Canon EOS 550D – EOS Rebel T2i
The EOS 7D also has a resolution of 18 megapixels. According to Canon, this 22.3 x 14.9 mm CMOS sensor (APS-C size with a crop factor of 1.6), which delivers impressive image quality (see EOS 7D test in the links below), has been further improved. And so you get the highest resolution and the best image quality in one of the cheapest cameras in the Canon lineup (assuming a good lens). But it’s not the first time that a beginner canon is so technically attractive. But the EOS 550D, called “Rebel T2i” in the USA, has much more to offer: for example the video function with FullHD resolution (1080p) at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second and even 50 or 60 fps at 720p. Although the integrated microphone only records in mono, a stereo microphone can optionally be connected via a 3.5mm jack. Of course, an HDMI output in mini version is also available. Time, aperture and ISO sensitivity are adjustable during filming, which allows a lot of creativity. With VGA resolution, a 7x digital zoom can be switched on using the Crop function, which does not require lossy interpolation. The storage format used is Quicktime (MOV) with modern H.264 compression (MPEG4). The maximum recording in one piece is limited to 4 GBytes or 29 minutes and 59 seconds, whichever is reached first.
The screen is also a new development. It offers the native photo format of 3:2 and measures 3″ (7.6 cm) in the diagonal. With a resolution of 1,040,000 pixels, it sets a new record for SLR cameras. Since always three pixels (one red, one blue and one green) form one pixel, the effective resolution is 720 x 480 pixels. The protective screen has a low-reflection and water-repellent coating and is therefore also intended to provide good readability from different angles “in bright places” (original sound of the press release). While the screen covers 100% of the image field in LiveView mode, the optical viewfinder (penta mirror) shows only 95%; it magnifies 0.87x, offers diopter compensation (-3 to +1 dpt.) and an exit pupil of 19 mm.
The computing power is provided by the Digic 4. It enables low-noise images up to a maximum of ISO 12,800, whereby the upper limit of the ISO automatic can now also be set for the first time – as has long been the case with the competition. Continuous images are possible up to a maximum of 3.7 fps – the internal buffer memory is full after 34 JPEG or 6 RAW images. The images (and videos) are stored on SD cards, and the EOS 550 D supports SDXC as well as SDHC. The autofocus focuses with the help of nine measuring sensors, whereby the particularly fast middle sensor is particularly optimized for F2.8 and faster lenses. The exposure meter, on the other hand, was taken from the EOS 7D. The iFCL sensor (intelligent Focus Color Luminance) analyzes sharpness, colors and brightness with high precision.
As with the EOS 7D, Canon has listened to photographers’ wishes and improved the operation. This not only applies to larger buttons, but also to more intuitive operation and, more recently, an exposure adjustment button on the optional battery handle so that the aperture can be adjusted more easily. Speaking of batteries: the EOS 550D uses a new lithium-ion battery of the type LP-E8, also the battery handle is a new one. The further “equipment fireworks” contains motive programs, half or full manual exposure control, an exposure correction up to +/-5 EV, a sensor cleaning function, remote control from the computer by means of Remote Capture, a flash with guide number 13 and 1/200 s sync time as well as system flash shoe, dimming function for depth of field preview and altogether twelve custom functions with 36 settings.
Ergonomics and workmanship The EOS 550D, the latest addition to the EOS family, doesn’t exactly look like a baby camera. But as soon as you record it, you’re surprised how light the latest Canon DSLR is: The naked body weighs just 470 grams; the battery, memory card and EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 lens ready for use don’t even weigh 750 grams. Canon has achieved this “flyweight” with the consistent use of plastic for the housing. Fortunately, this doesn’t look as much like “Plaste und Elaste” as it did with earlier entry-level EOS models like the 300D, but rather robust. The workmanship is neat, all flaps close cleanly, there are no annoying burrs or gaps between the case shells. Canon has also coated the gripping surfaces with a kind of rough imitation leather for extra grip. The tripod thread is at least made of solid metal and sits neatly in the optical axis. The battery compartment is also accessible from below. It accommodates an energy dispenser whose capacity of 1,120 mAh is sufficient for a maximum of 550 shots – but only if neither LiveView nor the internal flash are used. Some competitors have a much longer breath today.
The feeling of touch is altogether fine, but the handle should be a bit more pronounced for an absolutely secure hold. As in the previous model, almost all of the controls on the EOS 550D are pushed to the right. This isn’t always practical, because you have to take the camera in your left hand to adjust something and then bring it back to shooting readiness with your right hand. At least the camera doesn’t lack dedicated switches and buttons, so a trip to the well-structured menus is rarely necessary. Only one control for the display brightness we missed: To adjust the brightness of the monitor to the ambient brightness, there is no way around the menu. Very practical, however, is that Canon has put a “Quick Settings” button in the cradle of its youngest baby: Once this is pressed, the four-way rocker switch can be used to conveniently control and adjust many of the parameters displayed on the monitor (such as exposure time, ISO number, exposure compensation). In addition, Canon has designed many of the EOS 550D’s keys larger than those of its predecessor. It’s also praiseworthy that, contrary to the general trend, Canon didn’t put the main switch on the EOS 550D around the shutter release (where it’s all too easily accidentally operated). The on/off switch is located next to the mode dial, within easy reach and yet protected from operating errors.
As is unfortunately still common in the mid-range camera class, the Canon EOS 550D does not offer a second dial either. Thus, for example, if one wants to correct the exposure, one has to keep a button pressed while at the same time turning the only adjustment wheel. This is hardly possible with a camera that is pressed against the eye and ready to shoot. On the other hand, the screen of the EOS 550D is a true splendour. For the first time with this camera, Canon offers a 3 inch display in the 3:2 recording format, thus, during the image reproduction or in the LiveView mode, the entire monitor surface is used. The pleasure of this beautiful monitor is further enhanced by its immense resolution of 1,040,000 pixels – there have never been so many on a DSLR display! The latest addition to the EOS family, the EOS 550D has a lot ahead of its big sisters when it comes to “display”, but at best the EOS 550D offers “home cooking” in the viewfinder: the simple pentas mirror design produces only a moderately bright viewfinder image, which also doesn’t produce the dreaded “tunnel vision” with only 0.87x magnification. As an alternative to the viewfinder, the LiveView mode is basically suitable, in which the viewfinder image appears on the display. Unfortunately, the monitor can neither be folded nor panned, so that during LiveView recording and video shooting, the camera usually has to be held rigidly and uncomfortably by the outstretched hands.
The EOS 550D with its simple exterior still looks more like a classic entry-level camera, but with its inner values it is definitely recommended for photographers with higher demands. To cut a long story short, one could say: What Canon engineers were able to realize cost-effectively using software, they gave to the EOS 550D, and savings were made on hardware. For the first time with a camera from the EOS family, the EOS 550D now allows you to set an upper limit for the ISO automatic, namely between ISO 400 and ISO 6,400. This is all the more practical as the EOS allows a maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800. The camera also deserves a lot of praise for displaying the ISO number in the viewfinder that is currently set or selected by the automatic. Another unique feature of this camera class is that the exposure can be corrected by up to +/- 5EV steps. The EOS 550D also records series of exposures on request. However, the maximum spread here is limited to 2 EV, and an exposure bracket always consists of (only) three shots. Canon didn’t want the self-timer to be too big, it can even be programmed for continuous shooting.
In the spirit of ambitious photographers, the EOS 550D offers four metering methods for exposure. In addition to the usual multi-field, selective and mid-weighted integral measurement, it offers a true spot measurement in which only the central four percent of the image detail is taken into account. However, with around 3.7 frames per second at “constant fire”, the Canon EOS 550D isn’t one of the fastest cameras in its class, but it can withstand this speed until the memory card is full.
The EOS 550D supports a range of motif programs (for example for “Sport”, “Landscape” or “Portrait”) for those who simply want to “shoot without a problem” with the EOS 550D. But the camera also offers semi-automatic control and can be adjusted completely manually (both exposure and focus). Among the EOS 550D’s programs are two typical Canon specialties: First, there is “A-DEP”, an automatic depth-of-field function. To do this, the camera consults the distance determined by all AF sensors and tries to adjust the aperture so that everything is in focus between the foremost and farthest focus point. On the other hand, Creative Auto provides an easy way to quickly change the values (exposure, aperture value, etc.) set by the fully automatic mode on the screen. It’s just a pity that the EOS 550D doesn’t offer a “creative” choice of image style in this way – it’s always set to “standard” in the fully automatic mode. These image styles are a fine thing in themselves: parameters such as sharpness, contrast, colour saturation and hue (redder or more yellowish) can be set and saved for various situations (e.g. “portrait”, “landscape” etc.). If the default “Standard” provides too bright colors (more about this in the section “Image Quality”), you should preferably choose the image style “Neutral” as the preferred setting.
Of course, Canon’s latest offspring can also record videos – theoretically even in breathtaking quality: the EOS 550D stores movies with a resolution of up to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at a maximum of 30 frames per second (FullHD). Unlike its predecessor, you can also preselect the aperture on the EOS 550D during filming, but then you have to expose manually. In practice, however, a video shot with the camera still suffers from the fact that there is only the snail-like contrast AF, so automatic tracking of the sharpness of a subject in motion is almost impossible. And a camera held away from the body by the long arm is anything but a guarantee for wobbly filming. For those who want to shoot presentable films, the use of a tripod is mandatory, preferably with a dampened video eye. In contrast to its predecessor, the EOS 550D offers a special socket (mini jack) for connecting an external microphone for good film sound, but the built-in microphone is also sufficient for a quick video snapshot. Videos and photos are brought to the TV set in the finest quality via HDMI cable, the EOS 550D has a corresponding connection on board.
If the light is not sufficient for taking a photo, the EOS 550D automatically extends its on-board flash in some shooting modes. With a measured guide number of 12.5, it is strong enough to illuminate a small indoor scene or to brighten up the shadows in excessively harsh sunlight. In combination with a system flash unit, the EOS 550D offers almost the complete comfort and reliability of Canon’s E-TTL-II system, but the camera’s on-board flash cannot be used solely for wireless control of external flashes – a pity! A connection possibility for studio flashes (PC synchronous socket) is also missing.
The EOS 550D offers an electronic correction function for vignetting caused by the lens, which is not a matter of course with mid-range cameras. The correction data for around 25 lenses are already stored in the camera’s memory, and the data for other lenses can be added as soon as available using the PC software supplied. When the EOS 550D is switched off, it briefly vibrates the sensor and shakes off any sensor dirt. Stains in the images, which are caused by stubborn dirt, can also be automatically eliminated afterwards using the supplied software. The EOS 550D also offers a dimming button for checking the depth of field in the viewfinder image.
Lens Canon is one of the largest camera manufacturers, and so the “in-house” range of lenses for the EF bayonet leaves nothing to be desired. We tested the EOS 550D mainly with the EF-S 18-55mm F3,5-5,6 IS, which is offered as a set with the camera for 100 Euro surcharge on the naked body. Typical for Canon, the EOS 550D’s sensor has a “crop factor” of 1.6, so it is slightly smaller than a real APS-C sensor. And so the focal length of the “kit” zoom, related to the 35mm format, is about 29-88 millimeters. The (apart from the lenses) completely plastic zoom gives the impression as if it had been made for “Toys’R’Us”, that toy store that closed in 2019. With a weight of just over 200 grams, it is at least extremely portable. Another positive aspect is that Canon has implanted an image stabilizer in this “entry-level” lens, because the EOS cameras don’t have anti-shake protection in the body via sensor shift. An autofocus drive is integrated into the lens, which moves quickly, but with an audible hum, to the correct focus position. Both the autofocus and the image stabilizer can be switched on and off directly on the lens with two small slide switches. Canon has, however, withheld a display in the viewfinder of the currently selected operating mode from the EOS 550D. The EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS is just fine as an entry-level lens, but the camera is undoubtedly more fun with the massive EF-S 15-85 mm F3.5-5.6, which we also used on the EOS 550D.
The autofocus is satisfied with nine measuring fields, whereby the central field is particularly light-sensitive. Interesting for action photographers: The EOS 550D offers a tracking AF (called “AI Servo AF” by Canon) that keeps moving subjects in focus. For semi-automatic programs (such as aperture or shutter priority), the desired AF field can also be set manually. There was nothing wrong with the autofocus of the EOS 550D in practical use, it always found its target reliably even under difficult lighting conditions. It’s just a pity that Canon has done without a separate AF auxiliary light in the EOS 550D. Instead, the camera opens the flash (depending on the selected program) and supports autofocus with sometimes annoying flash salvos.
With the EOS 550D, one is not only dependent on the view through the viewfinder for the image composition, in the LiveView mode, its monitor shows the viewfinder image. However, LiveView DSLR-typically (with the exception of the DSLRs from Sony) is also associated with autofocus limitations in the EOS 550D: If one chooses the more comfortable contrast AF, it takes an agonizingly long time until the camera has found a focus point. If the lightning-fast phase AF is chosen, the camera briefly folds the mirror into the beam path when focusing, but there is no viewfinder image during this time. Fortunately, the “mirror clatter” on the EOS 550D is very discreet, Canon has made for a really quiet and soft mirror beat. For those who prefer manual focusing, the excellent resolution display and an electronic viewfinder magnifier with five- or ten-fold magnification provide the best possible support. If you could at least fold the monitor now (not to speak of panning at all), you could use the EOS 550D almost like a traditional shaft camera and take photos close to the ground even in a Sunday suit.
Picture quality The EOS 550D has inherited the sensor from its big sister EOS 7D, which records around 18 million pixels in a tight APS-C size. This sets Canon far apart from its competitors’ half-format cameras, which currently offer a maximum resolution of 14 megapixels. The very high pixel density of the EOS 550D provides large reserves for detail enlargements (about 60 percent of the actually captured image area is sufficient for the highest quality print in DIN A4 size), but on the other hand it also suggests problems with noise behaviour and the actual resolution. How well Canon has the high sensor resolution under control and much more we have tested extensively in the renowned laboratory DCTau – the detailed test protocols are as always available for a small fee (see further links).
Contrary to expectations, the low-cost set lens then does a good job on the EOS 550D. Although the resolution decreases significantly towards the edges of the image when the aperture is open, fading by one f-stop already almost eliminates the problem. A bit more problematic is the pronounced edge darkening which, when fully faded up, shows up in the wide-angle area – here the brightness in the corners of the image is 1.5 f-stops lower than in the centre. Fortunately, a little dipping reduces this problem considerably, and the EOS 550D can eliminate the error immediately via internal lens correction. The distortion is also fine, only in the wide-angle range it is a little bit barrel-shaped. However, it is problematic that even moderate dipping has a negative effect on the overall resolution performance; due to the high pixel density, diffraction blur occurs even with relatively large apertures. The bottom line is that the kit lens is barely equal to the high demands the EOS 550D places on it.
The all-clear is also given for “noise” – our test laboratory certifies the EOS 550D to ISO 1,600 peak values, and even at even higher ISO values the noise remains at a pleasingly low level. But we have also “tormented” the EOS 550D in practice with high ISO settings: visually, there is absolutely nothing to criticize up to ISO 3,200, the noise presents itself as a very fine-grained, almost analog-like brightness disturbance, color noise is hardly an issue. With even higher sensitivity, however, large-area colour disturbances occur, which lie over the image like water colour stains. It’s also worth noting that RAW files from the EOS 550D developed in Lightroom 3 Beta 2 were hardly any less noisy than the camera’s own JPEGs – Canon obviously did an excellent job here! Nevertheless, not everything that glitters is gold: the very good noise reduction is visibly at the expense of the image details. Even at ISO 3.200, fine structures, such as the mop of hair in a portrait, appear as if painted; photographs with very high sensitivity give an overall weak, dull impression.
So Canon is fortunately in control of the noise with the EOS 550D. Unfortunately, the artifact formation cannot be said to be too strong due to the pronounced low-pass filtering of the sensor signal. And the EOS 550D is also very brash when it comes to focusing: both on horizontal and diagonal edges there are visible overshoots and a colour distortion that is not appropriate for this camera class. In addition, the EOS 550D saturates the colors quite strongly and has a mostly not very advantageous preference for red and magenta tones, so some shots appear slightly tinted. The tonal value reproduction provides for crisp mid-range, depths and lights are mapped softer. The overall rather aggressive processing of the image data is typical for Canon DSLRs, or better said: for the standard settings of EOS cameras. That might be okay for the fast print. However, if you want to get as neutral details, colours and tonal values as possible, you should preferably switch to the picture style “Neutral”. Or record his photos in RAW format.
The EOS 550D then delivers peak values again in dynamic range – it reaches up to 8.7 f-stops at low ISO settings and only drops below 8 f-stops beyond ISO 3,200. Unfortunately the camera then – like so many others – fails with the output dynamics, black is rather represented as dark grey. The reaction speed of the camera is downright professional: For focusing and triggering it takes hardly more than 3/10 seconds, the image is already pre-focused after about 1/10 second in the box.
Conclusion It’s impressive how much “camera” you get with the Canon EOS 550D for just over 700 euros. The high-resolution display in 3:2 format and the high sensor resolution, which is unique in this price class, are absolutely top. All in all, the EOS 550D offers above-average image quality; in higher ISO regions it even excels. Also the video quality is (from a technical point of view) beyond any doubt. On the other hand, the camera shows the limits set by 18 megapixels on an APS-S sensor. It’s hard to imagine what image quality the EOS 550D would have been able to deliver with a similarly constructed 12-megapixel sensor! The handling of the camera is good, the equipment leaves a somewhat ambivalent impression: on the software side, the EOS 550D doesn’t have any weaknesses, Canon has visibly saved on hardware. The relatively simple plastic case won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, ambitious photographers will also miss a foldable display for LiveView and video recordings. Despite these small weaknesses, the EOS 550D can be recommended all around.
- Video mode with FullHD resolution and external microphone connectivity
- Excellent display (although neither swivelling nor folding)
- Short reaction times with especially fast autofocus
- Very good image quality, even at high ISO numbers (but slightly too “crisp” tuning)
- Extremely slow contrast AF (LiveView, video recording)
- Less robust plastic housing
- Small, not very bright seeker
- Battery capacity below class level
Canon EOS 550D Datasheet
|Sensor||CMOS sensor APS-C 22.5 x 15.0 mm (crop factor 1.6
)18.7 megapixels (physical) and 18.0 megapixels (effective)
|Pixel pitch||4.3 µm|
|Picture formats||JPG, RAW|
|Colour depth||24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)|
|Metadata||Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard (version 2.0)|
|Audio format (video)||WAV|
|Autofocus mode||Phase comparison autofocus with 9 sensors|
|Autofocus Functions||Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light|
|Focus control||Depth of field control, Live View|
Viewfinder and Monitor
|Reflex viewfinder||Reflex viewfinder (95 % image coverage), 19 mm interpupillary distance, diopter compensation (-3.0 to +1.0 dpt), replaceable focusing screens, grille can be faded in|
|Monitor||3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 1,040,000 pixels|
|Exposure metering||Centre-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 63 fields, spot measurement (measurement over 4 % or 9 % of the image field)|
|Exposure times||1/4,000 to 30 s (automatic
) bulb function
|Exposure control||Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual|
|Bracketing function||Bracket function with maximum 3 shots, step size from 1/3 to 2 EV|
|Exposure compensation||-5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV|
|Sensitivity to light||ISO 100 to ISO 6.400 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 12.800 (manual)
|Remote access||Remote tripping|
|Motives||various scene modes, landscape, night scene, close-up, portrait, sports/action, fully automatic, 1 additional scene modes|
|Picture effects||B/W filter in yellow/orange/red/green, B/W tinting effects in blue/violet/green|
|White balance||Auto, Cloudy, Sun, White balance bracketing, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent lamp, Incandescent lamp, Kelvin input, Manual|
|Color space||Adobe RGB, sRGB|
|Continuous shooting||Continuous shooting function max. 3.7 frames/s at highest resolution and max. 34 stored photos or 6 RAW images|
|Self-timer||Self-timer at intervals of 2 s, special features: or 10 s (optional)|
|Shooting functions||Live histogram|
|Lightning bolt||built-in flash (hinged
)flash shoe: Canon, standard centre contact
|Flash number||Guide number 13 (ISO 100)|
|Flash functions||Auto, Fill Flash, Flash On, Flash Off, High Speed Sync, Slow Sync, Red-Eye Reduction|
Equipment and equipment
|Image stabilizer||no optical image stabilizer|
|Power supply||Power supply connection|
|Power supply||1 x Canon LP-E8 (lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 1,080 mAh)|
|Playback Functions||Playback histogram, image index|
|Voice memo||Voice memo (WAV format)|
|Special functions||Orientation sensor, Live View|
|Ports||Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
|AV connectors||AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)|
|Supported direct printing methods||Canon Direct Print, PictBridge|
|Features and Miscellaneous||built-in low-pass filter with dust protection functionDIGIC IV signal processing processorHighlight
to 18 EV single autofocus
x to 10x magnification)
Size and weight
|Dimensions W x H x D||129 x 97 x 62 mm|
|Weight||530 g (ready for operation)|
|included accessories||Canon LC-E8E Charger for Special BatteriesCanon
LP-E8 Special BatteryCanon
RF-3 (Housing Cover)
Video Connection CableUSB Connection CableBajonet CoverHelp StrapCamera SoftwareEOS Utility / Remote CaptureCamera Software
Driver 2000Image Viewing
and Management Software Zoom Browser EX (PC) or Image Browser (Mac)
|optional accessory||Canon ACK-E8 AC AdapterCanon
Canon LP-E8 Special batteryCanon
RS-60E3 Cable remote controlRemovable memory cardPortable format battery gripCanonEF- und EF-S interchangeable lens systemCanon
Speedlite EX system flash unitsEyepiece extension
EP-EX15IIEye correction lens
series E with rubber frame EfIR remote control