Canon 550D vs 5D
The Canon EOS 550D (called Canon T2i in some regions) and the Canon EOS 5D are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2010 and August 2005. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (550D) and a full frame (5D) sensor. The 550D has a resolution of 17.9 megapixels, whereas the 5D provides 12.7 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon 550D||Canon 5D|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Canon EF mount lenses|
|17.9 MP, APS-C Sensor||12.7 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO 100-6,400 (100 - 12,800)||ISO 100-1,600 (50 - 3,200)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|3.0 LCD, 1040k dots||2.5 LCD, 230k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3.7 shutter flaps per second||3 shutter flaps per second|
|not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|440 shots per battery charge||400 shots per battery charge|
|129 x 98 x 62 mm, 530 g||152 x 113 x 75 mm, 895 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 550D and the Canon EOS 5D? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 550D and the Canon 5D. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 5D is notably larger (36 percent) than the Canon 550D. Moreover, the 5D is substantially heavier (69 percent) than the 550D. It is noteworthy in this context that the 5D is splash and dust-proof, 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 5D) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (550D). You can compare the optics available in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.
|Canon 550D||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.7 oz||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|Canon 5D||6.0 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||31.6 oz||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Canon 4000D||5.1 in||4.0 in||3.0 in||15.4 oz||500||n||Feb 2018||399|
|Canon 6D Mark II||5.7 in||4.4 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Canon 5DS||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5DS R||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 750D||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.1 in||19.6 oz||440||n||Feb 2015||749|
|Canon 760D||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.1 in||19.9 oz||440||n||Feb 2015||649|
|Canon 1200D||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||16.9 oz||500||n||Feb 2014||449|
|Canon 700D||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.5 oz||440||n||Mar 2013||649|
|Canon 6D||5.7 in||4.4 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Canon 650D||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.3 oz||440||n||Jun 2012||849|
|Canon 600D||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.1 oz||440||n||Feb 2011||599|
|Canon 1100D||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||17.5 oz||700||n||Feb 2011||449|
|Canon 500D||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.3 oz||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|Canon 5D Mark II||6.0 in||4.5 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Nikon D5100||5.0 in||3.8 in||3.1 in||19.8 oz||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The 550D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 79 percent) than the 5D, 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.
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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 550D features an APS-C sensor and the Canon 5D a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the 5D is 160 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
In terms of chip-set technology, the 550D uses a more advanced image processing engine (DIGIC 4) than the 5D (DIGIC 2), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon 550D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixels, compared with 12.7 MP of the Canon 5D. This megapixels 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 8.25μm for the 5D). However, it should be noted that the 550D is much more recent (by 4 years and 5 months) than the 5D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Canon 550D implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the 550D for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.9 x 17.3 inches or 65.8 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 13.8 inches or 52.7 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 11.5 inches or 43.9 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 5D are 21.8 x 14.6 inches or 55.5 x 37 cm for good quality, 17.5 x 11.6 inches or 44.4 x 29.6 cm for very good quality, and 14.6 x 9.7 inches or 37 x 24.7 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS 550D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon EOS 5D are ISO 100 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-3200.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the 5D has a markedly higher DXO score than the 550D (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV of lower dynamic range, and 0.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Canon 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The 550D indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the 5D does not. The highest resolution format that the 550D can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 550D and the 5D 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 viewfinder in the 5D offers a wider field of view (96%) than the one in the 550D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the 5D has a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.54x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 550D and Canon 5D along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5||n||n|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n|
|Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9||n||n|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 550D has one, while the 5D does not. While the built-in flash of the 550D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The 550D writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the 5D uses Compact Flash cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 550D and Canon EOS 5D and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Canon 5D (unlike the 550D) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the 550D and the 5D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 5D was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark II, while the 550D was followed by the Canon 600D. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon website.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 550D better than the Canon 5D or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 550D:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (17.9 vs 12.7MP) with a 19% higher linear resolution.
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (DIGIC 4 vs DIGIC 2).
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 230k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.7 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (129x98mm vs 152x113mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 365g or 41 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (79 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 4 years and 5 months of technical progress since the 5D launch.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.54x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2005).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 550D emerges as the winner of the contest (11 : 9 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 550D and the Canon 5D place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 550D or the 5D perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Canon 550D||+ +||77/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|Canon 5D||88/100||+ +||o||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299|
|Canon 4000D||o||..||3.5/5||..||3.5/5||Feb 2018||399|
|Canon 6D Mark II||+||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999|
|Canon 5DS||+||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 5DS R||+||83/100||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699|
|Canon 750D||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749|
|Canon 760D||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||649|
|Canon 1200D||+||..||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||449|
|Canon 700D||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2013||649|
|Canon 6D||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099|
|Canon 650D||+ +||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2012||849|
|Canon 600D||o||77/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||599|
|Canon 1100D||80/100||69/100||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||449|
|Canon 500D||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|Canon 5D Mark II||91/100||79/100||4/5||5/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499|
|Nikon D5100||+ +||76/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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. 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 are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
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Specifications: Canon 550D vs Canon 5D
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon 550D||Canon 5D|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Canon EF mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2010||August 2005|
|Launch Price||USD 699||USD 3,299|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 550D||Canon 5D|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||36.0 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||864 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||43.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||17.9 Megapixels||12.7 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5184 x 3456 pixels||4368 x 2912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.31 μm||8.25 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.39 MP/cm2||1.47 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 6,400 ISO||100 - 1,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||50 - 3,200 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||DIGIC 2|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||66||71|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||22.9|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.5||11.1|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||784||1368|
|Screen Specs||Canon 550D||Canon 5D|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||96%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||2.5inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 550D||Canon 5D|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.7 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||100 000 actuations|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 550D||Canon 5D|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||no HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 550D||Canon 5D|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||440 shots per charge||400 shots per charge|
129 x 98 x 62 mm
(5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
152 x 113 x 75 mm
(6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||530 g (18.7 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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