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Canon 550D vs T1i

The Canon EOS 550D (called Canon T2i in some regions) and the Canon EOS Rebel T1i (labelled Canon 500D in some countries) are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, 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 megapixels, whereas the T1i provides 15.1 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon 550D VS Canon T1i
Canon 550D Canon T1i
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Canon EF mount lenses
17.9 MP, APS-C Sensor 15.1 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/20p Video
ISO 100-6400 (100-12800) ISO 100-6400 (100-12800)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD, 1040k dots 3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3.7 shutter flaps per second 3.4 shutter flaps per second
440 shots per battery charge400 shots per battery charge
129 x 98 x 62 mm, 530 g 129 x 98 x 62 mm, 520 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 550D and the Canon EOS Rebel T1i? 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.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 550D and the Canon T1i is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon 550D vs Canon T1i
Compare 550D versus T1i top
Comparison 550D or T1i rear

In this particular case, the Canon 550D and the Canon T1i have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the T1i is slightly lighter (2 percent) than the 550D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 550D nor the T1i 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 compare the optics available in the Canon EF Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the 550D gets 440 shots out of its LP-E8 battery, while the T1i 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. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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)
Camera
Model
 
Canon 550D» 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699iCanon 550D
 
Canon T1i« 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799iCanon T1i
 
Canon 4000D« » 5.1 in 4.0 in 3.0 in 15.4 oz 500 n Feb 2018 399 iCanon 4000D
 
Canon 750D« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 440 n Feb 2015 749iCanon 750D
 
Canon 760D« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.9 oz 440 n Feb 2015 649iCanon 760D
 
Canon 1200D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 16.9 oz 500 n Feb 2014 449iCanon 1200D
 
Canon T5« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 16.9 oz 500 n Feb 2014 449iCanon T5
 
Canon 700D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.5 oz 440 n Mar 2013 649iCanon 700D
 
Canon 650D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.3 oz 440 n Jun 2012 849iCanon 650D
 
Canon T4i« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.3 oz 440 n Jun 2012 849iCanon T4i
 
Canon 600D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.1 oz 440 n Feb 2011 599iCanon 600D
 
Canon 1100D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 17.5 oz 700 n Feb 2011 449iCanon 1100D
 
Canon T3i« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.1 oz 440 n Feb 2011 599iCanon T3i
 
Canon T2i« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699iCanon T2i
 
Canon 500D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799iCanon 500D
 
Canon XSi« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.5 oz 500 n Jan 2008 799iCanon XSi
 
Nikon D5100« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.8 oz 660 n Apr 2011 749iNikon D5100
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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 somewhat lower price (by 13 percent) than the T1i, 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies 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 T1i sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the 550D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixels, compared with 15.1 MP of the T1i. This megapixels 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 T1i). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the 550D is a somewhat more recent model (by 10 months) than the T1i, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

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 inch or 65.8 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 13.8 inch or 52.7 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 11.5 inch or 43.9 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon T1i are 23.8 x 15.8 inch or 60.4 x 40.2 cm for good quality, 19 x 12.7 inch or 48.3 x 32.2 cm for very good quality, and 15.8 x 10.6 inch or 40.2 x 26.8 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 Canon EOS Rebel T1i offers exactly the same ISO settings.

550D versus T1i MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

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 550D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466Canon 550D
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363Canon T1i
 
Canon 4000D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.469563Canon 4000D
 
Canon 750D APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.712.091971Canon 750D
 
Canon 760D APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.612.091570Canon 760D
 
Canon 1200D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.372463Canon 1200D
 
Canon T5 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.372463Canon T5
 
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 T4i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.272262Canon T4i
 
Canon 600D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.579365Canon 600D
 
Canon 1100D APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562Canon 1100D
 
Canon T3i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.579365Canon T3i
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466Canon T2i
 
Canon 500D APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363Canon 500D
 
Canon XSi APS-C 12.2 4272 2848none21.910.869261Canon XSi
 
Nikon D5100 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380Nikon D5100

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the 550D provides a higher frame rate than the T1i. It can shoot video footage at 1080/30p, while the T1i is limited to 1080/20p.

 

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 550D and the T1i 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), as well as the same magnification (0.54x). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 550D and Canon T1i along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Canon 550Doptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n Canon 550D
 
Canon T1ioptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n Canon T1i
 
Canon 4000Doptical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon 4000D
 
Canon 750Doptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n Canon 750D
 
Canon 760Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n Canon 760D
 
Canon 1200Doptical n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon 1200D
 
Canon T5optical n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon T5
 
Canon 700Doptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n Canon 700D
 
Canon 650Doptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n Canon 650D
 
Canon T4ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n Canon T4i
 
Canon 600Doptical n 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n Canon 600D
 
Canon 1100Doptical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon 1100D
 
Canon T3ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n Canon T3i
 
Canon T2ioptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n Canon T2i
 
Canon 500Doptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n Canon 500D
 
Canon XSioptical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n Canon XSi
 
Nikon D5100optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D5100

The 550D writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the T1i uses SDHC cards.

 

Connectivity comparison

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 Rebel T1i and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Canon 550DYstereononeY-mini2.0---Canon 550D
 
Canon T1iYmonomono--mini2.0---Canon T1i
 
Canon 4000DYmonomono--mini2.0YY-Canon 4000D
 
Canon 750DYstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-Canon 750D
 
Canon 760DYstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-Canon 760D
 
Canon 1200DYmonomono--mini2.0---Canon 1200D
 
Canon T5Ymonomono--mini2.0---Canon T5
 
Canon 700DYstereomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 700D
 
Canon 650DYstereomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 650D
 
Canon T4iYstereomonoY-mini2.0---Canon T4i
 
Canon 600DYmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 600D
 
Canon 1100DYstereomono--mini2.0---Canon 1100D
 
Canon T3iYmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon T3i
 
Canon T2iYstereononeY-mini2.0---Canon T2i
 
Canon 500DYmonomono--mini2.0---Canon 500D
 
Canon XSiYnonenone--mini2.0---Canon XSi
 
Nikon D5100YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D5100

It is notable that the 550D has a microphone port, which is missing on the T1i. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.

Both the 550D and the T1i have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The T1i was replaced by the Canon T2i, 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.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 550D or the Canon T1i – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? 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).
  • Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
  • 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 T1i).


Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS Rebel T1i:

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

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the 550D is the clear winner of the match-up (6 : 1 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. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

550D 06:01 T1i

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 550D and the Canon T1i 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 550D or the T1i. 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.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Canon 550D+ +77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699iCanon 550D
 
Canon T1i+ +74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799iCanon T1i
 
Canon 4000Do..3.5/5..3.5/5 Feb 2018 399 iCanon 4000D
 
Canon 750D..75/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749iCanon 750D
 
Canon 760D+77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 649iCanon 760D
 
Canon 1200D+..4/54/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449iCanon 1200D
 
Canon T5+..4/54/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449iCanon T5
 
Canon 700D..76/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649iCanon 700D
 
Canon 650D+ +77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849iCanon 650D
 
Canon T4i+ +77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849iCanon T4i
 
Canon 600Do77/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2011 599iCanon 600D
 
Canon 1100D80/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449iCanon 1100D
 
Canon T3io77/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2011 599iCanon T3i
 
Canon T2i+ +77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699iCanon T2i
 
Canon 500D+ +74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799iCanon 500D
 
Canon XSi+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799iCanon XSi
 
Nikon D5100+ +76/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749iNikon D5100
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Canon 550D:
Check Ebay offers
Canon T1i:
Check Ebay offers

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.

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    Specifications: Canon 550D vs Canon T1i

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Canon 550D Canon T1i
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Canon EF mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2010 March 2009
    Launch Price USD 699 USD 799
    Sensor Specs Canon 550D Canon T1i
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm 22.3 x 14.9 mm
    Sensor Area 332.27 mm2 332.27 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 26.8 mm 26.8 mm
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.6x
    Sensor Resolution 17.9 Megapixels 15.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5184 x 3456 pixels 4752 x 3168 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.31 μm 4.69 μm
    Pixel Density 5.39 MP/cm2 4.53 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/20p Video
    ISO Setting 100-6400 ISO 100-6400 ISO
    ISO Boost 100-12800 ISO 100-12800 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 DIGIC 4
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 66 63
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.1 21.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.5 11.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 784 663
    Screen Specs Canon 550D Canon T1i
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.54x 0.54x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 1040k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon 550D Canon T1i
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3.7 shutter flaps/s 3.4 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy100 000 actuations100 000 actuations
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon 550D Canon T1i
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port no MIC socket
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon 550D Canon T1i
    Battery Type LP-E8 LP-E5
    Battery Life (CIPA)440 shots per charge400 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 129 x 98 x 62 mm
    (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
    129 x 98 x 62 mm
    (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
    Camera Weight 530 g (18.7 oz) 520 g (18.3 oz)

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