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Pretty much anyone with a minuscule amount of creativity within them has gone through a photography phase, whether it was in school, college or as a hobby in later life - Cameras are a brilliant invention, capturing the very essence of life.. and all that jargon. However for some, its more than a phase and becomes a necessity for work, ideas, evidence, beauty etc. It was evident that my college work benefited greatly with the aid of a digital SLR, which at the time was a typically beginner/hobbyist type camera - the cheap and cheery Nikon D40. Irrespective of its simplicity, it got the job done and played its part in my completion of the course. The Canon 550D was my 2nd Digital SLR camera purchase to date, bought manufacturer refurbished in June 2011 for a very reasonable price of £377 online through eBay with the standard 18-55mm lens and accessory kit. I acquired this one, envious of the HD video capabilities, higher mega pixel, greater specs, price drop and generally because I see Canon as a superior brand (I also have an old analogue Canon). It was clear to me that it had much more to offer and wouldn't struggle as much as the Nikon alternative did at times. Safe to say I traded up.
Also known as the Rebel T1i, this Canon rests nicely in your hands thanks to the right-handed rubber grip and being fairly light so it can easily be held one handed most of the time if you don't make use of the rubber and cotton, brand name proud 1M strap. Mostly in black, with silver trim, writing and metal connections, the 550D doesn't exactly stand out from any other SLR. It has the typical 'wheel' that goes through pre mapped modes for different environments and shooting style - each displayed with either a letter or little logos such as a head for portraits, man running for sport, mountain and cloud for landscape etc. Next to that is the on/off switch and ISO switch and selector, all neatly positioned near the shoot button which can be held in lightly for focusing. There are 2 multi function buttons - when using the display, these act as zoom in & out, but when using the view finder, act as a red dot metre that aids positioning (so not to get wonky photos) and ISO speeds. The asterix button also acts as a focus button in video mode. On top of the screen you have 2 buttons, display - to view your photo gallery - and the menu. Theres also handy delete and record buttons to instantaneously erase an image (with prompt) or start recording footage (when in correct mode). On the bottom is where the battery release are tripod screw fitting are. Left side has 3 plugins, for earphones, micro USB and HDTV cable. The right side is the compartment for the SD card.
Its also quite small at just under 13CM across and (with the standard lens with minimal extension) just over 13CM in length. The 6X5 1MP screen (which comes with a protective sticker) is bright and colourful, displaying a full menu of options readily changed. The first 2 (red) are camera lists ranging through the following: quality, flash control, shutter release, Exposure & Composition, review time, peripheral illumination, red eye, metering, custom WB (white balance), WB shift/BKT (bracketing) colour space, picture style and dust delete data. The 2nd 2 (blue) image specific lists feature options: protect images, rotate, erase, print/transfer order, histogram, slide show and image jump. Then there are 3 (yellow) inner camera settings: auto power/LCD off, file numbering, auto rotate, format, screen colour, LCD brightness, date & time, language, video system (PAL or NTSC), sensor cleaning, live view settings, custom functions, clear settings and firmware versions. There is also a green menu setting that allows for similar functions, but ultimately acts as a shortcut to most used buttons - it can be disabled. All of these options are easily accessed via a directional pad which aslo acts as a shortcut wheel for continuous shooting, WB, picture style and AF mode. Which brings us onto the auto focus. While not the most important feature, it does come in handy when you are in a rush or struggling with your vision, however it is a bit noisy and would not be appropriate for bird watching or other activities that require a quiet disposition. As with all SLR cameras though, you have the option of manual focus, found as a little switch on top of the lens with a stabilizer.
Shooting photo's is incredibly easy thanks to all the modes and functions previously mention, so much so that most of the time you merely need to find your setting, adjust light levels and you're away. Just use the large lens wheel to zoom in and out and the end wheel to focus. Shutter speeds are capable of going through 1/4000th of a second and half a minute and the ISO range is 100 - 6400 (12800). Of course, everyone has different preferences so you may customize your settings and stick to them or constantly change everything like a right obsessive professional. It has a beastly 18 megapixel sensor, far greater than many other for the price this camera goes for, 3 recording resolutions - 480, 720 and 1080p - fantastic - and built in flash. What is great though is that should you be pressed for space, you can lower the quality and size of photographs to save battery as well as take more shots. Admittedly though, the 550D does push itself as the higher resolutions can get choppy, and recording as a whole can be extremely difficult, especially when hand held as it is quite sensitive and you often end up with shaky video clips - a tripod is advised. The microphone is nothing to write home about either, but considering that this is an SLR camera, mic clarity is the last thing on your mind. Accessories with the basic package include a trusty black and white 243 page instruction manual for all your FAQ's (with images), USB connector cable, lens cap and the ever important charger. It typically takes 2 hours to recharge a completely empty battery and lasts a good amount of time, at least enough to get you through a weekend.The transfer speed of images is seamless, regardless fo SD card - I personally use an 8GB one as I normally take 100-300 photos and only shoot brief movies.
Considering the fact that mobile phones are largely becoming more and more technically advanced, you might think that a camera with video capabilities would be a bit redundant.. But when its a proper camera, the photos, needless to say, will always be superior and the HD video prospect still rivals that of a phone - a bargain under £500.
If you'd like to see some samples from this camera, feel free to visit my website: http://www.joeclarkedesigns.com/Photography-Page.html
..And if you have time to scour through videos and songs, check out some of the HD video capabilities here: www.youtube.com/toothpicksinmyeyes
A very good review - but I'm sticking with my, bulkier, Nikon D90 - not sure that I'd agree with you about Canon being a superior brand - they are very much on a par, each have advantages and disadvantages over the other - I've just always preferred the way that Nikons handle, which is a hang-over from their remarkably similar 35mm SLR's. R.