Canon's EOS 550D offers a more affordable alternative to the top-of-the-range APS-C-format EOS 7D, but can it compete against the slightly more mature Nikon D90? We find out in our test: Canon EOS 550D vs Nikon D90

Viewfinder, LCD and Live View

Before Nikon introduced the D3 and D300, a 230,000-dot LCD screen was about all that photographers could hope for by way of a monitor in a DSLR. Today, 920,000-dot (306,000-pixel) units such as the one on the D90 are fairly standard, and the EOS 550D is noteworthy for breaking the one-million-dot barrier with a 3in, 1.04-million-dot (346,000-pixel) screen.

It is hard to say whether it can be attributed entirely to the extra 120,000 dots, but in good viewing conditions the Canon screen has a slight edge over the Nikon camera’s monitor. The image has a little more ‘bite’ and this makes it easier to be certain that the focus point is exactly right when focusing manually.

When shooting outdoors, however, any advantage is lost and in some situations I had a better view of the scene on the D90’s slightly brighter LCD screen. On the whole, though, neither screen provides a clear enough view for focusing manually when shooting outside in daylight unless some form of shade is used.

Helpfully, the Canon LCD screen has the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the images that the camera captures. This means the entire screen is used for image display, but when the exposure details are displayed in Live View mode, they are shown in a black rectangle that overlays part of the bottom of the image.

With the D90, the exposure details are shown on a strip with a black background along the bottom of the Live View display. As the image cannot occupy the entire screen, it isn’t covered.
I have no complaints about the Canon EOS 550D’s viewfinder; it is smaller than the D90’s, but there is hardly any difference in brightness. I have no problem focusing manually when using either viewfinder.

Video technology was seen in a DSLR for the first time in the D90 and it gave the camera the wow factor. However, the 1920×1080-pixel footage that I recorded with the EOS 550D looks a little smoother and more natural than the 1280×720-pixel, movies I captured with the D90.

  1. 1. Canon EOS 550D vs Nikon D90 at a glance
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and handling
  4. 4. Resolution, noise and sensitivity
  5. 5. White balance and colour
  6. 6. Page 6
  7. 7. Viewfinder, LCD and Live View
  8. 8. Dynamic range
  9. 9. Autofocus
  10. 10. Verdict
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