Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Digital Camera Review$479.99
Super-zoom cameras were already passing epic magnification levels last year, so it is with no shortage of bewildered fascination that we sit here reviewing the world's first consumer still camera to offer 50x optical zoom. To put that in perspective, were this a traditional 35mm camera, that camera's lens would need to be a ridiculous 1,200mm long.
This of course means the PowerShot SX50 HS is a spy-cam that MI6 would be proud of, but to us, that's not even the best part of the camera. What Canon has managed to do is extend their lens out to levels previously unheard of, while simultaneously avoiding the pitfalls commonly associated with long optical zoom, namely: lousy image quality. This has been achieved with a combination of good design and high quality tech, but also—unfortunately—a bit of trickery too.
Let's start with that trickery. While the SX50 produced excellent results in our sharpness test, and we've scored the camera as such, these results are straight-up fake. In order to prevent the loss of detail that seems inherent to super-zoom lenses, Canon has employed software edge enhancement, just as many manufacturers do, except they've gone way overboard. We usually tolerate about 5% oversharpening, but the SX50 can oversharpen in excess of 45%. This effect manifests as ugly white halos and dark black borders surrounding your subjects, and making them appear unnatural to the trained eye. In this way, what appears to be the SX50's best feature, is really one of its worst.
But aside from forged sharpness, the camera is otherwise impressive from top to bottom. The small sensor generally avoids producing excess image noise, or more accurately, does an effective job smoothing away noise when it does occur. Color accuracy, while only slightly above average in the lab, really impressed us in the field, realistically capturing the autumn scenery that's peaking in our part of the country right now.
Video shooting would've been better with 60p capabilities, but the Full HD clips are still sharp enough to earn strong scores from us, and decent low light sensitivity makes this camera an acceptable—but not ideal—choice for low light videography. Continuous shooting is below average at maximum resolution and quality, but we have a feeling most users will opt for the High-speed Burst HQ scene mode, which fires off 10 shots at 13 frames per second. We also like Canon's new Framing Assist features, one of which actually uses optical stabilization to help keep your subject in frame. Very cool.
So ultimately, aside from that new stabilization feature, and of course breaking the nifty-fifty zoom barrier, there's very little about the SX50 we'd consider revolutionary. Like the SX40, this is basically a consistent, high-performance superzoom, and exactly the kind of camera our scoring system rewards. This is an easy recommendation over just about every competitor on the market.