Canon has announced the EOS 550D, the successor to its EOS 500D prosumer DSLR. It's received significant upgrades to several features but most notably, the sensor, movie shooting and metering have all seen a bump in specs.
Starting with the sensor, the 15.1-megapixel chip of the 500D has been raised to an 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, which has Canon's DIGIC4 image processor onboard. That enables standard ISO settings of 100 - 6400, and there's also in-camera noise reduction for low-light shooting. A 14-bit image processing stage is included too, to smooth out colours and tonal gradation.
In terms of video recording, there's full 1920 x 1080p HD movie support at 30, 25 and 24fps. You can also shoot in 720p at 60 and 50fps. An external mic can be attached with the addition of a 3.5mm stereo jack, and exposure, depth of field and amount of motion blur can all be manually controlled. There's also a movie crop function, which zooms into the middle 640 x 480 pixel area of the sensor.
Then there's the metering. The EOS 550D contains the iFCL metering system that was first seen in the decidedly-pricier EOS 7D. You can now set the top limit for automatic ISO, to cut down on noise, and exposure compensation and bracketing can be set up to +/-5 and +/-2 stops respectively, allowing a bit of experimentation in tricky lighting conditions.
Elsewhere, there's a 9-point autofocus with an extra-sensitive cross-type point in the middle for very fast lenses, and 3.7fps continuous shooting if you hold down the shutter button. On the back, there's a 3-inch 3:2 LCD with 1040k dot resolution and an anti-reflective water-repellent coating.
Lastly, like its predecessor, there's an integrated HDMI port with the ability to control your pics with your remote on your massive flat panel TV, and a dedicated Eye-Fi section in the UI if you're a fan of the wireless transfer cards.
The camera will be available from 24 February 2010, but we've not seen any pricing in pounds - just a 829-euro body-only figure (Update: this is incorrect - see below). That translates to about £725, but we'd expect that to go down a little pretty quickly, given the competition in the camera retail space.
Update: The body only will cost £800, an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens kit bundled will cost £900, an 18-135mm lens kit bundled costs £1100 and you can get an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS & EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS double lens kit for £1200. But as we say, we'd be surprised if you'd pay that much for it from your favourite reseller.
Update 2: There's now a Canon "walkthrough" video of the device available to view.