Update: The Canon EOS 550D was a great budget DSLR in its day, but it’s long been discontinued and it’s debatable whether it’s worth your while buying one, even used these days. New models boast improved image quality, the ability to record up to 4K video quality, articulated screens and improved autofocus systems. The fact it’s so old means that, even on the used market, there are better options than the Canon EOS 550D but you don’t have to go down the used route if you don’t want to.
You can pick up one of Canon’s current budget cameras for not much more. In particular, there’s the Canon EOS 1300D with its 18-55mm kit lens for around £320 or the Canon 100D with a similar lens for a similar amount. Or you could try a Nikon D3300 or Nikon D3400 for a little bit more money.
But if you can lay your hands on a 550D for significantly less than this, it’s a great camera to cut your teeth on, or in fact to find out of you really want to get into DSLR photography in the first place.
Our full original Canon EOS 550D review follows below.
Canon EOS 550D review: In full
Canon’s triple-digit EOS cameras have long been the yardstick by which consumer digital SLRs are measured. The 550D is fairly pricey, but with the same 18-megapixel resolution, metering system and 1080p video mode as the upmarket 60D and 7D, it’s more of a cut-price enthusiasts’ model than an overpriced entry-level SLR.
The sophisticated 63-point iFCL metering system is the same as the 7D’s, and it’s much better than the older 500D’s 35-point system. It uses two sensors to gather the colour and luminance information that helps to calculate the correct exposure settings. It also takes subject distance information from the auto-focus system and balances the exposure based on that.
The single DIGIC 4 image processor reduces the 550D’s burst rate to 3.7fps, down from 8fps on the 7D, but up from the 500D’s 3.4fps. The 550D can shoot 34 fine JPEG or six RAW frames at this speed. That’s fewer that the 500D’s 170 fine JPEG or nine RAW frames.
The 550D supports a range of shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/4,000th of a second, as well as a bulb mode for longer exposures. ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 6400 and is expandable to 12800. The auto-focus system has nine points, with the centre being a cross-type f/5.6 point with extra sensitivity at f/2.8. Most of the time the AF system worked well and focuses very quickly, but occasionally we found that it would front focus. This is where the camera focuses slightly in front of your intended subject and is the same issue we saw with both the 450D and 500D. It isn’t a major problem if you’re using relatively small apertures, but if you’re looking to buy fast glass (with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger), it’s something to watch out for.