Fuji Finepix F550 EXR Review
The Fuji Finepix F550 EXR brings to life a new CMOS implementation of EXR technology first introduced with the F200 EXR. Its unique sensor is designed to capture high-resolution, low-noise or high-dynamic-range images, depending on one of three operating modes. Using 16 million photosites, the F550 EXR's sensor can produce high-resolution images up to 16 megapixels or 8 megapixels images with up to 1600% more dynamic range than normal digital cameras can in a single exposure.
Sporting a stabilized Fujinon 15X ultra-wide-angle optical zoom lens, equivalent to 24-360mm in 35mm terms, the F550 has an almost complete set of manual exposure modes, a rarity among small cameras. Between all its features, the F550 EXR covers an ISO range from 100 to 12800, with ISO 3200 achievable at its maximum resolution of 16 megapixels.
Externally, the Fuji Finepix F550 EXR has an uncanny resemblance to its predecessor, the F300 EXR, except for protrusion that contains an all-new built-in GPS. Internally, the sensor change from CCD to CMOS brings high-speed capture modes and full 1080p HD video capture, while losing on built-in phase-detection autofocus.
The Fuji Finepix F550 EXR's major features include:
- 16 Megapixels SuperCCD EXR sensor
- 8 Megapixels high-dynamic-range mode
- 8 Megapixels low-noise mode
- 15X ultra-wide-angle optical zoom, equivalent to 24-360 in 35mm terms
- Sensor-shift image stabilization
- ISO 100 to 3200 at full-resolution, 6400 at 8 megapixels and 12800 at 4 megapixels
- Auto ISO with a selectable maximum of between 400 and 3200, depending on the mode
- Automatic and manual dynamic-range, selectable between 100%, 200% or 400%
- Automatic dynamic-range expansion up to 1600% in 8 megapixels high-dynamic-range mode
- 1/2000-8s Shutter-speed range
- Automatic, aperture-priority and manual exposure modes
- Multi-segment, average, spot and face-detect metering
- Exposure compensation -2..+2 stops in 1/3 EV increments
- Automatic white-balance, preset white-balance and custom white-balance
- Provia, Velvia, Astia, B&W and Sepia film-simulation modes
- Built-in GPS and location database
- 8 FPS continuous shooting at 16 megapixels, up to 8 JPEG or 6 RAW
- 11 FPS continuous shooting at 8 megapixels, up to 16 JPG
- 11 FPS continuous shooting at 4 megapixels, up to 32 JPG
- 2s, 10s or face-detect self-timer
- 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS HD movie-mode
- 640x480 @ 80 FPS, 320x240 @ 160 FPS and 320x112 @ 320 FPS High-Speed movie modes
- Built-in flash with auto, forced-on, forced-off, red-eye and slow-synchro modes
- 3” LCD 460K Pixels
- Lithium-ion battery operated
- Uses SD-HC memory
Suitability - What is it good for?
NOTE Portions of this review are taken from the Fuji Finepix F300 EXR
Fuji Finepix F300 EXR review since externally the cameras are nearly identical. Jump to the performance page for something completely new.
The Fuji Finepix F550 EXR is one of the most versatile digital camera which falls into the Travel-Zoom category. These are compact models best suited for travel-photography due to their powerful optical zoom lenses. In the case of this digital camera, the lens is equivalent to a 24-360mm lens in 35mm terms. This is a 15X optical zoom which starts at an ultra-wide angle and reaches well into the telephoto category. This wide range of focal-lengths is suitable for nearly all types of subject, including architecture, landscape, portraits, street photography and some wild-life.
The triple-mode EXR sensor of the F550 gives it even more usability than most fixed-lens cameras:
- EXR-HR - High-Resolution mode produces images suitable for large prints up to 20" x 15"
- EXR-DR - Dynamic-Range mode for bright outdoor scenes when contrast often very high
- EXR-SN - Low-Noise mode to produce smoother images in low-light and typical indoor scenes
The full ISO range on this digital camera goes from 100 all the way to 12800. Only ISO 100 to 3200 are available at 16 megapixels. ISO 6400 is available at 8 megapixels and 12800 is available at the sufficient-for-small prints resolution of 4 megapixels. Note that very few cameras other than SLRs can produce usable images above ISO 800, we report on that on page 3. A complex interaction between features means that not all combinations of ISO, dynamic-range and modes are available, this is discussed in details further in this review.
The Fuji F550 EXR is still one of the few fixed-lens digital cameras to feature expanded dynamic range. This is achieved via a special sensor design which allows half of the photosites to be read partway during exposure. This is similar to the taking of multiple exposures for merging images into an HDR image. The difference being that the full exposure exposes for the darkest details. When the sensor is read in this way the dynamic range goes up to 1600%, which equals 4 extra stops, but image resolution drops to 8 megapixels because one half of the photosites are used to complement the other half. Outside of this mode, this digital camera can control dynamic range between 100% and 400% by using clever processing while producing a full 16 megapixels image. Specifically, the F550 can retain 2 more stops of highlight details than what is usually possible. The trade-off is that the extra dynamic range is obtained by boosting sensitivity, therefore, this approach tends to increase noise in darker parts of images.
With a shutter-speed range going from 1/2000s to 8s, the extremes of fast action and low-light are not well covered, but most situations are. Social photography is the strong point of this Fuji with high-ISO and an ultra-wide-angle lens which is ideal for indoor parties. Very low-light captures are still possible given a maximum ISO of 12800 and shutter-speed of 8s. The availability of full manual controls is extremely useful here, as most cameras usually have trouble metering when light levels drop too much. The catch is that the camera must still be able to focus as there is no manual-focus mode.
The Fuji F550 EXR is capable of dealing with a wide variety of lighting situations in terms of both color and contrast. With its automatic, preset and manual WB options, colors can be accurately captured in any situation. Flexible metering options, including spot-metering, allow the photographer to control how the F550 deals with unevenly-lit scenes. The F550 is also equipped with several scene modes, divided into normal and advanced modes.. Among normal ones, the natural light and flash mode which takes two pictures of a scene, one with and one without flash, deserves a quick mention. This saves time when not being certain which outcome would be better.
There are three advanced scene-modes: Motion Parorama-360, Pro Low-Light and Pro-Focus. The Motion Panorama-360 produces a low-resolution panorama directly in the camera while the camera is being swept across up to 360° field-of-view. Pro Low-Light use 4 images to simulate higher ISO settings while keeping noise low. Pro-Focus combined a focused foreground image with an out-of-focus background one to simulate shallow-depth of field. To accomplish this while allowing for camera movements, the field-of-view is reduced, so ultra-wide-angle shooting is not possible.
This travel-zoom also captures 1080p HD video using a dedicated button. Up to 29 min of HD video with sound can be recorded per file. For SD movies, up to 115 minutes are possible. High-speed movies are limited to 30s in length. The optical zoom is also available during video-recording, which most such cameras do not allow. Video autofocus is either fixed at the center of the first frame or adjusted continuously.
This digital camera is also equipped with the latest in face-detection. Face-detection is now quite common, particularly among small cameras. The basic principle is that the camera tries to recognize faces and sets the focus and exposure accordingly. Both camera-facing and sideway-facing faces are recognized by Fuji's latest Face Detection. Fuji uses the face-detection during playback as well, so that the user can verify that it worked. In face-detect mode, the F550 EXR uses a special metering mode to keep faces well-exposed. The same face-detection system can also be used to remove red-eye during playback. The novelty introduced by the F300 EXR is Face-Recognition which lets the Fuji tag images with people's name and ages. It work with camera-facing faces quite well. All this, plus high-ISO capabilities, really emphasize the Fuji F550 suitability as a social photography camera.
As a Travel Zoom the Fuji Finepix F550 EXR adds a well-implemented GPS that automatically geotags photos taken. As the GPS draws power, it can be turned off or only powered when the camera is on. This latter option saves energy but the camera may take a while to lock its position after being turned on. In all cases, the camera displays an indicator when it is searching for its position. On playback images that are tagged are also labeled with the location, rather than just coordinates, which is truly helpful to confirm the position.
Fuji F550 EXR Facts
|16 Megapixels Travel Zoom||ISO 100-3200|
|15X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-8s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls|
|8 FPS Drive, 8 Images||Custom white-balance|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Spot-Metering|
|3" LCD 460K Pixels||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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