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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
Click for larger version


Wednesday, Mar 15, 2006 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • PowerShot SD550 (Silver)
  • 32MB Secure Digital (SD) Card
  • Li-ion Rechargeable Battery & Battery Charger
  • Wrist Strap
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • Documentation (English and French): User Guide Basic, User Guide Advanced, System Map, Direct Print User Guide, Software Starter Guide
  • Software CDs: Digital Camera Solution 25.0

The Canon PowerShot SD550 is targeted to point-and-shoot photographers desiring an ultra compact take-anywhere digital camera that gives great results. Build quality is excellent and it is simply a beautiful camera.

One advantage of getting a digital camera so late in its life cycle to review is that I get a good feeling for its durability . It's one thing to say that a camera seems to be tough, but quite another to know that it is tough. A quick wipe with a soft cloth to remove fingerprints, some lens cleaning liquid on the lens and LCD, and the Canon SD550 looks as good as new. Well, there are a couple of faint scratch marks but these, to me, add to the charm of the camera (it says, "this camera has been places and seen lots of photos, and it's still ticking"). More importantly, every controls work precisely, the AF is tack accurate, metering correct, and pictures come out looking great.

The Canon SD550 has a "Manual" or M mode. This M mode is essentially labelled on other Canon digital cameras as the "Programmed Auto" or P mode. Well, granted, there are Long Shutter speeds that are manually selected, but that is a far cry from calling this whole mode "Manual." Real manual mode is when the camera allows the photographer to select both the shutter speed and aperture, besides eveything else for that matter. The M mode on the Canon SD550 simply does not. On the whole, it just serves to confuse and probably even intimidate the intended audience of Point-and-Shoot users -- and simply irk more advanced photographers. A marketing misstep that Canon will surely correct in future versions of the Digital ELPH.

By default, Long Shutter Speed is turned OFF. Using a long shutter speed would invariably result in blurred shots if the camera were handheld. But since this option can only be set manually in M mode [FUNC. - Exposure Compensation - MENU - Long Shutter Speed], it's not likely there is much of a danger that long shutter speeds are inadvertently used. This option should really be defaulted to always be ON and the option completely removed from the MENU.

For Canada, Canon has provided both the English and French printed versions of the Basic and Advanced Camera User Guides. They are both well illustrated and written, and the print font is easy to read.

Even though the Canon SD550 is ultra compact, the controls are placed logically and there's never any confusion where to access a feature. New users should take some time to familiarize themselves with the FUNC. button and screens which basically give quick access to all the exposure settings (if, that is, you use the "Manual" mode). The only disappointment I have is the placement of Playback on the Mode Dial, requiring that you rotate the Mode Dial away from your current Shooting Mode to review your pictures. I'd rather see Playback have its own dedicated button, perhaps replacing DISP.

The Mode Dial is vertically placed instead of the more traditional horizontal placement. Each mode snaps securely in place and won't change on you during a shooting session. However, if you are carrying the Canon SD550 around in your Jeans pocket, like I did, you may inadvertently move the Mode Dial from, say, the M mode to the SCN mode. Which I did, and that is why a couple of the image samples have been taken in Portrait scene mode. The selected Scene Mode displays on the LCD monitor, so it is wholly my error for not paying more attention to what's displayed on screen.

In the field, the Canon SD550 performed very well. There was no fumbling with the controls, no frustration trying to set the functions you want, and the camera was point-and-shoot simplicity. Even though most of the functions are accessed thru the FUNC. menu, I found it well implemented and fast.

You can use digital zoom during movie recording. Sound is recorded. The zoom definitely needs improvement. There is just not enough intermediate steps; I counted 6 steps, so it's challenging to stop exactly where you want to.

To those who like to date imprint their photos (by that, I mean have the date physically appear as an integral part of the picture), you can do that but only in Postcard image size (1600x1200 pixels). The rest of us are well content that the date and time are always saved as part of each picture's EXIF info.

The Canon SD550 also has the cool My Colors image effect that I demonstrated in the Canon SD30 review, so will not repeat it here.

Transferring images to your PC is simply a matter of connecting the USB cable and either using the Canon ZoomBrowser EX to index the images or simply drag-n-drop in Windows Explorer.

Canon ZoomBrowser EX 5.5

Canon ZoomBrowser EX 5.5

The ZoomBrowser EX software (version 5.5) is very user-friendly and complete. Each image's filename is clearly visible and you do not need to launch another window to view the EXIF info. You can do basic image editing, re: Red Eye Correction, Auto Adjustment, Color/Brightness Adjustment, Sharpness. In the above image, we selected the Preview Mode. Another included software is PhotoStitch which allows you to easily stitch images taken as a Panoramic shot.

The Canon PowerShot SD550 produces very good to excellent image quality -- and that is the main criteria that users would (should) be mostly concerned with. Add in fast operations with no practical shutter lag, fast and precise AF that works in low-light, accurate exposure metering, and one of the most elegant and beautifully designed body on a digital camera -- and you can't go wrong if you are looking for a take-anywhere ultra compact digital camera. Why not check it out online or at your favourite camera retail store?

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