Canon EOS 550D review: Canon EOS 550D

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The Good Excellent high-definition movie mode; good high-ISO performance; great design and layout.

The Bad Detail could be crisper; needs a decent kit lens; pricey for an amateur camera.

The Bottom Line The Canon EOS 550D does so many things right that it seems churlish to mark it down for anything, but whether you should fork out for this dSLR depends on what you're planning to do with it. It's fantastic for HD movies and great for low-light, high-ISO shooting, but, in terms of ordinary, everyday stills photography, it offers little advantage over cameras that cost £200 or £300 less

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8.3 Overall

A year after the launch of the 15.1-megapixel EOS 500D, Canon has updated it with the EOS 550D. Now you get 18 megapixels and, more importantly, the high-definition movie mode at last comes with a proper set of frame rates. Canon's also hiked the sensitivity up to ISO 6,400 in its aim to 'redefine the boundaries of the consumer digital SLR'. At around £700 for the body only, and about £800 with the 18-55mm kit lens, the 550D might redefine the boundaries of your wallet, too.

Movie maestro
Is there anything this camera doesn't do? Its resolution is the highest of any non-full-frame dSLR, and Canon's 1,920x1,080-pixel HD movies trounce Nikon's 1,280x720-pixel flicks.

The problem with the 500D was that it could only manage 20 frames per second at a 1080p resolution, which is rather like having a three-cylinder Ferrari, but the 550D offers 30fps, 25fps and 24fps, making it much easier for serious film-makers to match the frame rate to the medium the footage is going to be used on. You can use auto or manual exposure controls in the movie mode, and there's a socket for an external mic, to bump up the sound quality.

The 550D's colour rendition is good and the high-ISO quality is excellent, but the camera sometimes overexposes backlit subjects. The low-cost 18-55mm kit lens also produces a good deal of distortion and chromatic aberration (click image to enlarge)

Stills photography's not been neglected either. There's the boost in resolution, as well as the extra-high ISO, which can be specially extended past ISO 6,400 up to ISO 12,800. Increasing the resolution and maximum ISO at the same time is a bold, and perhaps dangerous, move. Technically, it means the individual photosites should be smaller and the noise worse, but Canon's done some clever stuff with on-chip noise reduction and produced a rather exceptional level of image quality at these high ISOs. It looks like this is one boundary the 550D really has redefined.

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