Action Photo Tests of Canon Compact Super-Zoom
Cameras PowerShot SX50 HS and SX60 HS
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讀萬卷書    行萬里路

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I got the compact super-zoom camera, Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, as a Christmas gift in December 2012.
Its discounted price was $399. This camera has an amazing 50X optical zoom (35mm equivalent wide range of
24 -1200 mm focal length). Furthermore, this camera has a Sports Mode in Burst Mode Continuous Shooting
that is optimized for taking action photos of fast moving objects such as birds in flight. This mode (1) can take
a burst of 10 pictures in 0.7 second, (2) the AutoFocus (AF) in this mode is surprisingly fast and accurate
relative to those in other modes in this camera and in its predecessor (older models of PowerShot), (3) the
shutter lag is also negligible, and (4) has a very good Image Stabilizer to minimize the effects of handshake.
Such features are very useful and important to me to take pictures of fast moving objects (such as birds in
flight). This wonderful mode is represented by a small icon of Sports on the mode dial on the top of the
camera. To use this mode, the user just turns the mode dial to Sports mode.

In the winter season, there are often many seagulls flying around above the parking lots of several shopping
centers along Highway 35 in Hazlet and Middletown in New Jersey such as K-Mart and PathMark Shopping
Center, Costco, Dearborn Farm, Sears, Middletown Shopping Center, etc. These fast flying seagulls are good
objects  for me to practice and to test the capability of this compact super-zoom camera. Therefore, on the
sunny afternoon of January 18 and 19, 2013, I took this new camera to test and to practice on these parking
lots along Highway 35 in Hazlet and Middletown in New Jersey. The results are shown on this web page.  
When these birds are flying, they are often at substantial distance away from the photographer such that long
zoom is necessary to get nice close up pictures. However, long zoom lens has very narrow field of view such
that it is not easy to keep the fast moving bird within that narrow field of view.

It is precisely for this reason that this new camera has a new special button for Framing Assist-Seek. It is
designed to help user to overcome the problem of very narrow field of view at long zoom. Suppose the user
sets the camera to long zoom of 40X or 50X, it only takes a tiny twitch of the camera to send a distant subject
flying out of frame. Finding that distant subject again can be difficult and frustrating in such long zoom. The
solution is for the user to presses this Framing Assist - Seek button, the camera will temporarily reduce the
zoom substantially to provide a much larger field of view so that the user can see the small distant subject in
the much larger field. Then the user adjusts the camera aiming so that the small distant subject is inside the
small rectangle in the middle of the viewfinder. Then the user releases this special button and the camera
returns quickly to the original long zoom with the enlarged distant subject positioned well inside the picture
frame of the viewfinder.

This is a new feature on this new camera. I will have to practice using this Framing Assist-Seek button in the
near future. Once I become familiar with the operation of this special button, I will be able to get even better
action photos in the future. The pictures on this web page were taken without using this special Framing
Assist-Seek button because it is so new to me. But I will practice to use it well in the future.
With this test and practice on the sunny afternoon of January 18, 19, and 20, 2013, I am quite happy with the
capability of this compact supper-zoom camera, Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, for taking action photos of birds
in flight or other fast moving objects.

I will try to practice to use the two special buttons,  Framing Assist - Seek and Framing Assist - Lock, in the
future to see how much these two special buttons can help to improve the results of action photos with long

Some more samples of action photos of wildlife that I took recently using this compact super-zoom camera are
shown in the following:
On the sunny afternoon of January 20, 2013, we went to Princeton area in New Jersey near Highway 1. There
were huge number of Canada geese on the pond in the property of Dow Jones & Co. on the north bound side
of Highway 1. I zoomed in and took these two pictures of some Canada geese flying in the sky in that area
with the moon in the background.
I almost always use the viewfinder (not the LCD display screen) to take pictures for two reasons: (1) By using
the viewfinder, the camera is well supported by my two hands and my face to minimize the handshake, and
hence the possibility of blurred pictures, and (2) In outdoor photography, we often cannot see anything on the
LCD screen under the strong sunshine.

The viewfinder has an adjuster known as "diopter" on the left side of the viewfinder on this camera. It is
important to adjust the viewfinder (initially once) to suit the eye sight of the user to achieve clear and sharp
image for the user to see well.
Taking such action photos with long zoom requires the photographer to aim, to focus and to shoot very fast
and very accurately. Most digital cameras use a very delicate  "2-stage" shutter release button. "Focus and
Shoot" mean pressing the shutter release button only halfway down and hold it there waiting for the camera to
complete AutoFocus (AF). When the AF is complete, the small rectangle in the viewfinder in this camera turns
into green color to signal that it is ready for shooting. Then press the shutter release button the rest of the way
down to shoot. If one skips the 2-stage shutter release process and simply presses the shutter release button
straight down, the AF may not be complete and may not be ready resulting in a blurred picture. It is quite
challenging for photographers to go through such process to take such action photos very fast and very
accurately consistently. Extensive practice is necessary to make sure that the eye, the brain, the muscle, and
the nerve in the body, the arm, the hand and  the fingers of the photographer are very well coordinated to
match the speed capability of the camera to go through such speedy but delicate process of Aim-Focus-Shoot
to get clear and sharp action photos of the fast moving objects consistently.

Such practice for action photography reminds us of some western cowboy movies where the western
cowboys practice very long and hard to perfect their skills to be able to draw, aim and shoot very fast and
very accurately.

Furthermore, this camera has a second special button known as Framing Assist - Lock. Pressing this second
button will kick in the excellent Image Stabilizer (IS) to "Lock" the object inside the picture frame with long
zoom. A demo and explanation of the benefits of using these two special buttons on compact super-zoom
camera can be seen at the following YouTube website:


I think that these two special buttons will be very helpful in taking close up pictures of subject very far away but
are not moving very fast.

However, for fast moving subject, such as a bird in flight, everything happens and moves so fast, I am not sure
if I have enough time to use the first special button followed by pressing this second button. I will try in the
future to see what works best for me in taking action photos with fast moving objects.
In the winter season, we often see some seagulls flying above parking lots of several shopping centers along
Highway 35 in Hazlet and Middletown in New Jersey.
Sometime these gulls are on the parking lot eating something.

An osprey caught a big fish in its talon coming to land on the top of this roadside telephone pole in Eastern
Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Neck Island in northeastern Chesapeake Bay in eastern Maryland on
Monday morning September 23, 2013.

A bald eagle was eating a fish held under its talon on a tree top in Viera Wetlands (Ritch Grissom Memorial
Wetlands at Viera) in Florida in January 2014..

Going south on Eastern Neck Island Road about quarter mile into Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in
Maryland at Tubby Cove kiosk and parking area with Tundra Swan Boardwalk on the right side, we saw two
or more majestic bald eagles flying in the sky.
An osprey in action in Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern shore of New Jersey on June 19,
在湖邊漫步,驚起大藍鷺, 呼拉一下騰空而起, 驚鴻一瞥。

A great blue heron suddenly took off from lake side in Thompson Park in Lincroft, New Jersey. I was happy to
be fast enough to catch this action photo.
翠鳥俯衝下水抓魚,從水面再騰空飛起時, 嘴裡含著一條小魚。

A Kingfisher got a fish in its beak after diving into the water to catch fish in New Jersey.
This osprey had a big fish in its talon and was
soaring high over my head in Edwin B.
Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The 50X
optical zoom of my compact super-zoom
camera helped to zoom in to get a close up
view of this osprey with a big fish underneath.
This great blue heron got a big fish in Myakka State Park in Florida in January, 2014.

In December 2014, I bought the newer compact super-zoom camera, Canon PowerShot SX60 HS with 65X
optical zoom. This newer camera is even better than SX50. Many action photos from our January 2015 winter
birding trip in Texas using PowerShot SX60 HS are on my new web pages at


Overall, I am quite happy with the Sports Mode in such compact super-zoom cameras. The combination of
speed and zooming power of 50X or 65X optical zoom of these cameras enables me to catch many valuable
action photos of many wildlife often very far away.

Two of the Improvements from SX50 to SX60

Maintaining Good Focus During Burst Shooting:

PowerShot SX60 HS is better than SX50 HS not only for greater optical zoom, but also for maintaining good  
focus during burst shooting (or Continuous Shooting). In SX50, the focus is locked on the first shot. If a bird in
flight moves substantially and quickly away from the original position, the subsequent 9 shots in the burst of 10
shots in 0.7 second may become out of focus and blurred.

But in SX60, each subsequent shot is refocused quickly so that all shots subsequent to the first shot in the
Sport Mode are all well focused and sharp. Such improvement is very important and highly welcomed for
action photos because the target (such as a bird in flight) is usually moving away very fast even within 0.7

Continuous Coverage Without Time Gaps:

Furthermore, in SX50, the burst shooting of Sport Mode is limited to 10 shots in 0.7 second. Then the
photographer has to wait for couple seconds before the camera is ready for next burst of shooting such that
the photographer may miss some important actions in that time gap of couple seconds.

In SX60, there is no limit of 10 shots and no limit of 0.7 second for the continuous shotting of Sport Mode. In
SX 60, as long as the shutter release button is pressed down and is held down, SX60 just keeps on taking
several shots in every second of ongoing actions until the photographer releases the button. In this way, the
photographer has better chance of getting all the important action shots without gaps. In other words, the
burst shooting of Sport Mode in SX50 is replaced by Continuous Shooting of Sports Mode in SX60.

However, as of February 20, 2015, I still have not tested or played with other improvements from SX50 to
SX60 yet. A Table comparing SX50 vs. SX60 is available at:


In Handheld Night Scene mode, both SX 50 ands SX60 fire-off a burst of several shots very quickly, then  
combining them into one picture to reduce noise levels and the effect of camera shake. I find this mode is quite
helpful to take better pictures in low light condition.

Note: The highlights of this web page and my experience on sightseeing photography for more than 10 years
are summarized in the following PowerPoint Presentation entitled "Digital Photography beyond Auto Mode":
I used the Sports Mode of this camera to capture a series of action photos of a group of small birds attacking
a red tailed hawk in the air in Holmdel Park, New Jersey on June 7, 2014 as shown on my web page at: