The Fuji Finepix F550EXR offers one of the widest ranges of features you are likely to find on such a small digital camera. The Finepix F550EXR may be only slightly larger than pocket sized, but Fuji have crammed just about every feature they could think of into this camera.
As well as the wide range of features the camera also feels well put together with a good build quality.
Owing to the range of features and small size this type of camera proves very popular with people planning a holiday as it gives you just about everything you need while taking up very little space.
Why Buy The Fuji Finepix F550EXR
This type of digital camera generally offers value for money. With the Finepix F550EXR you get an excellent range of features in a very handy body size. Picture quality compares very well with its closest rivals and response times are very good too.
103.5 x 62.5 x 32.6mm
Top 16 Features
16 megapixels is more than enough to make super sized prints if you choose to. This number of features also means that in some instances you will be able to crop your photo to improve the composition and still be able to make a print.
Zoom and Image Stabilisation
The 15x zoom lens gives you plenty of flexibility as it also has the ability to produce extreme wide angle shots as well as the more obvious ability to zoom in on a distant subject. A wide angle lens allows you to pack wider scenes into your photos.
The EXR part of the camera name comes from type of sensor Fuji have used for the Finepix F550EXR. The advantage of this type of sensor is its processing speed as well as the boost it can give to picture quality.
Fuji utilise the extra speed to give you a couple of extra features to help you with tricky photo opportunities.
To start with you can opt to use the High Dynamic Range setting. This comes into its own when there is a lot of contrast in a scene. It helps to show extra detail in the brightest and darkest areas of the shot. It does this by taking two simultaneous images and overlaying one on top of the other.
The camera uses a similar technique in lowlight conditions. The result should be a decrease in noise in the shot. This gives you a better quality photograph as a result.
If you do end up taking the Finepix F550EXR on your holidays you can tag your photos with the location where each picture was taken. This allows you to pinpoint where you were when each photo was taken after you return.
High Definition Movies
The Finepix F550EXR is capable of taking Full High Definition movies with stereo sound. Full High Definition means that the camera is able to record at the higher of the two HD resolutions currently available.
If you are a more advanced photographer or like the idea of taking more control over your photos then the manual exposure controls are likely to come in handy. Manual exposure allows you to set the shutter speed and aperture size. This gives you greater creative control over your photos. As well as a fully manual mode there are also shutter priority and aperture priority modes available.
RAW format will be useful to you if you plan to edit your photos with a post production software package such as Photoshop. RAW format stores a greater level of detail than when you store images in Jpeg. This gives you more detail to work with.
You can store both RAW and Jpeg copies of the same image.
The LCD screen is 3 inches in size and is made up of 460,000 dots. This is a higher resolution than most digital cameras offer.
High Speed Shooting
Another advantage of the fast sensor used by Fuji is that you have access to a burst mode that is capable of short bursts of up to 8 frames per second.
Best Frame Selection
When you use Best Frame Capture mode the Finepix F550EXR starts recording 8 megapixels images at a rate if 11 frames per second as soon as you press the shutter button down half way. When you fully depress the shutter the camera captures up to 16 frames. This allows you to select the best shot of the group.
360 Degree Panorama
You can create 360 degree panoramas by selecting the panorama shooting mode, pressing down the shutter button and sweeping the camera round in a circle.
You may have seen photos with blurred background. These are used to accentuate the main subject. This technique is popular with portrait photographers, although it can be used for a wide range of subjects. This technique works in a similar way to the High Dynamic Range feature with multiple images being captured. These are then blended together to pick out your main subject in sharp focus with the remainder of the shot thrown out of focus.
Low Light Shooting
This mode gives you another string to your bow that you can use to increase the quality of your shots taken in falling light. As with other shots multiple photos are taken and merged together.
Film Simulation Modes
Fuji produces a range of different types of film for traditional 35mm cameras. Each film type gives a photo a different look. The five film simulation modes you can use are Provia (standard) Velvia (Vivid), Astia (soft), black and white and sepia.
Special Bracketing Functions
There are three types of bracketing you can take advantage of. When you use bracketing the camera captures multiple images, each one with a slight difference. The three types of bracketing available are film simulation, exposure bracketing and dynamic range bracketing.
Close Up Shots
For close up shots the Finepix F550EXR has a macro mode that allows you to focus from 5cm away from your subject.
The camera feels good in the hand. It has a little weight to it that gives it a more substantial feel. There is a non slip grip on the front to help you hold it steady. There is also plenty of room on the back for you to place your thumb.
Lens and Flash Unit Position
The lens unit dominates the front of the camera. It is offset slightly to the right of centre when looking at the front of the Finepix F550EXR. The flash pops up on top of the camera. The only drawback of this is that it can get in the way of where you place your finger when taking a shot.
LCD Screen Quality
The quality and clarity of the LCD screen is very good. Even in sunny conditions you can see whatever is displayed on the screen.
Fast Response Ensures You Capture the Picture
Although this camera is on the slow side to turn on and take the first photo its general response times are excellent. Shutter delay times were minimal and compare very well against other models. Even with the flash tuned on the camera responded very quickly.
Controls on Top of the Camera
On the top of the camera are controls to turn the camera on and off, the shutter button and a ring for zooming in and out. A control dial for selecting the shooting mode has been placed at an angle between the top and back of the camera.
Controls on the Back of The Camera
Below the control dial are buttons to review your photos and shoot a movie. Under these comes the main control area. This includes options giving you access to exposure compensation, delete a photo, set the flash mode, access the self timer and place the camera in macro mode. In the centre of this area is a button to give you access to the menu system and confirm a setting. A rotary dial runs round the outside. This speeds up the process of selecting menu options. At the bottom are two further buttons. The first changes the information displayed on the LCD screen. The second gives you access to the camera's main functions.
What's in the Menu
The shooting menu contains 15 items. There is also a setup menu with 29 options.
Image Quality - See Sample Images Below
Outdoor Scenic Shot 1
For my four outdoor scenic shots I have opted to use the High Dynamic Range setting. Although this reduces the resolution of the shots there should still be enough detail available to make at least A4 size prints.
The overall definition of the shot is very impressive. One of the areas where this camera is able to outperform the vast majority of digital cameras is in the shady areas of the shot. These areas include parts of the boats out of the direct line of the sun, such as around the names. These areas are virtually noise free. This gives you much higher quality than you will get from the majority of other digital cameras.
Another strong point is the sharpness of the shot. This is also at the top end in terms of quality.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 2
Most digital cameras find this a challenging shot, especially if they have an extreme wide angle lens. As with the first shot the sharpness of the shot is exceptional in comparison with other cameras. There is very little loss of sharpness as you move towards the edges of the photo. There is a negative point though. If you look at the building on the left hand side of the photo it does not look perfectly vertical and is leaning inwards.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 3
High quality is on show here too. One common problem with longer lenses is purple fringing. The Finepix F550EXR manages to avoid this problem with no purple fringing showing in the photo. Sharpness is very good when the lens is fully zoomed in.
Once again it is hard to find fault. If you increase print size you can clearly make out every brick in the building. Sharpness is maintained very well away from the edges of the shot and colours have plenty of depth.
The Finepix F550EXR is well equipped for taking portrait photos. It even has special settings for photographing your pets. The outdoor portrait shot is sharply focused. The colours are accurate with a touch of warmth to them.
Indoor Portrait With Flash
There are three common problems with digital cameras when flash is used for portraits. To start with parts of the shot can be dark with the flash not being strong enough to reach all areas. In this instance the Finepix F550EXR performs well. The light is evenly spread.
The next common issue is red eye. As Fuji have included a flash unit that pops up this increases the distance between the flash and the lens. This helps to reduce any red eye problems. It doesn't mean you will never see red eye, but it reduces the chances of it occurring and also reduces its severity when it does occur. Fuji have also added a feature to try to automatically remove or reduce any red eye in your photos.
Finally artificial lighting can cause a loss of colour balance with the skin tones looking very pink. Again the Finepix F550EXR manages to avoid this problem.
Indoor Portrait Without Flash
Without flash the Finepix F550EXR produces a photo with a warm look to it. The definition showing in the photo is very good indeed. This suggests that you should be able to take good quality photos with this camera when the light is not perfect.
You will be hard pressed to find much better macro quality in a small compact camera. The main focal point of the shot is in sharp focus. Away from the sharp focus the remainder of the shot falls away in a pleasing blur.
There is a vibrancy to the shots taken with the Finepix F550EXR. The colours have plenty of depth to them. Combine that with the brightness of the photos and you have a winner.
Noise levels are kept to an absolute minimum especially if you make use of some of the extra features available to you.
Picture Quality Summary
Cameras in this category tend to be able to produce high quality photos. The Finepix F550EXR is right up there with the very best of them. It has good all round ability and is capable of handling most photo opportunities with aplomb.
Shutter Lag Times
Single Shot With Flash
Five Shots With Flash
Turn on Time
Ease of Use
With a wide range of features it will take a while to get to grips with all the features the Finepix F550EXR has. This effort is likely to prove worthwhile in the end. There is a fully automatic mode if you want to take advantage of the main features, but operate the camera more along the lines of a simple point and shoot digital camera.
Points I Like
Shutter delay times, features, picture quality, handling, design and style, build quality
Where it Could Improve
Turn on times, loss of verticals when lens zoomed out
The Fuji Finepix F550EXR gets more or less everything right. There is competition in this group of cameras, but this camera is just about as good as any. Picture quality is up there with the best and you will find the features on offer very hard to beat.
Top Rated Cameras in this Category
Nikon Coolpix S9300 Rating 86/100
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Canon Powershot SX260 HS Rating 86/100
The Canon Powershot SX260 HS is one of the very best digital cameras in this category. In fact if you are happy to miss out on features such as 3D photography and 360 degree panoramas it is very hard to beat. It has a great set of features packed into its relatively compact body size and picture quality helps to make it stand out from the competition. Although it is one of the more expensive cameras in this field it still offers good value for money.
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Panasonic DMC SZ1 Rating 84/100
If you are looking for a simple, pocket camera that gives you some extra zoom and takes high quality snapshots the Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ1 is a very good choice. Compared to other cameras with similar features available at around the same price this camera has the edge when it comes to picture quality. It takes sharp, colourful photos and offers excellent value for money. Recommended.
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