Canon EOS 550D review (Rebel T21)
In terms of looks the EOS 550D is very much a traditional DSLR design, although the body looks a far cry from some of the boxy, brick-like models of yesteryear. The mode dial gains a No-Flash mode and a colour change but is otherwise the same as the EOS 500D, being chunky enough for larger hands to grip and possessing an assured location when changing between modes. The ISO button is close by as well, alongside the on/off switch and adjustment dial, making it extremely simple to up the simulated film speed via the adjustment dial without moving away from the viewfinder.
The back of the EOS 550D offers a brand new layout, with the Live View button no longer sharing functionality with the Direct Print button and being far closer to the viewfinder. In its place is the Quick Control button, which turns the rear display interactive, allowing any value to be changed via the d-pad or scroll wheel. This simplistic method of altering the likes of shutter speed and aperture isn't new to DSLRs, but is represented in a suitably basic manner for the beginner on the EOS 550D by having a large explanation at the bottom of the screen alongside the control method used to alter that value.
For those not yet comfortable with utilising the dials the Quick Control menu may be a slightly better fit, offering an instantly visual way of controlling the images without trawling through menus. Each of the buttons are reasonably recessed into the body giving it a sleek appearance without sacrificing functionality, and each is reasonably straightforward to locate without needing much familiarity with the camera. The only slight annoyance, which hinges around the menu system, is that the d-pad often doesn't always work in a multi-directional manner instead only moving left to right, regardless of the button being pressed. This is especially apparent in the Quick Control menu options for Picture Styles and ISO. Otherwise the controls remain simple, not relying too much on menus to alter settings nor putting the functionality among a disparate set of buttons dotted around.
Fortunately the size and shape of the 550D hasn't been overtly scaled back to adhere to the ‘compact DSLR' trend, still possessing a reasonable-sized grip. Even better is the placement of the power switch and Live View button: both are close enough for the right hand thumb to activate without the need for the hand to be re-adjusted.
This gives the camera a far more versatile feel, as most of the important settings can be altered on the fly. This extends to the likes of the Quick Menu button, AV and Picture Styles, all of which are placed intelligently so as not to be an obstruction and barely a finger stretch away.
The weight and build of the camera is also a major benefit, as even without a lens attached the body feels as if it could survive a reasonable fall without incurring severe damage. Even the connection covers and card slot are sturdy enough to stand up to repeated use. Both locate into position in a satisfying manner, and the raised area of the card slot becomes extremely useful when trying to access the SD/SDHC card with wet hands. The small grip patches at the rear and around the front perform a similar task, making the 550D far less likely to slip in damp conditions.