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Raw and Raw Conversion

Supplied software

The EOS 550D is provided with the 'Canon EOS Solutions Disk v22.0' which includes:

  • Canon ZoomBrowser EX 6.5 - Easy to use image browsing and organization with a unique interface. Includes rudimentary image editing, printing and e-mail. This latest version of the software also provides some very basic video editing. - Windows only.
      
  • Canon EOS Utility 2.8 - Automatic or Manual transfer of images via WIA, also allows for the adjustment of camera settings and remote 'tethered' shooting. *  
     
  • Canon PhotoStitch 3.1 - Panorama stitching utility.
     
  • Canon Digital Photo Professional 3.8 - Advanced image workflow and editing, specialized in RAW conversion with a range of adjustment and output options. *
     
  • Picture Style Editor 1.7 - Create custom Picture Styles. *

* Universal Binaries (Intel / PowerPC) for Mac OS X.

Digital Photo Professional is an image workflow and RAW conversion application that provides for the browsing and management of images in a folder structure as well as tagging, rotation etc. In addition it also provides an extensive range of RAW conversion features which include digital exposure compensation, white balance, tone curve, color, picture style, sharpness and lens correction parameters.

A number of different tools can be accessed from the tools menu. The Quick Check tool allows you to browse through a selection of images and assign check marks to them. The Trimming tool can be used to apply a crop to an image (the image itself is not modified, this is simply saved in the recipe).

The Stamp tool works in a similar way to the clone stamp or healing brush in Photoshop (although it is primary designed for the removal of light or dark blotches).The Rename tool can be used to change the filename of a selection of images based on a rule set. Finally you can convert multiple RAW files at a time using the batch conversion tool.

Digital Photo Professional has a comprehensive feature set. RAW conversion (in this image you can see the Edit window) certainly offers enough to satisfy even the most advanced user. In fact you can easily end up spending way too long trying the different sliders.... One of the main advantages of working with RAW files: DPP offers much more control over noise-reduction than the in-camera settings.
Tone curves can be adjusted for each color channel separately. The lens aberration window offers correction of light fall-off, chromatic aberration, distortion and color blur.

Distortion correction in Digital Photo Professional

Out-of-camera JPEG After distortion correction in DPP

One of the most useful tools in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software is a built-in distortion correction adjustment for raw files. The correction is designed to mitigate against the specific distortion characteristics of almost any Canon lens based on the known characteristics of the design. As you can see here, it works well, although interestingly, the adjusted file is larger than the original. Don't be fooled though - because it is achieved by selective interpolation, the jump from 18Mp to 19Mp doesn't result in an increase in detail.

RAW conversion

As usual in our digital SLR reviews we like to compare the supplied RAW conversion software, any optional manufacturer RAW conversion software and some third party RAW converter. In the case of the EOS 550D, we used the supplied Digital Photo Professional, Bibble Pro 5, and a beta sample of the forthcoming Adobe Camera RAW 5.7 plugin for Photoshop and Lightroom.

  • JPEG - Large/Fine, Default settings
  • DPP - Digital Photo Professional 3.7 (default settings)
  • ACR - Adobe Camera RAW 5.7 beta (default settings)
  • Bibble 5 Pro - version 5.0.3 (default settings)

Please note that our version of Adobe ACR is a pre-beta version of ACR 5.7. Once a full version becomes available we will reprocess these samples and replace them if necessary. Thanks to Eric Chan at Adobe for making this early version of ACR available in time for this review.

Color reproduction

Place your mouse over the label below the image to see the color from a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart produced using each RAW converter. As we would expect there is hardly any difference between JPEG from the camera and Digital Photo Professional. Adobe Camera RAW and Capture One's default settings take slightly different approaches to color response and tone curve.

Canon EOS 550D Compare to:  
      
      
      
      
StandardPortraitLandscapeNeutral
FaithfulMonochromeAdobe RGB

Sharpness and Detail

The 18 million pixel sensor of the EOS 550D is capable of resolving an impressive amount of detail, although you can see here that at default settings, JPEGs straight from the camera aren't able to make the most of the sensor's capabilities. Switching to raw mode immediately guarantees better detail capture, but not all raw converters are created equal. Here, Canon's bundled Digital Photo Professional does arguably the best job of getting every last bit of detail out of this low contrast area, although Adobe's Camera Raw comes a very close second. The result from Bibble Pro 5 appears more detailed at a casual glance, but closer inspection reveals a confused cross-hatching in especially finely textured areas which is not accurate.

JPEG (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
Adobe ACR 5.7 (Beta) RAW ->JPEG (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crops
Bibble Pro 5 (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
Canon Digital Photo Professional, (all settings default)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop

Resolution

It's the same story with our resolution chart as with the low-contrast 'real world' examples shown above. The 550D's JPEG output has the same characteristic haloing around high contrast edges, and as the lines get past 2,800lph they blur to an inoffensive, but de tailless mush. All three of the raw converters that we've used here do a better job of 'faking' resolution beyond this point, with Bibble 5 Pro being especially good at describing 9 individually distinguishable lines far beyond the sensor's capability to actually resolve them. It does a far worse job with horizontal lines though.

Digital Photo Professional and Adobe Camera Raw also do a pretty job of rendering the appearance of detail beyond Nyquist (3456lph in this instance), but the ACR rendering is marred by fairly severe moire patterning from 2800lph onwards. This can be minimized to some extent by turning up the color noise reduction slider in ACR, but it is difficult to remove completely in 'real world' images without removing saturation from the rest of the picture.

JPEG from camera Digital Photo Professional (RAW)
Adobe Camera RAW 5.7 Beta (RAW) Bibble Pro 5 (RAW)

Real word advantages

What we've seen above on the test charts of course also works on real life shots. Some careful sharpening in the RAW conversion will generate visibly more detail than can be seen in the JPEG image. This image was taken with the EF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS and it is clear that the 550D's 18 million pixel sensor really shows up flaws in the lens which are not apparent when it is used on lower-resolution cameras. This goes to prove an obvious, but often overlooked point - high resolution sensors demand a lot from your optics.

JPEG from Camera (default sharpening)
ACR, sharpening turned to '0' (fringing removal 'all edges')
ACR, default sharpening (fringing removal 'all edges')
ACR, sharpening turned to '0' + USM in Photoshop
(Amount 300%, radius 5px, threshold 3, fringing removal 'all edges')

RAW files for download

Here we provide RAW files, both from the review and the sample shots we take, to allow you to apply your own workflow techniques and see whether your experiences match ours.

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