The FinePix E550 is top dog in Fuji's
new E-series of digital cameras. Here's a quick look
at the lineup and what differentiates one model from
|Lens focal length
||28 - 91 mm
||32.5 - 130 mm
||80 - 400
||80 - 800
|Min. macro focus distance
||320 x 240,
||640 x 480, 30 fps
|| 4.0 x 2.4
x 1.3 in.
|| 4.1 x 2.5 x 1.4 in.
The E550 is the only camera of the
three to use Fuji's exclusive SuperCCD HR sensor, which
can produce images with 12 million pixels (though that's
not always desirable, as you'll see later). It has
more zoom power than the E500/510 at the expense of
a little wide-angle capability. In addition to the
features show in the above chart, the E550 has much
more robust performance and a few extra features, all
of which I'll cover in the review, which starts now!
Since the cameras are so similar,
I'll be reusing much of the text from the E510 review
What's in the Box?
The FinePix E550 has a good bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 6.3 effective Megapixel FinePix
- 16MB xD Picture Card
- Two NiMH rechargeable batteries
- Battery charger
- Cradle adapter
- Terminal cover
- Wrist strap
- A/V cable
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring FinePix AX software
- 121 page camera manual (printed)
Fuji includes a 16MB xD card with
the camera, which holds a grand total of three photos
at the highest quality JPEG setting. So consider a
larger card "a must". xD cards are currently
available as large as 512MB, and I think 256MB is a
good starter size for most people. Be warned that xD
cards tend to be more expensive than CompactFlash and
The E-series cameras use two AA batteries
for power. Unlike with the E500 and E510, Fuji gives
you rechargeable batteries with the E550. And they're
powerful, too, packing 2300 mAh which is as good as
it gets right now. Fuji says that you'll be able to
take about 200 photos per charge using the new CIPA
battery life standard. That's about two-thirds of the
battery life of the cheaper E-series cameras, which
get 290 photos per charge.
I'm a big fan of cameras that use
AA batteries. Rechargeables like those included with
the E550 cost much less than their proprietary counterparts,
and you can use alkaline batteries to get you through
the day when your rechargeables run out of juice.
When it's time to charge the included
batteries just pop them into the included charger.
This isn't a terribly fast charger, as it takes 4.5
hours for a full charge to be completed.
Fuji offers an optional camera dock
for the E-series cameras known as the PictureCradle
CP-FXA10 ($50). It will charge the optional NH-10 battery
pack (and nothing else) and allow you to connect the
camera to your PC or television. You can do all of
this without the cradle.
The E550 has a built-in lens cover
so there's no lens cap to worry about.
There are a few accessories available
for the E-series cameras, and I've already mentioned
two of them (the battery pack and cradle). Those most
interesting ones are the lens accessories. The WL-FXE01
wide-angle conversion lens ($95) reduces the focal
length by a factor of 0.76, thus bringing the wide
end of the camera down to 24.5 mm. If you want more
zoom power then check out the TL-FXE01 1.94X teleconverter
($95), which brings the telephoto end of the lens up
to 252 mm. To use either of these lenses you must first
buy the AR-FXE02 conversion lens adapter ($19). This
adapter lets you use any 43 mm filter, as well.
The only other accessories worth mentioning
are an AC adapter ($39) and two soft cases ($13 - $30).
4.2 for Mac
Fuji includes their FinePixViewer
software with the E550. The version numbers are 4.2
for Windows and 3.3 Mac OS 9 and OS X. Even with the
differing version numbers, the software acts about
the same on each platform. FinePixViewer is for basic
image organizing and editing, and is no substitute
for something like Photoshop Elements.
RAW File Converter
LE for Mac
Also included is the RAW File Converter
LE software, which converts images from RAW to TIFF
format. JPEG conversion is, unfortunately, not an option,
adding another step to your workflow. More on why RAW
is nice later in the review.
Two other software notes: ImageMixer
VCD2 for Mac is included, which lets you turn your
photos into a VCD slideshow. Drivers are also included
that allow Windows XP users to also use the E550 as
a webcam for videoconferencing.
The E550's manual is typical of those
included with most digital cameras. It's complete,
but finding what you're looking for may be difficult.
There's lots of small print as well.
Look and Feel
The FinePix E550 is a midsize camera
made of a mix of metal and plastic. The E550 has more
metal on it than the E510 that I reviewed, giving it
a more solid feel. While the controls are logically
placed, I didn't care for the "feel" of all
of them. Despite having a fairly small right hand grip,
I found it easy to hold the E550 with one hand. While
not what I'd call a small camera, the camera fits into
most pockets with ease.
Here's a look at how the E550 compares
in terms of size and weight with the competition:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 2.5 x 1.4 in.
x 2.2 x 1.5 in.
x 2.7 x 1.8 in.
x 2.4 x 1.3 in.
x 2.5 x 1.4 in.
x 2.1 x 1.1 in.
x 2.7 x 1.6 in.
x 2.2 x 1.6 in.
x 2.4 x 1.7 in.
x 2.1 x 1.0 in.
As you can see, the E550 falls right
in the middle of the pack. The FinePix F810 is an intriguing
option for those who want the E550 in a sleeker body.
You'll get a wacky 16:9 LCD display too.
Enough numbers, let's start our tour
of the camera now, beginning with the front.
The E550 has a different lens than
the rest of the E-series. Instead of getting a 3X zoom
that starts at just 28 mm, you'll get a 4X model that
starts at 32.5 mm. The maximum aperture on the lens
is F2.8 - F5.6 and the focal range is 7.2 - 28.8 mm
(equivalent to 32.5 - 130 mm).
The E550 allows you to attach conversion
lenses and filters, as I mentioned before. Just press
the button to the lower-left of the lens, remove the
plastic ring, and attach the conversion lens adapter
(and then your lens).
At the top of the picture is the E550's
pop-up flash, which has a working range of 0.6 - 4.5
m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 2.2 m at telephoto. This
range is a little better than on the E510. You cannot
attach an external flash to the E550.
To the upper-right of the lens is
the optical viewfinder, flash sensor, and microphone.
There is no AF-assist lamp on any of the E-series cameras.
On the back of the camera is where
you'll find one of the E550's standout features: its
large 2.0" LCD display. While I always prefer
rotating LCDs like the one on the PowerShot A95, there's
something to be said for this sharp and bright screen.
The LCD has a healthy 154,000 pixels.
The low light functionality on the
E550 is the same as it was on the E510: not good. Unlike
some cameras, the E550 doesn't "gain up" automatically
in such situations, rendering that big screen useless
in dim light. I found the screen to be difficult to
see in bright outdoor light, as well.
To the upper-left of the LCD is the
E550's optical viewfinder, which is average-sized.
It shows approximately 77% of the frame (which seems
a little low) . It lacks a diopter correction knob
(as does the one on the A95), which is used to focus
what you're looking at. Just to the right of the viewfinder
is the button which pops up the flash.
To the left of the LCD is the exposure
compensation button, which has the usual -2EV to +2EV
in 1/3EV increments range.
At the top-right of the photo is the
zoom controller, which doesn't have as much "play" as
I would've liked. The controller moves the lens quietly
from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.2 seconds. I
counted just seven steps throughout the zoom range.
Below that is the switch used to move
the camera between record and playback mode.
Photo mode menu
(sorry some of these are so crappy; the E550 doesn't
send the record menus through the video out port)
Continuing downward we find the "F",
or Photo Mode, button. Pressing this opens the menu
seen above, which has the following options (in record
- Image quality (see chart later
in review) - I always like how the camera tells you
how many shots you can take at each resolution
- ISO (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800)
- the SuperCCD sensor allows for ISO 800; see samples
- FinePix color (Standard, chrome,
black & white) - "chrome" boosts the
contrast and color saturation
Next to the Photo Mode button is the
four-way controller. This is used for menu navigation,
adjusting manual settings, and more. I don't care for
how it feels -- they're too flush with the body and
they don't have a lot of "play". The additional
functions of this controller are:
- Left - Macro (on/off) - more on
- Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto
w/redeye reduction, forced flash, slow synchro, redeye
reduction + slow synchro)
The final button here is the display/back
button. This is used for toggling what's shown on the
LCD, turning on thumbnail view while in playback mode,
and "backing out" of a menu.
On top of the camera you'll find the
power and shutter release buttons as well as the mode
The items on the mode dial include:
- Auto record - point-and-shoot,
some menu items locked up
- Program mode - still point-and-shoot
but with full menu access; a Program Shift feature
lets you select from several aperture/shutter speed
- Shutter priority mode - you choose
the shutter speed, camera chooses the aperture; shutter
speed range is 3 - 1/1000 sec
- Aperture priority mode - you choose
the aperture, camera chooses appropriate shutter
speed; aperture range is F2.8 - F8
- Full manual (M) mode - you choose
both the shutter speed and aperture; shutter speed
range expands to 3 - 1/2000 sec
- Movie mode - more on this later
- Night scene - allows for 3 second
- Sports - fast shutter speed plus
As was the case on the E510, the slowest
shutter speed on the camera isn't very slow: here it's
3 seconds instead of 2. Since the E550 is the high-end
camera in the series I was hoping for better. Don't
get me wrong, though -- I still appreciate the manual
On this side of the E550 you'll find
the speaker as well as the I/O ports.
The I/O ports here include A/V out,
USB (1.1), and DC-in (for optional AC adapter).
The E-series cameras have one of those
design decisions that makes you say "huh?":
they have a plastic cover for the I/O ports -- that's
untethered. That means that you're probably going to
lose it. Judging by the fact that Fuji gives you a
spare cover with the camera, it seems that they also
Nothing to see on this side, aside
from the fact that part of the grip is metal on the
E550 versus plastic on the E500/510.
Here's the bottom of the E550, with
my trusty lens cap helping balance things. Here you'll
find a plastic tripod mount as well as the xD card
slot and battery compartment. Those last two are covered
by a fairly sturdy plastic door.
The tripod mount is located toward
the center of the camera. Do note that removing the
memory card is impossible while the camera is on a
Using the Fuji FinePix E550
Performance is where the E550 truly
shines. The camera starts up in just 1.2 seconds, which
is amazing for a camera with a lens that must extend.
to be found here
Autofocus speeds were good, with a
0.4 second delay in most cases before the camera locks
focus. Even at the telephoto end the camera focused
in under 0.8 seconds. The fun stops here, though, as
low light focusing was not good. Here's why AF-assist
lamps are needed on all cameras! In addition, the LCD
is too dark to see in dim light conditions.
Shutter lag was not an issue, even
at slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speed was excellent,
with a one second delay between photos at 6M or lower,
maybe 1.5 seconds at 12M, and 6 seconds in RAW mode.
By setting the post-shot review feature
to "preview", you can save or delete each
photo immediately after it is taken.
Now, let's take a look at the resolution
and quality choices available on this camera.
||Approx. file size
images on 16MB card
(4048 x 3040)
(2848 x 2136)
(2048 x 1536)
(1600 x 1200)
(640 x 480)
See why I recommended buying a larger
memory card back in the first section of the review?
There are two things I want to talk
about here: interpolation and RAW mode.
While the E550 has 6.3 million effective
pixels, the unique design of the SuperCCD HR sensor
require all images to be interpolated to 12 Megapixels.
If you chose one of the lower resolutions, the images
are then downsized to that resolution. Bottom line:
every picture you take is 12 Megapixels at one point
and that's a trait of the sensor. Whether the the native
resolution is 6M or 12M is up to you.
Along those lines, an image saved
in RAW format is that image data in the 12 Megapixel
state. It's as close to "original" as you'll
get on the E550. The catch is that you must process
the image later on your PC to get in into a more usable
format like TIFF or JPEG. The benefits of RAW are clear,
though: you can edit things like color and white balance
without reducing the quality of the image.
The camera names files as DSCF####.JPG,
where # = 0001 - 9999. The camera maintains the numbering
even if you erase the memory card.
The FinePix E550 has a nice looking,
easy-to-use menu system. Here's a look at what you'll
find in the record menu, keeping in mind that many
of these options are not available in auto mode:
- Self-timer (on/off)
- White balance (Auto, custom, sunlight,
shade, daylight fluorescent, warm white fluorescent,
cool white fluorescent, incandescent)
- Focusing (AF center, AF multi,
AF area, continuous AF, manual) - see below
- Photometry [metering] (Multi, spot,
- Continuous shooting (Off, top 4,
bracketing, final 4) - see below
- Option (Setup menu, LCD brightness)
- Bracketing (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1.0EV)
- Sharpness (Soft, normal, hard)
- Flash brightness (-2/3EV to +2/3EV,
There are a few things worth mentioning
here. First off, the E550 has a custom white balance
option, unlike the E500/510. This lets you use a white
or gray card for perfect color in any light.
There are several more focus modes
on the E550 than the E510. AF center always focuses
on the center of the frame, while AF multi will pick
an area of the frame automatically. AF area lets you
choose one of 49 focus points by using the four-way
controller. The continuous AF feature will make the
camera focus constantly, even without the shutter release
button pressed. This can reduce focus times but will
put an extra strain on your battery.
In manual focus mode, you use the
zoom controller (while holding the exposure compensation
button down) to set the exact focus distance. This
feature could be a lot better: there's no indication
on the LCD of the current distance, nor is there the
useful center-frame enlargement feature found on other
There are three types of continuous
shooting on the E550. The top 4 mode will take up to
4 shots in a row at 3.3 frames/second. The final 4
mode will keep shooting at 3.3 fps for up to 40 pictures
and it will save the last four pictures taken before
you released the shutter release button.
The auto bracketing feature takes
three shots in a row, each with a different exposure.
You can set the EV interval in the record menu. If
you've got the space on your memory card, this is great
way to always ensure proper exposure.
There's also a setup menu, of course,
which is accessed from the record or playback menu.
The items here include:
- Image display (on/off/preview)
- post-shot review; the preview option will let you
save or delete each photo after it is taken
- Power save (Off, 2, 5 min)
- Format card
- LCD (on/off) - whether LCD is on
- Beep (Off, 1-3) - camera operation
- Shutter (Off, 1-3) - fake shutter
- Date/time (set)
- Time difference (set) - for setting
a different time when you're on the road
- Frame number (Continuous, renew)
- USB mode (DSC, web, PictBridge)
- the second option lets you use the E550 as a webcam
for videoconferencing (Windows only)
- CCD-RAW (on/off) - turns RAW mode
on; why this is buried here is beyond me
- Start image (on/off) - startup
- Language (Japanese, English, French,
German, Spanish, Chinese)
- Video system (NTSC, PAL)
- Discharge - discharges rechargeable
- Reset - settings to defaults
Well enough about menus, let's do
photo tests now. All images were taken at the 6M setting!
The E550 did a fine job with our macro
test subject. Mickey's colors are accurate, and the
whole image is very "smooth".
Macro mode on the E550 isn't as nice
as on the E500 and E510. Here you can get 7.5 cm from
your subject, versus 2.5 cm on the other two models.
My night shot experiences mirrored
those that I had with the E510. Framing pictures is
hard when you can't see the LCD and the camera just
did not like to focus on the city skyline. At least
there's manual focus, but it's still hard to see if
the buildings are in focus. The other issue is that
the 3 second shutter speed limit just isn't long enough
for a proper exposure for this shot. Don't let that
discourage you too much, though, as this
photo proves that the camera is capable of nice
night shots even with that 3 sec limit.
The above photo is (besides being
underexposed and a little crooked) is just okay. It
seems to be softer on the left side than on the right
-- something I've seen before but can't explain. Noise
levels are average, and I didn't see any purple fringing
(which is interesting, since the camera has a fair
amount of it in normal daylight shooting).
Now, using that same shot, let's see
how the camera performs at higher ISO sensitivities:
As you can see, noise increases steadily,
especially at ISO 400 and above. The ISO 800 option
is a rare one, and you can thank the SuperCCD sensor
for it. The catch is that the resolution is limited
to 3M at that setting.
As was the case with the E510, there's
a bit of redeye on the E550. While your results may
vary, I think it's a safe bet that you'll see it at
Barrel distortion levels on the E550
are mild, and not as noticeable as the E510 (which
has a wider lens). I don't see any vignetting here.
Image quality on the E550 is good,
presuming you choose the right resolution. Images taken
at the 12M setting are noisy, soft and overall quite
unappealing. Therefore, unless you're making large
prints (larger than 8 x 10), I would shoot everything
at the 6M setting, and there are three ways to do that:
- Shoot at RAW, convert to TIFF,
downsize to 6M, save as JPEG
- Shoot at 12M/Fine, downsize to
- Shoot at 6M
Obviously the last option on the list
is the easiest, but it won't necessarily result in
the best photo quality. Since Fuji really cranks up
the JPEG compression in 6M mode, the best option (in
terms of photo quality) is to shoot at 12M/Fine and
then downsize. The difference isn't huge, but you'll
get fewer JPEG artifacts than shooting in 6M mode.
I would steer clear of RAW mode because there's no
real increase in photo quality for the amount of time
you'll spend post-processing the files.
In fact, shooting in RAW seemed worse
than 12M, as these crops illustrate:
See those horizontal lines? They're
quite a bit worse in RAW mode than in 12M mode (and
they shouldn't be there in the first place). While
I didn't see any lines in the same shot taken at 6M,
I did spy them in another
photo (look carefully at the statues on the right
side). Bottom line: if you don't mind the work, shoot
at 12M/Fine and downsize to 6M. If you're lazy like
me, just shoot at 6M and forget about resizing. Either
way, the photo quality will be very good.
Other photo quality issues worth mentioning:
color and exposure were both good. Noise levels were
about average. One thing that was worse than average
was purple fringing: all of the E-series cameras have
more of this than I'd like to see.
That was a lot of rambling... and
I can understand if you're confused. So here's what
I'd suggest: view our photo
gallery, print the photos if you'd like, and then
decide of the E550's photo quality meets your expectations.
Unlike the other two E-series cameras,
the E550 has an awesome movie mode that competes with
the best of them. You can record video at 640 x 480
(30 frames/second) with sound until the memory card
is full. Unfortunately the included 16MB card holds
18 seconds of video, so you'll want a large xD card
if you're serious about video (a 512MB card holds about
10 minutes worth).
A lower resolution option is also
available: 320 x 240 at 30 frames/second.
As is usually the case, you cannot
use the zoom lens during filming.
Movies are saved in AVI format, using
the M-JPEG codec.
Here's an exciting sample movie for
to play movie (10.9MB, 640 x 480, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Playback mode on the E550 is typical
of those on other cameras. Basic features are here,
including slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection,
thumbnail mode, voice annotations (30 seconds worth),
and zoom and scroll. The camera is PictBridge-enabled
for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.
The zoom and scroll feature lets you
enlarge your image by up to 21.1X (wow!), depending
on the resolution of the photo, and then move around
in the zoomed-in area. Once you're zoomed in, you can
use the trim feature to crop your images right on the
By default the E550 doesn't tell you
much about your photos. But press the exposure compensation
button and you'll get plenty of info, including a histogram.
The camera moves between photos without
delay -- it really is instant. Nice.
How Does it Compare?
As long as you stick with the 6 Megapixel
resolution, the Fuji FinePix E550 is a good choice
for those who want a very responsive camera
with good photo quality and manual controls. The resolution
issue is an important one, as the E550 uses the unique
SuperCCD HR sensor. While it can produce images with
12 million pixels, you'll get the best results by shooting
at the 6M mode, or even better, by downsizing from
the 12M/Fine mode. A RAW mode is available, but the
quality wasn't noticeably better than 12M/Fine (in
fact, it may be worse) and the post-processing is time
consuming (especially with the lousy RAW converter
that's included). At the 6M size, images are colorful
and sharp, though purple fringing levels are above
average. The E550 also has an excellent movie mode,
with unlimited recording at 640 x 480, 30 frames/second.
Performance is where the E550 really
shines. It starts up quickly, has brief focus and shutter
lag delays, and shot-to-shot speeds are fast. Browsing
images in playback mode is quite snappy as well. The
camera has a nice 4X zoom lens, and if the 32.5 - 130
mm range doesn't do it for you, wide and telephoto
conversion lenses are available. The E550 has a full
suite of manual controls, ranging from shutter speed
to focus to white balance. Unfortunately, the focus
and shutter speed options are what I'd call "crippled".
There's no indication of the current focus distance
while using manual focus, and the useful center-frame
enlargement feature is missing. While I love having
full control over the shutter speed, the 3 sec limitation
on the slow end puzzles me.
While I always like a large LCD display,
the one on the E550 doesn't perform well in bright
outdoor light and, more importantly, in low light.
And in those low light situations the camera has great
difficulty focusing. Image quality at the RAW and 12M
settings isn't great -- soft and noisy -- and I saw
some strange horizontal lines in a couple of my test
photos. (That's why I recommend using the 6M setting.)
Lastly, the inclusion of a tiny 16MB xD card is ridiculous.
I'm not entirely thrilled with the
E550, but if you plan on taking shots in good light
and understand that this is not a 12 Megapixel camera,
then I'd recommend it. There are better choices out
there if you do a lot of low light / long exposure
What I liked:
- Good value for a 4X zoom, 6MP camera
- Incredibly fast performance
- Very good photo quality at the
- Quite a few manual controls
- Larger-than-average 2" LCD
- Excellent movie mode
- Supports add-on lenses
- Very easy to use
- Can be used as a webcam (Windows
What I didn't care for:
- Images noisy and soft at the 12M
- No image compression options at lower resolutions
- Strange horizontal lines in a few
photos (esp. in RAW mode)
- LCD becomes useless in dim light
- Poor low light focusing / no AF-assist
- Slowest shutter speed is 3 seconds
- Some redeye and purple fringing
- RAW image
converter leaves much to be desired (how about
a RAW->JPEG option?)
- Included 16MB xD card is way too
Some other high resolution cameras
that won't break the bank include the Canon PowerShot A95 (5MP)
and S70 (7MP), Casio
Exilim EX-P600 (6MP), Kodak
EasyShare DX7630 (6MP), Olympus
C-60Z (6MP), Pentax
Optio 750Z (7MP), and the Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-P150. This is my "short list" --
check out the Reviews & Info
section for more cameras.
For a unique twist on the E550, check
out the Fuji
FinePix F810, which has the same sensor and lens
but offers a 16:9 ratio LCD display and widescreen
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the FinePix E550
and it's competitors before you buy!
Want to see some pictures? Check out
the photo gallery!
Want another opinion?
Read another review over at Steve's
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this
review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me
asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other
DCRP readers, please visit our forums.