I have the EOS 500D with me for quite a while already but just before I decided to publish the review, news came about of the EOS 550D – so instead of an EOS 500D review, I thought I’d do a review of both of them with some comparison done.
Without further ado, I present to you the specifications that are already at DPreview. (Just click on the link).
They have a good comparison system there so I see no reason for me to repopulate the same information.
I’ll just skip the front view part since we all know they actually looked similar. We’ll jump to the finer details over their differences.
This is the body for the EOS series, it’s been like that for many years. Even my 350D looks like that. EOS on top, 500D at the bottom.
With the 550D, the words EOS 550D are placed together at the upper area. The body is sculpted in a way that it has a smooth curve leading to the lens. It’s a subtle change but I like it a lot. If you’re using the battery grip, the curved nature of the mount reduces the area around the tightening dials..
Now for the back view – nice eh? The 550D is on the one on top. The blue-ish reflection is the coating on LCD, I faced the same on the Legria HF S11 as well. For the 500D, I’m pretty sure it’s the same. It’s not bluish here because there’s a GGS screen protector on it already.
The 550D uses a 3:2 ratio LCD while the 500D uses a 4:3 ratio LCD. At maximum brightness, the 550D seems to be a lot brighter.
The 500D has glossy, rounded and protruding buttons with labels indicating the function, the Live View / Record Video button is under the AV button. The camera’s Quick Control menu is accessible via the SET button. The buttons for the 550D are much better, they’re now flat and are made of the same material as the body. As you can see the placement is still the same, just that the shape is different. Note how the PLAY button and Q buttons are curved to match the interface / quick access buttons.
Q button? Yes, the Quick Control button is where 550D users access the quick menu, a dedicated button for that now. I was using the 500D prior to the 550D and I was a lost on how to access the quick menu since pressing SET doesn’t do anything. I didn’t try the Q button because I thought it might explode……….. haha, no la, it’s more like I never thought of it, furthermore I was in the dark and didn’t notice it. Referred to the manual and “oohhhh I seeeeee”.
On the Quick Control, there’s now the ALO (Auto Lighting Optimizer) indicator as well.
With the Q button now placed at the area under AV button, Live View / Record Movie button is now placed just next to the viewfinder – AWESOME move. If you’re a 500D user, you’ll know how you need to move your thumb around 70 degrees to access that button. With 550D, it’s at pretty much the natural location of your right thumb would be when holding the camera.
The mode dial has improved too. On the EOS 500D the mode dial has tiny groves and a squarish edge that’s not that comfortable to turn. On the 550D, the dial is now of a softer feel (somewhat rubber like) with bigger single grooves and the dial itself now has a more friendly angle. Lovely!
Top view, you’ll see that the mode dial is silver for the 500D but it is now back to black color in the 550D. Slight difference in the ON / OFF switch location and the lines on the pop-up flash.
This is probably what everyone’s most interested in.
Just mouse over to see the difference, the images from 550D seems to have better contrast, despite same settings for all …..
ISO1600 | f/5.6 | 1/25
ISO3200 | f/5.6 | 1/50
ISO6400 | f/5.6 | 1/100
ISO12800 | f/5.6 | 1/200
430EX II in E-TTL mode. 550D images resized to 500D’s resolution for easier comparison.
Lovely isn’t it? Both have great ISO control on ISO1600 and ISO3200 but the 550D outshines the 500D in ISO6400 and ISO12800 by far and it looks pretty usable too. Notice how the 550D doesn’t have the random white specs on the darker area at higher ISO range.
There’s no reason to shy away from pumping ISO. Even at ISO6400, the 500D’s image is usually usable when resized.
Burst Mode Tests
I thought it’ll be fun to know how these 2 compare in terms of burst mode, and also viewing their writing speed over a Class 4 SDHC card.
For this test, I set the ISO to 12800 – that makes the file size really big. The shooting mode was set to and burst up to 10 frames.
Don’t get the video wrong people, in actual usage of lower ISO – both cameras do bursts of 10 easily. The 550D is slightly behind the 500D, not surprising since the 18MP RAW file would surely take longer time to write compared to 500D’s 15MP.
Next up, Large JPG. That’s 18MP vs 15MP.
The 550D seems to settle the task faster.
We try Medium JPG next, that’s 8MP for both.
Again, the 550D was faster. A LOT faster in fact.
Besides the 3.7 FPS burst on 550D against the 3.4 FPS burst on 500D, I believe something was improved on the 550D that it performed fast despite the increased megapixel.
SDHC Card Issues
Someone on Facebook approached me about the 550D video recording issue, he was using a Sandisk 4GB Class 2 card and he couldn’t even record 1920×1080 25fps video for more than 4 seconds.
I thought it odd so I gave my Kingston 4GB Class 2 card a try, in this case it’s a MicroSD with adapter.
And here’s the video recorded.
Looks fine. Well not exactly, there is some slight flaw in the video which I suspect due to the nature the Class 2 medium.
What about Class 4? Here’s a video recorded with Class 4 card.
Subtle jerking frames here and there. In the end, while both Class 2 and Class 4 cards are usable – they’re not for you if you want jerk-free 1080p videos.
From my experience, 720p (1280×720) works fine as the 1080p videos are the one pushing the limit.
So from what I gathered from my own tests and a bit of research over the Internet, the video recording issue (eg, record for a few seconds and coming to a halt) is not due the camera but due to the card.
There are people with Class 4 or higher cards with brands like Sandisk and Transcend that couldn’t record more than a few seconds while my Sandisk Class 2 recorded for a really long time. I currently have the Sandisk 4GB Class 2 MicroSD as seen on the video, and also a Kingston 4GB Class 4 SDHC and Toshiba 16GB Class 10 SDHC that works just fine.
Movie Crop Mode
Basically the camera uses the 640×480 area of the sensor to record a video, giving a SUPER ZOOM.
Here’s how it works.
Battery Grip | BG-E5 for 500D and BG-E8 for 550D
Look at the image below, you’ll see that the BG-E5 and the new BG-E8 has slightly different texture. The BG-E5 has the usual Canon and Battery Grip BG-E5 model stated at the front but the BG-E8 shifted the details elsewhere (Refer to next pic).
The key difference between these 2 are the latch. The BG-E5 uses the traditional unlock and flip latch and has a spring in the grip itself to gently eject the cartridge while the BG-E8 uses a plastic latch, just flip and pull. No spring inside the grip as well.
Button wise, they look similar. It’s just that the material used is different, the BG-E8 now uses non-glossy material for the buttons.
My disappointment with the BG-E8 was that it didn’t include the ISO button just like how it was on the body. On the 350D, I could still reach the ISO change button with my thumb without having to go through an entire change of posture or hold. On the 500D / 550D with the ISO button being next to the shutter, guess what you’d have to go through to do the change. On the plus side, the 500D’s Quick Control is accessible with the SET button, which is a little closer to the Q button on 550D.
Both 500D and 550D manage to shoot more than 2000 frames of large JPG without even dropping the battery indicator bar. That’s good eh?
Of course, I disabled focusing and IS for that one. So if you bring factor of focusing, snapping larger file sizes (RAW), image stabilization and the usual chimping (meaning keep looking at LCD) then it will certainly consume more energy. Nevertheless, you are assure that you could snap a lot of photos with a single fully charged battery.
From my experience, video mode does consume more energy as well, considering if you’re using 1080p 30fps mode then it’s writing 30x 1920×1080 frames each second.
I remember when I first tested the 500D – it didn’t take long for me to figure out how to focus in video mode or in Live View, it was by pressing the AE Lock button.
On the 550D – things weren’t as smooth. There’s no way to focus……… until I checked the manual! It seems that hidden in the menu somewhere, you can not just only enable the AF but you can even choose which button to use for AF, for example by half-pressing the shutter button instead of using the AE Lock button.
Other matters that requires further study of the manual were like the enabling of 1920×1080 (1080p) 30fps mode – even a user over at Facebook was asking how to get that mode. It’s not easy being a newbie and having a 258 page manual with you – you wouldn’t even know where to start. The 30fps mode is only available in when in NTSC system.
The AUTO-ISO mode now allows you to set the maximum ISO to be used, which I think is a great feature that even 7D users which they have but I also think it’s a feature that’s going to pamper those who are stepping into photography.
Here’s my thought for both……….
Canon EOS 550D
The price for this beauty is lower than what the 500D was when it was released last year. The improvements of 550D over 500D are not as great as 500D over 450D but they are noteworthy, especially the buttons, the button placements and the overall refinement of the FEEL.
The 63-zone metering system is certainly an improvement, over 500D. I was using the 550D at the Lenovo F1 2010 Garage Tour with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 and it performed well despite the strong sunlight and dark shades. I never expected it to capture the details under the shade that well.
Comparing both, I do find that they meter differently. The 500D is often 1/3 stop below the 550D, despite having the same lens mounted.
At RRP of RM 2,799 for the body alone, it’s a great camera. We’ve seen street prices come to even RM 2,750 for the body + EF-S 18-55 IS set.
Canon EOS 500D
I’ve used the 500D for about 5 months now and I still think it’s a great camera. What the EOS 550D can do, the 500D can do most of it as well. I used the 500D for the event coverage such as Intel All-New Core Processor Family Launch and The PC Fair Experience and more.
I know I’ve said before that RM 200 difference is too little between the 550D and 500D, that you’re better off paying RM 200 more to get the latest with all the improvements. I believe this is still true if you’re getting the body alone.
However, I had a long thought over this matter and it might not be that clear cut as the 500D is currently at RRP of RM 2,599 for the body alone but I’ve seen street prices for as low as RM 2,450 for the body + EF-S 18-55 IS set – that’s about RM 300 apart.
RM 300 could mean an EF-S 50mm f1.8 II lens for you, or a better bag and higher capacity SDHC.
Now consider this – what if you wanted a battery grip?
Last I saw, the BG-E8 costs about RM 200 more than the BG-E5. Factoring all that together, going the 500D path could mean TCO (total cost of ownership) reduction by RM 500 or more. Then of course, there’s the option for a used BG-E5 as the BG-E5 has been around for quite some time, catering for users of 450D and 1000D. So it is entirely possible to acquire a used BG-E5 (lowers the TCO even further) while used BG-E8 are still pretty rare since it’s only been introduced with the 550D.
If cost is not an issue, do yourself a favour and get the 550D.
If you’re looking at lowering cost, then 500D could be the one for you. Not everyone needs 1080p video, I use 720p mode even on 550D for the overall smaller video size for smaller file size (faster upload time too), works fine on Class 2 and 4 cards and less demanding when it comes to playback on my computers.
The photos of the EOS 550D and EOS 500D were taken with the EOS 350D.
And the EOS 550D, 500D and 350D group photo was taken with the Powershot A1000 IS, yes – that same little fella that took the videos of burst mode test. The lighting was done by manually (yes, hand trigger) a 430EX II.