Full disclosure: A Canon EOS 50D was what I consider my first "real" DSLR after moving up from an EOS Rebel XTi/400D that was my first DSLR of any kind. The Rebel felt like a high priced toy. The 50D felt like the film SLRs I learned on in the 1980s. I have no attachment whatsoever to the Rebel XTi. I gave it away years ago. I'll probably never let go of that 50D, even though I no longer use it. It's the camera with which I really learned how to shoot digital.
Yes, the 50D is an old camera first introduced way back in 2008.
Yes, there are much more capable cameras for many purposes on the market in 2020.
No, that does not mean you can't get photos just as good with the 50D in 2020 than you could get back in 2008 when it was the hottest camera on the market for semi-pros and amateur enthusiasts. It's the same camera now that it was then, assuming everything still works properly.
You'll probably want to buy a fresh battery for it. Stay away from eBay when buying camera batteries. Almost all of the "genuine" Canon batteries on ebay are cheap fakes. Instead, buy OEM or higher quality third party batteries from reputable dealers like B&H or SterlingTek. For an older camera such as the EOS 50D, the batteries available are probably older stock. If you get one that doesn't perform well, dealers like B&H and SterlingTek will let you exchange/return it for another.)
I shot this one back in 2010 with a 50D and a great lens, a brand spanking new EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II. If I were editing this one today, I'd crop to a 4:3 ratio to get rid of the distracting flag at the extreme left of the frame.
ISO 800, 1/200, f/2.8, 120mm. Cropped from 4752x3168 to 4266x2844 before being resized for web use.
Here's a pixel peeping 100% crop of an area near the center of the frame to show the noise performance at ISO 800 using moderate amounts of NR, as well as the details resolved by the lens that still hold up.
Any camera one uses, even the latest top-of-the-line models, have limitations. Every single one of them.
The marketing departments at every camera maker make it sound like the latest, greatest models have solved every photographic problem known to man. Let's call one such camera "Model X". If you want to know what the most glaring limitations of "Model X" are, just wait a few years until "Model X" is replaced by "Model X Mark II". Those same marketing departments will then go on and on about how "Model X Mark II" has improved performance over "Model X" with regard to what are by then the commonly known limitations of "Model X"! Of course "Model X Mark II" also has limitations that the marketing department won't tell you about until "Model X Mark III" is introduced a fews years down the road...
Personally, I think that the EOS 50D is a great camera to learn with in 2020 precisely because of its limitations. They will force you as a photographer to learn how to work around them to get the kinds of shots you want.
A few examples:
- You'll need to use a tripod much earlier when shooting static scenes in low light. This will allow you to see firsthand the benefit of a tripd compared to shooting handheld that many who start with cameras capable of insanely high ISO settings never learn. You'll learn the value of remote shutter release and mirror lockup for exposure times between about 1/160 second and 1 second. When you have a choice, a tripod will always get a cleaner shot than shooting handheld will.
- You'll have to learn how to carefully balance aperture, shutter speed, and ISO in situations that you wouldn't give a second thought to if you could just set the ISO to "Auto" and let it range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400 or ISO 12800.
- You'll be more limited in your ability to crop using the 15 MP 50D than you would with a higher resolution camera. This will encourage you to more carefully consider the way you frame a scene before you shoot it, rather than just banging away and then trying to find something decent to crop later.
Ultimately, the thing that matters the most with regard to how good your images can be is you. The skill, knowledge, and experience a photographer can bring to the table will trump the technical capabilities of gear. Until one is already utilizing all of the potential of the camera/lenses one is already using, the best way to improve one's images is to improve one's skill as a photographer. Part of that skill involves the knowhow to recognize what a particular shot requires in terms of gear and the ability to select the best options from the hardware available to the photographer.
It's too long to repeat here, but please take a moment to read this answer to How to improve image sharpness on Canon 700D? The answer applies to much more than just image sharpness or that particular camera model. It talks about many of the things we've touched on in the paragraph above in far greater depth. There are also a few links in that answer that other questions/answers you may find helpful as well.
Because, again, no matter what camera you may ultimately wind up using, it will have limitations. They all do. The things you learn using a more limited camera will stay with you as you move up to better, more capable cameras. Those skills will allow you to get more out of those less limited cameras than a lesser photographer could.
Now let's talk about lenses a little bit. There are two ways to look at it from a beginners point-of-view:
- Get a few very affordable lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths and other characteristics. This will allow you to explore what focal lengths you prefer to work with, as well as different things such as macro, astronomy, street, action/sports, etc.
- Carefully purchase a few high quality lenses good for a few specific use cases that can be used for years to come. Don't waste money on lenses that won't keep up with your growing skill level.
I fall firmly in the first camp. Lens decisions are an intensely personal thing. What one photographer may consider essential can be totally superfluous for another photographer. The more you know about how you want to shoot, the better informed you'll be to decide which lenses are best for you when the time comes to start spending more on gear. What one must be careful to avoid with this strategy is the constant desire to frequently upgrade to a slightly better lens (or camera) than what one is currently using.
Here's one example - choosing a telephoto lens:
- Starting out, the most cost effective budget option when using an APS-C "crop sensor" body such as the Canon EOS 50D is something like an EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS (either the older II or the newer STM). The APS-C only 55-250mm lenses have image quality comparable to Canon's consumer grade 70-300mm full frame lenses costing twice as much. (They're also better optically than the even cheaper EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III that is sometimes almost free in a two lens kit with an entry level Rebel.)
- When you're ready to upgrade, though, avoid the temptation to move to the aforementioned EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS. For twice the money, you don't really gain that much as long as you're using crop sensor body that can use the EF-S lens.
- Instead, keep using that EF-S 55-250mm while saving for the telephoto lens that you ultimately will wind up getting anyway: A 70-200mm f/2.8 or f/4 constant aperture zoom with much better optical image quality than either the 55-250mm or the 70-300mm, or maybe a 150-600mm f/5-6.3 that gives you a lot more "reach" but doesn't have the 'faster" constant wider aperture and ultimate image quality of the 70-200/2.8 lenses.
- By the time you're ready to buy one of those, you'll understand the differences between the various options and which one will work better for you.
In other words, start out at the ground floor and wait there until you know enough to know where in the building you want to end up, then use the elevator to go directly there instead of climbing the stairs one floor at a time using all of your energy (money) wandering around looking for where you want to go.
At this point you don't even know how much you'll enjoy (or not enjoy) photography as a hobby. Assuming you do decide to stay in it for a while, you might surprise yourself with what kinds of things you find you enjoy shooting the most and what type of things you quickly grow tired of shooting. It would be a shame to find any relatively expensive lenses you bought near the beginning of your photographic journey aren't well suited to what you eventually find you most want to shoot.
So use the camera and lens you already have, add a couple of other affordable¹ lenses to the mix, such as a 50mm f/1.8² and maybe a modest telephoto zoom, and concentrate on learning the basics of photography and experimenting with various types of shooting. When you reach the point where you really do need better cameras or lenses to do what you, as a photographer, are capable of doing you'll have a much better idea of what cameras and lenses are best for you.
¹ Yongnuo lenses can be a crap shoot. Their quality control can vary wildly, both in terms of optical performance and build quality/durability. The YN 35/2 lens housing is a more "cheaply made" version of the EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Since it is less than $100, I bought one just to see what it would be like. If you have time to focus it manually and can stop down a bit, it's decent. But wide open in low light, which is what I buy an f/2 prime for, it's not that great nor is the AF very accurate. I have gotten some usable images with it. But for the most part there's no reason to use it when I already have a 24-70mm f/2.8 that has much better AF performance and image quality if I have to stop the 35/2 down to f/2.8 anyway...
² The newer EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is my recommendation over the much older EF 50mm f/1.8 II. There's not much difference between the two in terms of cost and optical performance. The newer STM, though, corrects a lot of the older lens' shortcomings: the AF is faster and more accurate, the mount that attaches to the camera is metal instead of plastic, and there's a usable manual focus ring that allows manually focusing without needing to move the AF switch on the lens to the manual focus position.