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Canon 550D versus Canon 500D

The Canon EOS 550D (called Canon XS in some regions) and the Canon EOS 500D (labelled Canon T1i in some countries) are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2010 and March 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The 550D has a resolution of 17.9 megapixel, whereas the 500D provides 15.1 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 550D vs Canon 500D

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 550D and the Canon 500D. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions 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 550D – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Canon 550D vs Canon 500D
Compare 550D versus 500D top
Compare 550D and 500D rear

In this particular case, the Canon 550D and the Canon 500D have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the 500D is slightly lighter (2 percent) than the 550D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 550D nor the 500D are weather-sealed.

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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the 550D gets 440 shots out of its LP-E8 battery, while the 500D can take 400 images on a single charge of its LP-E5 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)
Canon 550D» 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699- i
Canon 500D« 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799- i
Canon 750D« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 440 n Feb 2015 749- i
Canon 760D« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.9 oz 440 n Feb 2015 849- i
Canon 1200D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 16.9 oz 500 n Feb 2014 449- i
Canon G1 X Mark II« » 4.6 in 2.9 in 2.6 in 19.5 oz 240 n Feb 2014 799 i i
Canon 700D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.5 oz 440 n Mar 2013 649- i
Canon G1 X« » 4.6 in 3.2 in 2.6 in 18.8 oz 250 n Jan 2012 799- i
Canon 650D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.3 oz 440 n Jun 2012 849- i
Canon 600D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.1 oz 440 n Feb 2011 599- i
Canon 1100D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 17.5 oz 700 n Feb 2011 449- i
Canon 450D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.5 oz 500 n Jan 2008 799- i
Nikon D5100« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.8 oz 660 n Apr 2011 749- i

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 somewhat lower price (by 13 percent) than the 500D, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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 550D vs Canon 500D

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 tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.6. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 550D and Canon 500D sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the 550D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixel, compared with 15.1 MP of the 500D. This megapixel advantage translates into a 9 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the 550D has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.31μm versus 4.69μm for the 500D). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the 550D is a somewhat more recent model (by 10 months) than the 500D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

550D versus 500D MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. 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 Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 550D» APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
Canon 500D« APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
Canon 750D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p22.712.091971
Canon 760D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.612.091570
Canon 1200D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.372463
Canon G1 X Mark II« » 1.5-inch 13.0 4160 31201080/30p21.510.858158
Canon 700D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161
Canon G1 X« » 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.864460
Canon 650D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.272262
Canon 600D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.579365
Canon 1100D« » APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562
Canon 450D« » APS-C 12.2 4272 2848-21.910.869261
Nikon D5100« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the 550D provides a higher frame rate than the 500D. It can shoot video footage at 1080/30p, while the 500D is limited to 1080/20p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 550D vs Canon 500D

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 550D and the 500D 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 550D and Canon 500D along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera 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
Canon 550D»optical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 3.7 Y n
Canon 500D«optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.4 Y n
Canon 750D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Canon 760D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Canon 1200D« »optical n 3.0 460 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Canon G1 X Mark II« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 5.2 Y Y
Canon 700D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Canon G1 X« »optical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 4000 1.9 Y Y
Canon 650D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n
Canon 600D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel n 4000 3.7 Y n
Canon 1100D« »optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Canon 450D« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n
Nikon D5100« »optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y n

Both the 550D and the 500D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 500D was replaced by the Canon 550D, while the 550D was followed by the Canon 600D.

Review summary: Canon 550D vs Canon 500D

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 550D better than the Canon 500D or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Advantages of the Canon EOS 550D:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (17.9 vs 15.1MP) with a 9% higher linear resolution.
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/30p versus 1080/20p).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 920k dots).
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (13 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 10 months after the 500D).


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 500D:

  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in March 2009).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 550D is the clear winner of the match-up (5 : 1 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.

550D 05:01 500D

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 550D or the 500D. 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 following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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 cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Canon 550D»HiRec77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699- i
Canon 500D«HiRec74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799- i
Canon 750D« »-75/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749- i
Canon 760D« »Rec77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 849- i
Canon 1200D« »Rec-4/54/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449- i
Canon G1 X Mark II« »Rec77/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2014 799 i i
Canon 700D« »-76/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649- i
Canon G1 X« »Rec76/1004/54/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799- i
Canon 650D« »HiRec77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849- i
Canon 600D« »rev77/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2011 599- i
Canon 1100D« »80/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449- i
Canon 450D« »HiRecHiRec4/55/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799- i
Nikon D5100« »HiRec76/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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? 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 contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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