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Compared to...

Studio scene comparison (higher sensitivities)

We've already looked in detail at the EOS 550D's high ISO performance in our the noise section of this review - here we're just taking a quick look at how it compares to its competitors, including the 500D (at default settings) when shooting our studio setup at higher ISOs. Here, we've taken two crops from our studio scene (original files are available by clicking on the magnifying glass) - one showing low contrast detail, and one showing a high contrast area of the same scene.

ISO 1600

Canon EOS 550D
Nikon D5000
Pentax K-x
Canon EOS 500D

ISO 3200

Canon EOS 550D
Nikon D5000
Pentax K-x
Canon EOS 500D

ISO 6400

Canon EOS 550D
Nikon D5000
Pentax K-x
Canon EOS 500D

ISO 12800

Canon EOS 550D
Pentax K-x
Canon EOS 500D

Noise is a factor in images from all four of these cameras at ISO 1600 and above, although the Pentax K-x offers the best combination of smoothness and detail retention at default settings up to and including ISO 6400. It's a close run thing though, and it is obvious from these images how much better the Canon EOS 550D is compared to the older 500D, despite a hike in pixel count. Output from the 500D is simply too blurred to be useful at ISO 6400 and above, except for undemanding, small-sized output.

Whereas the 500D struggles to produce 15 million pixels' worth of resolution at ISO 12800, the 550D does considerably better with its 18Mp sensor. Image quality isn't fantastic, but it is still capable of resolving the text on the medals with a reasonable degree of accuracy (in that if we didn't know what the text was, we would be able to make a pretty good guess at what it should be). The Nikon D5000 is the weakest of the bunch in terms of visible noise, with chroma smudging visible at ISO 3200, but high contrast detail survives pretty well, even at ISO 6400.

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