Typically, when shooting still photos, camcorders offer few exposure options and turn out low-quality images. Conversely, most dedicated still cameras tend to offer disappointing video, and are best left to only take pictures. The Canon DC50 manages to avoid these limitations, to an extent. This standard-definition DVD camcorder not only fulfills its primary role as a video camera, but its 5-megapixel sensor and generous still-photo feature set makes it a capable tool for taking snapshots.
The DC50's design feels very similar to its little brothers the DC210, the DC220, and the DC230 and because of this, it retains many of the awkward aspects those lower-end models carry. Fortunately, its generally strong build quality and minor design tweaks make the DC50 much easier to work with. Its 18.2-ounce frame sits a bit heavier in the hand, feeling solid without seriously weighing you down. The tiny joystick with which you navigate menus and settings feels slightly tighter than on other models, as do the function and display buttons that sit on the camcorder's side. The viewfinder doesn't slide out, but it sits slightly further back and at a steeper angle than the ones in the DC220 and DC230, reducing the chance of mashing your face against the camera while shooting. The camcorder's flip-out LCD screen seems nearly identical to the other Canons, offering a 2.7-inch, pivoting wide-screen view.
As Canon's top DVD camcorder, the DC50 includes several high-end features not found on less pricey models. Its 10x optical, f/1.8-to-f/3.0 zoom lens features an optical image stabilization system to help reduce shake and can accept 37mm accessory filters. While its less expensive brethren include 35x lenses, they can't use filters, and they omit the optical image stabilization found in the DC50, in favor of a less effective electronic solution. The DC50 also sports both a video light and a flash with red-eye reduction; two valuable features not found on the DC230, DC220, or DC210.
Besides the onboard features, the DC50 comes with two useful accessories. A small remote control comes in the box, identical to the one included with the DC230. The remote offers a handy alternative to the camera's tiny control stick when navigating its various menus. The PC software title Roxio MyDVD also comes bundled with the DC50. It offers simple DVD-authoring tools, but lets you customize your DVD menus and layouts and finalize discs through the camcorder via a USB 2.0 cable.
Most camcorders offer still pictures as an afterthought, a simple feature that captures a still photo and copies it to the memory card with few, if any, options. The DC50 bucks this trend with a remarkably wide range of still-photo options. Besides the standard automatic photo mode, the camcorder features multiple scene presets, shutter and aperture priority modes, multiple white balance and metering settings, 9-point autofocus, a manual focus mode, and even a histogram. Many of these features, such as aperture/shutter priority modes and manual focus, go missing in many low-end digital cameras, so seeing them on a camcorder pleasantly surprised me. The camcorder even offers a continuous-shooting mode that can snap pictures with the flash at the fairly brisk pace of about a shot per second. Unfortunately, the camera uses miniSD cards instead of regular SD cards, so you can't use any of your old camera memory cards and will likely have to use an adapter if you own a card reader.