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The Canon EOS 50D's body is near identical to that of 2007's 40D, which it replaces. It is rugged, practical, and very similar to the vast majority of SLRs. We were impressed by the sealing around the body and the high resolution LCD screen. However, this isn't a lightweight camera, so be prepared to keep a tight grip while lugging it around.
The front of the 50D is covered across almost its entirety by a thick strip of rubberized plastic, which adds texture for a firm grip. On the far left is the large handhold, formed with a finger depression, which makes it a more natural fit in your hand. The handhold is large, and will fit the grip of people with big hands very comfortably. The size of this, plus the large amount of rubberized material, is an absolute must when you're dealing with cameras that are this heavy (26oz/730g for just the body). It's not an overly weighty body, but it's enough that you'll benefit from a substantial handhold.
Above the handhold is a finger-shaped depression which holds the shutter release button, and behind that is a control dial. To the right of the grip, and above the layer of rubberized plastic, is the red-eye reduction/self timer lamp. Another feature, which is difficult to see in the photo below, is at the join of the grip and the body, at the very bottom of the camera. It's a small rubber flap where the power cord for the optional AC adapter would exit.
Obviously, the main feature of the camera's front is the lens mount, which projects from the body by approximately 0.5' and at the top curves up into the Canon logo and built-in flash. The mount is compatible with EF and EF-S series lenses. At 3 o'clock from the mount is the lens release button. Above it is the flash button, and beneath it the depth-of-field preview button. The rubberized material continues on the right side of the lens opening, and around the side of the camera. On the upper right of the camera's front is the small label identifying it as the EOS-50D.
The 50D's body remains virtually unchanged from the 40D
The back of the 50D is split more or less evenly between the LCD and menu buttons on the left, and the joystick, control dial and focal controls on the right. Most of the starboard side is actually given to grip material, as a firm hold with your thumb is always a good thing. At the top right are three buttons: AF On, AE Lock and AF Point Selector. With your thumb resting on the textured material, just to its left is a small joystick, which is used primarily to navigate menus. It can recognize eight directions, as well as having a button set inside it. While shooting, pressing this button takes you to a quick-select screen of the most often changed options. The major feature on the right side of the camera is the large click-wheel, with a Set button in the middle. This dial is set forward from the body slightly, and is used to change options, either on the menu screen, or while shooting. At about 4 o'clock from this wheel is the processing light, which lets you know when data is being transferred to or from the memory card. Beneath and slightly to the left of the wheel is the on/off toggle, and can also be set to a third setting. This third mark, labelled only with a white line, gives additional functionality to the control wheel. The joystick and wheel both feel extremely robust, and will hopefully take a major beating without much trouble. The on/off switch is a bit hard to easily reach, so it's tough to conserve battery power by turning off the camera briefly.
The left side of the 50D's rear is jam packed, with the 3 inch screen, a row of buttons beneath it, two above it, and the viewfinder. The LCD has an impressive 920,000-pixel resolution, and offers crystal sharp viewing, which is wonderful for image playback. Directly beneath it is the white Canon logo, and below that is a row of five buttons. The leftmost two are Playback Mode and Delete, both of which are marked blue to indicate their functionality while reviewing images. Then there's Info. which changes the amount of information shown on the display; then the Picture Style Select button, which allows you to change the color style you're shooting in; and finally Func., which unfortunately doesn't summon George Clinton, but rather acts as a user-definable button.
Just above the top left corner of the LCD lie two buttons. The leftmost is Menu, which takes you to its namesake, and then a button which activates Live View while shooting, or printing during playback. There's a small blue LED in this second button, which lights up while hooked up to a printer, and lets you print an image with pre-defined settings, saving you from entering them multiple times.
The viewfinder is protected by a large rubber cup, and offers a 95% viewing angle. A nice little addition, is that the neck strap has a small rubber viewfinder cap, which comes in handy if you need to prevent light from leaking in. The diopter adjuster is a small dial on the top right of the viewfinder, and feels firm without being overly tough to alter.
The 920,000-pixel LCD is a pleasure to view.
Left Side* (8.00) At the top of the 50D's left side is the small metal loop for the neck strap. Beneath that are two rows of ports, guarded by substantial rubber flaps. These feel like they will provide plenty of protection against damage from the elements. The front row of ports are for an external flash, and below that for an N3 type remote control terminal. The rear row are USB, video out and HDMI out.
The ports are protected by heavy-duty rubber guards*
The right side of the camera is enlarged to provide a substantial grip. The front half is covered with rubberized grip material, and the rear features a firmly closed door that covers the CompactFlash card. Above this is the inset metal loop for the other half of the neck strap.
*A camera of this weight necessitates a large handhold
The D50's top houses a number of important controls and features. On the far left is the mode dial, which can be set to a number of image presets, auto mode, creative auto mode, program, Tv, Av, M, A-Dep, Custom 1 and Custom 2. The setting you're resting on is marked by a small white tab to the right of the dial. The flash mount is placed in front of the viewfinder, works with industry standard external flashes, and has additional functionality with Canon's EX-series Speedlites. In front of the flash hot shoe, is the built-in pop up flash, which is activated via a small button on the left side of the lens mount.
The right side of the camera's top has a small, black-and-white LCD panel, used to convey shooting information. In front of that is a row of four buttons. The leftmost is set slightly forward of the rest, and is used to activate the backlight for the panel. The other three buttons each serve dual functions, and adjust two settings while shooting. One function is controlled by the front control wheel, the other by the dial on the camera's back. The rightmost changes ISO/exposure compensation, the center auto focus/drive mode, and the last metering/white balance.
Having two control wheels allows buttons to serve double duty**
The bottom of the 50D is rather utilitarian, with a lens-centered tripod mount, battery door, and a terminal for the wireless transmitter. The battery cavern is placed in the grip on the camera's right, and is protected by a relatively tough door. The tripod mount is cast in metal, and has an area to its right made of textured plastic to give slightly more purchase when attached to a tripod. Finally, on the far left of the 50D's bottom, is a proprietary port used for the WFT-E3A wireless file transmitter (available for approximately $800). This port is covered by a small rubber guard, which is not tethered to the body in any way, so may have the propensity to get lost.
The small rubber plug on the top left covers a proprietary extension port**
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