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Canon EOS 550D vs. 7D - Which one is right for you?02 March 2010 - by Raphael Chieza When I was assigned this article in our content meeting on Monday, I was immediately thinking that there is really no contest between the Canon EOS 7D and the Canon EOS 550D. If you are particular about shooting stills, you would expect the EOS 7D to outperform the 550D in every aspect. While the redeeming feature of the 550D is that it's got a very good movie option at an attractive price point. Is this true though and should you decide your purchase based on this assumption? Let's find out?
We'll start off with the still camera features and take a look at the image sensor. At first glance, they appear to be the same with both sensors being 18 effective megapixels APS-C sized CMOS sensors. However, if you look more closely, you will notice a slight difference in total pixel counts in the 7D favour. While we have no idea how much a difference it would contribute to the final results, it does indicate that the sensors are definitely not the same. What's more, although both the 550D and 7D run on DIGIC 4 Processors, the 7D has got 2 of them which makes the 7D faster in processing the large files coming out of these sensors. In fact, it is just over twice as fast at 8 frames per second against a measly 3.7 frames per second of the EOS 550D. The total burst is also well in favour of the 7D with 126 JPEGs or 15 RAW images compared to 34 JPEGs or 6 RAW images. If continuous shooting is important for you?there is no question as to which will do the job for you. In case it's not that important, it's the overall IQ and noise handling that makes the difference.
While the metering systems for both cameras were the same, the focusing systems were different. You are afforded more control with the 19 focus points of the 7D as well as smarter (when in AF) and snappier focusing in general. However, the image from the 2 cameras seems to indicate that the images from the 550D were consistently sharper overall. Simply based on these images of stationary objects, there does not seem much sense to buy the 7D even for stills but the true test comes with the low light situations which we feel should show some 7D superiority. We went on to look at the ISO test comparisons for an indication of this.
Canon 550D ISO Test
Canon 7D ISO Test
Aperture Priority @ f/8, White Balance @ 4000k, AF Spot Focusing & Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM @ 70mmOnce again, we are picking our jaw off the floor as the results of the ISO test against throws the Canon EOS 550D out as a winner. Not only were the images sharper but you get a better sense of the paper texture in the 550D samples. This makes us wonder how much most photographers are willing to pay to get the weatherproof body and 100% pentaprism viewfinder?Sure, the integrated Speedlite Transmitter is great and the functional buttons layout of the 7D makes it more easy to use but is it really enough? The Canon EOS 550D comes with the same movie features with the additional Movie Crop mode for a 7x cropped movie in standard definition. Certainly enough to get the most out of your telephoto lenses even in the biggest stadiums. This alone is a great trade-off against other features like dual-axis electronic levelling. The final twist of the knife would have to be the immaculate 3.0-inch 3:2 Clear View LCD. Highest resolution of any DSLR to date at 1,040k dots, it's really optimised as the new standard for future DSLR cameras.
Reading over what I've written and looking at the results once again, I can't help but wonder if Canon should be praised or criticised. The photographer in me loves the fact that the more budget friendly Canon EOS 550D can deliver so much but the more shrewd marketing badass in me just can't help but snicker as how their 550D is upstaging their Canon EOS 7D, which is supposed to be the top of the range APS-C sized camera in the market. Regardless, it is money for Canon and it's certainly a lot better than the lack of improved models which is the state of affairs for Nikon at the moment.