Comparing the Canon 40D and Canon 50D

The purpose of my original post was to compare the feature set of the new 50D with that of the 40D to determine “for myself” if the new features would justify the cost differential. I’ve been very impressed with most of the 50D’s new features such as the new LCD, the auto-ISO feature and the UDMA support. Most of my print work is at 16 x 20 or 16 x 24 and the increased resolution of the 50D looks very inviting.

My only reservation with the 50D is it’s ability to maintain a good signal to noise ratio at ISO 100 – 800, which is my normal working range for both landscape and wildlife work. As I stated in my post, I believe the 50D’s 15.1/CMOS sensor has reached (or perhaps slightly exceeded) the maximum pixel density for an APS-C sized sensor and the recent DxOMark tests seem to support this conclusion.

Having said that, in the two months since I originally wrote my article, the street price for the 50D body has dropped significantly and this impacts my recommendations. Right now the cost differential between the 40D and 50D body is less than $250 (USD) and for that amount of money I believe the 50D is now a better value than a 40D.

DECEMBER 12, 2008 UPDATE: DOUBLE OUCH! If you’re reading all the reviews of the new Canon 50D and comparing it against the 40D and still haven’t made up your mind, here is one more highly technical fact. Take a good look at the DxOMark comparison between the 40D and 50D. The 40D actually scores higher on the DxOMark Sensor overall ranking.

UPDATE: OUCH! I just got done reading dpreview’s 50D in depth analysis and it looks like my suspicions about potential NOISE issues were correct. The pixel density of the 50D is just too high to maintain a decent high ISO signal-to-noise ratio. Just this once I hoped that Canon had broken the laws of physics and given us a small sensor with low noise. Oh well, one more reason to save up for the new 5D Mark II. Maybe this is why Canon doesn’t present the 50D as a successor to the 40D.

I always get excited when Canon (or Nikon) releases a new DSLR body, especially a “prosumer” model like the new Canon EOS 50D. I was interested in comparing the new 50D with my one year old 40D to see if there was a compelling reason to upgrade. Looking at the early press releases, previews and hands-on reviews of the 50D left me with mixed feelings and it was difficult to cut through the marketing hype and get to the facts to make an accurate comparison.

Then I found this data on a Canon USA web site and decided to condense it to show only the differences between the two cameras. You can view the entire comparison here.

Item EOS 50D EOS 40D
Effective megapixels/sensor type 15.10/CMOS 10.10/CMOS
UDMA support Yes No
Image processor DIGIC 4 DIGIC III
Auto Lighting Optimizer Yes Full Auto Only
High ISO Noise reduction Yes, four levels Yes, on/off
Peripheral illumination correction Yes No
Folder selection/creation Yes No
Highlight tone priority D+ indication Yes No
AF Modes: Live Yes No
Live face detection Yes No
AF microadjustment (C.Fn) Yes No
Shooting modes [no.] 13 12
Creative Auto Yes No
Auto ISO speeds 100 to 1600 100 to 800
Manual ISO Speeds 100 to 3200 100 to 1600
Extended ISO (C.Fn) H1 : 6400
H2: 12800
H: 3200
Continuous High Speed Shooting 6.3 6.5
Max. burst JPEG L/Fine 60 75
Max. burst RAW 16 17
Max. burst RAW+JPEG 10 14
LCD Display pixels [approx.] 920,000 230,000
LCD Quick Control screen Yes No
Settable options for auto playback Yes No
Custom functions 25 24
HDMI jack Yes No
Battery – Possible Shots 800 1100
Weight (without battery) [g] 730 740


  • Higher pixel density
  • Higher LCD display resolution
  • UDMA support
  • Higher ISO speeds
  • Improved high ISO noise reduction


  • Higher pixel density results in NOISE issues
  • Reduced maximum burst
  • Reduced (27%) shots per battery charge
  • Higher price
  • High ISO noise reduction doesn’t work for RAW images.

If you’re in the market for a new “prosumer” grade DSLR the Canon EOS 50D is a great choice. If you’re wondering whether or not to upgrade from your current 40D to the new 50D, I’d have to say no, since the cost seems to outweigh the benefits. You might be better off putting your money towards the purchase of a new EOS 5D Mark II instead.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon 40D, Canon 50D, Photography


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