Fuji FinePix F550EXR Review
Originally Posted: July 11, 2011
Last Updated: July 12, 2011
The Fuji FinePix F550EXR ($349) is a compact ultra zoom camera featuring a 16 Megapixel EXR CMOS sensor, a whopping 15X zoom lens, a high resolution / high contrast LCD, Full HD video recording, and a built-in GPS with a huge database of landmarks. It's joined by its little brother, the FinePix F500EXR, which has the same features, minus the GPS. Other features include sensor-shift image stabilization, an EXR Auto mode that selects both the best EXR and scene mode for you (more on EXR technology later), manual exposure controls (and support for the RAW format), high speed continuous shooting (among other things), a 360 degree panorama feature, and even cat and dog detection.
The F550EXR has a little brother, known as the F500EXR, which has the same features, except for the GPS and a bit less built-in memory. It sells for about $20 less.
Is the FinePix F550EXR the ultimate travel camera? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The FinePix F550EXR has an average bundle for a compact camera. Inside the box, you'll find the following items:
- The 16.0 effective Megapixel FinePix F550EXR digital camera
- NP-50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring MyFinePix Studio, FinePixViewer, and RAW File Converter
- 25 page basic manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)
As with most compact cameras, the FinePix F550EXR has memory built right into it. In fact, it has 39MB worth. Unfortunately, that hardly holds just five fine quality JPEGs or one RAW image, and the write times are terribly slow, as well. So, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, if you don't already have one. The F550 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC media, including the new super high-speed UHS-I cards. I'd recommend a 4GB card if you're taking mostly stills, and at least 8GB if you'll be recording a lot of movies. You'll want a high speed card (Class 6 or higher) for best results.
The F550EXR uses the same NP-50 rechargeable lithium ion battery as the F300EXR that came before it. This battery contains 3.4 Wh of energy when fully charged which, while not great, is typical for cameras in this class. Let's see how that translates into battery life:
The FinePix F550EXR's battery life comes in at about 5% above the group average. That's with the GPS off, though, so expect much lower numbers if you're using that feature (especially in the always-on mode).
All of the cameras in the above table use proprietary lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are on the expensive side, with an extra NP-50 costing around $50 (generics are available for less). And, when your battery dies, you won't be able to grab something at the corner store to get you through the day.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes around 150 minutes for the NP-50 to be fully charged. This charger plugs directly into the wall, which is my favorite type.
As with all compact cameras, the FinePix F550EXR has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.
There are really just two accessories available for the F550. The most interesting is the WP-FXF500 waterproof case (priced from $200), which lets you take the camera up to 40 meters under the sea. A less exciting, but perhaps more useful accessory is the AC adapter. You'll need to buy both the AC-5VX AC adapter (from $33) as well as the CP-50 DC coupler to make it work, but I don't think the latter is even available to purchase anymore! If you do manage to get your hands on one, you will be able to power the F550EXR without draining your battery.
Fuji includes a number of software products with the FinePix F550EXR, and the first I want to mention is My FinePix Studio. This Windows-only product can be used for transferring photos from your camera to a computer, after which you can edit or share them. On the main thumbnail screen you can filter through your photos in a number of ways (people, events, location) and create "Smart Albums", like in iTunes. Here you can also view a slideshow, print or e-mail a photo, or upload them to YouTube or Facebook.
Editing a photo in MyFinePix Studio
The editing features in MyFinePix Studio are fairly basic. You can do an auto image enhancement, or adjust the brightness, contrast, and gamma manually. You can rotate or crop a photo, and remove redeye. There are also numerous special effects, including classics like grayscale and sepia. Unlike with JPEGs, when you double-click on a RAW image you won't get the screen you see above. Instead, the RAW File Converter software mentioned below will load and open the selected image.
FinePixViewer for Mac
Mac users get their own piece of software, but it's not really worth installing. FinePixViewer for Mac hasn't changed in several years, and it's basically limited to viewing, cropping, rotating, and placing text onto your photos. It can't view RAW images at all, so you'll need to use the RAW File Converter software below, or just do everything in iPhoto.
RAW File Converter EX
The bundled software for working with the F550's RAW images is called RAW File Converter EX. If it looks familiar, it should -- it's SilkyPix. This is a very powerful RAW editor, though the interface is clunky, and some of the English translations are a bit strange. Both Mac and Windows versions of RAW File Converter are included.
You can also use Adobe Photoshop CS5 to edit the camera's RAW files, though be sure to have the latest version of the Camera Raw plug-in installed.
So what are RAW files, anyway? These files contain unprocessed image data captured by the FinePix F550EXR's sensor. Since this is literally raw, untouched data, you have the ability to tweak things like white balance, noise reduction, and color, without effecting the quality of the image. The downside is that file sizes are larger, photos take longer to be saved to your memory card, and that they all need to be post-processed in order to get them into more common formats like JPEG.