Canon PowerShot SX50 HS superzoom camera

OUR VERDICT: Image quality ranged from very good to at least acceptable, and in use the zoom range was extraordinary.

If this latest camera from Canon is anything to go by, the boom in superzoom photography shows no signs of abating. Barely six months have passed since I reviewed the Powershot SX40 HS, but it has already become the junior sibling to this new kid on the block. That model, despite its moniker, sported a 35x zoom, but its image-gathering power has now been well and truly outdone by the 50x mega-pull of this lens.

First, the basics. Aside from a hotshoe mount on top of the body, there is little to tell the two models apart other than some minor styling tweaks. At about 600 g they are also essentially the same weight, so Canon has pulled off an extraordinary feat by shoehorning a significantly more powerful optical zoom system into the same basic blueprint.

Inevitably that must mean compromise somewhere, and a lens of this specification should not be expected to produce the same sharp, contrasty images generated by a DSLR and telephoto lens combination. But then that’s not what this camera is about: its purpose is to condense huge telephoto reach into a compact, lightweight and manageable package. In this camera, the photographer has access to the equivalent of a 24 mm wide-angle lens, a 1,200 mm super-telephoto set-up and everything in between (remember that zoom is not the same as magnification, which here is about 24x).

I tested the camera in both overcast and sunny conditions on a range of settings. Overall, image quality ranged from very good to at least acceptable, and in use the zoom range was extraordinary – I was able to document everything I saw with this jack-of-all-cameras, from a distant soaring Red Kite to a brief singing Treecreeper in a woodland and gulls on a landfill site. I found the viewfinder overly dark, however, making picking up a distant flying bird quite difficult, but the 2.8 inch screen on the back of the camera can provide a bigger image.

With an extra 50x ‘ZoomPlus’ range available, the built-in image stabiliser may well be needed. The many other features include a 12.1 MP sensor, ISO range of 80-6,400 and numerous still and movie shooting modes, including full 1,080p HD. The SX50 HS has enormous potential for birders, and is a bargain already heavily discounted online.

Please click here for a gallery of images taken with this camera.

Tech spec

• 12.1 MP
• 50x optical zoom (equivalent to 24-1,200 mm)
• 2.8" LCD
• Full HD
• Image stabiliser
• RRP £459.99; available from £350 online from UK websites

In the box: battery, charger and power lead, strap, Getting Started guide and two CDs (manuals and Canon Solutions v122.0)

You might also like:
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS superzoom camera
The SX50's less powerful, but still impressive sibling.
Leica V-Lux 3 camera
A powerful superzoom from this high-end camera manufacturer.