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Canon 1D Mark IV versus Canon 550D

The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV and the Canon EOS 550D (labelled Canon XS in some countries) are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2009 and February 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D Mark IV) and an APS-C (550D) sensor. The 1D Mark IV has a resolution of 16 megapixel, whereas the 550D provides 17.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 1D Mark IV vs Canon 550D

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark IV and the Canon 550D. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the 1D Mark IV – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Canon 1D Mark IV vs Canon 550D
Compare 1D Mark IV versus 550D top
Compare 1D Mark IV and 550D rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 550D is considerably smaller (48 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark IV. Moreover, the 550D is substantially lighter (57 percent) than the 1D Mark IV. It is worth mentioning in this context that the 1D Mark IV is splash and dust resistant, while the 550D does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor (as in the 1D Mark IV) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (550D). You can find a comprehensive overview of suitable optics in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark IV gets 1500 shots out of its LP-E4 battery, while the 550D can take 440 images on a single charge of its LP-E8 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark IV» 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 43.4 oz 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 550D« 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699- i Canon 550D
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 750D« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 440 n Feb 2015 749- i Canon 750D
Canon 700D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.5 oz 440 n Mar 2013 649- i Canon 700D
Canon 650D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.3 oz 440 n Jun 2012 849- i Canon 650D
Canon 1D X« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 600D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.1 oz 440 n Feb 2011 599- i Canon 600D
Canon 60D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 7D« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 500D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799- i Canon 500D
Canon 5D Mark II« » 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
Canon 1D Mark III« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 42.9 oz 1200 Y Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 550D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 86 percent) than the 1D Mark IV, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 1D Mark IV vs Canon 550D

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D Mark IV features an APS-H sensor and the Canon 550D an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the 550D is 36 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.6. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 1D Mark IV and Canon 550D sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the 550D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixel, compared with 16 MP of the 1D Mark IV. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.31μm versus 5.70μm for the 1D Mark IV). However, it should be noted that the 550D is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 months) than the 1D Mark IV, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.

1D Mark IV versus 550D MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the 1D Mark IV has a notably higher overall DXO score than the 550D (overall score 8 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.7 bits higher color depth, 0.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark IV» APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 550D« APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466Canon 550D
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 750D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p22.712.091971Canon 750D
Canon 700D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161Canon 700D
Canon 650D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.272262Canon 650D
Canon 1D X« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682Canon 1D X
Canon 600D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.579365Canon 600D
Canon 60D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366Canon 60D
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
Canon 500D« » APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363Canon 500D
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« » APS-C 15.1 4752 3168-21.811.469663Canon 50D
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328-23.311.3148074Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/30p).

 

Feature comparison: Canon 1D Mark IV vs Canon 550D

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 1D Mark IV and the 550D are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 1D Mark IV, the Canon 550D, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark IV»optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 550D«optical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 3.7 Y n Canon 550D
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 750D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon 750D
Canon 700D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon 700D
Canon 650D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon 650D
Canon 1D X« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n Canon 1D X
Canon 600D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel n 4000 3.7 Y n Canon 600D
Canon 60D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 8000 5.3 Y n Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
Canon 500D« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.4 Y n Canon 500D
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 6.3 Y n Canon 50D
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 4.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S

Both the 1D Mark IV and the 550D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 550D was replaced by the Canon 600D, while the 1D Mark IV does not have a direct successor.

Review summary: Canon 1D Mark IV vs Canon 550D

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 1D Mark IV and the Canon 550D? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1500 versus 440) on a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2009).


Advantages of the Canon EOS 550D:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (17.9 vs 16MP), which boosts linear resolution by 6%.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 920k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (129x98mm vs 156x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 700g or 57 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (86 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (3 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 1D Mark IV comes out slightly ahead of the 550D (8 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

1D Mark IV 08:07 550D

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 1D Mark IV and the 550D in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark IV»-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 550D«HiRec77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699- i Canon 550D
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 750D« »-75/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749- i Canon 750D
Canon 700D« »-76/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649- i Canon 700D
Canon 650D« »HiRec77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849- i Canon 650D
Canon 1D X« »--4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 600D« »rev77/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2011 599- i Canon 600D
Canon 60D« »Rec79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 500D« »HiRec74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799- i Canon 500D
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50D« »HiRecHiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
Canon 1D Mark III« »---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »-HiRec--- Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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