What I'd like the Canon 50D to be...

Posted on 9 August 2008, 12:48

I continue to be truly impressed with the capabilities and image quality of the Canon 40D: in my experience it is capable of extremely sharp, richly-coloured, low noise images; its auto focus capabilities make me absolutely confident that any out-of-focus images will be down to me not the camera; and in terms of ergonomics and build quality it does nothing to disappoint.

But the Rumour Mill is working overtime at the moment. Canon fanboys (which I am not, despite rumours to the contrary – I just know what I like, and what works for me) are anxious about how Canon will “fight back” against the Nikon D300 – personally I don’t think the D300 has or does anything that makes it worth buying over the 40D – and there are suggestions that Canon might break with its eighteen month product refresh cycle for XXD bodies and introduce a 40D replacement at Photokina in September.

I have, I admit, recently started looking with interest at the Canon 1D Mk III – but in truth, while I would love one, I can’t really justify one, so instead I’m going to indulge myself with a bit of mindless speculation/wish listing.

What follows then, is:

My perfect Canon 50D

1.6x “crop” sensor – not full frame;

10mp. I don’t want or need more;

Dual Digic III (like the Mk III) for Mk III noise handling;

Clean 3200 ISO, native 6400, maybe expandable to 12,800?;

8 frames per second. I don’t need more than the 6.5 I get from the 40D, but I’ll have more if I can get it;

Dual card slots. I wasn’t bothered about this originally, but I’m warming to the idea;

A new “form factor”. Something between the compact shape of the 40D and the built-in grip of the 1D cameras, but with grip functions – basically a built-in “mini grip”;

More AF points. I will say right now that I do not hold with the “more is always better” school of thought when it comes to AF (there’s now ample evidence to suggest that the Nikon D300’s 51 AF points do not mean better AF performance than is provided by the 40D, for example) – the 40D’s 9 points are all of the sensitive cross-type, and do a great job.

Even so I can see an argument for greater coverage – say, 21 as in the mock-up I’ve knocked together here:

50D focal points

More AF configuration options. It can be useful to (for example) choose how long the AF will take before seeking to re-focus: the 40D will seek instantly if the AF point wanders off the intended point of focus, which has earned its AF a bit of a negative reputation (in fact this “issue” can be almost completely addressed by the photographer raising his game, which is fine by me).

But it would make life easier if we could dial in a small delay before the AF started seeking again, to deal with busy backgrounds that might otherwise distract the AF.

Auto ISO done properly, a la Nikon. It is a liberating, extremely useful thing to be able to set your required shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation, and let the camera run up and down the available ISOs (between a user-selected upper and lower ISO value) to maintain the settings you’ve selected.

Nikon’s implementation does this perfectly, but Canon’s version ain’t really there.

The ability to AF with lenses with an aperture of f/8 or less. This is a biggie which would put Canon back in people’s good books in an instant.

Why?

Because it would allow us to use our 400mm f/5.6 lenses with a 1.4x converter without the need to fanny about with taping pins (which doesn’t work anyway for the 40D).

This last would presumably be a doddle to implement and would delight Canon users the world over.

Aside from the above, the 50D would not really need anything over the 40D in order to make it a real must-have for me, which says an awful lot about what a good camera the 40D is.

AF Micro-adjust is a good example of something I don’t really want.

It seems like a great idea on paper, but useful implementation is a real problem it would seem…

It’s apparently impossible to introduce a solution that will work for zoom lenses (an adjustment which suits a zoom at the long end might well make things worse at the short end or the middle); and it would appear that saved settings can be “forgotten” or – worse – changed by the camera.

I’d rather just have a lens that focused properly in the first place!



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