I went ahead with my plans and splurged on my first DSLR recently. While I did opt for a low end model I have been very happy with my purchase. Bottomline is Canon 550d is an amazing camera by any standards and brings high-end features to a totally new price range. The pace of DSLR development has been phenomenal and comparing cameras was difficult. The two factors that weighted in on my decision were handling and set of features I thought essential.
1) You can’t take good photos if you don’t have your camera with you.
The most important consideration for me was the fact that the camera needs to be portable. I really didn’t feel confident I would carry with me any of the more bulkier DSLRs (7D/5D/1D). 550d is not tiny either with my choice of L-series zoom lens, but I can see myself traveling with a wide prime lens. As far the handling is concerned out of all the cameras I fondled 550ds just fitted best in my hand. I’m still considering whether to buy the additional battery pack, but I’m leaning against it since this far I have been happy with the battery life lasting multiple days.
2) You can’t take good photos if you don’t know how to operate the camera fast
Intuitive user interface for controlling still and video shooting was a concern for me, but testing different cameras I could not tell which interface would be faster to learn since I had only limited previous experience. The Canon interface did seem quite clunky and disorganized at first. In the end I think I got to reasonably painless start with manual in one hand and the camera in the other. The learning curve has not been as steep as I expected, but of course I still haven’t gotten too deep into it yet. Basically I had to take a risk, but this far I’m happy.
3) All you need is… the right features
As far as the features go the most important requirement was good low-light performance. I had gotten sick of the fact that many of our baby photos turned blurry due to our old camera’s poor ISO performance. 550d can do 6400 and even 12800. Previously such sensitivity was reserved to high-end cameras and I expect that with a fast prime on my shopping list the low-light performance can get even better.
Obviously as a video man full HD video was a draw as well. The video mode works fine, but I would have preferred to have it accessible in all modes. Obviously that would have meant the mirror prism would need to be opened and closed for each frame separately. Not impossible to implement, but very grueling for the mechanism and lifetime of the camera would be affected.
If I had my wished come true the camera would have included a few additional features out of the box. New tricks tend to trickle down from consumer-grade gear and I was expecting something more from the creative mode for example. Also in my opinion camera is still missing some fairly obvious video features.
1. time-lapse video mode
2. slow mov video mode
3. manual video mode
Of course these things can be accomplished attaching a laptop via USB cable or using a dedicated controller hardware, but camera operating system software could do the trick as well. Despite these wishes bottom line is that 550d is whole lot of camera for a fair price. I’m very keen on keeping learning and I would like to follow-up with a post on tricks and hacks for 550d. Let’s see if I get it done.