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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Canon PowerShot SD550

Canon Digital Cameras

   


Canon PowerShot SD550 Review

Review Date: Mar 27, 2006

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Canon PowerShot SD550

HANDLING & FEEL

The Canon PowerShot SD550 is light and ultra-compact, and beautifully crafted. It can be easily carried in a jeans pocket or fashion purse. As most compact digital cameras do now, the Canon SD550 also uses the Secure Digital (SD) memory card.

The Canon SD550 is attractive in its metallic silver (also comes in beige) body with chrome accents. How can Canon top up the distinctive design of its Digital ELPH series? It's called "Perpetual Curve" and gives the Canon SD550 an elegantly simple but timeless beauty. A raised "Canon" lettering gives some friction to help provide somewhat of a secure grip [use of the wrist strap is highly recommended]. When retracted, the lens is flush with the body.

Startup and shot to shot times are fast at about 1 sec., and there is no practical shutter lag. Autofocus is fast and precise.

STYLE
- Colours: overall silver (or beige) with chrome accents
- Looks: sleek, fashionable
   
FEEL
- Comfortable to hold and operate
- Controls & FUNC. menu are intuitive to use
   
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Ultra Compact: fits in a jeans pocket or small fashion purse
- Dimensions: 89.5× 57.0×27.4 mm /
3.52×2.24×1.08 in.
- Weight: 170 g / 6 oz.
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery NB-L3 3.7V 790mAh
   
SPEED OF OPERATION
- Startup with lens extending about 2.3 cm (1 in.) and LCD turning on in about 1 sec.
- Shot to shot time less than 1 sec.
- No practical shutter lag
   

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery that can take about 150 shots with LCD on (CIPA standard) on a fresh charge and a Battery Charger CB-2LU that will recharge a new battery in approx. 95 min. The Battery Charger is of the type that plugs directly into a wall electrical socket.

There is an optical viewfinder which is quite small but is a real-image zoom. It is not meant to replace the LCD but will serve in a pinch when the LCD might not be usable or when you are running low on battery. Switch off the LCD monitor to conserve energy and, according to Canon, the battery can take about 600 shots with LCD off (on a fresh battery).

The Terminal compartment is on the left side of the camera (viewed from the front).

The flash is powerful and physically placed close to the top edge, so be careful your left fingers do not get in the way when using flash. You can set the flash to Off, Slow Synchro, Auto, Auto Red-Eye Reduction, or On.

Controls

The top of the camera has the Power ON/OFF button and the shutter release button with the Zoom Lever around it on the right side. The speaker is at the far left.

Almost all the functions are accessible through the Canon standard FUNC. button. The Mode Dial is not on top, but on the back of the camera and has Playback, AUTO, Manual, Scene (9 scene modes), and Movie.

You can record movies with sound (until the memory card is full -- when using a super high-speed memory card) at either 640 x 480 or 320x240 pixels at 30fps or 15fps. You can preset optical zoom before any movie mode recording, and use digital zoom during Standard movie recording. Other movie options are Fast Frame Rate at 60fps, Compact and My Colors. Sound is recorded for all movie modes.

Video Storage Capacity
(min. sec.)
256MB
1GB

Standard

My Colors

640x480
30fps
2' 7"
8' 31"
15fps
4' 12"
16' 55"
320x240
30fps
5' 58"
24'
15fps
11' 40"
46' 56"
Fast Frame Rate
320x240
60fps
3' 03"
12' 17"
Compact
160x120
15fps
28' 34"
114' 45"

Note that while Standard movie has no clip length (but a max size of 1GB), the maximum movie clip length for Fast Frame Rate and for Compact are 1 min. and 3 min., respectively.

Canon SD550 Back View

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise starting from the Mode Dial)
- Mode Dial: Playback, AUTO, Manual, Scene (Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater), Movie (Standard, Fast Frame Rate, Compact, My Colors)
- Print/Share (with direct printing to any PictBridge-enabled printer)
- 4 Way Arrows (ISO, Flash, Drive/Erase, Macro (and Infinity)
- FUNC./SET
- MENU
- DISPLAY (LCD Off, No info, Info)
   
MACRO, INFINITY
-

Press the LEFT ARROW key to select MACRO.

-

Press the LEFT ARROW key again to select INFINITY; useful when shooting thru windows, and when subject is from 3m (10 ft.) to infinity

CONTINUOUS SHOOTING
- The camera records successive images as long as the shutter release button is depressed. Recording ceases when the shutter button is released or the memory card is full. I counted 20 shots in 10 sec. in Large/Fine mode in for a brightly lit subject. Of course, if it's quite dark or if the flash is needed, you will get much slower frame rate.
- Besides the 2 sec. and 10 sec. selftimer, there is also a very interesting Custom Delay selftimer where you can set both the delay and the number of images (1 - 10) to take after that delay. You set this in MENU and then can quickly access your selection by simply pressing the UP ARROW key. Unfortunately you cannot toggle between 10 sec. and 2 sec. using the arrow key; you've got to go back into MENU to do that.
- The drive mode resets to Single when the camera is turned off and on again.
   
EXPOSURE COMPENSATION
- Exposure compensation is accessed thru the FUNC. button.
- Once set, the Exposure Compensation Indicator conveniently stays displayed on screen until it is reset to "0"
- Range: -2 EV to +2 EV (13 steps in 1/3 EV increments)
- The screen brightness will increase or decrease to reflect the value you use
- Note: the exposure compensation value selected is retained even when the camera is turned off (so remember to reset to "0" after using it or the next time you turn the camera on, your shots may be over- or under-exposed.)
- A Histogram is available but displays only in Playback mode.
   
LONG SHUTTER SPEED
- To access shutter speeds from 1 to 15 sec., you need to first go into Exposure Compensation [FUNC. - Exp. Comp.].
- Then press MENU to switch to Long Shutter. Use the LEFT and RIGHT ARROW keys to select one of the following shutter speeds: 1, 1.3, 1.6, 2, 2.5, 3.2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15 sec.
- Long Shutter is available only in Manual mode.
   

At the bottom of the camera, the tripod mount thread is metal. There is a very nice Battery/Card door and the battery has a latch to keep it from accidentally falling. You won't be able to change battery or card when the camera is on a tripod.

LCD & Menus

There is an optical viewfinder as well as an extra large 2.5 in. LCD monitor with 115,000 pixels resolution. The LCD has a fast enough refresh rate for a smooth display in good light, but is choppy in low light. The LCD monitor's brightness can be adjusted in MENU/SETUP. The LCD also gains up well in low-light, though the image on the LCD can look grainy (which is to be expected).

There is a very effective AF-assist Illuminator and I've found auto focusing to be quite fast and precise in low-light situations. You can also display a framing grid [MENU - Grid Lines = On] of horizontal and vertical lines.

While the FUNC. button gives access to all shooting settings, the MENU button gives access to the Menu, Setup and My Theme settings.

MENU 1 of 2

- AiAF: On, Off
- Self-timer: 10, 2, Custom
- AF-assist Beam: On, Off
- Digital Zoom: On, Off
- Review: 2-10 sec., Hold, Off
- Grid Lines: On, Off

MENU 2 of 2

- Date Stamp: Off, Date, Date&Time
- You can only imprint date when using the Postcard image size (though date and time are always saved as part of any picture)
- Long Shutter: On, Off (When turned On, you access it via Exposure Compensation)

SETUP 1 of 3

- Mute: On, Off
- Volume: Start-up Vol., Operation Vol., Selftimer Vol., Shutter Volume, Playback Vol.
- LCD Brightness
- Power Saving: Auto Power Down: On, Off; Display Off: 10 sec., 20 sec., 30 sec., 1 min., 2 min., 3 min.
- Time Zone
- Date/Time

SETUP 2 of 3

- Clock Display: 0-10 sec., 20 sec., 30 sec., 1-3 min.
- Format: Low Level Format possible
- File Numbering: Continuous, Auto Reset
- Create Folder
- Auto Rotate: On, Off
- Language...: 22 languages to choose from

SETUP 3 of 3

- Video System: NTSC, PAL
- Reset ALL...

LANGUAGE

MY THEMES

ISO

- Press the UP ARROW key to cycle thru available ISO settings
- 50, 100, 200, 400, blank=Auto
- Note that when in movie mode, pressing UP ARROW keyallows you to set exposure compensation

FLASH

- Press the RIGHT ARROW key to cycle thru available Flash settings
- Auto, Auto Red-Eye Reduction, On, Off, Slow Synchro

DRIVE MODE

- Press the DOWN ARROW key to cycle thru available Drive settings
- Single, Continuous, Selftimer (value of self-timer is set in MENU)

MACRO/INFINITY

- Press the LEFT ARROW key to cycle thru Macro OFF, Macro ON, Infinity

SHOOTING MODE

- Manual, Digital Macro, My Colors, Stitch Assist (Left -> Right), Stitch Assist (Right -> Left)
- The Stitch Assist (Panorama) mode displays a portion of previous shot but it is not semi-transparent

EXPOSURE COMPENSATION

- +/-2 EV, 1/3 EV increments

LONG SHUTTER

- While in Exposure Compensation, press MENU to being up Long Shutter screen where you can select a shutter speed from 1 to 15 sec. (1, 1.3, 1.6, 2, 2.5, 3.2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15 sec.)

WHITE BALANCE

- AWB, Day Light, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom

IMAGE EFFECT

- Off, Vivid, Neutral, Low Sharpening, Sepia, B/W

LIGHT METERING

- Evaluative, Center Weighted Avg., Spot

IMAGE QUALITY

- Superfine (322 *)
- Fine (515 *)
- Normal (1068 *)

*: approx. # of images at Large size on a 1GB SD memory card

IMAGE SIZE

- Large (3072x2304)
- Medium 1 (2592x1944)
- Medium 2 (2048x1536)
- Medium 3 (1600x1200)
- Small (640x480)
- Postcard (1600x1200)

MANUAL

Clockwise:
- M=Manual, ISO 50, Single Shot, Macro ON, Flash ON, space for 321 images, Image Size Large, Image Quality Superfine, Evaluative metering mode, Custome WB
- Notice the subtle framing grid lines
- Note: shutter speed and aperture are not displayed...

CAMERA SHAKE WARNING

- ... unless the Camera Shake Warning displays
- The shutter speed then displays alongside

MOVIE

- Standard, Fast Frame Rate, Compact, My Colors

HISTOGRAM

- Histogram is displayed only in Playback mode
- There is no delay going from one image to another

Note: Some of the screens have been "blackened" to permit a clearer view of the settings.

The Canon PowerShot SD550 is elegant in design, tough in construction, and with an unmistakable feeling of quality build. Controls are logically placed and intuitive in use. Ultracompact and light, it's a perfect take-anywhere digital camera for the point-and-shoot photographer in your family, and more advanced photographers will also find enough exposure controls to satisfy them. Optional accessories include a Waterproof Case WP-DC80 and High Power Flash HF-DC1.

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