Canon has recently announced their new DSLR body, the EOS 50D (official site). From the information that has become available up till now, I can already conclude that it’s not going to be a very popular camera. In fact, I won’t be surprised if it sells less copies than the EOS 40D.
Well, for starters, this is a very half-assed (technical term) attempt by Canon to try to compete with the Nikon D300. If I look at the specifications of the 50D, I can’t help but think that some Canon engineers sat down one afternoon, took the 40D, slapped in a new sensor, put in a new processor, tweaked the firmware to enable some features (which they deliberately disabled for the 40D, like autofocus microadjust), put in the higher resolution LCD which they meant to release with the 40D, but didn’t to save a couple of bucks, called it a day, packed and went to a Karaoke bar to have some fun.
Compared to the 40D, the 50D is not worth the extra money Canon wants to charge us. It is essentially just a 40D with minor worthless upgrades. It is not worth the upgrade for 40D users, and it is no match for the Nikon D300.
A while ago, I wrote the following:
And after the release of the Nikon D3/300 and recently D700, I have it on good authority that the entire DSLR division at Canon was taken to their equivalent of DEFCON 1. Various Canon managers and engineers were hand delivered messages by actual ninja’s, threatening with “serious consequences” if things don’t get better in the near future. So I have to say, I’m very interested to see what Canon releases later this year.
Canon’s prosumer DSLR bodies have been on an 18 month refresh cycle. The 50D has been introduced only about 12 months after the 40D, so about 6 months too early. The reason for this is easy to guess. Canon couldn’t just leave the 40D on the market while it is taking a serious beating from the Nikon D300, and now even the Nikon D90. They probably thought that releasing a refreshed 40D, the 50D, would be better compared to doing nothing. And from their perspective, this could be true on various levels, but even the 50D is no match for the Nikon D300, and not even for the Nikon D90, which can only be viewed as a tragedy for Canon. The only people who are now likely to consider the 50D are people who are in the market for a significant upgrade (so no 40D users) and those who are looking to buy their first DSLR. And in both cases, Nikon has the better alternatives (D300 and D90).
I predict that the price of the 50D is going to drop very fast after its availability in October especially when Nikon will lower the price of the D300 soon. I also predict that Canon will release the real successor for the 40D, the EOS 60D in the second half of 2009 finally containing some significant technological improvements. As a result of the DEFCON 1 declaration at Canon’s DSLR division, the refresh cycle for the 1D series camera’s has also been shortened from 3 years, and new 1D models are going to appear in 2009 instead of 2010 and likely very early in 2009.
It is hilarious that Canon left the outdated 9 point autofocus system of the 40D in the 50D and still mentions how great they think it is. Here’s what Canon wants you to believe:
Configured in a diamond-shaped array for superior vertical and horizontal coverage, nine cross-type autofocus (AF) points — eight with f/5.6 sensitivity and one in the center with f/2.8 sensitivity — provide highly precise focus even when shooting fast moving subjects.
Ofcourse, we know better now. This is the same autofocus system the 40D has, and it’s been proven to be crap especially for shooting fast moving subjects. What is even more hilarious, is that they even include a picture in the samples on the official website, that is very soft, likely due to the subject not being completely in focus. Talk about precise focus.
With regard to the 15 megapixel sensor, Canon still doesn’t seem to understand what photographers want now. Nobody wants a high resolution sensor that can’t deliver clean images at low ISO values, and especially higher values. Nikon demonstrated that they understood this when they released cameras with only 12 megapixel sensors that are capable of delivering great image quality at higher ISO values. But not Canon. Instead of releasing an improved 10 megapixel sensor with a much improved high ISO performance, they went ahead and released a 15 megapixel sensor with no visible improvement with regard to noise, compared to the 40D. It might even be worse than the 40D. If you look at this sample image in this gallery, the noise in the out of focus areas seems comparable to the 40D at ISO 400. So apart from the higher pixelcount, there’s no gain in image quality. It’s just more pixels containing crap. A useless upgrade.
Canon finally included contrast detect auto focus in their Live View implementation on the 50D as well, something that should have been present from the beginning in the 40D. The Live View implementation in the 40D was essentially useless, and I got the feeling that Canon just wanted to include it for marketing at the time. It’s just like Nikon including HD video recording capability in the recently introduced D90 camera, when they don’t also include the ability to autofocus while recording HD movie. Can you imagine that? Seriously, just stop and think about it. So here you have a D90, you can record high resolution HD video on it, but you are stuck having to focus manually while recording. Answer this: What is the use of recording HD quality video, when you will get soft focused video most of the time due to having to focus manually while recording?? So now you have HD video, but it’s reduced to 320×240 sized video because you can’t focus manually that fast. Thanks, Nikon, but no thanks. I keep wondering what the deal is with these companies, releasing half-assed implementations of functionality in products. Why can’t they take the time and release functionality that is complete? We don’t actually need a new camera every year you know? Take the time and work on a good product, for fuck’s sake! Even my cheap cellphone can autofocus while recording video at crappy resolutions.
Anyway, Canon’s one and only hope this year remains with the successor to the EOS 5D which will be announced this month, and which, according to various sources, is going to be equipped with a 21 megapixel sensor. It remains to be seen what the quality of images taken with this sensor is going to be and if it will be an improvement over the 5D. If this body doesn’t have some advanced features like full weather sealing and a pro autofocus system, it’s not going to do very well compared to the Nikon D700. Especially if it’s going to deliver 21 megapixels of noise. In addition, Nikon might one-up them again, like they did by releasing the D90 after the 50D, and lower the price for the D700 and D3 when they introduce the D3x.
And, finally, even if the new 5D is theoretically good, it could still be plagued by the bad quality control at Canon. Let’s see what happens.
Update: Check out the second part of this post here.