Canon PowerShot SX50 HS vs Canon PowerShot SX500 IS Comparison

May 8, 2013

Canon SX50 HS and SX500 IS superzoom camerars

In this article I will compare two excellent and very popular superzoom cameras, the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS versus Canon PowerShot SX500 IS. The two cameras are among my two most favorite superzoom cameras and I would be glad to help you out choosing between the two. I love shooting with superzoom cameras. They give me a reach that I can’t get with my DSLR camera (budget restricted) or with my mobile phone. Superzoom cameras are the perfect travel cameras but also for a general purpose camera. After reading this comparison review, you will fully understand the key differences between the SX50 and SX500, and hopefully you can make a smarter buying decision that you will be satisfied with.

Why a Super Zoom Camera?

The main reason why people are buying a super zoom camera is that they love having big zoom. They love the fact that they can just stand still and capture subjects that are way far away from where they stand.  I remember using 3x and 10x optical zoom camera and always felt that the reach isn’t enough. It made my feel frustrated, because I really wanted to capture some subjects, by they were too far away from the camera. This is where superzoom cameras come into the picture.

Let’s admit it, the only viable alternative is to purchase an interchangeable lens camera with a superzoom lens or a even get an adapter to multiply the focal length. The problem is that those cameras (and lenses) are much more expensive and out teach for many people.  Furthermore, many people just don’t want to carry that type of equipment with them, that can be larger and much heavier, They are searching for a relatively compact camera with big zoom and for affordable price.

Customers are well aware of the cameras’ image quality. Even the absolute beginners know that some cameras, no matter how good they look in an Ad, in some cases the image quality doesn’t satisfy their needs.  Canon is in my opinion a leader in the superzoom category because it answers all those expectations, emphasizing on size, camera design, features, big zoom, but most importantly – image quality!

So you are doing a smart choice debating between the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS and Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, both are excellent cameras as you’ll soon see, but of course you need to choose just one, and I am here to help you out with this decision.

I will start with a short introduction to each camera so you can feel more comfortable read the rest of the comparison and get familiar with the key features of each one. Sometimes decisions are made based on some key features that you find lacking in one camera, and for certain people a lack of a specific feature can be a deal-breaker. OK, enough of the into, let’s begin!

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

I’ve been reviewing many superzoom cameras, and the Canon SX50 HS impressed me the most. You can search my blog and read my opinion about it, it’s really a magnificent photographic tool. The SX50 HS is not a compact camera, but compact enough to be easy to carry around and easy to put in a small camera bag. It’s main selling point it it’s huge 50x optical zoom lens. A 24-1200mm IS (Image stabilization) Canon high-quality wide angle telephoto zoom lens that adds more zoom range over its predecessor, the Canon SX40 HS. The Sx40 HS was a big success, a very popular superzoom camera that shows how dedicated Canon is to lead the superzoom camera’s market.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS camera

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS superzoom camera

The SX50 HS features 12.1MP High Sensitivity CMOS sensor with Digic 5 image processor.  Some of you might be tempted to pay a great deal of attention to the sensor resolution (measured in Megapixels) but don’t. I can write a long article talking about this subject alone. What you need to know is that more pixels can hurt image quality quite badly. The more pixels you have on a given same size sensor, the smaller the pixels are.  Smaller pixels absorb less light photons and in other words, they collect less color data for each pixel. This leads to less accurate colors, lower dynamic range and more noise in the photos, especially when shooting in high ISO.

I think that customers are more educated nowadays and learned that they shouldn’t base their buying decision based on the Megapixels. I can even tell you that I personally prefer having a camera with the least amount of pixels. Of course it depends what you are going to do with the photos, whether you are going to do large prints, critical work and such. However, for most people that just want to make small prints in the photo lab, watch photos on their tablet or home computer, or share it online with  friends and family, even 4MP is enough for many of you.

Beside beautiful photos, the Canon SX50 HS can record Full HD 1080p movies with stereo sound. 1080p refers to Full HD resolution which is 1920×1080 pixel resolution. If you have a Full HD HDTV display or a 1920×1080 pixel computer screen (or even higher resolution), you will see those video with their full glory, being able to view even the finest details. Those videos can playback on lower resolution screens as well, but the main benefit is when viewing the videos in 100% full scale.

Of course the great benefit is that you can use the humongous zoom while shooting videos. You can come home with videos and photos that neither of your friends can shoot with their regular zoom cameras. Think about it, you can shoot a dolphin swimming far away from a cruising board, capture closer up images of a moon, capture image of birds or take discrete Candid shots, the creative possibilities are endless. You won’t be limited by the camera, but rather your imagination.

Take a look at this informative video by DigitalCameraWorld that will take a you for a short tour of the SX50 HS features – Enjoy.

At the back of the X50 HS you can find a 2.8-inch Vari-angle LCD display with 461K-dots and an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). 2.8-inch is indeed lower than what you get with many other cameras (3-inch) and the resolution is smaller as well. I can tell you from my own experience that this is not an issue at all.  a 3-inch is preferable, but having a 2.8-inch display isn’t bad either. From what I’ve read, Canon have decided to use a smaller screen in order to keep the size of the camera smaller.  After shooting with both the Canon SX50 HS and SX40 HS I can tell you that it’s not an issue at all. The screen is vibrant and bright and have very good visibility in daylight.

What’s great about this screen is that it is fully articulated, so you can just tilt and swivel it to any degree, even facing forward for self-portrait shots. Some people prefer shooting with a viewfinder. The Sx50 HS does offer an electronic viewfinder, but I personally find the size of the viewfinder and resolution too low and prefer shooting via the LCD personally. For example,  my friend was driving in its car and I was sitting in the right seat hoping to capture nice landscape shots. Shooting from the viewfinder was very difficult because the hole from which you view the scene is very tiny. I find it hard to compose my shot. After turning to the LCD it was much easier. For static shots the EVF might be better, especially when shooting in very bright daylight. So don’t build on having an amazing experience with the EVF, it won’t happen, but it’s not a deal breaker either, at least not for me.

The Canon Sx50 HS offers plenty of manuals controls as well as simple and intelligent Auto mode that will help you capture great photos even if you don’t understand anything about photography in general and using a camera in particular. The camera was designed to be easy to operate but at the same time offer you full manual control over the exposure. Some digital cameras are fully automatic, but all bridge-cameras superzoom give you plenty of manual control to experiment with so you can be more creative with your camera.

The SX50 HS is also a very fast camera, operated smoothly and has a very fast autofocus speed. Canon claims approx. 50% improvement in Autofocus (AF) speed compare to the SX40 HS and 44% reduction in shutter lag compare to its predecessor. This means that the camera reacts fast when you press the shutter button. So when a bird passes by and you want to capture it on camera, the camera will react in less than 0.25 seconds. This is called a shutter lag. This is the time that passes from the moment the shutter button was pressed until the camera actually records the image.  The time of the shutter speed is not taken into this calculation of course, because you can set the shutter speed to be a few seconds. In short, the SX50 HS is a fast and responsive camera!

The SX50 HS offers plenty of other useful features, including the ability to shoot in RAW (non compressed and edited file, data straight from the sensor), has hot-shoe to attach an external flash and many more built-in features.

By the way: HS ins the SX50 HS means ‘High Sensitivity’.


Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

The Canon PowerShot SX500 was announced a month earlier (August 21, 2012) than the Canon SX50 HS. The SX500 IS was designed to be much more compact than the bridge superzoom cameras, offer less zoom range, no electronic viewfinder and lacks some features that you’ll find on the higher-end models. It costs around $200 (last checked on 5.8.2013), and Amazon sells the SX50 HS for around $399.00 (lowest price I’ve found). So the SX500 IS is at least $200 less expensive than the higher-end model, the SX50 HS. So as you can see, this model although lacks some features, is a much more affordable camera and a good alternative to those who cannot afford buying the higher-end model. What you get and what you lose? – I will talk about it in the next section when I compare the two cameras one versus the other.

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

So what do you get with the Canon SX500 IS? – first of all the camera is small and very nice looking I have to say. I really like its external design, it’s really a nice looking camera with its curved hand-grip, relatively flat top and it resembles a compact camera more than a bridge camera with its external design.

The SX500 IS features a 24-720mm 30x optical zoom wide-angle telephoto zoom lens. By the way, for those who don’t know, you get the zoom number by the division of the largest focal length number (720 in this case) by the smallest focal length number of the lens (24 in this case). So 720 / 24 = 30x optical zoom. That’s why fixed focal length lenses like 50mm have not soom (50 / 50 = 1x optical zoom). This also means that not always a larger zoom lens will get you closer to your subject. Consider the following:

28-140mm = 5x optical zoom lens (140 / 28 = 5)
18-90mm = 5x optical zoom lens (90 / 18 = 5)

Both lenses have the same optical zoom, but the first lens has a higher focal length (35 mm terms) so you can get “closer” to your subject, although the second lens doesn’t have a bigger zoom, both have the same 5x zoom. That’s was just for general knowledge.

The Sx500 IS has a 16MP CCD sensor and DIGIC 4 image processor (older-generation model) This is not a CMOS Sensor that is used in many camera. Each technology has its cons and pros. CCDs use global shutter, CMOS using rolling shutters and therefore for videos CMOS is the preferred sensor. CCD are well known for their higher image quality but are often surfer from vertical smear when shooting bright light. CMOS sensors have been improved dramatically in the pass 10 years and more money is spent in improving this sensor technology. This is why CMOS sensors today surpass CCD in terms of noise in high sensitivity (although a few years back it was the opposite). What matters at the end of the day is what you see with your own eyes, and I will spend more time talking about image quality in a later section in this article.

At the back of you camera you won’t find an electronic viewfinder, but you’ll find a gorgeous 3-inch. This is not an articulated display, but a fixed one. The advantage of this fixed screen is that it takes less space so camera manufacturers can make the camera less thick.

The SX500 IS also enjoys Canon’s enhanced Zoom framing assist button to help you out with your composition while shooting at the tele end. The Sx500  IS focuses very fast and has very short time lag (but slower than the SX50 HS, see comparison table in the next section).

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS was designed to be an affordable alternative to the SX50 HS, but not only. Some people prefer using a compact camera that is also much more lightweight and don’t mind giving some zoom. I think that the size difference isn’t that important, because both cameras aren’t pocket-able. You can’t put either cameras in your pocket and you’ll be carrying them in a small camera back anyway. Maybe the Sx500 IS can fits into a small bag, so for girls for example that carry a bag with them, or a businessman carrying a suitcase, the SX500 IS might be the better option.

By the way, the ‘IS’ in SX500 IS stands for ‘Image Stabilization’ of the lens.

OK, now that you got a good understanding about what to expect from these two cameras, it’s the perfect time to move to the comparison itself. Here we’ll talk in more in-depth details about the differences between the two cameras so you will have much better understanding how the two cameras differ.

S50 HS vs SX00 IS

OK, we are now in the most interesting part, and probably the most useful one. You already know that the Canon PowerShoht SX500 IS is relatively cheap camera, much cheaper than the SX50 HS. So you know that you give up on some features. Some of those features you might really like and want to have on your camera, some of them might not be so relevant and/or useful. The most important thing to do is to place a good amount of attention to the details, and ask yourself for each feature whether you need it or not. ‘Wanting’ is another thing.

If you want the best features you’ll have to pay for it, but it doesn’t mean that you will use it much. It’s easy to spend more and buy the better camera, but it’s not always the smartest choice. New cameras are released into the market every few months with better and more cool features. You can save quite a lot of money by understanding those features and knowing which one you might take advantage of and which ones aren’t useful for. You might find out that the SX500 IS has all that features that you need, even more.

Canon Sx50 HS and SX5000 IS side by side

Canon Sx50 HS and SX5000 IS side by side - Size comparison via

[table "86" not found /]

As you can see from the specs comparison table above, there are plenty of differences between the two cameras. The Canon Sx50 HS is obviously the more powerful and fully featured superzoom camera of the two.

Let’s summarize the main advantages that the SX50 HS has over the SX500:

  • More advanced sensor technology
  • Next generation image processor
  • Higher ISO range
  • Much bigger zoom
  • Faster AF performance
  • Slower shutter lag
  • Arituculating LCD display
  • Electronic Viewfinder
  • A bit stronger pop up flash
  • Hot-shoe to connect external flash
  • Much faster continuous shooting
  • Full HD video recording
  • Much better battery life
  • More flexible exposure compensation
  • Lock assist feature
  • RAW file format

This is a big list of features and no you can see why the SX500 IS price is low, it lacks many of the features that you can find in the SX50 HS. You might find out that you don’t need those features and you prefer getting the SX500 IS instead, that’s fine. I personally prefer shooting in RAW, love the big zoom (just love it!), take advantage of the articulating LCD for videos and prefer a camera that has a good battery life. For this reason the SX50 HS wins it. Of course that was just me, you might think otherwise.

50x Zoom vs 30x Zoom – Zoom Test

Before we continue to the image quality comparison section, I want you to understand what 30x and 50x feels like in practice and try to comprehend the difference between the two zoom. Let’s take a look at the next two videos that demonstrated the optical zoom for both cameras.

First is the Canon PowerShot Sx500. Let’s see what 30x zoom looks like in real footage.

Amazing isn’t it? – WOW!!, that is just amazing how close you can’t get to your subject. If this is 30x zoom, what is 50x zoom looks like?… mmm.. let’s take a look.

Say what?! – This is ridiculous, it’s not a camera, excuse me – IT’S A TELESCOPE! – I’m impressed, going home, closing the book, game over.. lol. Just over reacted, but really, the SX50 HS zoom is so impressive that you can understand why so many people are buying this camera. You can see from the second video that you can capture videos (as well as images) that otherwise you wouldn’t have a chance to capture.  I’m sold to this 50x zoom, just can’t help it. If you are excited as me, you know what to expect when you put your hands on this mega-zoom camera.

Our comparison is not over yet. We need to see how the two cameras compare in terms of image quality

SX50 HS vs SX500 – Image Quality Comparison

A good image quality is very important for many photographers. The camera can have great features, but if it fails to deliver good image quality many people might dump it and go buy another camera instead that can stand to their expectations. I used to analyze the high ISO sample image in order to come to a more conclusive opinion which one performs better in high ISO, but also get a better assessment of how good the image quality is in general. Here are my observation conclusion:

  • ISO 100 / ISO 200 – The Canon SX50 HS image has much less noise and this is obvious right from the start. The Sx50 HS is also much sharper. In the SX500 we can also see purple fringing which is quite evident and more pronounced than on the SX50 HS. Don’t get me wrong, image quality is excellent on the SX50 HS and very good on the SX500 IS as well, but I was quite disappointed to see noise at very low ISO
  • ISO 400 – The Canon SX50 HS image is still very very clean, noise is almost not noticeable. On the other hand, the Sx500 IS is very noisy, which is more evident when looking at the image at 100% scale. At lower resolution it’s hard to notice the difference. This is for me (might not be for you), a deal breaker. I personally can’t stand noise in image, and having that amount of noise at ISO 400 just doesn’t cut it for me. Some people shoot their photos at lower ISO so it shouldn’t be a problem. I will say it again, it’s not terrible, but you can get very usable images at ISO 400, but if the SX50 HS just looks much better. That’s the end of the claims about the CCD having lower noise. This sensor is not at the same league as the SX50 HS, not even close.
  • ISO 800 – Blow me out of the water, the Canon SX50 HS at ISO 800 looks VERY IMPRESSIVE!. It looks like we need to beg for the camera to show us noise. Great performance so far for the SX50 HS. The SX500 IQ degrades even further, very noisy, color patches noise patterns everywhere, might be still good for small prints and the web but that’s it.
  • ISO 1600 (max ISO for the SX500 IS) – the SX500 IS just looks terrible, not usable in my opinion, unless you see noise as something creative. The SX50 HS performs exceptionally well, noise does appear in both the dark areas and mid-tones but it’s well controlled – I’m impressed. Worth mentioning that most of our photos we’ll shoot at ISO below 1600, so it’s great to see that even at IS 1600 we can get very usable shots. I also like the dotty noise patterns because it’s much easier for noise removal software to remove the noise.
  • ISO 3200 (SX50 only) – things are getting worse for the SX50 HS here. Much more noise but you still get a usable image for small print and the web. If you run the image in noise reduction software you can even get out with a very clean image and still stay with lots of details.
  • ISO 6400 (SX50 only) – I wouldn’t use it.

We have a clear winner without a doubt – the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS put the Canon SX500 IS to shame in image quality department. The SX500 IS sensor takes decent image but it just can’t match the SX50 HS sensor, the difference is just to huge to be ignored.

If you shoot mainly in low ISO, the SX500 IS will perform pretty good and the color reproduction on the SX500 is pretty good. If you are a pixelpeer IQ fanatic, I think that the SX50 HS is your only option. I was really impressed with the image quality in still, and that works for video as well too. The SX50 HS is just an amazing megazoom camera. Canon really pulled it off with this one and it’s a well worthy successor to the SX40 IS.


Let’s take at two sample videos taken with both cameras..

First is the Canon SX50 HS sample video:

Second is the Canon SX500 IS sample video:

You can see that even videos are quite noisy compare to the SX50.

OK, time to a summary..


Here we are after a long comparison. If you read all the small details you know that the two cameras are very different from each other. I personally think that the Canon Sx50 HS worth the extra cost and if you can pay for it just go and grab it, it’s an amazing superzoom camera.  What I love about the SX50 HS is the amazing zoom, great stills and video quality, AF performance, articulating LCD, Lock assist feature, very good battery life and the ability to shoot in RAW file format. The SX500 HS is a great super zoom camera for those who are searching for a cheap alternative and also prefer having a more compact camera. You can call it an entry-level superzoom, and it really like that. The image quality is far less impressive than the SX50 HS, but still at ISO 100 and ISO 200 you can decent images. I also liked the back 3-inch LCD screen. The quality of the display is good, but I’ve seen better. The SX500 doesn’t come with an electronic viewfinder, has a less powerful battery and have less of the advanced features that makes the SX50 HS so attractive.

For what you pay, the SX500 IS is a very good camera and offer good value in return. If you are more serious about taking better photographs and want to have the biggest optical zoom lens on the planet, the SX50 HS is the way to go.  For me the decision is easy I have to admit. I was sold with the image quality and zoom from day one. I recommend investing more if you can and get the SX50 HS. The price went down since it was first introduced and Amazon sells it for a very low price compare to other online stores.

I think that comparing the SX500 IS versus the SX50 HS doesn’t do justice for the SX500. For a camera in the $250 price range it really an awesome camera and a step up from many other simple compact camera that you might have bought for around the same price or lower. It you can’t afford buying the SX50, the Sx500 is a great alternative. You get a very big zoom (although not impressive as the SX50), compact body,  large 3-inch screen, has a good quality at low ISO, it’s lightweight, has full manual control and great automatic mode and very useful image stabilization. It’s not a great camera for low light shooting, and although most superzoom aren’t, the SX50 HS high ISO performance compensate for the slower lens. This is the camera for those who are searching to buy a superzoom camera for a low price.

I hope that you find this article helpful in understanding the differences between the two cameras. Canon made it easier for us to make a decision here because there are just to many difference between the two cameras that I’m sure that some of you already made up your mind. If you do find this comparison interesting and useful, please don’t forget to share it and LIKE it. Thanks for your time and please visit my blog again for more interesting camera comparisons — Thanks for reading.

Check latest prices and buy from:

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS: B&H Photo, Adorama

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS: B&H Photo, Adorama


Amazon Ads