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Canon describes this DSLR as ‘entry level’. If this is the entry where’s the exit? Boy is it well equipped!
At last look, Canon’s Web site showed nine DSLR models in its range, ranging from entry level to pro: a camera for everyone.
Without even a glance at the 260 page manual, I jumped in at the deep end and shot the ISO tests you see in this posting. Within five minutes I was sailing quite happily through settings to adjust ISO figures, aperture and shutter speed and auto focus. It is an easy camera to settle with and shoot any subject. Easy that is, if you are already a photographer, able to stroll around a DSLR, kick the tyres, jab on the gas and twirl a few buttons. However, compact digicam owners w
ill find an acquaintance-ship with the 550D a fairly steep learning curve.
First thing that will throw the novice will be the mode dial (top surface, right edge). As the control heart of the camera it has settings for auto exposure, Program AE, shutter or aperture priority, manual plus some scene modes to ease the pain when shooting portraits, sports and macro subjects; the movie mode is also here. Get familiar with this dial and you’re half way there.
You change ISO settings with the help of a nearby button so you get to enjoy a range of sensitivity from 100 to 12,800. Controls on the rear give access to the main menu, Live View, white balance, single or continuous shooting (about 3.7 fps), AF zone, exposure compensation …in all, not a daunting array.
The CMOS sensor has an 18 megapixel capacity, is 22.3×14.9mm in area, so a Canon EF or EF-S lens focal length has to be multiplied by a factor of 1.6x to equate to a 35 SLR lens. The kit lens supplied with the review camera was a stabilised EF-S f3.5-5.6/18-135mm (29-216mm as 35 SLR), not really a wide angle at the shorter end. If you’re shooting much architecture, you will immediately need another, wider optic.
The maximum image size, saved as a JPEG or RAW image is 5184×3456 pixels: as a print it will size up to 43x29cm. That’s a lot of paper!
Movie makers will have a great time, as this baby can shoot the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080 pixels at 24/25/30 fps in MPEG-4 (AVCH.H.264) format. Final recorded file size is 330MB a minute’s running time. It’s best to use a Class 6 SD card or better. The camera will write to SD, SDHC or SDXC cards. I noticed there’s also a stereo microphone input.
The fixed LCD screen is 7.6cm in size with a high resolution of 1.04 million pixels, so gauging focus and other fine detail is a snap. Using it outside in full sunlight I also found the screen surprisingly clear and legible. Good one!
The camera has Face Detection in Live View shooting; the built in flash has a 17mm lens angel of view; the camera has live Face Detection mode in Live View shooting; the camera holds peripheral illumination correction data for 25 lenses.
(insert Canon EOS 550D 3)
At ISO 6400, f6.3 and 1/1600 second we now reach high noise levels and loss of definition.
At ISO 12,800 we now seem to have come too far: a level to use only if you have to!
Banging on the power button I could start shooting within a second, with succeeding shots coming in as fast as I could hit the shutter button.
Quality: I could not fault the camera. If you are a newcomer to DSLRs, this is where you can start!
Why you would buy the EOS 550D: attractive entry model at a reasonable price.
Why you wouldn’t: you’re not ready for a DSLR!