Canon SX50 vs. Canon SX510 vs. Canon SX530

120studio.com
May 8, 2014
Updated 2015



Is the Canon SX50 that much better than the SX510? 
We're going to find out.



The Canon SX50 HS, SX510 HS , and SX530 HS have similar model numbers.  They are both "superzoom" cameras.  Both look like miniature DSLR's, sort of.

I use an SX50 quite a bit (full review here).  When I first picked up an SX510, I was amazed that it's even smaller than the SX50.  While the SX50 looks a bit like a toy compared to the average DSLR, the SX510 looks like a toy compared to the SX50.  The same goes for the newer SX530.

Who cares, though... the real question is whether they're any good for taking pictures.



A Quick Note

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In This Article

Comparison Chart

Low-Light Performance

Custom Shooting Modes

Flash Capability

RAW Mode

Viewfinder

Zoom

Summary




Comparison Chart


Here's a quick rundown of the differences:


Canon SX510 HS
Canon SX530 HS
Canon SX50 HS
Sensor Size & Type
1/2.3" back-lit CMOS
1/2.3" back-lit CMOS 1/2.3" back-lit CMOS
Resolution
12.1 megapixels
16 megapixels
12.1 megapixels
Image Processor
Digic 4
Digic 4+
Digic 5
LCD Screen Resolution
461,000 dots
461,000 dots
461,000 dots
Max. Zoom
30x
50x
50x
Continuous shooting 
     (SCN mode)
10.5 shots / sec. 10 shots / sec.
13 shots / sec
Continuous shooting
     (other modes)
3.8 shots / sec

1.6 shots / sec.
2.2 shots / sec.

Custom color modes (N, P, V, etc)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Custom shooting modes (C1, C2)?
No
No
Yes
Flash hot shoe?
No
No
Yes
HDR?
No
No
Yes
RAW mode?
No
No
Yes
Video
1080px full HD @ 24 fps
1080px full HD @ 30 fps
1080px full HD @ 24 fps
Viewfinder
No
No
Yes
Weight
12.3 ounces / 349 g
15.6 ounces / 442 g
21 ounces / 595 g
Typical Street Price (8/2015)
$229
$279
$329

Just based on this table, I would already say go for the Canon SX50 and you can have it delivered to your door in a few days.  But if you're like me and you want to think about it some more, here are some details to consider.



Low-Light Performance

The Canon SX50 with its Digic 5 processor will outperform the SX510 with its Digic 4.   The Digic 5 is quite a bit faster, and it's claimed to have 75% less noise than the Digic 4. 

The SX530 has more megapixels, which is not actually good for low-light performance. 

In real life, the SX510 and 530 are comparable to the SX50 at high ISO.  You might notice a small difference, but from what I've been able to see, it's not enough to make a difference toward one camera or the other.  I like the SX50 over the 510 and 530 for other reasons, primarily the viewfinder, the flash hotshoe, the custom shooting modes, and the RAW mode.

By the way, take a look at my review of the Nikon One V1 to compare an SX50 image at ISO 800 with that of a V1 and a Canon T3.  The SX50 with its tiny sensor shouldn't even be in the running there, but it does quite well!  (The T3 has a Digic 4, while the SX50 has Digic 5). 

I would consider the SX50 and the SX510 / 520 / 530 to be viable at ISO 800, and usable in a pinch at ISO 1600. 

Much above 1600 and the images start to lose detail quickly. 

None of these Canon SX-series cameras is ideal for low-light.  If you want that feature in a reasonably-priced camera, just order one of these.  I like Canon, but this one from Sony is an even better deal at the moment.

That said, the SX50 and the SX510 / 520 / 530 can do moderately well in low-light scenes, in a pinch.

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Custom Shooting Modes

You can't even get this feature on the entry-level DSLR's from Nikon or Canon.  They're not there.  You have to spend like $1,000 or more just to get them. 

Custom modes are incredibly useful if you use your camera often. 

You can customize the camera as much as you want, and then just save all your settings into the C1 or the C2 slots.  Then, turn the dial to C1 or C2 and the camera will recall your whole array of settings.  

It even remembers the amount of zoom!  

So if you're into birding, you could zoom the camera in perfectly to reach your bird feeder, and then save that for next time.  Then, when you see an Indigo Bunting or something, you won't waste time fussing around with the camera to get it right.  Big-time useful. 

Canon put this feature on here to differentiate the SX50 from their entry-level DSLR's, and it worked. 


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Flash Capability

Here's where the SX50 wins over the 510 (etc) by a mile.  It has a flash hotshoe, which allows you to fit it with a bounce flash.  If you want the easiest, most reliable way to photograph people indoors, forget all the high-ISO / slow-shutter-speed stuff.  Just get you a good bounce flash unit.  I don't care if you have a pro DSLR... there are situations where your kids will be running around opening presents, and no amount of high-ISO ├╝ber-technology is going to freeze that motion.  Flash photography exists for a reason. 

On-camera flash tends to look harsh, and it also increases the chance of red-eye.  Bounce flash has neither of these problems.

The first thing I would do, if you're serious about photographing people indoors with the SX50, is to get yourself a Canon Speedlite.   You might be tempted to get the cheap Canon Speedlite 270EX II, but it's kind of slow.   Actually, not "kind of".  I'd really suggest a Canon Speedlite 320EX as the bare minimum.  It's not that much more money than the 270EX II, but it's a much more capable unit.   Even better yet, go for the Canon Speedlite 430EX II

One maddening feature of lesser flash units is that they use a series of rapid flash bursts to faciliate autofocus when you're in a dimly-lit room.  This is really distracting and can upset some of your subjects, making them not very photogenic for the rest of the session.  (Experience talking here.)  The 430EX II doesn't do this.  It has the infra-red autofocus beam, which is how it should be. 

Another good choice, for a bit less money, is this flash unit from Metz.  Very similar guide number / power level compared to the 430EX II.  Again, infra-red focus beam. 

(There are cheaper, older, bounce-capable flashes you can use, but if you do that, make sure to get one of these, because older flash units often create a massive back-voltage that can fry your camera... instantly.  The flashes I mentioned above are made for Canon digital cameras, so they're safe.) 

Another great thing about using a 430EX II with your SX50 is that you can control the flash settings through the camera menus.  This tiny-sensor camera may not be able to take good pictures of Orion hand-held on a dark night, but it's a technological wonder in many other ways.

         


RAW Mode

RAW mode is kind of a big deal if you do a lot of scenes with large expanses of sky.  Adjusting these in JPG mode can easily produce tone-banding.  With RAW mode you can export the pictures as TIFF or PNG files that have much greater color depth, which means you won't get data gaps when you adjust levels or curves.  The SX50 offers RAW mode;  the 510 (etc) does not.

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Viewfinder

Tack on another mile to the SX50's margin of victory. 

OK, the electronic viewfinder on the SX50 is not the best I've seen, but it's not bad, either.  It's sure a lot better than having none at all.  It's also a lot better than the viewfinder on the older SX40.  Meanwhile, the lack of viewfinder on the 510 (etc) is a major drawback in bright sunlight.  You can "get by" with this situation, and I did that for a while with an SX120, but you'll eventually wish you had the viewfinder. 

Even on this basis alone, I say get the SX50.

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Zoom

For any of the numerous scenery photos I've taken with the SX50 (see a few here), I don't think I've ever used more than 30x zoom.  For wildlife photos or pictures of the moon, though, you can easily use 50x and wish you had even more.

The SX510 has enough zoom for general scenery.  It's the other features (such as lack of a viewfinder and hot-shoe) that would make me skip it and get the SX50 instead.  Then again, if your budget is under $300, the SX510 is not a bad little camera.  It's a lot better than a smartphone or your typical deck-of-cards point & shoot.

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Summary

Both cameras have comparable image quality.  What's important is that the SX510 lacks several important features that are present in the SX50.

RAW mode, flash hotshoe, electronic viewfinder (EVF)... the SX50 has 'em.  The 510 does not, and neither does its updated brethen (the SX 520 and 530).  And if you use the camera a lot, which I think you will because you'll like it so much, the C1 and C2 custom modes are really useful.  Again the SX50 has them, the 510 doesn't.

If you can manage it, absolutely get the SX50 instead of the 510 / 520 / 530.   I have a more comprehensive review of the SX50 here, and once again you can see some SX50 sample images in my art gallery.
 
    

I hope you found this article helpful.    You can help me out by shopping for any of your stuff through the links on here.  (Get your Canon SX50 through this link or your Canon SX530 through this one.) 

Much appreciated.   Thanks for visiting my website!







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