I'm usually shooting with a DSLR (Eos 550D). However, I like shooting at high focal lengths, I have the EFs 55-250mm and a Mirror Lens (500mm) which quality is pretty poor. I thought to buy the 100-400mm, but found the Canon SX 50 with a focal length of 24-1200 mm (35mm value).

My question is, does it make sense to buy such a camera as a second one for shooting distanced objects like landscapes or animals? I usually shoot at good light conditions, since when you take shoots at tele you need a fast shutter-speed. I took a look at sample images and they were pretty good for the fact of that huge focal length. Also, this camera provides the ability to create RAW-Files which is a must-have for my purposes. I know about the "problems" of small sensors like the large depth-of-field, but since I want to use it for the main purpose of a large focal length, I think this could be an advantage.

Any help or experience would be appreciate.


Absolutely. There are several advantages to this and is something I often do.

Normally I travel with one DSLR plus a backup and a small social camera . The backup is often a second DSLR which lets me share lenses, batteries and charger. It gives me redundancy but no more capabilities.

Often I take an ultra-zoom instead of the DSLR when I expect to shoot distant subjects or be in a situation where subjects appear at unexpected distances.

The decision of which way to go depends on the trip and obviously has to be taken in anticipation to the best of my knowledge.

When I take the ultra-zoom which has a modest 26X zoom compared to the SX50, I can shoot much further since my longest DSLR lens ends at 250mm while the ultra-zoom tops at 676mm. I could buy that long a DSLR lens (or rent one) but I really wouldn't want to carry such a beast!

Even so, I would most often have the wrong lens mounted on either DSLR. The ultra-zoom on the other hand is always ready for anything between 24 and 676mm!

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  • Do you ever use the ultra-zoom to shoot distant animals? How do you think it would hold up for that? – dpollitt Nov 12 '12 at 3:29
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    That is what I end-up using it mostly for! Mostly birds. It manages well enough in good light. The aperture drops to F/5.6 and I try to limit ISO to 400, so I would not go on night safari with it and with the small sensor, I would not make large prints either. The key is to decide when the quality is sufficient for some use. – Itai Nov 12 '12 at 3:57
  • Thanks, that's really useful. So I see that my idea is not actually that "crazy" ;) – TSGames Nov 12 '12 at 15:01

To directly answer your question, is a superzoom compact useful for its wide focal length range - absolutely. Is it just as good or nearly as good as a DSLR and a lens with an equivalent focal length - not even close.

You have to expect tradeoffs with a superzoom, weather you are talking about a SLR lens superzoom or a point and shoot camera superzoom. They both typically trade off weight, size, quality, and maximum aperture for size and cost. If size and cost are the most important thing to you, then maybe the image quality isn't. But I do not believe this is the case. You mentioned that RAW files are a must have for you, I don't know exactly what your purposes are, but if you are desiring high image quality then compact cameras aren't going to do it.

The biggest thing I believe will be issues with tracking moving subjects(wildlife, birds, etc). When you are using a superzoom point and shoot, you are dealing with contrast detection autofocus typically which isn't going to really cut it especially for birds in flight.

The image quality of a compact superzoom might look good in some shots, because they were in very bright light, the subject wasn't moving, they weren't dealing with high ISO, and they got lucky with a sturdy tripod for the comparatively tiny camera.

You are trying to do one of the most demanding types of photography with the bare essentials. You can do it, but I imagine you will find the quality and usefulness just as troubling as your existing kit. The Canon 100-400mm L or similar is probably what I would recommend, or if you really want the "superzoom" Canon lens, the 28-300mm L.

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  • Thanks for providing me that useful information. I just want to clarify some things: - Image quality is important, that's right. I mainly want raw because I can do stuff like white-balancing without loss in quality, and most cameras don't to it right - If I want to have the same focal-range, I need the 100-400mm + 2x Tele-Converter. Since I know the teleconverter will reduce the light, there is only an aperture of about F11 left. Even at sunlight I have to push my ISO up to high values, while with the compact I thought I can still stay at 100-200 which should be low enough for good resuls. – TSGames Nov 11 '12 at 23:31
  • You are right, the 100-400mm would be about f/11, and likely unable to even autofocus. If you really need 800mm you would have to spend the big BIG bucks to also get high IQ :) I am not very optimistic about capturing any birds at 1200mm f/6.5 with the SX50 - but economically speaking this might be your only viable option. I guess I would think about trying to walk closer to your subject if you think you need 1200mm, but if that isn't even an option, then yes the SX50 is a great deal and maybe the only option under $10k. – dpollitt Nov 12 '12 at 0:07
  • Take a look at some of the reviews on Amazon for the SX50 - you aren't the only one trying to use this camera for wildlife, it appears to be quite common: amazon.com/review/R2V4M9SB9AXF9G/… – dpollitt Nov 12 '12 at 0:08

The previous poster says:

"The image quality of a compact superzoom might look good in some shots, because they were in very bright light, * the subject wasn't moving *, they weren't dealing with high ISO, and they got lucky with a sturdy tripod for the comparatively tiny camera."

But this may not be accurate as I was amazed that the Canon SX50 HS could capture a humming bird in flight-- see this image http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobptg/8471126375/in/pool-2082775@N20

It is part of a Flickr gallery that features only shots taken with the Canon SX50 HS, here is the gallery if you want to see more http://www.flickr.com/groups/2082775@N20/pool/?view=md there are some pretty nice images on there, many of birds in flight etc.

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