Canon 550D versus Nikon D3100
The Canon EOS 550D (called Canon XS in some regions) and the Nikon D3100 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2010 and August 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 14.2 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 Nikon D3100
The physical size and weight of the Canon 550D and the Nikon D3100 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the 550D – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3100 is notably smaller (6 percent) than the Canon 550D. Moreover, the D3100 is markedly lighter (5 percent) than the 550D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 550D nor the D3100 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. Yet, since both cameras are based around an APS-C sensor, their respective lenses will tend to have similar dimensions and heft. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (550D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3100).
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
|Canon 550D (⇒ rgt)||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.7 oz||440||no||2010||699||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ lft)||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||550||no||2010||599||discont.||check|
|Canon 750D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.1 in||19.6 oz||440||no||2015||749||discont.||check|
|Canon 760D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.1 in||19.9 oz||440||no||2015||849||discont.||check|
|Canon 1200D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||16.9 oz||500||no||2014||449||discont.||check|
|Canon 700D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.5 oz||440||no||2013||649||discont.||check|
|Canon 650D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.3 oz||440||no||2012||849||discont.||check|
|Canon 600D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.1 oz||440||no||2011||599||discont.||check|
|Canon 1100D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||17.5 oz||700||no||2011||449||discont.||check|
|Canon 500D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.3 oz||400||no||2009||799||discont.||check|
|Canon 450D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.5 oz||500||no||2008||799||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||540||no||2012||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.8 in||3.1 in||19.8 oz||660||no||2011||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||18.9 oz||500||no||2009||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||20.8 oz||510||no||2009||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D40 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||470||no||2006||499||discont.||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 D3100 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 14 percent) than the 550D, 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 Nikon D3100
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 tend to be more expensive and 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 D3100 is 7 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.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon 550D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixel, compared with 14.2 MP of the Nikon D3100. 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 5.01μm for the D3100). Moreover, it should be noted that the D3100 is a somewhat more recent model (by 6 months) than the 550D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
For most 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. 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.
|Canon 550D (⇒ rgt)||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.5||784||66|
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ lft)||APS-C||14.2||4608||3072||1080/24p||22.5||11.3||919||67|
|Canon 750D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||22.7||12.0||919||71|
|Canon 760D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/30p||22.6||12.0||915||70|
|Canon 1200D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.9||11.3||724||63|
|Canon 700D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.7||11.2||681||61|
|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 1100D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4272||2848||720/30p||21.9||11.0||755||62|
|Canon 500D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||15.1||4752||3168||1080/20p||21.7||11.5||663||63|
|Canon 450D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4272||2848||no||21.9||10.8||692||61|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.1||6016||4000||1080/30p||24.1||13.2||1131||81|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/30p||23.5||13.6||1183||80|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||no||22.3||11.1||563||62|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||720/24p||22.7||12.5||868||72|
|Nikon D40 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||6.0||3008||2000||no||21||11.0||561||56|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the 550D provides a higher frame rate than the D3100. It can shoot video footage at 1080/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/24p.
Feature comparison: Canon 550D vs Nikon D3100
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The 550D and the D3100 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 550D, the Nikon D3100, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Canon 550D (⇒ rgt)||optical||no||3.0||1040||fixed||no||4000||3.7||YES||no|
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ lft)||optical||no||3.0||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||12||no|
|Canon 750D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Canon 760D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||4000||5.0||12||no|
|Canon 1200D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||460||fixed||no||4000||3.0||9.2||no|
|Canon 700D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||4000||5.0||13||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 1100D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.7||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||9.2||no|
|Canon 500D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||920||fixed||no||4000||3.4||YES||no|
|Canon 450D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||230||fixed||no||4000||3.5||YES||no|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||fixed||no||4000||4.0||12||no|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||921||swivel||no||4000||4.0||12||no|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||3.0||230||fixed||no||4000||3.0||12||no|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.7||230||full-flex||no||4000||4.0||17||no|
|Nikon D40 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||no||2.5||230||fixed||no||4000||2.5||17||no|
Both the 550D and the D3100 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 550D was replaced by the Canon 600D, while the D3100 was followed by the Nikon D3200.
Review summary: Canon 550D vs Nikon D3100
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 550D and the Nikon D3100? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 550D:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (17.9 vs 14.2MP) with a 12% higher linear resolution.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/30p versus 1080/24p).
- 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 heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in February 2010).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3100:
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (550 versus 440) out of a single battery charge.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (14 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (6 months) more recently.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 550D emerges as the winner of the contest (5 : 3 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.
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 handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 550D or the D3100. 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.
|Canon 550D (⇒ rgt)||88/100 HiRec||77/100 Gold||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||2010||699||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3100 (⇒ lft)||84/100 HiRec||72/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2010||599||discont.||check|
|Canon 750D (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2015||749||discont.||check|
|Canon 760D (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||77/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2015||849||discont.||check|
|Canon 1200D (⇒ lft | rgt)||4/5||-||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||2014||449||discont.||check|
|Canon 700D (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||76/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2013||649||discont.||check|
|Canon 650D (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||77/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||849||discont.||check|
|Canon 600D (⇒ lft | rgt)||reviewed||77/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2011||599||discont.||check|
|Canon 1100D (⇒ lft | rgt)||80/100||69/100||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||2011||449||discont.||check|
|Canon 500D (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100 HiRec||74/100 HiRec||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2009||799||discont.||check|
|Canon 450D (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100 HiRec||HiRec||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||2008||799||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3200 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||73/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt)||86/100 HiRec||76/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2011||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||80/100 Rec||72/100 HiRec||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||2009||599||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100 HiRec||75/100 HiRec||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||2009||749||discont.||check|
|Nikon D40 (⇒ lft | rgt)||81/100||HiRec||reviewed||5/5||4.5/5||2006||499||discont.||check|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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