A worthy entry-level DSLR camera

Written by Kiruba Shankar | Updated: Jul 29 2010, 15:14pm hrs
When you begin to admire photos from a certain camera, theres a good chance that youll soon fall in love with it. My friends Canon 500D produced consistently great pictures and it has already earned my respect. When I had a chance to review a DSLR, I had no hesitating in picking up its bigger cousin, the 550D.

The entry level DSLR market is not only crowded but very fiercely fought over for a market share. The camera companies are competing amongst themselves in packaging in more and more features so much so that this years entry level cameras have higher features than last years mid-range models. But hey, no ones complaining!

The 550D is a newcomers dream. It packs a powerful punch with its ultra high resolution 18 megapixel sensor and an advanced DIGIC 4 image processor. The reason why I say its a newcomers delight is because of its pre-selected 14 shooting modes. These are placed in familiar bottle top style dial on the top which allows for instant familiarisation for those who have been using the point-and-shoot cameras.

Video has now become standard in most DSLRs. What I like about the Canon 550D is that it records video in full 1920x1080p HD resolution which is better than most other competing models which offer 720p. When I first saw the external mic slot, I almost whooped with joy! This along with the HD video facility is a great combination for video podcasting. I can now plug in high quality microphones when I am recording interviews. I now no longer need to invest in a separate camcorder.

The presence of an integrated HDMI port means that the photos and videos can be viewed on a HD ready TV and controlled via the TV remote. The 550D has so many features usually seen in the semi-professional category that people affectionately call this the Baby 7D. In other words, you get a higher range camera at much lower cost.

The downside is that the body feels plasticky. It belies the amazing features that are inside the body. Its a far cry from the metallic, sturdy body seen in higher range models. I also wasnt very impressed with the live view mode. It took a lot longer to focus and I felt it a lot easier to just use the traditional eye view.

The 550D is designed to take good pictures and that the camera does brilliantly. It gives pictures that are consistently well exposed and sharp. With a high ISO, its pictures are very good even in low light.

The camera comes with a beefy 4GB memory card which means you can afford to click lots of photos in hi-res mode without worrying about running out of space. The battery life is also quite impressive. A full charge will see you through 440 clicks, which should impress trigger happy photo enthusiasts.

I love the small size and its fairly light weight at a little over 500 grams. I like the way it nicely fits into my hand. The 550D comes with a higher price tag of Rs 51,000 which can be quite steep for a first DSLR buy. As it usually happens with technology, I am hoping the price slides down in the coming weeks. With a lower price tag, I would strongly vouch for this camera.

The writer is CEO of Business Blogging, a social media consultancy and can be reached at Kiruba@Kiruba.com