When the Canon 550D was announced last February, I thought it would have been a great dSLR for me had I not upgraded to the 7D earlier. Check out my review below and let me tell you why.
First, let me disclose that I am a long-time fan of Canon cameras. Ever since I got an Ixus 30 almost a decade ago, I’ve always used a Canon — upgrading from the 350D to the 40D and now the 7D. My impressions might be slightly biased but I try my best not to.
Also, my experience with other camera models is very limited but hopefully, that too will change in future reviews.
The Canon 550D unit that was lent to me came with a standard kit lens (18-135mm f/3.5-5.6). It’s pretty capable and can do much of regular shooting needs. The body feels solid despite being mostly build out of hard plastic. It’s not as rugged as my 40D or 7D nor is it as weather-proof (I dropped my 7D in the freezing [-2 degrees] streets of South Korea and it didn’t even felt it) but it’s more than good enough for an entry-level dSLR. It also helps that the entire set is relatively smaller and more lightweight.
Here’s the complete specs of the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D:
• 18 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
• Digic 4 image processor with ISO 100-6400 (expansion to 12800)
• Continuous shooting at 3.7 fps
• 3-inch LCD with Live View
• Full HD 1080p movie recording (manual control and selectable frame rates)
• iFCL metering system with 63-zone dual-layer metering sensor
• Exposure Compensation +/- 5 stops
• Supports high capacity SDXC memory cards
Canon added a bit more features and capabilities when it upgraded the EOS 500D to the EOS 550D:
Canon 550D vs. Canon 500D
18MP vs. 15MP
ISO 100-6400 vs. ISO 100-3200
3.7 fps vs. 3.4 fps
+/-5 vs. +/-2 Exposure Compensation
1080p 30fps vs. 1080p 20fps
Like its other earlier siblings, the Canon 550D supports all EF and EF-S lens mount with an equivalent to 1.6x the focal length of the lens.
Canon has also continued using the SD/SDXC memory cards in favor of the big CF cards from the days of the 350D. This could be due to two things — smaller form factor and easy (less expensive) for consumers to shift to dSLR from point-and-shoot since both now uses the same type of storage cards.
The 550D inherits that same familiar control layout with very few cosmetic changes. The settings are displayed on the 3-inch screen and it doesn’t have that separate LCD beside the knob we normally see with the 50D and 7D. Nevertheless, controls are easy to find and navigate, especially if you have prior experience with other Canon cameras.
Image quality is great, even with the kit lens. Photos are crisp and colors are natural. I would not say they’re very impressive since a closer look of the sample photos show it’s not that super sharp and looks a bit smoothed-out (the lens used is also a factor here though).
Canon bumped the ISO rating to 6400 (can be extended to 12800) which is helpful in low-light situations. Couple that with a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens and you’re set to shoot the Women’s UAAP Volleyball games at The Arena in San Juan.
Nevertheless, the 550D didn’t fail expectations for an entry-level upgrade. You can see full set of photos in the gallery here. The large 3-inch LCD also helps the user to preview shots more effectively (oftentimes, photos looked sharp on the small screen but turns out to be blurred once transferred to the PC).
I think it’s in the video recording department that the Canon 550D did very well. Aside from the full upgrade to 1080p at 30fps, it can also do up to 60fps at 720p (great for capturing slow-mo shots).
Took this video footage using the 550D attached with a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens .
The Live View feature is very useful when shooting videos but the built-in mic can only record mono. Good thing there’s a port for external attachment of a stereo mic if you need to get good quality audio together with the video.
Here’ another clip using the 550D with an 18-135mm lens (pardon the crappy editing).
Since recording HD videos involves huge amount of data, it is best that the SD card used is in the vicinity of Class 6 for best performance (the one I used for this test was Class 2 and it barely manage to cope up with the file writes).
The 1500mAh Li-Ion battery lasts for several hundred shots but I think it easily drains when capturing video. I also noticed the battery (LP-E8) is also different form that of the 450D and 500D (LP-E5).
The Canon 550D is often referred to by a lot of people as the “baby 7D” because it inherited some of the 7D’s features while still allowing room for the budget-conscious buyers. The unit is best suited to those who are looking for good-quality dSLR that takes great stills and also has HD recording capabilities.