Superzooms are all the rage at the moment, so when Canon lifted the lid on the world's first 50x optical zoom all-in-one bridge camera, we have to admit we thought it sounded like it was over-reaching. With a massive 24-1200mm equivalent zoom, is the SX50 HS the new ultimate superzoom, or does its prize feature fall flat on its face?
We'll be quick to answer this: we had to eat our words after the full 1200mm equivalent setting - though only tested in bright available daylight - sat steady in the hand thanks to Canon's latest optical image stabilisation system. No kidding, it actually works, and well.
With that bombshell dropped, the PowerShot SX50 HS ought to grab plenty of attention. However its f/3.4-5.6 aperture zoom - those are the maximum apertures available throughout its zoom range (from widest to longest) - isn't going to match up to something like the Panasonic Lumix FZ200's f/2.8 aperture that holds up throughout its full 24-600mm zoom range.
Still, it's a matter of choice: longer zoom or wider aperture? We'd still probably opt for the latter for the faster shutter speed and lower ISO settings that are advantageous when shooting at longer focal lengths, but the very fact that the SX50 HS remains capable is testament to Canon's years of engineering skill.
With this early sample we weren't able to test out what image quality is like from the 12.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor, but we can confirm that raw capture is available in addition to the usual JPEG shooting. About time too, but that's another big tick in the box for the quality conscious snapper.
Movie mode is said to benefit from a "silent" lens barrel motion, but we found there to be some audible noise when zooming through the range. It's not nails-down-the-blackboard kind of stuff by any means, just a minor hum: but it is still there.
The PowerShot SX50 HS comes with both a 2.8-inch, vari-angle-bracket-mounted rear LCD and a built-in electronic viewfinder. The latter suffers rather badly from image skew when moving the camera, particularly at the longer focal lengths, but is a serviceable enough for preview and playback. It's particularly useful for adding some extra steadiness when wedged up to the eye, something that'll be much needed at those four-figure focal length equivalents. Still, no electronic viewfinder in a superzoom has surpassed the Fujifilm X-S1's size and scale as yet, so there's plenty of scope for future improvements.
It's onwards and upwards for the SX-series. We already thought the SX30 HS gave quite a kick to many of its superzoom competitors, and while the SX50 HS might push the limits of zoom it looks to us like it works out very well.
At £449 it's not cheap, but then it's in the same ball park as its nearest competitors, which sounds fair cop to us.