Rear of camera controls

The positions of the buttons on the rear of the EOS 550D haven't changed much since the EOS 500D, but their shape and profile has (making them a little easier to use), and there's a new dedicated movie/live view button on the right of the viewfinder. The direct print button now doubles as the 'Q' button (for bringing up the Quick Control screen), and the set button is customizable. There's still no dedicated metering mode button, but the plethora of buttons on the back of the camera - plus the ISO button on the top - provide a very useful range of 'hard button' direct access to the most commonly changed camera settings.

On-screen settings adjustment

When pressed the camera's hard buttons activate an adjustment screen (on the LCD) where a setting change can be made using the cursor buttons. Options are changed using the arrow buttons (left / right / up / down) or the main dial.

Camera settings display (Quick Control Screen)

The interactive 'Quick Control Screen' gives you at a glance access to virtually all current settings, as well as the option to dive in and change things directly. It's been slightly redesigned to fit the new screen shape (and has a little more information). It also gets its own dedicated 'Q' button that's easier to access when shooting and means the SET button can be customized (C.Fn 10) to do something else.

Shooting mode buttons

The EOS 550D is a "shooting priority" camera, which means that no matter what mode you are in you can always still take a photograph by pressing the shutter release button. This also extends to live view mode (i.e. the mirror stays up after you've taken a shot, allowing you to take another immediately).

Button Operation 
AE/FE Lock / AF in Live View

Press to trigger automatic exposure and lock the exposure for the next shot. Hold the button to lock the exposure for more than one shot. The exact function of this button can be set via C.Fn 9 (see below). In Live View this button is used to trigger auto focus.

AF point selection button

Press to choose change AF point selection, press the SET button to switch between automatic or manual point selection, use the cursor buttons or main dial to select the point in manual mode.

Camera Menu

Pressing this button enters or leaves the camera menu, described in more detail on the following pages of this review.

Pressing the DISP button shows or hides the camera setting screen (which is shown by default), you can define whether the status of the screen (on or off) is recalled at power off via C.Fn 11.
Exposure compensation / Aperture

Hold this button and turn the main dial to change exposure compensation in the range -2.0 EV to +2.0 EV, steps of either 1/3 or 1/2 stop, C.Fn 1. In manual exposure mode hold this button while turning the main dial to change the aperture.
Enter the Quick Control Screen

Allows you to directly interact with the camera's settings, via its settings display, as shown above.
Live View / Movie record

In shooting mode a press of this button takes you in and out of Live View. The 'Live View function setting' option on the setup menu controls if Live View is available, whether a grid overlay is shown, how long the metered value is displayed and the type of Auto Focus used in Live View mode; Quick mode (Passive; mirror-flip), Live mode (Contrast detect; like a compact camera) or Face Detect.
WB White Balance

 • Auto
 • Daylight
 • Shade
 • Cloudy
 • Tungsten
 • Fluorescent
 • Flash
 • Custom

Drive mode

 • Single
 • Continuous
 • Self-timer (10 sec) / Remote control
 • Self-timer (2 sec)
 • Self-timer (10 sec): Continuous (2 - 10 shots)


Used to confirm menu choices. In shooting mode the SET button can be assigned to one of a range of different functions, including Image Quality, Flash EC, LCD monitor on/off and Menu display.

AF AF mode

 • One shot
 • AI Focus
 • AI Servo

Picture Style

 • Standard
 • Portrait
 • Landscape
 • Neutral
 • Faithful
 • Monochrome
 • User def. 1
 • User def. 2
 • User def. 3


Enters play mode which displays the last image taken or the last image on the card.

Erase (during record review)

Press the Erase button during record review to display a Cancel / Erase option, selecting OK removes the displayed image before it is finalized to the card.

Play mode buttons

Button Operation 
Thumbnail index / reduce magnification

If in single view play mode, pressing this button will switch to a 2 x 2 thumbnail index and once more for a 3 x 3 index. If already magnified it will step back in magnification levels once.


Press to magnify the current image, there are fifteen steps up to a maximum magnification of 10x. Use the cursor buttons to scroll around the image while magnified. It is possible to browse images while maintaining magnification by simply turning the main dial.

Camera Menu

Pressing this button enters or leaves the camera menu, described in more detail on the following pages of this review.

Toggles between four different play display modes:
• Single image view with no overlay
• Single image view with folder, file number, exposure and frame count
• Thumbnail image with exposure information, luminance histogram and blinking highlights
• Thumbnail image with exposure information, lum & rgb histograms and blinking highlights

Direct Print / PictBridge

If the camera is connected to a PictBridge printer or PTP connection to a computer pressing this button initiates printing / image transfer.

Jump (Main dial)

Turn the dial left or right to jump through images, the dial can also be used to navigate menu options.
Cursor buttons

Press the left or right buttons to browse through images, also be used to navigate menu options. Press the up button to change the jump mode.

Return to shooting mode, the same can be achieved by simply half-pressing the shutter release button.


Press the Erase button to display a Cancel / Erase option. The 450D doesn't provide an 'All' option from the Erase button, instead you use the 'Erase images / All images on card' option from the Play menu or Format option from the first setup menu.

Shutter button / AE lock button action (custom function 9)

Sports photographers prefer to use setting 1 or 3 where you can control when the camera AF executes, a simple press of your thumb will start AF, then you can fire off as many shots as you like (more quickly obviously) without the camera refocusing.

Custom Function 10
Shutter button half-press AE Lock button
AF lock AE lock
AE lock (shutter release priority) AF lock
AF lock AF lock (no AE lock)
AE lock (shutter release priority) AF lock (no AE lock)

Front of camera controls

On the front right side of the camera are the last two camera controls. Uppermost here is the flash open button, a press of this will electronically release the flash unit. Below the lens release button is the depth of field preview button, hold this and the lens stops down to the indicated aperture to give a preview of the depth of field, either through the viewfinder or in Live View. One of the useful things about depth of field preview in Live View mode is that the preview image stays nice and bright, rather than darkening, as it does in the viewfinder.