Canon 50D From Snapshots to Great Shots – Book Review

Canon 50D: From Snapshots to Great Shots
By Jeff Revell
275 pages
ISBN: 978-0-321-61311-0
US $24.99 CAN $29.99 UK £14.99

The Canon 50D is the latest in the line of Canon’s prosumer cameras. It was released less than a year after the 40D, and sports some really great features for photo hobbyists and professionals. I’ve been using the camera for about four months now and have been very pleased with not only the quality of the photos, but more importantly the redesigned navigation features which help make shooting with the camera a lot easier.

As with any camera, the Canon 50D comes with a pocket size manual that explains all the functions of the camera. But for those new to digital photography and/or those who just purchased the 50D, the pocket size manual may not be enough to get great photos from the camera.

I always point out in digital photography workshops I conduct that it’s no point of paying a higher price for a 35mm DSLR camera only to use it like a point-and-shoot. Likewise shooting with a more expensive camera does not mean you’re going to get better quality photos. You have to know how to use the advance controls of a DSLR if you want to benefit from its advance features.

In this regard, photographer and author Jeff Revell takes a slightly different approach in his book, Canon 50D: From Snapshots to Great Shots. Instead of simply rewriting and expanding on what the camera’s manual says, Revell’s book focuses on how to take great photos by using selected camera features and functions of the Canon 50D. In other words, he doesn’t break down every feature of the camera, but instead focuses on how to get beyond the amateur automatic functions of the camera, using the more of the advance manual settings where you have more control as a photographer.

Revell used his own photography and experience to write the book. All of the photos have a professional quality to them, ranging from largely landscape, to sports and portrait shots. This Peachpit book is well designed, and the writing is very concise and easy to understand. It’s much better to read than the manual that comes to with the camera. He does break down the amateur features of the camera, such as formatting a memory card, charging your battery, and using the automatic exposure settings of the camera.

But he goes on to explain and break down more advance topics of digital photography using the Canon 50D, such as shooting RAW vs. JPEG, understanding the triangular relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings to bring about an effective exposure, setting the correct White Balance, using program, shutter and aperture priority modes, metering for portraits, and taming bright skies with exposure compensation. Overall, Revell’s book is a nice introduction to both the digital photography and the Canon 50D.

However, depending how far you want to go with digital photography, his book may not be enough. Though I agree with Revell that camera owners can and should read the manual that comes with the camera, in my experience I find that many camera owners are very reluctant to read a dry technical manual. Thus, I think Revell’s book could have been a third or a half longer than it is. It would have been useful to explain and explore some of the many custom functions of the Canon 50D that might help those starting out in professional photography. When I first purchased the 50D, I blogged about five functions that are useful to 50D shooters. Revell, at the end of the book explains some of these features, but I personally would have perhaps highlighted and explored these features maybe at the beginning of the book, pointing out what makes the 50D different from its predecessors.

Some of the book could be better illustrated. For example, the Highlight Alert, or as it’s called, the “blinkies” feature of the 50D can be very useful in helping 50D users recognize when parts of a shot are potentially overexposed and thus lacking detail that may not be recovered in post-processing. This is a common problem for shooters, and I think it would have been helpful to illustrate it more and show readers how they can address the problem. Likewise, though Revell points how briefly how to use other lenses in the camera, I think it would have been helpful to devote a chapter to the subject. Many novice shooters purchase a DSLR camera but don’t understand what difference it makes to invest in good “glass”-lenses that are better than the kit lens that comes with the camera. For example, the Canon 50mm f/1/4 is a very affordable and useful portrait lens that belongs in the camera bag of every serious Canon shooter. The same goes for a 70-200mm Canon lens that is great for say wedding and sports photography.

But take my critique of the book as strictly supportive feedback. I think Revell’s book is a great resource for beginning and intermediate digital photographers. This book can be read in a weekend and then used as a resource for learning digital photography skills. Revell provides exercises and tips at the end of each chapter so that readers can put in practice what they learn from the book. While these exercises could also use some illustrative examples, just including them makes From Snapshots to Great Shots a great resource over other manuals/books of its kind. Rating: 4 out of 5

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