderns DSLRs are like that?

But it’s not just technical speed, but handling speed. The rear dial and the mini-joystick allow you to access the options that little bit more quickly that the menu system. The view finder is also bigger and brighter, meaning that the display at the bottom is also easier to read. This is going to help avoid some silly errors. I’d like to see the mode displayed too, as I still have a tendency to leave it in aperture priority mode when, say, I meant to switch it back to program.

This increase in speed is going to leave me with more time to think about the picture I want to take.

This is a JPEG saved with more-or-less the default settings — I changed the picture style to neutral — and the only mucking around I did in Photoshop was to resize it.

St Pauls and Millennium Bridge
St Pauls and Millennium Bridge

A new option to me is auto-ISO, which selects an appropriate sensitivity just as program mode selects the aperture and shutter speed. It picked ISO1600 here. It’s not super-sharp, but it was taken hand-held at 1/6sec with IS enabled.

Here’s a 100% crop of the darkest/noisiest part of the image (on the bridge):

100% crop at ISO1600
100% crop at ISO1600

There’s definitely visible noise but I think it’s very useable. By comparison, I wasn’t happy going much beyond ISO400 on the 300D. At a Music Roll Exchange gig I mainly used ISO800 but ended up converting to black and white and adding grain in Photoshop to disguise the noise. Here’s an example:

Music Roll Exchange
Music Roll Exchange

And here’s a 100% crop on the bottom-right:

100% on 300D at ISO800
100% on 300D at ISO800

They’re two very different shots in very different circumstances so it’s not a completely fair comparison, but the gist is at half the sensitivity there is more noise. Technology moves fast.

One other thing that has changed quickly is the file sizes. When Photography Monthly reviewed the Canon EOS 50D this month, one of the few listed “cons” was the size of the image files produced, as though you could have a fifteen megapixel camera that produced tiny files without losing any data ((When I reviewed my Minolta Scan Dual II back in early 2002 I wrote, “It?s much better than a digital camera, too. That resolution is roughly equivalent to a ten mega-pixel digital. Don?t bother looking in the shops for one of those just yet.” CMOS sensors improved even faster than I anticipated.)). Truth be told, the images are huge. Even when told to output in “medium” size, images are eight megapixel — more than the maximum of the 300D. I have difficulty saying that this is a bad thing, though.

Overall, I’m finding very little to say that is bad. I knew that there would be a jump from the 300D to the 50D but I really wasn’t prepared for how big it is. It’s looking like a good year for me on the photography front.


5 responses to “Canon EOS 50D”

  1. Congrats on your new camera! I’m also a slow updater, I’m still on my first digital camera, an EOS 30D. I’ve had it for three years now and don’t plan on upgrading for at least another three years or so.

  2. Very recently went through a very similar upgrade. Moved from the 300D to a used 5D. I had shot with the 300D for a number of years and really don’t have any major problems with it. Just wanted a bit more camera I suppose.
    Like yourself, I am really enjoying the upgrade thus far. The 300D will always be around as a backup, or at least until it goes to DSLR heaven.

  3. I just ordered the 50D. I’ve been using the XT which has been a great camera. I’m waiting anxiously for a Thursday delivery.
    I’m a quick learner when it comes to things tecno, so I anticipate, through some trial and error, some very nice images.
    Any hints or tips you may have is appreciated.

  4. Thank you for this analysis. I am in the same position as you were, with a 300d. There are very few comparisons of the two cameras so I found this helpful. Unfortunately, I think I will need to upgrade my 7 year old MAC before the camera body. Something tells me that it will really struggle opening a 15 mb photo when it practically stalls on a 4mb file now.

  5. Ciera Autry avatar
    Ciera Autry

    Between me and my friend we’ve had more cameras over the months than I can remember, including many different Canons, Sonys, Samsungs and many more brands. But, the last few weeks I’ve settled down to one line of cameras. Why? Cuz I was happy to take take notice of how well-designed and fun the underrated (and widely mocked) Canon EOS Rebel T2 actually is. With it I have been able to take the most amazing pictures. That’s all I wanted to tell, hope you have a great day and make sure to take some cool photos!