In summary

      A new, easy-to-operate camera for those looking to enter or step ahead in the creative world of DSLR photographyCanon’s EOS 550D, which was announced overnight, combines an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor ( the highest resolution in its class) with an easy-to-operate user interface. Featuring advanced technologies to underpin creative stills photography, the new camera can also record Full HD movie clips at a range of different frame rates. At first glance, the EOS 550D looks and feels like a winner. . . [more]

      Full review


      Canon’s EOS 550D, which was announced overnight, combines an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor ( the highest resolution in its class) with an easy-to-operate user interface. Featuring advanced technologies to underpin creative stills photography, the new camera can also record Full HD movie clips at a range of different frame rates. At first glance, the EOS 550D looks and feels like a winner.

      Promoted as a camera newcomers to DSLR photography can ‘grow into’, the EOS 550D would also appeal to existing DSLR users who wish to upgrade to higher resolution and movie capture. Photo Review attended a pre-release briefing in Sydney, where we had hands-on experience with the new camera. We also spent about 40 minutes afterwards taking pictures with a pre-production camera. Some of these shots are posted at the end of this ‘First Look’.

      Build and Ergonomics
      The EOS 550D body is built to match its market position with a polycarbonate resin and glass fibre cladding over a stainless steel chassis. Together these materials provide strength and durability. The grip is generous – but not over-large and should suit users with both small and medium-sized hands, without being difficult for those with large hands or limited dexterity to use.


      Front view of the new EOS 550D with the pop-up flash raised and the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens fitted. (Source: Canon.)
      In many ways, the body of the 550D resembles that of the EOS 500D and both have the same textured cladding. It may look a little plasticky but it provides a secure and comfortable grip The illustrations below show the structural similarities between the two cameras.


      Front views of the EOS 550D (right) and the lower-resolution EOS 500D (left). (Source: Canon.)


      Rear views of the EOS 550D (right) and EOS 500D (left). The EOS 500D has the Interactive Quick Control Panel displayed. (Source: Canon.)


      Top views of the the EOS 550D (right) and EOS 500D (left), each camera fitted with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens. (Source: Canon.)

      The most obvious differences between the two models are seen on the rear pane, which is dominated by a new 3:2 aspect ratio, 3-inch Clear View Wide LCD monitor with 1,040,000 dots. As well as being a class leader in resolution is bright and clear and provides an ultra-sharp view, making it easy to check images and read menus on-screen. It’s a very elegant display and lies flush with the camera body to provide a smooth look.


      Rear view of the EOS 550D, showing the new 3:2 monitor and redesigned control buttons. (Source: Canon.)
      The viewfinder, which fits snugly in above the monitor, is adjustable across -3 to +1 dioptres and covers 95% of the sensor’s field of view. Like the 500D, the focusing screen is non-interchangeable. Two panels below the finder eyepiece control the display-off sensor, which switches off the LCD screen when your eye is near the viewfinder.


      Top view of the EOS 550D. (Source: Canon.)

      The microphone grille on the rear panel is slightly larger than on the 500D and has nine holes instead of four. However, it remains in roughly the same position on the new camera. As on the 500D, the new camera has no top panel data display for checking camera settings and only one rotating dial control.

      The mode dial reverts to a black cap, instead of the silver cap on the 500D but the shooting mode settings are unchanged (see Controls and Functions below). Since there’s no joystick-style multi-controller (like those on the 7D and above) you’re dependent on the arrow pad and single rotating dial just behind the shutter button when you adjust any of the functions.


      A close-up of the camera body showing the main cluster of control buttons and dials. (Source: Canon.)

      Canon has made it easier to change camera settings with a Quick Control screen, a refinement of the Quick Control Panel on the EOS 500D. With this interface, users can see and apply common exposure and image quality adjustments from just one screen. The same interface can also be used to modify settings in the Creative Auto settings mode.

      The button controls on the rear panel have also been redesigned to improve access and comfort. The layout of the buttons is similar to the 500D’s, with two exceptions. The most obvious is the new Movie button that sits level with the viewfinder on the right hand side. This button is used to switch on the Live View mode and trigger video recording.

      The Print/Share button on the 500D, which formerly also triggered movie recording, is now used to switch on the Quick Control interface, making it much easier for users to change camera settings quickly. Both changes represent a significant improvement in usability over the previous cameras.


      The relocated Movie and Quick Control buttons are indicated by arrows in this illustration. (Source: Canon.)

      The memory card compartment, which is located on the rear corner behind the grip, accepts SD and SDHC cards as well as the new, high-capacity SDXC cards. (The EOS 500D is only SD/SDHC compatible.) The battery compartment is in the base panel and, interestingly, the 550D uses a different battery from the 500D. We’ll add details of the expected battery capacity when they are available.


      The EOS 550D fitted with the BG-E8 battery grip. (Source: Canon.)

      Unlike the EOS 500D, the 550D can be fitted with a battery grip to extend the photographer’s shooting range and provide a vertical control interface for shooting portraits. Another lift-up cover (rubber) on the opposite side of the camera body protects the interface ports. All three lids close securely with an acceptably snug fit.

      The camera body is supplied with a body cap plus the LP-E8 battery pack, LC-E8 battery charger and power cable, along with the EW-100DBIII wide strap. A rubber eyecup is fitted to the viewfinder eyepiece and USB and Stereo AV cables (AVCDC400ST) are also provided. The software comes on two disks, one the standard EOS DIGITAL Solution Disk and the other containing an instruction manual for using this software.


      The basic kit supplied with the EOS 550D body. (Source: Canon.)

      The new camera will be offered as a body only kit, single-lens kit with the EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens and twin lens kit with the EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS and EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lenses. Canon will also provide a Super Kit, which pairs the 550D body with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens and a Premium kit containing the camera body with the EF-S18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. Prices for these kits have still to be determined.
      Controls and Functions
      Most of the controls and functions in the EOS 500D are replicated in the new model. In all, 14 shooting modes are supported: the standard P, Tv, Av and M modes complemented by the A-DEP and Creative Auto shooting modes and a cluster of Basic Zone selections covering scene pre-sets. These end with a Movie mode, which provides the only way into video recording

      Although the autofocusing system uses the same type of TTL sensor, the 550D has nine AF points, like the EOS 50D and 5D Mark II, instead of seven like the 500D. They’re arranged in a diamond pattern, with all sensitive to both horizontal and vertical details when using f/5.6 or brighter lenses. All are individually selectable for focusing precision. Face Detection is available for both normal shooting (with the viewfinder) and in Live View mode and it automatically adjusts both focus and exposure.

      Sixty-three segments are used for measuring subject brightness with the metering system and the 550D supports the standard multi-pattern, centre-weighted average, partial and spot meterign modes. Sensitivity, white balance, dynamic range control, autofocusing and Picture Style are set automatically in the Basic zone modes and the evaluative metering pattern is locked in by default. Drive and flash modes are also restricted and the colour space is locked at sRGB.

      In the Creative zone modes, just about all of the available functions can be adjusted – and you can select the Adobe RGB colour space if you wish to use it. Automatic image correction tools like the Auto Lighting Optimiser, Peripheral Illumination Correction and Highlight Tone Priority function are available for most shooting modes.
      The exceptions include the Auto Lighting Optimiser and exposure compensation in Manual mode and the Ai Servo and Ai Focus and manual AF point selection in A-DEP mode. Program shift is blocked in the Tv, Av and M modes, while in the Portrait and Landscape modes in the Basic zone the Picture Style setting defaults to Portrait and Landscape respectively. Ai Servo AF is locked in by default in the Sports mode and the AF-assist beam can’t be used with the Landscape, Sports and Flash Off modes.

      Sensor and Image Processing
      The sensor in the EOS 550D appears to be the same CMOS chip as in the EOS 7D and supports the highest resolution currently available in an entry-level camera. But unlike the EOS 7D, the 550D has only one DiG!C 4 processor, which is adequate for normal shooting but reduces high-speed bursts to a maximum capture rate of 3.7 frames/second.


      The sensor unit from the EOS 550D. (Source: Canon.)

      The new sensor supports the same sensitivity range as the EOS 7D, covering a standard range of ISO 100-6400 and expansion to ISO 12,800 when expansion is enabled. Only one expansion setting is offered: H1.

      As expected, the 550D supports both JPEG and CR2.RAW file capture, with three JPEG sizes and two compression levels available. Unlike higher-specified models, there is only one raw file option (recording at 5184 x 3456 pixels) and Large/Fine is the only JPEG size available for RAW+JPEG capture. The table below provides a guide to typical file sizes.



      File size



      5184 x 3456





      3456 x 2304





      2592 x 1728






      5184 x 3456




      5184 x 3456 + 5184 x 3456


      Live View and Video Shooting
      The Live View mode on the 550D is almost the same as the 500D and other recent Canon DSLRs. However, the new LCD monitor provides a sharper, more detailed and colour-accurate view of the scene. Autofocusing is supported for Live View shooting with a choice of three AF modes.

      The Quick mode uses the normal phase-detection sensor, which requires the mirror to flip up and down again each time the camera is re-focused. Live mode uses the slower contrast detection method, which measures differences with the main imaging sensor. Face Detection AF uses the same system as the Live mode but focuses on human faces in the scene. As in most DSLRs, Live View AF is relatively slow, particularly in low-contrast situations and with subjects that lack detail.

      Unlike previous video-capable DSLRs, the EOS 550D allows autofocusing ton be engaged in Live mode, by half-pressing the shutter button. This is much more intuitive and faster than using a separate, dedicated button as was required in previous cameras. However, focusing remains relatively slow and hunting for focus is common.

      In Face Detection Live mode, the largest face near the centre of the frame is detected initially, but the arrow pad can be used to select any other face detected. In Quick mode, One-Shot AF is set automatically and the AF point is selectable even while the Live View image is displayed.

      You can superimpose a grid frame on the monitor in Live View mode and overlay an information display on the live view by pressing the Display button. Toggling through the Display options you can choose from no data (with only the magnification icon and AF point visible), exposure data below the image or a full information display with AF points overlaid and icons for the AF mode, Picture Style, WB, video or drive mode and image quality setting plus a histogram overlay and shooting data below the image.

      Video capture options are similar to the EOS 7D, with the ability to select from three different frame rates: 30, 25 or 24 frames/second for Full HD recording and 60 and 50 fps with the other resolutions. The table below shows the options available, along with typical recording times with a 4GB memory card.

      Movie resolution

      Frame rates

      Recording time with 4GB card

      File size

      1920 x 1080

      30/25/24 fps

      12 minutes


      1280 x 720

      60/50 fps

      12 minutes


      640 x 480

      60/50 fps

      24 minutes


      640 x 480 (Movie Crop)

      60/50 fps

      24 minutes


      Movie recording will stop automatically if the file size reaches 4GB or after 29 minutes and 59 seconds of recording time. A new movie file will start when the Movie button is pressed again.

      Full manual control of the camera is possible while shooting video, enabling aperture settings to be changed to control depth-of-field and providing control over sensitivity, white balance and shutter speeds. Picture Style settings can also be applied when shooting video clips.

      The 550D also provides a new Movie Crop function that acts like a digital zoom and allows users to crop into a scene (up to approx. 7x magnification) when recording in Standard Definition (640×480 pixels). This is designed to help users zoom in on distant subjects and ‘get the shot’, albeit at reduced picture quality.

      As with previous video-enabled cameras, users can record a still picture while shooting video by pressing the shutter button. The image quality is the same as that set for still photography and roughly a second of video is sacrificed in this process. An HDMI interface enables users to view still images and video clips on an HD TV screen.
      Playback and Software
      Playback options are essentially the same as other recently-released EOS DSLRs. Pressing the Play button switches the camera to play mode and users can display a single image or index of four or nine thumbnails. You can zoom in on the displayed image and magnify a selected area up to 15 times, rotate, protect or delete selected images and select Auto Playback to view a slideshow of all images on the memory card.

      Pressing the Info button lets you choose between four display options: single image with or without shooting data, image plus histogram and detailed shooting data or image plus histogram and abbreviated data. The histogram can be brightness only or brightness plus RGB. Highlight alerts can also be displayed.

      When the mode dial is set to Movie, thumbnails of recorded clips are displayed on the monitor and selected via the arrow pad cross keys and SET button. Pressing the SET button again starts playback of the last video clip. The soundtrack for the clip is played back through the speaker on the rear of the camera, just below the AE Lock/AF point selection buttons.

      The playback menu is navigated with the cross keys on the arrow pad. You can pause playback by pressing the SET button and adjust the sound volume with the control dial. Frame-by-frame playback is engaged each time you press the SET button, while holding down the SET button rewinds the video clip.
      The camera can be connected to any standard TV with monitor-type inputs using the A/V cable supplied with the camera. For HD playback on an HDTV set you will require an additional mini-HDMI to HDMI cable (not supplied with the camera). Playback on a computer is possible via the supplied ZoomBrowser EX (for Windows) or ImageBrowser (for Macintosh) software applications.

      We plan to post a full review of the EOS 550D as soon as a production model of the camera becomes available.

      (Note: all images posted here are Beta sample images taken with a pre-production camera and the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. These images have been re-sized for publication without any additional editing adjustments.) )


      135mm focal length, ISO 800; Av shooting mode; 1/197 second at f/5.6. “Beta sample image”


      400-pixel wide crop from the above image enlarged to 50% in Photoshop.


      126mm focal length, ISO 100; Av shooting mode; 1/197 second at f/5.6. “Beta sample image”


      400-pixel wide crop from the above image enlarged to 50% in Photoshop.


      36mm focal length, ISO 100; Av shooting mode; 1/3 second at f/5. “Beta sample image”


      400-pixel wide crop from the above image enlarged to 50% in Photoshop.


      36mm focal length, ISO 6400; Av shooting mode; 1/395 second at f/5. “Beta sample image”


      400-pixel wide crop from the above image enlarged to 50% in Photoshop.


      18mm focal length, ISO 100; P shooting mode; 1/100 second at f/8. “Beta sample image”


      400-pixel wide crop from the above image enlarged to 50% in Photoshop.


      135mm focal length, ISO 100; P shooting mode; 1/25 second at f/5.6. “Beta sample image”


      135mm focal length, ISO 200; Av shooting mode; 1/83 second at f/5.6. “Beta sample image”


      18mm focal length, ISO 100; P shooting mode; 1/166 second at f/7. “Beta sample image”


      55mm focal length, ISO 200; P shooting mode; 1/187 second at f/11. “Beta sample image”


      120mm focal length, ISO 400; P shooting mode; 1/100 second at f/5.6. “Beta sample image”


      18mm focal length, ISO 100; Av shooting mode; 1/55 second at f/16. “Beta sample image”


      18mm focal length, ISO 100; P shooting mode; 1/99 second at f/9.9. “Beta sample image”


      Backlighting: 18mm focal length, ISO 800; P shooting mode; 1/2048 second at f/7. “Beta sample image”


      400-pixel wide crop from the above image enlarged to 50% in Photoshop showing coloured fringing.


      Still frame from 1080p HD video clip. “Beta sample image”


      Still frame from 1080p HD video clip. “Beta sample image”


      Autofocusing while shooting video; it took 18 frames (approximately half a second) to go from totally out-of-focus (top) to sharp (below) when the shutter button was pressed. “Beta sample image”






      Image sensor: 22.3x 14.9 mm CMOS sensor with approximately 19 million photosites (18 megapixels effective ); RGB Primary Colour filters and a fixed low-pass filter in front of the sensor chip
      A/D processing: 14-bit
      Lens mount: Canon EF-S
      Focal length crop factor: 1.6x
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG, CR2.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies – MOV (Video: H.264, Audio: Linear PCM)
      Image Sizes: Stills – 5184 x 3456, 3456 x 2304, 2592 x 1728; Movies – HD: 1920 x 1080 at 30, 25, 24 fps, 1280 x 720 at 60, 50 fps SD: 640 x 480 at 60, 50 fps
      Image Stabilisation: Lens-based only
      Dust removal: Canon Integrated Cleaning System
      Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/4000 sec. Bulb; X-sync at 1/200 sec.
      Exposure Compensation: +/-5 EV in 1/3- or 1/2-EV increments
      Exposure bracketing: AEB +/- 3EV at 1/3-stop or ½-stop increments
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 second delay
      Focus system: TTL-CT-SIR phase detection AF with 9 selectable AF points
      Focus modes: One-Shot AF, AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF, Manual focusing (MF)
      Exposure metering: 63-segment TTL full-aperture metering via Dual-Layer SPC; Evaluative, centre-weighted average, partial (approx. 9.4% of viewfinder at centre) and spot (approx. 2.3% of viewfinder at centre) modes
      Shooting modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, manual exposure, A-Dep, CA, Flash off, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Movie
      Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Defined 1 – 3
      Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      Custom functions: 12
      ISO range: Auto (ISO 100-3200); Manual selection from ISO 100-6400 (ISO can be expanded to H: 12,800)
      White balance: Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light, Flash), Custom (1 setting can be registered); +/- 3 levels of white balance bracketing
      Flash: GN 13
      Flash exposure adjustment: +/- 3 EV in 1/3- or 1/2-EV increments
      Sequence shooting: Max. 3.7 fps for 34 JPEGs
      Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC, single slot
      Viewfinder: Pentaprism with 95% coverage, -3.0 to +1.0 dpt adjustment, fixed focusing screen (transmissive LCD)
      LCD monitor: 3.0-inch Clear View II TFT colour LCD with approx. 1,040,000 dots (VGA);
      Live View modes: Yes (Quick, Live & Live face detection AF
      Video Capture: Yes (1920 x 1080 at 30, 25, 24 fps, 1280 x 720 at 60, 50 fps, 640 x 480 at 60, 50 fps)
      Data LCD: No
      Interface terminals: USB 2.0 Hi-speed; A/V Out; Type C HDMI mini OUT terminal, external microphone input (3.5mm stereo mini jack); remote control terminal
      Power supply: Battery Pack LP-E8
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 128.8 x 97.5 x 75.3 mm (body only)
      Weight: 475 grams (body only)
      RRP: tbd
      Distributor: Canon Australia; 1800 021 167;





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