Canon had a difficult job to do with the 50D. As usual, market pressures demanded higher performance, and rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly), that's often measured by consumers by looking at the pixel count of the sensor. With the EOS 50D Canon have produced the highest pixel count APS-C sensor camera (though the Pentax K20D and Sony A350 are very close), so that should have pleased those who were complaining that the EOS 40D "only" has 10MP, which is now at the low end of the pixel count range for APS-C crop sensor DSLRs.
Of course you can't have everything and increasing the pixel count from 10MP to 15MP means that the pixels have to be 1/3 smaller (22 sq. microns vs. 33 sq. microns), and as we all know, smaller pixels typically mean higher noise levels, especially at high ISO settings. So Canon had their work cut out in trying to make a high pixel count sensor which retained high quality. While perhaps they were limited by the laws of physics from lowering sensor noise, nevertheless I think they did a pretty good job overall. Yes, the intrinsic noise of the sensor (RAW file with no noise reduction applied) is a little higher than that of the 40D sensor, but the resolution is higher too. However, looking a the bigger picture, by applying an appropriate degree of noise reduction (which does tend to reduce detail), the EOS 50D is capable of generating images which have both more detail and the same (or lower) level of observable noise than equivalent images from the EOS 40D.
The EOS 50D adds a number of features to those present on 40D, the most notable of which in my opinion is the microfocus adjustment ability. Given the number of complaints I see in web forums about lenses front and back focusing, this would seem to be a feature many photographers should be willing to give their right arm for, or at least if not their right arm at least a few hundred dollars! Personally I don't have any lenses which exhibit significant front or back focus, but if I did, I'd certainly want the microfocus adjustment ability of the EOS 50D.
The other new features of the EOS 50D such as the 920,000 pixel high resolution LCD and contrast detection focus in Live View are nice to have, though I wouldn't personally regard them as reason to upgrade from a 40D. Then again I don't use LiveView much myself and I don't use the LCD for critical image review.
ISO 6400 and ISO 12800 to the 50D add to the "bells and whistles" count of the EOS 50D. They're certainly nice to have and could be useful at times, but image quality does suffer quite a bit and ISO 12800 is something of an "emergency" setting. If you didn't really have to use it, you probably wouldn't want to. Still, you can't really complain too much about image quality at those ISO levels. Try doing it with film and see what the results look like! The surprising thing is that 4x6 prints at ISO 12800 actually aren't that bad.
The ultimate test of a camera for me is whether I'd want to own it, and I'd want to own the EOS 50D. If Canon came along and said they'd give me an EOS 50D in trade for my EOS 40D, I'd take them up on their offer without another thought. I think the EOS 50D is the better camera for 99+% of the work that I do. The 40D has a very slight advantage in frame rate (6.5 fps vs. 6.3 fps), uses slightly less memory because of the smaller file size and shows slightly lower noise in RAW files. Of course Canon is not likely to offer me a free exchange! I'm less certain that I'd do the trade if it cost me $600, which is about what it would actually cost if I sold my EOS 40D and bought a new EOS 50D. It's an easier decision if you have an EOS 20D or 30D (or even 10D). If I was on that upgrade path, I'd pay the extra $300 or so and go for the EOS 50D.
Right now (mid November), Canon are offering a $100 "Instant rebate" on the 50D, plus many retailers are also discounting their own prices by $100, so that brings the price down from the initial selling price of $1399 to only $1199, which isn't a bad deal. It's even better if you can use an EF 28-135/3.5-5.6IS because if you buy the lens and camera as a $1350 kit you get the lens for $150, which is $250 off the normal retail price.
If you can't afford the EOS 50D, the EOS 40D (which is still a very good camera) is selling for around $850 and if even that is too much, the Rebel XSi with the EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6IS is selling for only $640, which is a great deal for a starter camera kit.
If you're looking for lenses take a look at the EOS LENSES page which covers most of the better "affordable" lens offerings from Canon or one of the following "specialist" Canon EOS lens pages:
I think a good lens set for the EOS 50D would be the EF-S 10-22/3.5-4.5 USM for it's wideangle coverage, the EF 24-105/4L IS USM for mid range work and the Canon EF 70-300/4-5.6 IS USM for a good, handholdable, telephoto zoom. I have and use all three lenses and I'm happy with them. For a "single lens" general purpose shooting solution, I'd go for the Canon EF-S 17-85/4-5.6 IS USM, or, if you only intend ever to buy one lens and leave it on the camera all the time, the EF-S 18-200/3.5-5.6IS might be worth consideration.
|Canon EOS 50D
|Canon EOS 50D
|Canon EOS 40D
|Digital Rebel XSi