On January 5 2011, Fujifilm announced the FinePix F550 EXR and F500 EXR premium compact cameras. Both cameras support the RAW format and target the advanced users who want to travel light but don't want to compromise image quality and picture-taking versatility.
Both models comes with a brand new 16 Megapixels EXR CMOS sensor that combined the Back Side Illuminated CMOS (BSI-CMOS) and EXR technologies. Other new features include the advanced GPS functions (F550 model), high speed shooting capabilities, a 15x wide-angle zoom lens, Full HD video functionality and an improved user interface. The FinePix F550 EXR will deliver up to 8 frames per second for up to 8 frames at full 16 Megapixels resolutions before it has to pause to take a breath. It can also capture 11 frames per second at 8 megapixel resolution for up to 16 frames or the same frame rate for up to 32 frames at 4 megapixel resolution.
Other than the GPS function, the main differences between the two models include high speed capture on the F500 EXR of 3 frames per second at 16 megapixels for up to 3 frames, 6 frames per second for 6 frames at 8 megapixels or 12 frames per second for 12 frames at 4 megapixels. The F500 EXR will be available in a choice of five colours for the style-conscious photographer, while the F550 EXR is only available in a stylish black finish with red highlights. The FinePix F500EXR and F550EXR are listed for $329.95 and $349.95 respectively. The F550 EXR is currently selling at around $299. Here's the summary of review by DigitalCameraResourcePage:
"Camera performance was mostly very good. The only real drag was the camera's startup time of 2.8 seconds. While the F550EXR doesn't have the hybrid AF sensor found on its predecessor, it still locks focus very quickly. Expect focus times of 0.1 - 0.4 seconds at wide-angle and 0.6 - 1.0 seconds at telephoto, with low light times around the one second mark. Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays ranged from around 1 second for JPEGs and 4-5 seconds for RAW images. Adding the flash into the mix did not noticeably slow the camera down. The F550 has two continuous shooting modes, plus three types of bracketing (for exposure, dynamic range, and Film Simulation mode). You can shoot as fast as 8 fps at full resolution (5 fps for RAW) and if you don't mind dropping to 8 Megapixel, you can get that burst rate up to a whopping 11 frames/second. The camera's battery life of 300 shots per charge is above average, though that's with the GPS off. I would expect something close to 50% lower if you have the GPS on full time.
The most important thing on a camera isn't the size of its lens or the number of scene modes it offers. No, it's image quality, and that's where the F550EXR falls short. On a positive note, exposure was accurate, and highlight clipping usually wasn't an issue. If you do get clipped highlights, just crank up the dynamic range a bit and blue skies will return. Colors were pleasing in most situations, though the camera struggled under our studio lamps, producing photos with a yellowish cast. Purple fringing levels were minimal. That brings us to sharpness and detail, which is the F550's big problem. Photos taken at the default 16 Megapixel resolution have very strong noise reduction applied to them, which smudges and mottles fine details. Combine that with the corner blurriness that my camera had (and other peoples' cameras, too) and you've got a soft and fuzzy-looking mess of pixels. If you do like the F550EXR and manage to get one with a good lens, then lower the resolution to 8 Megapixel -- I think you'll be a lot happier with the noise and detail levels at that setting. The F550 has numerous ways of preventing redeye, but they didn't seem to work for me in any of my test photos.
I want to mention a few other things before I wrap things up. First, the door over the memory card and battery compartment is flimsy, and you won't be able to get at what's behind it when the camera is on a tripod. Second, the full camera manual is only available in PDF format on an included CD-ROM disc. And finally, I did have a spec of dust appear on the sensor toward the end of my time with the F550EXR, but I'm just going to write that one off as bad luck. Ultimately, a camera is only as good as the photos it takes, and despite all of its cool features, the FinePix F550EXR is a letdown in the image quality department. While I have a feeling that I got a less-than-perfect sample (which Fuji still considers acceptable), the heavy amounts of noise reduction still make the camera's photos look worse than they should. I'm hoping that Fuji will remember the great F-series cameras of the past and perhaps give the F550's successor either a larger sensor or a smaller count -- and maybe work on the quality control while they're at it. For now, though, I'd recommend passing on the FinePix F550EXR, and maybe considering one of the cameras listed below instead."
Fuji Finepix F550EXR Sample Photos on Flickr
Fuji Finepix F550EXR Camera Reviews Roundup
|MacWorld - Oct 04 2011|
"In my hands-on tests, I also found image quality to be hit-or-miss. JPEG images straight out of the camera looked a little soft, and image noise was visible in shadows even at low ISOs. On the other hand, some night-time test shots at higher ISOs looked surprisingly good. Colors are generally rendered naturally, and exposure is accurate more often than not...." More »
|DPI - Sep 02 2011|
"The Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR is a small camera with a big optical zoom lens, and represents the long way that Fujifilm's F-series cameras have evolved from the original F10 of many years ago. The camera has a 15X zoom lens that starts at an ultra-wide-angle 24 mm and tops out at 360 mm, and it includes sensor-shift image stabilization, which makes it versa..." More »
|CNET UK - Aug 02 2011|
"The F550EXR uses Fujifilm's back-illuminated EXR CMOS sensor, with a resolution of 16 megapixels. This may sound good but we've noticed that many compact cameras with resolutions this high tend to exhibit picture noise, especially when you use them in environments that aren't evenly lit. This proved true of the F550EXR's images, which start to look too..." More »
|PhotoReview Australia - Jul 08 2011|
"Both subjective assessments and Imatest testing show 16 megapixels to be too high for the F550 EXR's relatively small image sensor. With each photosite measuring less than 1.4 microns, the processor has to work hard to extract image data and present it in a usable form. Consequently, full-resolution test shots straight out of the camera often appeared..." More »