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Canon 550D versus Sony A6500

The Canon EOS 550D (called Canon XS in some regions) and the Sony Alpha A6500 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2010 and October 2016. The 550D is a DSLR, while the A6500 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 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 Sony A6500

The physical size and weight of the Canon 550D and the Sony A6500 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display 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).

Snapsort Canon 550D vs Sony A6500
Compare 550D versus A6500 top
Compare 550D and A6500 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A6500 is considerably smaller (36 percent) than the Canon 550D. Moreover, the A6500 is markedly lighter (15 percent) than the 550D. It is noteworthy in this context that the A6500 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (550D) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A6500). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A6500, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the 550D gets 440 shots out of its LP-E8 battery, while the A6500 can take 350 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 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)
Camera
Model
Canon 550D» 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699- i Canon 550D
Sony A6500« 4.7 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 16.0 oz 350 Y Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
Canon 750D« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 440 n Feb 2015 749- i Canon 750D
Canon 760D« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.9 oz 440 n Feb 2015 849- i Canon 760D
Canon 1200D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 16.9 oz 500 n Feb 2014 449- i Canon 1200D
Canon 700D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.5 oz 440 n Mar 2013 649- i Canon 700D
Canon 650D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.3 oz 440 n Jun 2012 849- i Canon 650D
Canon 600D« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 20.1 oz 440 n Feb 2011 599- i Canon 600D
Canon 1100D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 17.5 oz 700 n Feb 2011 449- i Canon 1100D
Canon 500D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799- i Canon 500D
Canon 450D« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.5 oz 500 n Jan 2008 799- i Canon 450D
Nikon D5100« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.8 oz 660 n Apr 2011 749- i Nikon D5100
Olympus PEN-F« » 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GX8« » 5.2 in 3.1 in 2.5 in 17.2 oz 330 Y Jul 2015 1,199- i Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A6300« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7

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 markedly lower price (by 50 percent) than the A6500, 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 550D vs Sony A6500

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 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 A6500 is 11 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.

Canon 550D and Sony A6500 sensor measures

With 24MP, the A6500 offers a higher resolution than the 550D (17.9MP), but the A6500 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 4.31μm for the 550D). Yet, the A6500 is a much more recent model (by 6 years and 7 months) than the 550D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

550D versus A6500 MP

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A6500 offers substantially better image quality than the 550D (overall score 19 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.4 bits higher color depth, 2.2 EV in additional 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.

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
Sony A6500« APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.513.7140585Sony A6500
Canon 750D« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p22.712.091971Canon 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 700D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.268161Canon 700D
Canon 650D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.272262Canon 650D
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 500D« » APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363Canon 500D
Canon 450D« » APS-C 12.2 4272 2848-21.910.869261Canon 450D
Nikon D5100« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380Nikon D5100
Olympus PEN-F« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GX8« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.512.680675Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792Sony A9
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785Sony A6300
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the A6500 provides a better video resolution than the 550D. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 550D vs Sony A6500

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A6500 has an electronic viewfinder (2300k dots), while the 550D has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 550D and Sony A6500 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon 550D»optical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 3.7 Y n Canon 550D
Sony A6500«2300 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 11.0 Y Y Sony A6500
Canon 750D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon 750D
Canon 760D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon 760D
Canon 1200D« »optical n 3.0 460 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon 1200D
Canon 700D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon 700D
Canon 650D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Canon 650D
Canon 600D« »optical n 3.0 1040 swivel n 4000 3.7 Y n Canon 600D
Canon 1100D« »optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Canon 1100D
Canon 500D« »optical n 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 3.4 Y n Canon 500D
Canon 450D« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n Canon 450D
Nikon D5100« »optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y n Nikon D5100
Olympus PEN-F« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GX8« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y Sony A9
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6300
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7

The A6500 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the 550D has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 550D was succeeded by the Canon 600D.

Review summary: Canon 550D vs Sony A6500

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 550D better than the Sony A6500 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 550D:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 922k dots).
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (440 versus 350) on a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (50 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2010).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A6500:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 17.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 16%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.4 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.2 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 3.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 129x98mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 77g or 15 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 7 months of technical progress since the 550D launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A6500 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 5 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.

550D 05:16 A6500

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 550D or the A6500. 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 expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 550D»HiRec77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699- i Canon 550D
Sony A6500«HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
Canon 750D« »-75/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749- i Canon 750D
Canon 760D« »Rec77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 849- i Canon 760D
Canon 1200D« »Rec-4/54/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449- i Canon 1200D
Canon 700D« »-76/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649- i Canon 700D
Canon 650D« »HiRec77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849- i Canon 650D
Canon 600D« »rev77/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2011 599- i Canon 600D
Canon 1100D« »80/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449- i Canon 1100D
Canon 500D« »HiRec74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799- i Canon 500D
Canon 450D« »HiRecHiRec4/55/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799- i Canon 450D
Nikon D5100« »HiRec76/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749- i Nikon D5100
Olympus PEN-F« »-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GX8« »Rec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2015 1,199- i Panasonic GX8
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7

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. 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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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