Camera

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR: COMEX 2011 Offer

Sometimes, great offers come to you without even looking.

This morning, on the back cover page of TODAY, I saw the Fujifilm advertisement promoting their digicam offers. What caught my eye was the trade-in offer for F500EXR and F550EXR (after trade-in price of S$349 and S$399 respectively). It so happens that I have a 4-year old F31fd, still working perfectly, albeit old sensor technology.

The F31fd is a legend, its start-up, high ISO, and shot-to-shot performance are benchmarks for my digicam reviews over the past years. Alas, time has caught up, the battery isn’t doing quite well, and the features, miserly.

So, I originally intended to make my way to COMEX at Suntec to buy it, but then I read a fine-print that this offer is valid at all authorised dealers. So I called MS Color to ask if they have the same offer, and they replied that instead of 16GB SD card offered at COMEX, they will give 8GB instead. Weighing the cons of traveling all the way down to Suntec and having to hustle through the crowds, I decided to just get it from MS Color.

When I arrived there, the shop staff recognised me as a regular, and so without further bargaining, he offered me at $330 with free LCD protective cover. How can I refuse! I left the shop a happy man (and farewell, F31fd!)

Here’s a look at the F550EXR specs:

  • 16 mega-pixel CMOS sensor
  • 15x zoom covering 24-360mm f3.5-5.3
  • Full HD 1920×1080 movie recording
  • Fujifilm’s EXR image processing algorithm, like High Resolution (HR) mode, Dynamic Range (DR) mode, promising better low-light images and dynamic range.
  • 460,000-pixel LCD screen that displays sharp images
  • 8 fps in 16mp, or 11fps in 8mp resolution

If you are on a budget, you can consider the F500EXR at SRP $50 cheaper. Only the following functions are absent compared to the F550EXR:

  • RAW file capture
  • GPS – the first Fujifilm compact camera
  • Anti-blur function

The F550EXR is actually an old model announced in Jan 2011, now superceded by F600EXR announced in August 2011. However, the design is identical and the features mostly unchanged, but with some minor enhancements to keep up with the competition.

Good impression points on the F550EXR:
The design of the camera is impressive, from the rubber grip to the red lining around the lens to the placement of the mode dial, the F550EXR is just curvy all around.

Shooting Modes. Apart from the usual PASM, Scene (SP), and Auto modes, the F550EXR comes with the EXR mode and the “Adv.” (advanced) mode. The EXR mode lets you shoot using the EXR features to boost image quality. The “Adv.” mode has 3 shooting effects: the Motion Panorama 360, the Pro Focus and Pro Low-Light. The Motion Panorama 360 mode lets you shoot panorama by sweeping your camera in one shutter press. The Pro Focus mode processes the image to blur the background more and create a better depth of field effect. The Pro Low-Light mode captures the scene in high ISO over 4 frames and combines into one image to reduce noise.

Continuous Shooting Options. Unlike conventional continuous burst modes, the F550EXR has 2 modes to capture your desired burst shooting.

First
is “Top n”, where n refers to the maximum number of frames you want to
burst. Once you lift off the shutter button, the camera will stop
capture. You can also choose the shooting speed, between 3 to 11 fps.
But note that the camera will automatically reduce the image resolution
size depending on the maximum number of frames and fps in order to
process all the required images.

Second type of continuous mode
is “Best Frame Capture”. In this mode, the camera starts to capture x
images once you half-press the shutter, and y images after you press the
shutter. The number of frame before and after can be configured before
you shoot. Again, like the first mode, the number of frames and the fps
you choose will restrict the image resolution size captured by the
camera.


Video capture modes. You can capture video in various frame rates – from the standard 30fps to 80fps (640×480), 160fps (320×240) and even 320fps (320×112). Audio is recorded in stereo.

Silent Mode. By holding the “DISP” button, the camera goes into stealth mode, disabling flash, sound, and self timer lamp.

What I dislike:

  • The front lens cover is huge and can be easily brushed when you do not handle with care.
  • Aperture steps are too wide apart, yet shutter can be adjusted in 0.3 steps.
  • Flash pops-up automatically everytime the camera is on, not on-demand. If you push it down during the operation, you will not be able to activate the flash until you switch off and on back again need to manually pop-up the flash with your fingernails (as documented in the operation manual). This is the most undesirable thing about the F550EXR, and almost made me walk away from the deal. But I decide to accept this characteristics and see where it brings me to.
  • Exposure compensation is only within 2 stops.
  • Movie mode unable to do manual exposure override. Focus keeps shifting during movie mode as the camera hunts for focus “randomly” – there is no option to select AF area mode.
  • The “F”-mode button pulls out only a few menu items, and you have to go to the main menu to search for the rest of the functions. Interestingly, the “RAW” file option is located under “Setup” menu tab rather than “Shooting” menu tab.
  • Battery size 900mAh, so it does not last very long. An extra battery is recommended for heavy full-day usage.
  • Image quality is no different from most compact cameras. This camera exhibits the same kind of “muddy” look when viewed 100%. If blown-up details matter a lot to you, it’s time to move on to larger sensor cameras like micro four-thirds or APS-C.
For a limited time, free hard casing with every purchase.

This is one of the moments that I write a review blog within 24 hours of experiencing the subject matter (in fact, I broke my own record of blogging this within 6 hours!). Admittedly, the F550EXR is not a camera with outstanding image quality or functions, and if price was not a factor, I would not think of purchasing it. But like I mentioned in my opening paragraph, the timing is just so right and the price-value is simply astonishing. This is a lightweight ultra-zoom camera good enough for general family use and for documenting your travels. It works for me thanks to its speedy AF and fast shot-to-shot response. Four years on since F31fd, I’m still with Fujifilm Finepix.

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