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Friday, 11 March 2011

Rusty's Review: Canon 550D (aka T2i & Kiss x4)

What a great little camera!

I was looking to upgrade my G10 to a G12 for HD video, but after playing with a friends 550D and discovering how good the image quality was, I decided to move away from the compacts and go with a baby DSLR.

I must say that I have not been disappointed. This camera consistently delivers fantastic results without any fuss. As well as fantastic still image quality, the video files that the 550D produces are stunning.

Coupled with the excellent 15-85 EF-S lens, the 550D has quickly become my "take everywhere" camera and I no longer stress about leaving my 1Ds2 back home.

In fact, in some areas this entry level cam beats my 1Ds2 hands down. OK, I know my 1Ds2 is now 5 years old and sports "old technology", but the 1Ds2 is considered by many as a classic and it still produces some of best images out there. Where it fails however is high ISO and with it's old tech sensor that's no surprise.

I kinda like to think of my 1Ds2 as a film camera with Fuji Sensia 100 in it... Shoot it at ISO100 and it will produce beautiful images day in, day out. But if I need to go higher, I will limit myself to ISO400. Anything more and the induced noise is too much for my tastes (just like film) and I have not found a noise reduction program that can rectify sufficiently.

Well right about know I have 1Ds2 owners yelling at their computers, telling me that "I don't know *#@! from clay" ...that may be true because in reality they are both brown, but I am a self-confessed pixelpeeper who shoots landscapes and craves detail. So please understand that my "fussy bugga" genes kick in for this kinda thing.

The 550D on the other hand, with it's fancy dancy new tech hoity-toity image sensor and digic processor is a different beast all together. ISO800 is still very usable and when I shot some images at ISO1600 by accident, I found it hard telling which was which.

That said, I still shoot all my landscapes at ISO100 (the "fussy bugga genes" remember), but it's nice to know that a couple of more stops of exposure are there if I really need them.

It should be said however, that is coming from a landscapers point of view... if I am shooting happysnaps (which will prob be a lot of people who buy this cam) I will happily bang away at whatever ISO it needs, because it's way clean enough for your smaller family album prints... not a problem!

Another area where the 550D wins is in image review & live view. The rear LCD screen is excellent! It's sharp, detailed, colour accurate and with live view and real joy to work with. Sadly, the 1Ds2 has no live view and only a very small screen that presents quite a soft image when enlarged for review.

The 550D also has 14bit image processing as apposed to the 1Ds2's 12bit…. this means that it's smooth graduations, such as clear sky in an image, are just that bit smoother. This is most welcome.

Geez! I am starting to wonder why I pick up the 1Ds2 at all?

Well... it's full frame. The image sensor is larger than the 550D's. 1.6x larger in fact. This means that it sees more of the image circle projected by the lens and this means that any lens has a wider field of view (Fov) when on the 1Ds2, than it has when on the 550D. That's why us landscape photographers love using full frame cameras.

"Hang on!" I hear you say… "If a lens seems wider on the 1Ds2, then the opposite must also be true and that same lens must seem longer on the 550D, correct?"

Hmmm, are we getting off track from the 550D review? The narrow FoV can be real advantage or disadvantage, so I will allow the question…..

Yes, you are absolutely correct. If your not much into wide landscape photography, but love filling your frame with wildlife, then the 550D (and other 1.6x cams) will effectively get you 1.6x closer to your prey. Think of it this way…… I am shooting an image with my 1Ds2 and a 70-200mm zoom lens. I have composed my image in the viewfinder and I think it looks smashing!! I look at my lens and I see that I am shooting at 160mm. I go to take the photo and DARN!! the battery dies. :(

No problem, out comes the 550D to take the shot. I fit the 550D with the same 70-200 lens and recompose my shot, so that it looks exactly the same in the viewfinder as it did in the 1Ds2's viewfinder. I look down at my lens and I am shooting at 100mm. The 550D's smaller sensor is using a smaller section of the image projected by the lens, so 100mm is acting like 160 (200mm would act like 320 etc)'s a cheap way to gain some reach isn't it. ;) But lets not forget, "what you gain at the long end, you lose at the short" so some shooters might find themselves lusting after 10mm wide angles.

So what's the score? I dunno, I have not been keeping count. But lets just say that while the 550D is most definitely NOT a "pro" camera in terms of metal body and superfast AF, it is a well built and extremely capable camera that has it advantages, even over some of the classic shooters of all time.

Would I recommend this camera to a friend? You're darn toot'n I would! Especially now that the 600D has been released, as there are some great bargains to be had on new 550D's while they last.



Click image to view this camera at DigitalRev:
Canon EOS 550D Body (Rebel T2i)

Tags: Canon 550D 600D DSLR camera review test user opinion hands on

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