Better Blogging with the Canon EOS 50D

Canon-EOS-50D.jpg When David Schloss joined us he brought with him his product editor background and moreover Pro photographer skills. The dude has the biggest camera at the events we attend, and some of the best bike photos I’ve seen. Right up there with Liz, Matt McGaughey, and Ken Conley.

David’s skills trickled down to the rest of us and you may have noticed I started shooting with a Canon 50D.

The camera is Canon’s first in-house, mid-range DLSR and intended for Prosumers. It retails for $1,000.00 for the body only.

Previously my camera choices were driven by being mobile, shooting on the bike while traveling, and riding the Mobile Socials. Weight is a premium when traveling and I didn’t want to lug around a Digital SLR and requisite gear when posting from cities like Taipei, London, and Austin.

I carried a Casio Exilim and Sony HDR-TG1, a pocket-size HD handycam. I shoot mostly with my iPhone and blog with a Macbook Air. Sure, that old saying that the best camera is the one you have with you applies, but in the few years we’ve been publishing everyone else has an iPhone or camera phone and just getting the content out isn’t enough anymore.

Coming back from Interbike where the immediacy circuit (a connected world consuming media immediately) was in effect, we decided in 2010 we’ll bring our readers more featured content, better photograhpy, and video.

In other words, we were driven by using our blog skills to get the content out faster and more digestible than the old-school magazines. Now it’s time to do that with better, more focused content, and higher quality media.

A Digital SLR

I’ll let the camera sites do the tech justice on a camera like the Canon 50d and stick to the higher-level features. What I was after was a step up from a point and shoot with better depth, higher resolution, and more accurate color. We’re not doing print, but want photos to look great across a variety of light conditions and settings.

My pre-50d photos from TrekWorld sucked because they had the worst exhibition lighting and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Being a competitive guy I also noticed Zap et al. had a DSLR and were getting better shots of Contador’s Madone. At the least, being able to flip the white balance setting to fluorescent and shoot is way better than washed out Exilim photos.

Prosumer

I’m not going to pretend I’m a Pro photographer and honestly still use the camera mostly for point and shoot. I’ve got a few settings I know how to work with to get shots like this

IMG_5043.jpg

And this

IMG_7102.jpg

I’m using Aperture to manage this new influx of photos and will post about that later. As David told me, the difference between a Pro and Amateur is the Pros shoot way more photos and throw a lot more away.

aperture_shot.jpg

I also realized the Pros know how to get the shot in the most challenging light. Still working on that skill.

Handheld on a bike

As a bike blogger, I’ve developed a talent for holding a camera and shooting with one hand while steering the bike with the other. The Sony HDR-TG1 is an outstanding HD handycam for this purpose. The main difference in quality and cost at the time, between the Sony and Flip Mino, is it had image stabilization. A necessity on the bike. While the Sony’s video is good, the stills are not. They are low quality with terrible color and resolution.

Weight, size, and equipment are still concerns and if I were to upgrade further it’s towards a camera that is better protected and had video – the 50d does not. Don’t know if DSLRs come with cell cards, but would sure like to just send to Flickr and Facebook right from the Canon.That’s out on the bike and not with the Eye-Fi card that works only with Wi-Fi. (David’s Note: The Canon 7D we’ve been testing over at Mac Create does excellent video, it’s one of our most-recommended cameras now. There isn’t a cell-based solution for sending images right from the camera, sadly.)

I’m now carrying three cameras:

  • iPhone – moblogging, in the moment photos.
  • Sony HDR-TG1 – HD Video, point and shoot
  • Canon 50D – DSLR, product and high quality shots.

Get RAW

I find the Canon’s UI frustrating at best and blame that mostly on just being handed a camera from Canon – they sent it to us for review – and just starting to shoot in Amsterdam. I didn’t have time or any intention of “reading the manual.” At times, the camera just behaves oddly: struggling to focus and with its own sense of what white balance is. I figured out that when the shots consistently aren’t good, it’s time to pull the battery. This forces the Canon to reboot on the next start. (David’s Note: I think there’s something up with that particular 50d. It’s possibly been dropped by FedEx a few too many times.)

The RAW image format gives me the flexibility to shoot in a variety of conditions quickly and clean up or adjust what I can back at Hugga HQ. Again, I’ll let the photo blogs, like Strobist, school you on RAW, but it’s a non-processed image file straight off of the sensor, instead of a compressed JPEG. I’m mostly tweaking the white balance, exposure, sharpness, and vibrancy. Sure I could probably do more on the camera to save computer time, but again my needs are to do this while traveling and in the moment.

Keeping Pace

As I said at the beginning of the post, concerning content and quality, we want to keep pace with the speed of social media, while publishing premium content. We hope to find that balance in 2010 and we’ll have more gear to test and use. For more on how we blog, see

The 50D it’s working for me with it’s own quirks and I’m learning how best to use it. If you’re looking to upgrade to a DSLR, it’s a good choice. At 1.8 pounds, it’s certainly more to lug around than the Casio, but the tradeoff for the images it produces are worth it. I’ve got a 50M lens for it. The camera features include:

  • APS-C sized 15.1-megapixel CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC 4 Image Processor
  • Live View
  • Clear View LCD.

Canon owners review the 50D on average a 4.7 and consider it a good value. CNET and other reviewers are all consistenly giving the camera good ratings.

Stepping up further in Canon’s line gets you better weather protection, into 35M sized sensors, and even more controls. I’ll let David work with those cameras. I’ve got enough to do with this one.



6 Comments

the 50D seems like the T1i but without the HD movie capabilities. Why wouldn’t they just send you the T1i?

Loss of HD video is an unfortunate compromise, but there are definite photographer-specific advantages to the 50D.

I’ll add that unless Canon has made an about-face with their low-end DSLRs, the T1i camera body is only big enough for people who can reach the bottom of a Pringles can.

My guess is because the camera is directed at consumers who want to upgrade and presumably bloggers who want better quality. I’ve got no insight into Canon’s marketing but do know at holiday parties last week the camera got a lot of attention with dads that had a 35m in the 70s/80s and we’re now interested and ready to invest in DSLRs. I got way more questions about the camera than I could answer.  I think it’s the same driver as mine—the Exilim is actually a really impressive point and shoot, but I outgrew it’s capabilities and the shots I wanted to get. I’ve also had the camera for the late Summer and Fall. I wanted to read up on it and get experienced in order to post with some knowledge.

Welcome to the 50D club (bought mine back in August). It’s a great camera that will dramatically improve your output over the point-and-shoot cameras you’ve been using. Congrats!

Alan@EcoVelo

Oh cool! Do you have the white-balance voodoo?

“Do you have the white-balance voodoo?”

Nope. I just shoot raw and deal with any issues in Photoshop…

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