Background on the Canon EOS T21/550D
With entry-level DSLRs, Canon has long walked a path of gradual development. When a new model pops out of the factory, the model it replaces stays in the catalogue but is sold at a lower price. It’s smart marketing.
Canon pitches the 550D at the top end of its Entry Level DSLR group, which stacks up like this (basic kit lens, US $):
550D $900 18mp
500D $800 15mp
450D $650 12mp
1000D $550 10mp
It’s a nice, logical spread of products, more so than Nikon’s 3 models and two sensor sizes. As I said: smart marketing. Predictably, the 550D borrows much from the 500D it one-ups. And just as predictably, it fires a second torpedo across the bow of the good ship Nikon whose D90 has reigned supreme in the <$1,000 DSLR market for 18 months. The first one was the 500D, and it didn’t really connect.
Canon sums it up like this: Creative control with no compromise on quality.
The press release elaborates: ‘The EOS 550D redefines the boundaries of Canon’s consumer DSLR range, incorporating technologies and features more commonly found in semi-professional DSLRs into the compact, lightweight body favoured by consumers. With a newly-developed 18 Megapixel (MP) APS-C CMOS sensor, coupled with Canon’s advanced DIGIC 4 image processor and the ability to shoot Full HD movies, photography enthusiasts are empowered to explore new levels of creativity.’
What Canon did was to reach into the parts bin and put the 18mp sensor from its semi-pro 7D (with a couple of corners cut) into an entry-level body. Other features that come with the 7D sensor is an ISO range of 100 – 6400, 14-bit image processing for smoother tonal gradation and advanced iFCL exposure metering with 63-zone dual-layer sensor. And the cherry on the grapefruit: full HD video recording with selectable frame rates, manual control and support for an external stereo microphone.
Amazing Results, No Matter the Light. It’s a bold claim, as we’ll see. First, I have a simple question: who needs 18 megapixels in an entry level camera? Processing RAW images from a sensor that big on an ordinary PC is arduous task. Files are 25 – 30 mb each. The obvious answer is that Canon thinks that more pixels is what most of us want. Are we that gullible? I think it’s more likely boys with their toys stuff, Canon flexing its technology muscles at Nikon, ‘look at me, look at me …’