Photo quality from the SX50 HS is generally the same as it was with the SX40 HS, which isn't a bad thing. Of course, a lot has to do with expectations. This is still a small-sensor camera, so you will not get digital SLR-quality photos and noise and artifacts will probably stop you from using them at 100 percent size even at ISO 80 (macro photos are an exception).
Images do get softer and noisier above ISO 200 -- typical for point-and-shoots -- but ISO 400 and 800 are still usable. Also, since Canon included raw image capture on this model, you can process the images yourself if you want and rescue some detail if you don't mind a little extra noise. Another bonus: There are 1/3 increments for ISO sensitivities, as in ISO 250, ISO 320, ISO 400, and so on, giving you a bit more control over things.
Colors desaturate some at ISO 1600 and 3200, subjects look very soft, and detail is greatly diminished; ISO 6400 is sort of pointless.
Keep in mind, too, that if you're shooting indoors with lens extended, you'll need the higher ISOs to keep shutter speeds fast enough to prevent blur. Also, the auto white balance is warm indoors, which doesn't help color when combined with higher ISOs; use the presets or use the custom option when possible.
Unlike in past versions of this camera, Canon includes the capability to capture raw and raw plus JPEG. If you don't mind processing the images yourself, you can get slightly improved detail, especially at higher ISOs, and fine-tune noise reduction to your liking.
The top photo here is a JPEG straight from the camera of our scene shot at ISO 800. The bottom is the raw version with minimal noise reduction. Though there is more graininess, you do get better fine detail. Viewed larger you can make out more of the differences.
If you like to shoot close-ups, the SX50 HS does this very well. It can focus right up against a subject, and as long as you're shooting at ISO 80, you can get nice fine detail at 100 percent. This is a 100 percent crop of the inset photo.
Another example of the zoom power of this lens. That is the observation deck of the Empire State Building. If you'd like to see what this image looks like at 100 percent (it's not pretty, but pretty cool) you can see it toward the end of this slideshow.
While the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 is still a better choice for shooting action when using the zoom lens, the SX50 HS does well. Canon includes a full-resolution, 10-shot-burst scene mode that is capable of up to 13 frames per second. This sets focus and exposure with the first shot, but that's common with these modes. There is also a continuous shooting setting that hits about 2.1fps (again, with focus and exposure set with the first shot) and a continuous with autofocus that is slower at 0.9fps, but at least it's an option.
Fringing was minimal in high-contrast areas of photos and really only visible when viewed onscreen at larger sizes, such as in this 100 percent crop of the inset image. Lens distortion was minimal, too, with only a little barrel distortion at the wide end. The lens sharpness was good out to the sides with just some softening in the corners.
Canon added an HDR mode to the SX50 HS to help balance out high-contrast shots. The camera takes three shots at different exposures and combines them into one shot to bring out details that would otherwise be lost in shadows or highlights. It doesn't do this particularly quickly, though, so the camera and the subject have to remain still for good results.
In the shots above, the one on the far left was taken in Program Auto and the middle shot was taken with in HDR. If you view it larger you can see that there's some ghosting with the people walking.
The photo on the far right is the same as the one on the left, but processed using Canon's i-Contrast editing option available in playback. It doesn't improve highlight details, but brings up the detail lost in shadows.
The DR Correction option on the SX50 HS tones down highlights. The top photo is with it off, the bottom is with it on and set to tone down highlights by about 400 percent. The lowest available is ISO 320, but it works and can definitely rescue some detail that would otherwise be blown out.
The SX50 HS' Creative Filter options are plentiful: Toy Camera, Monochrome, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fish-eye Effect, a Super Vivid mode that intensifies colors, and a Poster Effect that posterizes photos. You also get two Canon standards -- Color Swap and Color Accent. In this photo, Color Accent was used to leave the red bow, but turn everything else black and white. Color Swap, on the other hand, could be used to turn the red bow to some other color with minimal effort.
This slide and those that follow were all taken at 1,200mm, so you can get an idea of the photo quality with the lens fully extended. They were all taken handheld, too (the image stabilization is excellent). A link is provided to download and view the full-size image for each slide. They are large files, so it may take a few seconds for them to fully load.