Given its ‘baby EOS 7D’ credentials, the 18-million-pixel, video-enabled Canon EOS 550D could be the perfect choice for the enthusiast on a budget. We put it to the test
White balance and colour
Canon’s white balance system is one of the best around, but that doesn’t mean it is advisable to set the EOS 550D to its automatic white balance setting and forget about it. There are many occasions when the automatic system delivers satisfactory results, but it doesn’t completely remove the colour cast from a scene, and while this retains some of the atmosphere it may not always be what you want. In some more ‘non-standard’ lighting conditions using the auto white balance option results in images that are a little too far from neutral.
On the whole, Canon appears to have calibrated the camera towards producing warm images – which is not surprising, as many people prefer a warmer, cheering image. When shooting inside a church on a bright sunny day, my images taken using the EOS 550D’s automatic white balance system are a bit too warm and the best results were produced with the camera set to its daylight setting. When shooting in late afternoon light that was filtering through cream blinds, I found it is best to set a custom white balance value.
Setting the custom white balance is easy provided you know that the option to select the calibration image is located in the main menu and not in the white balance submenu along with the preset values. I am sure many first-time users would find it more easily if it could be accessed from the white balance short-cut button or the Quick Menu. The usual Canon picture style options of Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome are provided for EOS 550D users to determine the overall look of their images.
Control is provided over the sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour tone of colour images, and the sharpness, contrast, filter effect and toning effect of monochrome shots. In many instances the Standard mode produces print-ready results, and although they are sometimes a little oversaturated, when I adjust the more subdued results from using the Neutral or Faithful options I often find they end up being quite close to the Standard mode images. However, these adjustments are easy to make and files do at least give some scope to manoeuvre.
Image: While the Faithful picture style has produced a muted image, the Landscape setting has made the blue of the water go a little over the top. I prefer the Standard picture style image