Canon EOS R50 Review: Building a Better Beginner Camera
Canon’s M50 APS-C camera was introduced in February of 2018 when Canon had yet to truly enter the mirrorless camera market, and its tiny new APS-C Canon EOS R50 is more than just a replacement for the M50.
A popular item at big box stores like Costco and Best Buy, the M50 — and the subsequent M50 II — can be found equally in the hands of parents photographing their kids playing soccer and on YouTube in the hands of creators vlogging their way across the globe.
Author’s Note: In addition to the review and testing below, you can hear more of my thoughts about this new Canon R50 in my video review above, as well as see its vlogging performance.
The problem with the M50-series is that it doesn’t share the lens mount with Canon’s RF-based mirrorless cameras, which puts the company in an odd space. While it won’t release sales data on the M50 camera, when talking about the number of units sold, company reps often use terms like “tons.”
It’s not hard to see why: the M50 and a lens can be had for well under $1000, an attractive price for a consumer looking to move up from their smartphone. Unfortunately, the company’s introduction of RF-based APS-C cameras in 2022 left the M50 in an odd space. The M50 is a nice mix of affordability and power, but with a different lens mount, the system is essentially DOA.
For some of the customers of the M50, a dead-end lens mount isn’t a problem as there’s little chance they’ll ever upgrade from their kit purchase. For Canon’s RF-lens mount customers, the M50 represents a missed opportunity. The size of the M50 is attractive, but without a native RF mount, the benefits of a tiny camera are worthless.
This is the stage onto which the R50 arrives. Canon has moved well beyond its first tentative steps into the mirrorless world, and with a growing lineup of new products (see our coverage of the Canon EOS R8, announced at the same time), this tiny camera ushers the M50 to the wings and it takes its turn in the limelight.
Canon made it clear it is not ending the M50 lineup yet, probably for a few reasons including the time it will take to ramp up R50 production and the number of customers that don’t even know Canon has a different lens mount available and don’t care.
If it were just an RF-mount clone of the M50, the R50 would still be a better choice for the consumer, but the R50 is also full of physical upgrades that make it a better choice for the M50 customer and a good choice for existing RF customers as well.
Canon EOS R50: Body and Brains
While the M50 features square lines with relatively sharp angles, the R50 is curved and smoother, more in line with the current RF cameras. The R50 weighs 325 grams (11.5 ounces) body-only, which is around 20 grams (less than an ounce) lighter than the M50. The R50 is also smaller in two dimensions than the M50 but is slightly thicker than the M50, measuring about
4.58 x 3.37 x 2.71 inches (116.3 x 85.5 x 68.8mm).
While I reviewed the black version, a white version of the body will also be available.
The new body is more comfortable than M50, with the rounded corners and edges feeling better in my hands. Having just recently shrunken a nice wool sweater by putting it in the dryer, I thought immediately that the R50 feels like I had accidentally put a bigger Canon in the dryer and ended up with a scaled-down version.
Unsurprisingly, the camera has a single SD card slot as most consumer cameras do, which operates with the UHS-I card format instead of the faster UHS-II slot. The R50 isn’t designed to be a speed demon, so the UHS-I slot fits into the central theme of the camera.
The body has many buttons and controls of the larger cameras but lacks a second dial (for aperture or shutter speed) and a joystick, yet again common especially in Canon’s consumer-oriented cameras.
The improved subject-detection autofocus reduces some need for a joystick. In theory, so does the ability to use the LCD screen as a trackpad when shooting via the viewfinder. Unfortunately, as a left-eye-dominant shooter with a large-sized nose, I cannot use the touch screen’s drag-to-select-AF features. Instead, my nose picks a focus point to the right of the screen.
The R50 continues the trend for mirrorless cameras to eliminate a full mechanical shutter, with only an electronic shutter or an electronic-front-curtain (EFC) option. A traditional mechanical shutter comprises two separate shutters operating at different parts of the exposure. EFC uses a mechanical second shutter but no front shutter. Electronic Front Curtain isn’t as fast as a full-electronic shutter, but it can still enable flash photography and eliminate the flicker caused by some lights.
High-speed continuous shooting is rated at 15 frames per second (FPS) with a fully electronic shutter and 12 FPS for EFC. I found the buffer nearly limitless when shooting JPEGs (at least it ran as long as I felt like capturing any scene) and about seven shots when shooting in RAW.
This is just one way the R50 is designed to appeal to a JPEG-centric photographer but is still capable of more powerful performance. I shot in RAW plus JPEG for most of the testing.
The R50 has a DIGIC X processor, which is much more powerful than the DIGIC 8 in the M50 II. This processor not only improves the performance of the camera but also enables a high-performance AF system that slightly lags behind the more powerful Canon cameras in the system. More on the autofocus in a moment.
The LCD screen is a 3.0-inch full-touch TFT display with around 1.6 million dots and 100% coverage. As is typical with Canon, the screen can be used for AF point selection, touch shutter, menu selection and access, viewing, and more. It can also be used for a new mode that uses tap not to focus but to switch between recognized subjects.
One feature conspicuously absent in the R50 is image stabilization. It makes sense for Canon to focus on the small and consumer-friendly price of the R5; it means that photographic users will need to be more careful about shutter speeds and that video users will want to pair this with an image-stabilized lens.
Unfortunately, Canon’s lens lineup for APS-C isn’t fully rounded out, and the company has taken legal actions to prevent third-party manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma from making Canon-compatible lenses.
Canon calls APS-C-based lenses in the RF mount RF-S, and while a few of these lenses (including the new RF-S 55-210mm lens, announced alongside the R50), there isn’t a wide-angle choice for vlogging. The existing RF-S18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM is the widest-angle APS-C lens, but with the full-frame effective 27mm focal length, it’s too long for most selfie-style vlogging. Hopefully, we’ll get something in the 10 to 11mm range before too long.
The R50 comes as body-only at $680 or with the XXX kit lens for $800. Nearly all customers will need new lenses for the R50, so the kit will likely be the most common purchase. As of writing, the R10 is on sale for $880 ( down from the regular $980), so the R50 kit comes in lower than the body-alone of the R10.
Canon EOS R50: Excellent Autofocus
The Autofocus system on the R50 is surprisingly excellent. While not nearly as successful at subject recognition as the R8 or R6 Mark II, it is much more capable at subject detection than any other APS-C camera on the market. Canon introduced subject-recognition AF in the Canon EOS R6 Mark II, and the R50 has inherited those capabilities.
Had Sony not released the artificial intelligence-powered a7R V at the same time that the R6 Mark II launched, Canon’s subject recognition technology would be the best on the market. Canon’s new “Servo AI” mode is competent at finding and tracking common photographic subjects, and in the R6 Mark II, in which it was introduced, it is amazingly powerful.
The R50 does not keep up with moving subjects to the same degree the R8 and R6 Mark II do, which is understandable considering the price and the size. Still, the R50 and the new subject-recognition technology do a much better job at autofocus than I expected.
Some of the performance comes down to processing, not AF detection capabilities. In one instance, I photographed a hawk sitting in a tree that took off and flew across a field. It took longer for the R50 to detect the bird amongst the leaves than the R6 Mark II would have, but then it locked onto him (her?). The photos of the bird in the trees were in focus, but when the bird flew from the tree, the AF lagged a bit behind the bird. I could see the focus points in the EVF not keeping up with the hawk.
What was admirable was how the AF stayed tracking the hawk, even if the bird moved faster than it could handle. A lesser AF system would have jumped to the trees or cars behind the bird due to their prominent vertical lines, but the R50 tracked the bird, albeit imperfectly.
Canon EOS R50: ‘A+ Mode’ Scores a Failing Grade
The M50 also has a new set of creative tools that Canon says are designed to give more creative control to hobbyists and creative photographers. While there’s some good in these new tools, they are ultimately more confusing than beneficial and will undoubtedly be ignored by most customers.
These new tools are found in the camera’s new A+ automatic mode, a setting on the exposure dial with a stylized, green A+ icon.
Canon explained that the A+ mode is designed to apply some computational enhancements to the shooting process, although it stopped short of outright calling this “computational photography.” Company representatives also explained that this is the first of some steps designed to provide some of the power of smartphone photography to a more traditional camera, but here I think the engineers missed the point.
Smartphones are popular because they’re ubiquitous and persistent — very few people leave home without their phones these days. Smartphone photography is common and popular not just because the phone is present but because photography with the phone is nearly friction-free.
Take the night modes in the iPhone and the Google Pixel as examples. Both cameras can detect when light is low enough to benefit from the image-stacking techniques used to enhance night skies and low-light portraiture. There are buttons to tell the camera to shoot in low light mode manually, but for the most part, the phone can detect this on its own.
On the other hand, filters are applied in a click or two after a photo is taken, usually as someone is sharing their images.
With Canon’s new A+ dial setting, there is some automatic functionality, but this dial setting unlocks two additional buttons on the LCD.
The standard A+ settings “shoot with settings that suit the scene” according to the camera—just as the Auto mode on cameras has done for years.
More importantly, this mode enables a button for a mode called A+ Assist which is comprised of three selections “Creative Assist,” “Creative Bracketing,” and “Advanced A+.”
After days of using this camera and multiple conversations with Canon reps and the other journalists, I still needed help explaining precisely what these settings do.
Creative Assist is a standard scene-evaluation mode where the camera determines settings. Creative Bracketing’s description indicates that it makes a stock photo and other images with creative effects. This does not seem to provide any benefit. The final setting, “Advanced A+,” uses image stacking and HDR to enhance image quality.
There’s no way to know what the camera is doing, nor does it seem like the results are improvements. After capturing an image in the Advanced A+ mode, the camera displays nothing but the word “Busy” for a seemingly random amount of time. The longest the word hung on the screen for me was eight seconds. “Processing” might be a better word choice, but in any case, at no time were the results from this mode better than simply shooting with standard camera settings.
For example, when shooting trees at night, the Advanced A+ mode created a flat image that was a bit out-of-focus. Shooting the same scene at f/3.5 on the Aperture priority mode created a better result.
The second set of tools found on the LCD while in the A+ mode does nothing more than apply filters before shooting; some of the filters are bizarre. I’m not sure I’ve ever looked at an image and thought, “this would be good if there were more ‘lime’ color in the scene.’’
More problematic for the consumer is that the addition of the A+ menu now gives the camera three different dial-based options for shooting with some creative control.
I cannot imagine a customer willing to learn the various creative controls of the styles, effects, and A+ modes, nor one that would look at these various controls and think, “this is better than my smartphone.”
It feels like I’m making a lot of these new features and their confusion when it’s possible to ignore them, and that’s true. But I’m confident that these features will be part of the Canon ecosystem for some time, and it would behoove Canon to re-evaluate them if they’re going to be used as a critical differentiator with competitor systems — because this ain’t it.
Canon EOS R50: Video
The R50 is a capable video camera as well, with the ability to capture at 4K UHD 30/25/24p and Full HD, as well as capture full-HD time lapses.
Unfortunately, with video use limited to image-stabilized lenses, the quality of video on the R50 is practically moot without an appropriate lens. It might make a good studio camera if locked down on a tripod, but in the field, it is practically useless since it lacks built-in image stabilization.
In one handheld video test, I recorded a subject walking across the street while I captured them with a non-IS lens at around the 35mm equivalent focal length. In the viewfinder, I could see the AF system lock onto the subject’s eye, and I watched as that AF point tracked the subject as they walked a few dozen meters toward the camera.
The ability of the AF system to track the subject in video mode was impressive, but the footage was unusable due to the massive shake.
The solution is to buy the R50 with one of the few available kit lenses, like the RF-S 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM. Still, the quality of that lens is far below the performance and image quality capabilities of this camera.
Canon needs to create a broader range of consumer and pro-quality APS-C lenses or to allow third-party manufacturers to complete its lacking lineup.
Canon EOS R50: Battery Life
There’s one final compromise on the R50: battery life. Both the R50 and the simultaneously-announced R8 use Canon’s smaller-sized and smaller-capacity batteries. In my testing, getting a casual day of photography was possible, but video use killed the battery very quickly.
Anyone taking the R50 on a trip should be prepared to bring extra batteries and charge them frequently.
Canon EOS R50: A Good Camera, Made Better
The Canon R50 takes the size benefits of the M50 and M50 Mark II and combines that with the autofocus improvements found on the R6 Mark II. While this new compact APS-C camera maintains many of the limitations of the M50 bodies, the combined package is still of tremendous value.
Are There Alternatives?
The Canon M50 and M50 II are still available and are alternatives to the R50, though with the deathbells ringing for that system, it’s only a good choice for a customer who has no intention to upgrade or expand their system.
Elsewhere in the Canon ecosystem, the R10 provides an exciting mix of features and a slightly faster frame rate at a marginally higher price. Since both the R10 and the R50 lack body image stabilization, it makes the R10 more expensive while offering similar performance to the R50.
The R7 is Canon’s other APS-C mirrorless camera and has much better specs, including a 35-megapixel sensor and in-body stabilization. At double the price of the R50 though, the R7 is aimed at a different audience, and the R7 is the better choice for someone looking for a pro-level APS-C camera.
There are numerous APS-C competitors in Nikon, Sony, and Fuji systems with various strengths and weaknesses. None of these are part of the Canon ecosystem, so they make sense primarily for the first-time camera buyer.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, if you are a certain type of photographer. If you’re looking for the best combination of small and performance, the Canon EOS R50 is an excellent choice and will be the gateway for many newcomers to the Canon system.