Canon 550D vs Nikon D300S
The Canon EOS 550D (called Canon T2i in some regions) and the Nikon D300S are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2010 and July 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon 550D||Nikon D300S|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|17.9 MP, APS-C Sensor||12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|1080/30p Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO 100-6400 (100-12800)||ISO 200-3200 (100-6400)|
|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||7 shutter flaps per second|
|Not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|440 shots per battery charge||950 shots per battery charge|
|129 x 98 x 62 mm, 530 g||147 x 115 x 81 mm, 938 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 550D and the Nikon D300S? 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 physical size and weight of the Canon 550D and the Nikon D300S are illustrated 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 measures 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 Nikon D300S is notably larger (34 percent) than the Canon 550D. Moreover, the D300S is substantially heavier (77 percent) than the 550D. It is noteworthy in this context that the D300S 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. Yet, since both cameras are based around an APS-C sensor, their respective lenses will tend to have similar dimensions and heft. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (550D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D300S).
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.
|Canon 550D»||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.7 oz||440||n||Feb 2010||699||Canon 550D|
|Nikon D300S«||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||33.1 oz||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799||Nikon D300S|
|Canon 4000D« »||5.1 in||4.0 in||3.0 in||15.4 oz||500||n||Feb 2018||399||Canon 4000D|
|Canon 750D« »||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.1 in||19.6 oz||440||n||Feb 2015||749||Canon 750D|
|Canon 760D« »||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.1 in||19.9 oz||440||n||Feb 2015||649||Canon 760D|
|Canon 1200D« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||16.9 oz||500||n||Feb 2014||449||Canon 1200D|
|Canon 700D« »||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.5 oz||440||n||Mar 2013||649||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D« »||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.3 oz||440||n||Jun 2012||849||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D« »||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.1 oz||440||n||Feb 2011||599||Canon 600D|
|Canon 1100D« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||17.5 oz||700||n||Feb 2011||449||Canon 1100D|
|Canon 500D« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.3 oz||400||n||Mar 2009||799||Canon 500D|
|Nikon D500« »||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||30.3 oz||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999||Nikon D500|
|Nikon D5100« »||5.0 in||3.8 in||3.1 in||19.8 oz||660||n||Apr 2011||749||Nikon D5100|
|Nikon D7000« »||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||27.5 oz||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D700« »||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999||Nikon D700|
|Nikon D300« »||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D200« »||5.8 in||4.4 in||2.9 in||32.5 oz||400||Y||Nov 2005||1,699||Nikon D200|
|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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The 550D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 61 percent) than the D300S, 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 size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the D300S is 12 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (550D) and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon 550D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixels, compared with 12.2 MP of the Nikon D300S. 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 5.53μm for the D300S). However, it should be noted that the 550D is a somewhat more recent model (by 6 months) than the D300S, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.
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 Nikon D300S are 21.4 x 14.2 inch or 54.5 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.2 x 11.4 inch or 43.6 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.3 x 9.5 inch or 36.3 x 24.1 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 Nikon D300S are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D300S has a markedly higher DXO score than the 550D (overall score 4 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.4 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and -0 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.
|Canon 550D||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.5||784||66||Canon 550D|
|Nikon D300S||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||720/24p||22.5||12.2||787||70||Nikon D300S|
|Canon 4000D||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.9||11.4||695||63||Canon 4000D|
|Canon 750D||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/30p||22.7||12.0||919||71||Canon 750D|
|Canon 760D||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/30p||22.6||12.0||915||70||Canon 760D|
|Canon 1200D||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.9||11.3||724||63||Canon 1200D|
|Canon 700D||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.7||11.2||681||61||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.7||11.2||722||62||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.5||793||65||Canon 600D|
|Canon 1100D||APS-C||12.2||4272||2848||720/30p||21.9||11.0||755||62||Canon 1100D|
|Canon 500D||APS-C||15.1||4752||3168||1080/20p||21.7||11.5||663||63||Canon 500D|
|Nikon D500||APS-C||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||24.0||14.0||1324||83||Nikon D500|
|Nikon D5100||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||23.5||13.6||1183||80||Nikon D5100|
|Nikon D7000||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||10800/24p||23.5||13.9||1167||80||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80||Nikon D700|
|Nikon D300||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||none||22.1||12.0||679||67||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D200||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||none||22.3||11.5||583||64||Nikon D200|
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 video resolution than the D300S. It can shoot video footage at 1080/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 550D and the D300S 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 D300S offers a wider field of view (100%) 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 D300S has a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.54x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 550D, the Nikon D300S, and comparable cameras.
|Canon 550D||optical||n||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n||Canon 550D|
|Nikon D300S||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||7.0||Y||n||Nikon D300S|
|Canon 4000D||optical||n||2.7||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Canon 4000D|
|Canon 750D||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon 750D|
|Canon 760D||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon 760D|
|Canon 1200D||optical||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Canon 1200D|
|Canon 700D||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n||Canon 600D|
|Canon 1100D||optical||n||2.7||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Canon 1100D|
|Canon 500D||optical||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.4||Y||n||Canon 500D|
|Nikon D500||optical||Y||3.2||2359||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||n||Nikon D500|
|Nikon D5100||optical||n||3.0||921||swivel||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n||Nikon D5100|
|Nikon D7000||optical||Y||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||Y||n||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D700||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0||Y||n||Nikon D700|
|Nikon D300||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||Y||n||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D200||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||Y||n||Nikon D200|
One feature that is present on the D300S, but is missing on the 550D is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Nikon D300S has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The 550D writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D300S uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The D300S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 550D only has one slot.
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 Nikon D300S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Canon 550D||Y||stereo||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 550D|
|Nikon D300S||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D300S|
|Canon 4000D||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Canon 4000D|
|Canon 750D||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Canon 750D|
|Canon 760D||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Canon 760D|
|Canon 1200D||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1200D|
|Canon 700D||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 600D|
|Canon 1100D||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1100D|
|Canon 500D||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 500D|
|Nikon D500||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||Y||Nikon D500|
|Nikon D5100||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D5100|
|Nikon D7000||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D700||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D700|
|Nikon D300||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D200||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D200|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D300S (unlike the 550D) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the 550D and the D300S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D300S was replaced by the Nikon D500, 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 and Nikon websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 550D better than the Nikon D300S or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 550D:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (17.9 vs 12.2MP) with a 21% higher linear resolution.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/30p vs 720/24p).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 920k dots).
- More compact: Is smaller (129x98mm vs 147x115mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 408g or 43 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (61 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 6 months after the D300S).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D300S:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.63x 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.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (7 vs 3.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (950 versus 440) out of a single battery charge.
- 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.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in July 2009).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D300S is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 7 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. 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 Nikon D300S 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the 550D and the D300S in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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.
The above review scores should be interpreted 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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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
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Specifications: Canon 550D vs Nikon D300S
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||Nikon D300S|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2010||July 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 699||USD 1799|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 550D||Nikon D300S|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||17.9 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5184 x 3456 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.31 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.39 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100-6400 ISO||200-3200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100-12800 ISO||100-6400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||66||70|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||22.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.5||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||784||787|
|Screen Specs||Canon 550D||Nikon D300S|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|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||Nikon D300S|
|Autofocus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.7 shutter flaps/s||7 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||150 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 550D||Nikon D300S|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 550D||Nikon D300S|
|Environmental Sealing||Not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||440 shots per charge||950 shots per charge|
129 x 98 x 62 mm
(5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
147 x 115 x 81 mm
(5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||530 g (18.7 oz)||938 g (33.1 oz)|
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