Well – the last photo taken on Friday night was photo number 1370. Not bad for about 10 days with a camera. Some folks have asked what I think of the usability and differences/similarities.
With all the forum chatter about pixel peeping on noise, resolution, and if the camera is worth it, I’ll start off with why I bought and what I was looking to get out of the 50D.
Oh – click on the images to enlarge – I’ve included EXIF info in the popup versions. Tho it seems that the lens info is not coming across. In order of posting in this post – 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, 100-400 f/3.5-5.6 L IS w/ stacked 1.4x and 2x TCs – see the stacked TCs post for more detail on this shot, 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, and 24-105 f/F L IS.
The majority of my business is contracted work. Aerial photography; work for interior designers; various other work; and the occasional work for catalogs, etc. The sports shooting that I do is more on the ‘for fun’ side. Don’t get me wrong, would I like to be getting paid to follow professional sports? Sure – who wouldn’t? I’ve just been trying to keep my photography business a) realistic – it is my second job – my day job is in technology; and b) I want to keep it fun – since I’ve been photographing for fun till about a year and a half ago, I don’t want to lose that joy I get from taking photos.
That being said, what I really wanted out of the camera was the higher resolution, by far. The high ISO and the better screen, then the improvements to Live View. My clients want to use my photos for high production value "slick" magazines, as well as for large format printing for trade show usage and advertising needs. Sure – a 20 MP or better body would have served me better, but the budget wasn’t there, so 15 MP is a great inexpensive solid quality option.
On the sports shooting side, which is all I’ve used it for to date, it has worked great. The new screen is amazing and the higher resolution images have allowed me to crop images a bit more to get a more dramatic version of the shot that can still be blown up to 20×30 via my Shutterfly Pro Gallery site.
In my Hands:
Well – I can’t say as the camera feels any different in my hands when shooting. It feels just like the 40D and short of the silver function knob and the very minor badging and labeling differences, (okay and the slightly longer rubber covers for the side connectors of the camera), it looks just the same. The screen difference only comes into play when chimping (reviewing the shots taken), but it is a big advantage there.
While I felt the benchmarks that I did showed good improvement over the 40D, in practice I didn’t want to jump in too fast, so I started off with 1600 ISO. I’ve seen much better usability in those shots and will shoot at 3200 at the next event. So far, all the shots I’ve fired "in anger" have been at the velodrome or at the moon. Not exactly great tests for the color or flexibility of a camera. The shooting at the velodrome at night (as both shoots there have been with the 50D) is challenging. It is an outdoor velodrome with two different types of lights that illuminate the track. That lighting has lots of hot and cool spots around the track, and makes for white balance adjustment very difficult. In the next few weeks I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to shoot in a wider variety of situations and I’ll post more as I have done so.
The next item (after high ISO image quality) that the discussion boards seem to have been dwelling on is if autofocus has been improved or not. While there has been nothing in the documentation about Canon making any changes here, I have seen differences in "real" use. When I got my 40D, I did some tests to compare how the AF had been improved over the 30D. You can read that post here on the Digital Photography Review website. In short, if I shot a line of riders on the track that were moving ~25 mph, the focus point would slide back along the line of riders on both the 30D and 40D, but it slid back on the 40D slower, so I had a better chance at getting multiple shots of the rider I wanted before the point slid to the rider behind that one. It was as if the AI Servo was trying to guess where it needed to be, but couldn’t do it fast enough… it was consistent – the riders would get ahead of the focus point and it couldn’t keep up. With the 50D, I’ve seen the AF point jump ahead of the line of riders, allowing me to get a shot or two in focus, then it would drift back, then jump ahead, then drift back onto the rider I wanted again. Keep in mind this has been observed during two different shoots, both in the crappy light of the velodrome. I’m not technical enough to know if it is jumping around due to different contrast on different riders, or if it is due to the AF trying to get ahead of itself. Since I wanted to shoot the race, not just make a "test" session out of it, I haven’t shot enough with it to draw my own conclusions yet, but I am encouraged to have seen the results.
I was able to dial in my collection of lenses, and the 24-105 and 70-200 were crisper and I seemed to have more keepers than during the shoot the week before. I will be running some more specific tests and will see if it makes any difference as to how far away the object is that you dial in the AF on. So far – I’m a fan, but it is only somewhat anecdotally supported.
Conclusions – So Far:
I’ll have to say that I’m guardedly optimistic about the 50D out of the gate… I’ve read about the noise and high ISO questions, and how the 1.0.2 firmware is an improvement (my camera shipped w/ 1.0.1). Knowing how much firmware can help the performance of a camera, I’m guessing that if there are improvements to be made, that they’ll be coming in a month or so. But I’m already seeing an improvement; primarily from what I get from the resolution bump and the 1 stop or so improvement in ISO. Beyond this, I’ve not had enough time to draw too many conclusions; but I’ll be sure to post more info as I do.
Thanks for reading!