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Canon 1Ds versus Canon 550D

The Canon EOS-1Ds and the Canon EOS 550D (labelled Canon XS in some countries) are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2002 and February 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (1Ds) and an APS-C (550D) sensor. The 1Ds has a resolution of 11 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 1Ds vs Canon 550D

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 1Ds and the Canon 550D. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 1Ds – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 1Ds vs Canon 550D
1Ds versus 550D top view
1Ds and 550D rear side
Body view (1Ds on the left)

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 (49 percent) than the Canon 1Ds. Moreover, the 550D is substantially lighter (58 percent) than the 1Ds. It is worth mentioning in this context that the 1Ds 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 1Ds) 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 1Ds gets 600 shots out of its NP-E3 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 Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 1Ds (⇒ rgt) 156 mm 157.6 mm 80 mm 1265 g 600 YES 2002 8,999discont. check
Canon 550D (⇒ lft) 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 no 2010 699discont. check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1530 g 1210 YES 2016 5,999 latest check
Canon 750D (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 101 mm 78 mm 555 g 440 no 2015 749discont. check
Canon 700D (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 no 2013 649discont. check
Canon 1D C (⇒ lft | rgt) 158 mm 164 mm 83 mm 1545 g 1120 YES 2012 14,999discont. check
Canon 650D (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 575 g 440 no 2012 849discont. check
Canon 600D (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 100 mm 80 mm 570 g 440 no 2011 599discont. check
Canon 1D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 YES 2009 4,999discont. check
Canon 500D (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 no 2009 799discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 YES 2007 7,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 156.6 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 YES 2007 4,499discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 113 mm 75 mm 895 g 400 YES 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1565 g 1200 YES 2005 3,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 157.6 mm 80 mm 1215 g 1200 YES 2004 7,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1535 g 1200 YES 2004 4,499discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) 157.5 mm 149.5 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 YES 2006 4,699discont. check

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 92 percent) than the 1Ds, 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 1Ds 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. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1Ds features a full frame sensor and the Canon 550D an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the 550D is 61 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.6. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 1Ds and Canon 550D sensor measures
Sensor size

Despite having a smaller sensor, the 550D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixel, compared with 11 MP of the 1Ds. 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 8.83μm for the 1Ds). However, it should be noted that the 550D is much more recent (by 7 years and 4 months) than the 1Ds, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

1Ds versus 550D MP
Sensor resolution

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 1Ds (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704 no 21.8 11.0 954 63
Canon 550D (⇒ lft) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 22.1 11.5 784 66
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 4K/60p 24.1 13.5 3207 88
Canon 750D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 22.7 12.0 919 71
Canon 700D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 21.7 11.2 681 61
Canon 1D C (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 17.9 5184 3456 4K/24p - - - -
Canon 650D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 21.7 11.2 722 62
Canon 600D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 22.1 11.5 793 65
Canon 1D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 16.0 4896 3264 1080/30p 22.8 12.0 1320 74
Canon 500D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 15.1 4752 3168 1080/20p 21.7 11.5 663 63
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744 no 24.0 12.0 1663 80
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.7 11.7 1078 71
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912 no 22.9 11.1 1368 71
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 8.2 3504 2336 no 22.3 11.2 975 66
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328 no 23.3 11.3 1480 74
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 8.2 3504 2336 no 22.3 11.1 1003 66
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 no 22.2 10.9 489 59

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The 550D indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1Ds does not. The highest resolution format that the 550D can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison: Canon 1Ds vs Canon 550D

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 1Ds 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 1Ds and Canon 550D in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Canon 1Ds (⇒ rgt) optical YES 2.0 120 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Canon 550D (⇒ lft) optical no 3.0 1040 fixed no 4000 3.7 YES no
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1620 fixed YES 8000 16.0 no no
Canon 750D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 5.0 12 no
Canon 700D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 5.0 13 no
Canon 1D C (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 14.0 no no
Canon 650D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 4000 5.0 YES no
Canon 600D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 1040 swivel no 4000 3.7 YES no
Canon 1D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 10.0 no no
Canon 500D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 920 fixed no 4000 3.4 YES no
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 10.0 no no
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 8.5 no no
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 230 fixed no 8000 4.0 no no
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.0 230 fixed no 8000 8.3 no no
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no

Both the 1Ds and the 550D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1Ds was replaced by the Canon 1Ds Mark II, while the 550D was followed by the Canon 600D.

Review summary: Canon 1Ds vs Canon 550D

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 1Ds or the Canon 550D – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Canon EOS-1Ds:

  • 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.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (600 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 available for much longer (launched in September 2002).

Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 550D:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (17.9 vs 11MP), which boosts linear resolution by 28%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 120k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.7 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (129x98mm vs 156x157.6mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 735g or 58 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 (92 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 4 months of technical progress since the 1Ds launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 550D is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 5 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

1Ds 05:10 550D

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 1Ds 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 where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
.com
dp
review
.com
ephoto
zine
.com
imaging
resource
.com
photography
blog
.com
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 1Ds (⇒ rgt) - HiRec - - - 2002 8,999discont. check
Canon 550D (⇒ lft) 88/100 HiRec 77/100 Gold 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 699discont. check
Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 5,999 latest check
Canon 750D (⇒ lft | rgt) - 75/100 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2015 749discont. check
Canon 700D (⇒ lft | rgt) - 76/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 649discont. check
Canon 1D C (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2012 14,999discont. check
Canon 650D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 77/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 849discont. check
Canon 600D (⇒ lft | rgt) reviewed 77/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2011 599discont. check
Canon 1D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold - 5/5 - 2009 4,999discont. check
Canon 500D (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec 74/100 HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 799discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec 4.5/5 - - 2007 7,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2007 4,499discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2005 3,999discont. check
Canon 1Ds Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - - - 2004 7,999discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2004 4,499discont. check
Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - reviewed - 2006 4,699discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.


Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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