Canon 550D vs Sony A99
The Canon EOS 550D (called Canon T2i in some regions) and the Sony Alpha SLT-A99 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2010 and September 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (550D) and a full frame (A99) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 550D and the Sony Alpha SLT-A99? 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 Sony A99. 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 Sony A99 is notably larger (29 percent) than the Canon 550D. Moreover, the A99 is substantially heavier (53 percent) than the 550D. It is noteworthy in this context that the A99 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
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, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Canon 550D||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|2.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
|3.||Canon 4000D||129 mm||102 mm||77 mm||436 g||500||n||Feb 2018||399|
|4.||Canon 750D||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||555 g||440||n||Feb 2015||749|
|5.||Canon 760D||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||565 g||440||n||Feb 2015||649|
|6.||Canon 1200D||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||480 g||500||n||Feb 2014||449|
|7.||Canon 700D||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||580 g||440||n||Mar 2013||649|
|8.||Canon 650D||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||575 g||440||n||Jun 2012||849|
|9.||Canon 600D||133 mm||100 mm||80 mm||570 g||440||n||Feb 2011||599|
|10.||Canon 1100D||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||495 g||700||n||Feb 2011||449|
|11.||Canon 500D||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|12.||Nikon D5100||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
|13.||Sony A9 II||129 mm||96 mm||76 mm||678 g||690||Y||Oct 2019||4,499|
|14.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|15.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|16.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999|
|17.||Sony A900||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or 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 75 percent) than the A99, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.
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. 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 550D features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A99 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A99 is 157 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 underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 24MP, the A99 offers a higher resolution than the 550D (17.9MP), but the A99 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.96μm versus 4.31μm for the 550D) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A99 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 7 months) than the 550D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A99 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A99 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 550D are 25.9 x 17.3 inches or 65.8 x 43.9 cm for good quality, 20.7 x 13.8 inches or 52.7 x 35.1 cm for very good quality, and 17.3 x 11.5 inches or 43.9 x 29.3 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 Sony Alpha SLT-A99 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.
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 A99 offers substantially better image quality than the 550D (overall score 23 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.9 bits higher color depth, 2.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1 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.
| DXO |
|2.||Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|13.||Sony A9 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.0||3434||93|
|14.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|16.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|17.||Sony A900||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.7||12.3||1431||79|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the A99 provides a faster frame rate than the 550D. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A99 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k 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 viewfinder in the A99 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 A99 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 550D, the Sony A99, and comparable cameras.
|13.||Sony A9 II||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 550D has one, while the A99 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 A99 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the 550D does not have a selfie-screen.
The 550D writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A99 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A99 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 550D only has one slot. The A99 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the 550D cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 Sony Alpha SLT-A99 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|13.||Sony A9 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the A99 has a headphone jack, which makes it possible to attach external headphones and monitor the quality of sound during the recording process. The 550D lacks such a headphone port.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A99 (unlike the 550D) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the A99 has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
Both the 550D and the A99 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 550D was replaced by the Canon 600D, while the A99 was followed by the Sony A99 II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Sony websites.
So how do things add up? Is the Canon 550D better than the Sony A99 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 550D:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- More compact: Is smaller (129x98mm vs 147x111mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 282g or 35 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 (75 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2010).
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha SLT-A99:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 17.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 16%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (23 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.5 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- 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 (0.71x vs 0.54x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 1040k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 3.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (500 versus 440) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- 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.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 7 months of technical progress since the 550D launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A99 is the clear winner of the contest (24 : 6 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 sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape 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 Sony A99 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 incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 550D or the A99 perform in practice. 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 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 (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Canon 550D||..||+ +||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|2.||Sony A99||5/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|3.||Canon 4000D||..||o||..||3.5/5||3.5/5||Feb 2018||399|
|4.||Canon 750D||5/5||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749|
|5.||Canon 760D||5/5||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||649|
|6.||Canon 1200D||3/5||+||..||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||449|
|7.||Canon 700D||..||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2013||649|
|8.||Canon 650D||4/5||+ +||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2012||849|
|9.||Canon 600D||3/5||o||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||599|
|10.||Canon 1100D||..||80/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||449|
|11.||Canon 500D||..||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|12.||Nikon D5100||5/5||+ +||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749|
|13.||Sony A9 II||..||..||90/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2019||4,499|
|14.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|15.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|16.||Sony A850||3/5||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999|
|17.||Sony A900||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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 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.
Specifications: Canon 550D vs Sony A99
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||Sony A99|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2010||September 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 699||USD 2,799|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 550D||Sony A99|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||35.8 x 23.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||852.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||43 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||17.9 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5184 x 3456 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.31 μm||5.96 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.39 MP/cm2||2.82 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 6,400 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||50 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||66||89|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||25.0|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.5||14.0|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||784||1555|
|Screen Specs||Canon 550D||Sony A99|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||1229k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fully flexible screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 550D||Sony A99|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3.7 shutter flaps/s||6 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 550D||Sony A99|
|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|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Canon 550D||Sony A99|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||440 shots per charge||500 shots per charge|
129 x 98 x 62 mm
(5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
147 x 111 x 78 mm
(5.8 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
|Camera Weight||530 g (18.7 oz)||812 g (28.6 oz)|
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