Are you ready to take the plunge into semi-professional photography? The EOS 50D offers class-leading resolution, an amazing 6.3fps continuous shooting mode, a tough, magnesium alloy body and compatibility with all Canon EF-S and EF lenses. It's yours for £1,200, or £1,500 with Canon's 17-85mm kit lens.
Could you ask for more? The 50D's 15.1-megapixel sensor has the highest resolution (just) of any of its rivals -- you have to go for a full-frame model to get more. The 6.3fps continuous shooting speed easily beats rival cameras and makes it perfect for reportage, sports or press photography. The magnesium alloy body feels tough enough to stand any or all of the above.
The 50D uses the same APS-C sized sensor as the cheaper 1000D and 450D, but as well as having a higher resolution it's housed in a much bigger, chunkier body. It really gives you something to get your fists around and also leaves plenty of room for the controls.
These are slightly different than those on Canon's amateur cameras. There are two control dials, not one, and the second dial is a big 'dish' on the back of the camera. These two dials are used in conjunction with three buttons on the top of the camera to control the majority of everyday shooting adjustments. The result is a control layout that's fast and efficient, yet also remarkably 'clean'.
Round the back is a giant 76mm (3-inch) LCD, which has 920,000 pixels to produce super-sharp definition. This is useful both in playback mode and live view. And you needn't worry about the sensor being exposed to dust during live view because the 50D has an integrated sensor cleaning system.
As if all that's not enough, the ISO goes up to 3,200 and, in expanded mode, ISO 9,600 and even 12,800. The quality is tailing off noticeably by ISO 3,200, but it looks like Canon's taken a significant step forward in high-ISO image quality nonetheless.
But there are a couple of disappointments in store, however. One is that images appear satisfyingly dense and vivid on the LCD but look flatter and more ordinary when you get them onto your computer. And if you're expecting to see a noticeable hike in definition from that 15-megapixel sensor, you're going to be disappointed. The Canon's JPEGs don't have any great bite to them and they're certainly no crisper than those you might get from the 12-megapixel Nikon D300 or D90, say.
In fact, for best results you really need to shoot raw files and use Canon's bundled Digital Photo Pro raw converter. Canon's 17-85mm lens is far from perfect, too. It has a 5x zoom range, image stabilisation and a solid build, but it does suffer from some noticeable chromatic aberration (purple fringing), which is disappointing at this price.
Like other EOS cameras, the 50D is a dream to use, and that big control dial on the back makes EV compensation and other adjustments a breeze. It's fast, responsive and hard as nails, but the results are actually a bit on the ordinary side. It might have 15 million pixels, but it just gives you bigger images, not sharper ones.
Edited by Marian Smith