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Product images by Richard Butler

The Canon EOS R50 is a compact mirrorless camera designed to appeal to users looking for something more than a smartphone. It’s based around a 24 megapixel sensor and Canon’s latest ‘RF’ lens mount.

Key features:

  • 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor with dual pixel AF
  • Burst shooting at up to 15fps in full e-shutter mode (12 in electronic first curtain)
  • 4K video up to 30p with no crop
  • 2.36M dot OLED viewfinder
  • 1.62M dot fully articulating touchscreen

The EOS R50 arrives as Canon’s least-expensive RF mount camera, sitting below the slightly larger R10, which looks and feels a bit more like one of the company’s successful Rebel series DSLRs. It will go on sale for around $679.99, body-only. A kit with the retractable RF-S 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM will sell for around $799.99, and a two-lens kit that adds a new 55-210mm F5.0-7.1 takes the recommended price up to $1029.99.



What’s new

The EOS R50 is essentially designed as an RF-mount equivalent of the M50: an easy-to-use interchangeable lens camera that’s practical to carry around with you. It’s a similar size to the EOS M50 but, in addition to using Canon’s newer lens mount, it also brings a newer sensor and processor, which together deliver significantly more advanced autofocus capabilities.

Autofocus

The R50’s most compelling feature is probably its autofocus system. It’s a relatively simple but very powerful system that combines a series of subject recognition modes with tenacious tracking. In a lot of circumstances (and particularly with people) you can just pick where you want the camera to focus and it’ll track whoever or whatever you pointed at.

In particular the R50 has been trained to recognize people (eyes, faces and heads), animals (specifically dogs, cats, birds and horses) or vehicles (motorsport cars and bikes, trains and aircraft). There’s also an ‘Auto’ option that will try to identify which of these subjects are in front of the camera.

The EOS R50 has an AF system ultimately derived from that of the EOS R3. It was correctly able to recognize this as a bird and automatically focus on its eye.

RF-S 55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STM @ 146mm | ISO 250 | 1/320 sec | F7.1
Photo taken with a pre-production lens
Photo: Chris Niccolls

We’ve found it to be very effective, at least in stills mode, and the interface makes it easy to take whatever level of control you want over proceedings: you can just let the camera pick a subject, or place an AF point if you wish to position the focus yourself.

The R50 also gains an AF mode designed for vlogging, which prioritizes anything close to the camera but otherwise uses face detection mode. This is expressly designed for vloggers filming themselves who want to hold an item up and have the camera quickly refocus on it, then back to them when the item is lowered, for example to showcase some kind of product.

Burst shooting

The R50 is surprisingly adept at burst shooting: it can grab clips at up to 12 frames per second using its electronic/mechanical shutter mode, or 15 frames per second in fully electronic mode (with the risk of moving subjects appearing distorted if there’s too much lateral movement). It can only capture 42 JPEG images in each burst, but it’s quick enough to let you capture fleeting moments, if you’re able to anticipate them.

A+ Advanced Auto

The EOS R50 includes Creative Assist mode as part of its beginner-friendly A+ auto mode. This uses a touchscreen interface to let you adjust most of the camera’s key parameters, but expressed in terms such as ‘Brightness’ and ‘Color’ rather than using technical terminology. It works well, though it would be nice to be able to assign one of its functions to the command dial, rather than having to delve into the touchscreen interface every time.

In addition, the R50 gains an ‘Advanced A+’ option, that takes the level of automation still further. If Advanced A+ spots a scene that’s too dark, too high in contrast, or one that would benefit from greater depth-of-field, it will automatically shoot four shots and combine them into a single JPEG, to overcome these challenges. We’ve seen modes like this in other cameras for years, though never one capable of evaluating and choosing one of three multi-shot modes for different scene issues.

Advanced A+ mode produces JPEGs only, unlike Creative Assist mode, which lets you capture Raw images (useful if you want to adjust them in-camera or on a computer, later),

In the A+ modes the camera appears to use the ‘AI Focus’ drive mode, which automatically chooses between single and continuous AF. The upshot is that, if you or the camera chooses to focus on a person, for instance, it will refocus if you or they move before you fully press the shutter.

Video

The EOS R50 can capture 4K video at up to 30 frames per second. This footage is created from all 6000 horizontal pixels of the sensor, so should be very detailed. The use of the full width of the sensor also means it’s not awkwardly cropped-in, and should also give better performance in low light.

If you have an HDR TV, the EOS R50 will let you shoot stills and video that exploit those HDR capabilities, to make photos with bright highlights look more vibrant and more realistic.

As you might expect for a camera at this level, there’s a mic socket but no way to connect headphones.

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How it compares

The EOS R50 is the first new camera in the entry-level / under $800 ILC category that we’ve seen for some time, which means it immediately feels a lot more modern than many of its rivals, both in terms of autofocus and video.

Canon EOS R50 Sony a6100 OM-D E-M10 IV Canon EOS M50 II
List price at launch $679.99
($799.99 with 18-45mm F3.5-6.3 IS lens)
$699.99
($850 with 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS)

$699.99
($799 with 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 EZ)

$599
($699 with 15-45mm F3.5-6.3 IS)
Pixel count 24MP 24MP 20MP 24MP
Sensor size APS-C
332mm²
APS-C
372mm²
Four Thirds
226mm²
APS-C
332mm²
Autofocus Dual pixel Hybrid Contrast Dual pixel
Stabilization? Lens only Lens only In-body Lens only
Burst rate 12 fps
15 fps (elec)
11 fps 8.7 fps 7.4 fps
Viewfinder
(mag.)
2.36M dot OLED (0.59x) 1.44M dot OLED (0.70x) 2.36M dot OLED (0.61x) 2.36M dot OLED ( – )
Rear screen 1.62M dot fully-articulating 0.92M dot tilt up/down 1.04M dot fully-articulating 1.04M dot fully-articulating
Video 4K/30p no crop
8-bit or 10-bit HDR mode
4K/24p no crop
4K/30p 1.23x crop
4K/30p no crop 4K/24p 1.55x crop
Mic / Headphone? Yes / No Yes / No Yes / No Yes / No
Connector USB-C
(USB 3.2 Gen 2 / 10Gbps)
USB Micro B
(USB 2.0 480 Mbps)
USB Micro B
(USB 2.0 480 Mbps)
USB Micro B
(USB 2.0 480 Mbps)
Battery life
LCD / EVF
370 / 230 420 / 380 360 / – 305 / 250
Dimensions 116 x 86 x 69 mm 120 x 67 x 59mm 122 x 85 x 49mm 116 x 88 x 59 mm
Weight (with battery + card) 375g (13.2oz) 396g (14.0oz) 383g (13.5oz) 387g (13.7oz)

What the table can’t really capture is just how effective the R50’s autofocus is. Only the Sony a6100 comes close, though its subject recognition capabilities only extend as far as human faces and eyes. The same can’t be said for the much older, less expensive, a6000, which really shows its age in this company.

The OM-D E-M10 IV lags significantly in terms of AF and isn’t as simple a camera to use – though gives you more camera, and lens system, to grow into – but it does offer in-body image stabilization, which all the others lack at this price.

So the Canon’s AF and video capabilities are a step above its peers. It’s primarily the battery life that’s our concern, but it’s nice to see the improvement over the M50 II.

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Body and handling

The EOS R50 is surprisingly small, despite that vast RF lens mount on the front. The grip is pretty small (I found myself wrapping my fingers across it at a 45 degree angle, rather than trying to grasp it straight-on), but sufficient for how small and light the camera is, especially with compact lenses.

There is a dial on the top of the camera if you wish to use the camera in the more hands-on P, A, S or M modes, but it’s rather under-utilized. This is because the camera has a very touchscreen-focused user interface.

Like previous Canons, the R50 will present a screen explaining the mode you’ve just selected or the feature you’ve just engaged, to help you understand when it’s applicable. These explanation splash-screens can be turned off if you prefer, or once you’re familiar with the camera.

The Creative Assist mode, which provides a series of icons representing options such as brightness or color, is pretty simple but, while the command dial can be used to adjust the settings, it’s only active while you’re in the adjust settings screens. While you’re actually shooting, the command dial does nothing, which feels like a waste, since your finger is likely to be resting on it.

The viewfinder is a relatively modest 2.36M dot OLED display with a rather low 0.59x magnification level (which means it appears pretty small). The sample I used seemed very prone to the diopter adjuster getting knocked, so if the viewfinder seems soft, it’s worth checking the little slider directly under the viewfinder.

The fully articulating rear touchscreen is a nice touch. The R50 has a mic input socket but nowhere to attach headphones, which slightly undermines its vlogging appeal.

Battery

The EOS R50 uses the same LP-E17 battery as Canon’s other small ILCs. It’s a 7.5Wh battery which isn’t a lot to power a mirrorless camera. It’ll do well for snapping occasional photos as you go about your day, but if you devote any length of time to photos or video, there’s a chance you’ll suddenly be confronted with a flashing red battery warning (it’s been a long time since I’ve encountered the ‘full… full… full… LOW BATTERY!’ experience of a small camera with no charge percentage indications).

In standard (‘Smooth’) mode the camera is rated to deliver a respectable 370 shots per charge if you use the LCD but just 230 shots through the viewfinder. As usual, these CIPA-standard figures can tend to significantly underestimate how many shots you’re likely to get, typically by around a factor of two, depending on your shooting style. Energy saver mode boosts the numbers to 440 and 310 shots, respectively.

Thankfully the R50 can be charged using a USB PD (power delivery) charger, so it’s easy enough to keep topped-up if you are dropping back to a car or hotel room or have a modern power bank with you (though not all in-car USB sockets will be powerful enough to charge it, so you may need to consider a cigar-lighter USB-PD adapter).

Alongside the battery in the base of the camera is a single SD card slot. In keeping with the camera’s relatively modest ambitions, it’s the older, slower UHS-I type.

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Initial impressions

The EOS R50 is another (understandable) attempt on the part of camera makers to build a camera that appeals to users for whom their smartphone is their main experience of photography. The existing M50 sold well, so it makes sense that Canon would try to migrate those customers across to its newer RF lens mount, so that it eventually doesn’t have to continue to support multiple lens lineups.

And the R50 does a pretty good job of taking attractive photos with limited need for user intervention. It provides an interface that’s both relatively easy to use and that tries to guide the user as they make adjustments. The vast majority of my photos in the gallery below were shot in the highly automated ‘Creative Assist’ mode.

The R50’s Advanced A+ mode is an interesting attempt to bring some of the multi-shot ‘computational’ photography cleverness employed behind the scenes in smartphones to a dedicated camera. My biggest concern is that most users will never find or use this mode. it’s a little bit hidden away and I found it all too easy to think I’d chosen it, only to discover I’d forgotten to press ‘Set’ to ensure it was actually applied.

I’d propose that Canon adopt the courage of its convictions: make Advanced Auto one of the positions on the camera’s mode dial so that this feature is as accessible and easy to engage as possible. (It would also be nice if the camera made clear when it had finished taking the photo[s]: I found myself nervously trying to keep the camera steady when confronted with a screen saying ‘Busy,’ though I’m pretty sure the exposures were complete and the camera was just processing).

Combined with the retractable 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM lens, the EOS R50 was remarkably easy to carry around.

Canon RF 18-45mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM @ 45mm | ISO 100 | 1/160 sec | F7.1
Photo: Richard Butler

There’s a pretty neat separation between this model and the R10, quite aside from the cost difference. The R10 has twin dials, more buttons and makes clear that the expectation is you’ll take control over all its functions. By contrast the R50 seems happiest if you devote yourself to finding the photo you want to take, and letting the camera do the rest, clever AF and all.

The R50 presents something of a quandary, though. It’s probably the best camera on the market for smartphone upgraders and others who don’t want to learn how to operate a conventional camera. But aside from the relatively basic kit zoom, there aren’t any sensibly-priced lenses to put on it. I suppose that may be irrelevant, since many buyers in this market are happy to stick with the lens that comes with the camera.

Writing as a keen photographer, though, it’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend a camera that can’t readily be used to its full potential, because there are so few affordable RF lenses out there. I can’t imagine many M50 users went out and bought the Sigma 56mm F1.4 to take portraits, but there was at least the option to do so. With Canon keeping the RF mount closed to other lens makers, the R50 looks like it might be the best entry-level ILC, so long as you realize it gives you nowhere to grow to.

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Sample gallery

Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review); we do so in good faith, so please don’t abuse it.

All RF-S 55-210mm F5-7.1mm IS STM images were taken using a pre-production lens.

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Author:
Richard Butler
Source: Dpreview

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