Is the Canon 50D worth it?


I was quite surprised to hear about the new Canon 50D. Many people are wondering if it’s a worthy upgrade. Here’s my take on it.

Why 15 megapixels?
After all, one of Canon’s top of the line bodies, The 1D Mark III, has 10 megapixels and is being used at major events throughout the world. The majority of the breathtaking images from Beijing were taken with either the Mark III or the 12 megapixel Nikon D3. If 10-12 megapixels is good enough for some of the largest magazines and newspapers in the country, then why do we need more? I’m a loyal Canon user, but I have to say, this appears to be marketing hype. Hey Nikon, “I have more megapixels than you”. Personally, I think it’s overkill, and it will actually cost users more money. Besides the need for at least 4 GB memory cards, you will also need a bigger hard drive, and more ram to work with these over sized files.

It’s the same speed:
To me, one of the strengths of the Canon 40D is the ability to shoot 6.3 frames per second in RAW format. The buffer is large, and allows you to keep shooting without images bottlenecking and slowing you down. The 50D is also capable of 6.3 frames per second. It seems Canon did not want to make the 50D any faster, as it would be too close to the Mark III and it's 10 fps. Regardless, I’ve found 6.3 to be fast enough to capture fast paced sports, as well as fleeting wildlife opportunities.

The LCD screen:
The 3 inch screen on the 40D is a nice size, but it is lacking in resolution. It is perfect for checking your histogram, and composition, but not to determine sharpness. The 50D is reported to have a better screen. This is a welcome change.

ISO Sensitivity:
The 50D is capable of ISO 12800. That is a full stop faster than the $4000 MARK III, and two stops better than the 40D which tops out at ISO 3200. This is a considerable achievement. Yet, will you really need ISO 12800? Personally, I have yet to need ISO 3200 on my 40D.

In Closing:
Only a few short days after the 50D specs were made public, Nikon announced the new D90 for $999 which will give users the ability to shoot HD video in addition to 12 mp still frames. In my opinion, this was a major development as the ever changing photo industry now calls for images to print, and video for the web. Perhaps the Canon 60D or 70D will include video capability along with the option to toggle between full frame and 1.6 crop mode. Until then, my camera of choice will remain the 40D.

For more on the 40D, check out this interesting post by Art Morris.

**********UPDATE**********
A few months after I ran this post, DP Review did a complete review of the Canon 50D and found that it had some serious problems that the 40D did not have. It seems that the issues stem from trying to squeeze 15 megapixels into a small crop factor sensor. Check it out for yourself here: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos50d/page31.asp