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Viewfinder

The 550D inherits the 500D's viewfinder. It's one of the better pentamirror finders out there, but obviously is not as big or bright as the pentaprism finders generally found in more expensive cameras. The small wheel to the right is a dioptre adjustment.

Viewfinder view

The viewfinder view is identical to the 500D's; the focusing screen has a circle indicating the spot metering location, and the AF areas are indicated by a small LED dot in the center of the AF point rectangle. With a depression of the shutter release button (half or full) this dot will briefly light to indicated the selected AF point (either automatic or manual) and then blink again once AF has been achieved.

Viewfinder size

Typically, entry-level DSLRs are equipped with fairly small, cramped viewfinders compared to their more advanced cousins. This is partly a result of their use of pentamirrors rather than pentaprisms, which tend to produce a dimmer, and - because of size constraints - a smaller viewfinder image. The EOS 550D offers essentially the same viewfinder experience as most cameras of this class.

Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'. As you can see, the result is that the EOS 550D has a viewfinder that's almost identical to the Nikon D5000, and one that's a touch bigger than the equivalent Olympus Four Thirds SLR.

The diagram below shows the relative size of the viewfinders of the Canon EOS 550D, the Nikon D5000, Olympus E-620 and - for reference - the EOS-1Ds Mark III (currently the biggest viewfinder on the DSLR market, fractionally larger than the Sony Alpha 900).

The EOS 550D's viewfinder is slightly larger than the Nikon D5000's (though the difference is virtually impossible to see). Both are slightly larger than the E-620's viewfinder, thanks in part to the wider aspect ratio they use.

Viewfinder crop

The viewfinder of the Canon EOS 550D shows approximately 95% of the scene to be captured. The 5% 'margin of error' is of little consequence in normal use, but can make framing critical subjects difficult.

canoneos550d: 95% viewfinder.

Battery Compartment / Battery

The EOS 550D's battery compartment is located in the base of the hand grip behind a metal hinged plastic door. The battery fits horizontally into the base and is held in place by an white clip. The 550D uses a new battery (the LP-E8), which provides 4-level battery life information and is good for around 440 shots using the CIPA testing standard. This is a little lower than the EOS 500D, presumably the new sensor and screen draw a touch more power. The battery is charged using the supplied 'brick' charger.

Battery Grip (optional)

The 550D's new battery design means a new optional battery grip too, which won't please upgraders. the BG-E8 can take two of the new batteries or six AA batteries (using different cartridges). As with previous grips the BG-E8 is inserted into the battery compartment and screws tight using the tripod mount. Older grips are not compatible with the EOS 550D. Also like previous models the addition of the BG-E8 transforms the handling of the EOS 550D, particularly when working with larger lenses, where the entire package becomes more comfortable to hold.

Secure Digital Compartment

The EOS 550D sports an SD memory card slot and in addition to the now ubiquitous SD and SDHC cards, it's one of a new generation of cameras to support the new SDXC standard that promises increased speed and capacities up to 2TB. As on the EOS 450D and 500D there is a 'beware I'm still writing to the card' warning screen and beep if you open the card door too soon.

Connections

On the left side of the camera are all of the cameras connections, these are protected by a rubber cover which fits flush when closed. In summary from top to bottom: 3.5mm stereo mike socket, Remote terminal (E3 type), a combined A/V output and an HDMI socket.

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