Fuji Finepix F550 EXR, a very handy travel camera!

As I said in my previous post, I have been looking for a compact point and shoot camera as a backup to my HS10, and the start of 2011 saw many new models that would fit the bill very nicely!
Only a year and a half ago I was carrying my trusty Minolta A200, a bridge camera with 8mp, 7x zoom, 1.8inch LCD, 800x600 @ 15fps video and 2.3fps continuous shooting mode.

(Again I must apologize for the long post and loading times, supposed to be broken up into 3 pages, but for some reason the new Blogger wont let me! any tips would be most greatfull?)



The jump up to the HS10 was a welcome change, my wish list not quite fully filled, but it was well on its way!
Now we have a choice of models from most of the top names for an even smaller P&S cam with 15-16mp, 14-16x lenses, 3" LCD's, full HD video and 8-11fps continuous, plus lots of little extras like Panorama, slow-mo movie modes and GPS (something  I've been looking forward to having on a camera for ages!)

I had been following the dpreview forums and various other website info about these exciting new cameras, waiting patiently for them to firstly become available, then for buyers to post their findings, the results were mixed to say the least, as with any new cams, a certain learning curve is required to get to know each cameras quirks.
Eventually, the "love-hate" debates ensued, some finding faults, minor and major, and some loving their new gadgets. Firmware updates cured a few minor problems, and gradually my personal favorite emerged, but I was still a little unsure!

My time with the Fujifilm HS10 since its launch has made me a fan of Fuji bridge cams, so the announcement this year of the new and improved HS20EXR got me instantly interested. There is no doubt that picture quality has improved from some of the pictures I've seen, the new EXR sensor when used sensibly really shines with the 30x lens, but the omission of a bigger and brighter EVF (viewfinder) and GPS, made my decision to wait for maybe the HS30, so much easier!
The same sensor is used in the Fujifilm F550, and although I'm not a dedicated Fuji fan, this little beauty had caught my eye!





  • 3.0 inch rear LCD with 460,000 pixel
  • 16 megapixel EXR CMOS sensor
  • Fujinon 15x Optical zoom lens covering 24-360mm (35mm equivalent)
  • New Rich User Interface using Vector fonts and graphics
  • Full resolution high speed shooting at 8fps
  • Full HD movie capture (H.264 MOV file format)
  • Self timer Approx. 10 sec./ 2 sec. delay
  • Advanced 27 scene mode EXR Auto
  • Sensor-shift Image stabilization
  • White Balancing
  • SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-I) memory card Storage
  • Film simulation modes
  • 360° Motion Panorama mode
  • Photobook Assist function
  • GPS functionality enabled
  • RAW shooting
  • Advanced Anti-blur technologies
  • 1600% wide dynamic range
  • White balance settings


Point and shoot cameras are one of those handy breeds that you can put in any pocket, so generally are the most used as it just happens to be the one you have with you!
As a backup travel cam, it will come into it's own on those evenings when taking the larger bridge/dSLR is not an option, for practical and safety reasons.




I've had a few outings with the F550exr now, a day in London which included a trip to the Chelsea Flower Show, and a 10 day holiday to Portugal, where I was unfortunately laid up with a bad back for the most part, but managed to venture out a few days to take in some of the wonderful sights.


Once you learn a few tricks with this little Fuji, like using the "Macro" function with the zoom lens to aid in better close to mid range performance for flowers and the like, and the +/- EV button (basic stuff with any camera, I know!) it really helps to make your photos pop!


My main camera settings are as follows;


Mode = P (most of the time)
ISO = Auto 800, sometimes Auto 3200 when indoors.
Image Size = M 4:3 (that's 8mp, not the full 16mp)
IQ = F
D-Rng = Auto
Film Simulation = Velvia/Vivid (adds a little more colour)
WB = Auto
Continuous = Off
Adv Anti Blur = Off
Face Detection = Off
Photometry = Multi, sometimes Spot
AF mode = Center


Of course, these are only guideline settings that I have used so far, they could and probably will change the longer I use this cam, but for now, they are working quite well for me!




After handling the likes of the HS10, the F550 is very small in comparison, so I recommend using the included short wrist strap at all times,  just in case!


There are not as many accessories for compacts like there are for bridge/dSLR's, but I did come across a couple, the Joby Gorillapod, which everyone has heard of, and a very handy little number, recommended by a fellow dpreview member, the Flipbac 


  


This simple device is just a double hinged mirror that fits around the LCD screen on your camera, it protects the screen when not in use, fold it down out of the way when not needed, and soon comes into it's own when trying to take pictures in awkward positions.


It takes a little getting used to, as you see an inverted image in landscape or portrait view, but it is much better than laying in the dirt for close up macros of plants or for a different perspective.




Photo on camera for demonstration purposes only (but was taken with the F550) 




Below are a few I took at Paul Simon's concert in Birmingham in June. I was sat in the furthest block from the stage (about 80m) but fortunately had a short wall and railing right in front of my seat.
Leaning forward and resting the camera on the wall, and looking down into the Flipbac, I managed to get some quite impressive images considering the conditions!
Shooting indoors under changeable lighting conditions can give most dSLR's a run for their money, but the little Fuji managed amicably and is far less conspicuous.      




They wont win any awards, but please take into account that they were all taken at 15x plus digital zoom hand held but braced on the wall (didn't have the Gorillapod with me) the lighting conditions and of course, the moving artists! (apart from the first, which just shows the distance and handrail which sits on top of the wall!) 


  




iso800, f/5.3, 1/20 sec, 66mm + lots of digital zoom

iso640, f/5.3, 1/60 sec, 66mm + digital zoom!

iso800, f/5.3, 1/28 sec, 66mm + digital zoom

iso800, f/5.3, 1/20 sec, 66mm + digital zoom

What a privilege it was to see and hear this icon!




Having gone through the steep learning curve with the HS10 over the last year, I had become accustomed to Fuji's menus and idiosyncrasies, so it was a lot faster to acclimatize to the F550, all be it in a much smaller package.
Handling, is to be expected for a P&S, right hand has a fairly good grip with a ridged rubber pad on the front, and contoured back below the mode dial with 6 small protruding rubber dots which act more for thumb placement rather than grip.
The slanted mode dial is easy to use, a little too easy at times, as I have accidentally moved it without knowing on occasion. ("firmer more positive dial in the next one please Fuji?")



Everything else is in an easily learned configuration, except the video button, it's not a bad location on what is a rather cramped back, it's just a little difficult to operate one handed, especially if you have long fingers like I do!
This is purely a personal thing, you might love it of course!

The "F" button handily places most manual settings in one easily reached place, ISO, Image Size, Continuous, Advanced Anti Blur (EXR only) and Film Simulation (Velvia, Astia, B&W and Sepia)
Macro, Flash, Timer and EV +/- adjustment have direct access through the circular "Selector Button" (SB) I have learnt that the F550 does need certain adjustments in the area of "Exposure Compensation", something that can be preset in the menus if you wish, but I prefer to do it as and when needed with the SB, be careful though, as once used, it will stay on that setting until you return it to +/- 0, even if the camera is turned off and on again!

Here is a sample from a day in London followed by a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show, I had only had the camera a couple of weeks and took my HS10 along for the ride, but it didn't see daylight, I was having so much fun with the F550!

All handheld and jpeg only.

iso200, f/3.7, 1/640 sec, 5mm +1.3 EV


iso200, f/10, 1/680 sec, 17mm


iso200, f/10, 1/640 sec, 4mm


P mode, iso200, f/4.9, 1/850 sec, 14mm.....

iso200, f/5.9, 1/420 sec, 29mm.....

iso200, f/11, 1/320 sec, 66mm (full 15x zoom)


iso200, f/11, 1/450 sec. 66mm + some digital zoom.....

iso200, f/5.3 (?), 1/550 sec, 66mm + full digital zoom, camera says that equates to 62x?

I know that most frown upon digital zoom, but for a consumer P&S travel camera, it can be highly effective when used sensibly and has a similar output to cropping in PP!
Good light is essential of course, as is a steady hand, better still, use a tripod or Joby Gorillapod with the 2 sec timer.


I was at the Chelsea Flower Show this year because I had been working on part of a show garden designed by Nigel Dunnett for the RBC New Wild Garden. 
It was a huge team effort, myself and fellow workers had to build a home office/studio out of an old shipping container, complete with habitat walls and a living roof, it was only a small part of the garden as a whole, but one of the main features. 
For more details visit greenroofshelters.co.uk

iso100, f/3.5, 1/280 sec, 4mm

iso200, f/3.5, 1/220 sec, 4mm

iso200, f/4.4, 1/250 sec, 10mm
More habitat walls on another show garden!
Notice the film crew at the bottom of picture, I didn't until the pics were on my laptop!

iso3200, f/5.3, 1/60 sec, 19mm
This and the following shots were taken inside the main pavilion which has no artificial light,
 just diffused sunlight from the sail like roof. 
No flash used, just a higher ISO (Auto 3200) and individual EV adjustment!
All handheld.

iso1250, f/5.7, 1/60 sec, 25mm, -0.7 EV
Pitcher plants, amazing things and one of my favorites!

iso1250, f/5.4, 1/60 sec, 20mm +macro and +0.3 EV

iso1000, f/5.5, 1/60 sec, 22mm

iso160, f/5.9, 1/60 sec, 58mm + macro.....plus a little sunlight!

iso400, f/5.3, 1/60 sec, 66mm + Macro and +1 EV 

iso400, f/4.4, 1/52 sec, 10mm, 
and no, I didn't suddenly visit Africa, 
this is a flower display with a cool backdrop!




As some of you may know if you've visited my site before, I am an avid nature photographer, and since purchasing the F550 I have snapped more than my fair share of critters.
Now, I know that other cameras are better suited to the task, my HS10 has done sterling work, but most of the time I don't have it with me, the F550 on the other hand sits in a pouch on my belt wherever I go, so if something is kind enough to show itself, then I have at least a chance of getting a shot!
Admittedly, it is not easy capturing anything too small and at range, but at least something is better than nothing! 


Female Emperor Dragonfly laying eggs.
iso100, f/5.3, 1/150 sec, 66mm (15x) + Macro

iso100, f/5.3, 1/240 sec, 66m + Macro and -0.3 EV


A Stag Beetle, was kind enough to fly over when enjoying dinner in a friends garden!
.....yes, they fly!!


iso200, f/4.4, 1/52 sec, 10mm + Macro

This Swallow chick fell out of it's collapsed nest in a friends stable while I was working, a ladder, small piece of wood and a couple of screws later, it was returned along with it's 4 siblings, much to the delight of the parents, who now had 5 hungry mouths to feed again!

Rose Chafer beetle, iso100, f/4.7, 1/500 sec, 11mm + Macro + heavy crop

Ringlet butterfly, iso100, f/4.8, 1/60 sec, 12mm + Macro and +0,3 EV 

Swallow, iso100, f/5.3, 1/200 sec, 66mm + heavy crop

Gecko, iso800, f/6.2, 1/60 sec, 44mm + Macro, flash and crop.

iso100, f/6.1, 1/300 sec, 50mm and -0.3 EV



The F550 is a prime candidate to cover most peoples criteria for a travel camera, so I took it to Portugal for 10 days to put it through it's paces!
More on that when I have some time, but for now, I hope you've enjoyed it so far?

Any constructive comments are most welcome, and please feel free to subscribe so as not to miss the next installment.

Happy travelling/snapping :-)


Fujifilm FinePix F550exr at Amazon UK

Fuji F550exr at Warehouseexpress

F550exr at PaurelyGadgets
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F550exr at Jessops UK


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20 comments:

GTChristie said...

Very nice shots. I can see some fringing here and there but it doesn't detract much from the shots and since F550 shoots RAW, that can be mitigated. Optical + digital zoom I was surprised how great that looks. I have been comparing specs on similar cameras, and keep coming back to this one. It's a sweetie! How's the battery life?

David Harper said...

Hi GT,
Thanks for your comments, much appreciated!
The battery life is fine, now, had a little scare early on before the latest firmware update, but I think I left one of the GPS modes on, that put paid to the battery overnight!!
Since then (and GPS only on when needed) it's been great, have bought a couple of cheap after market ones which don't last quite as long, but always handy to have just in case.
So far the original battery fully charged has lasted me all day, even at the Chelsea Flower show where I went crazy taking pics!
Optical + Digital is way better than I expected too, especially as I shoot jpg only, a bonus! :-)

Boo's Jewellery said...

I love some of the angles you take things from, I like seeing low angles and different perspectives. My favourite is the dragonfly, I love the silveriness of the water. Looks like a great general purpose keep-with-you camera which covers most eventualities - I still use my old F11 for that.

David Harper said...

Hey Boo, nice to see you here!
I never really thought about it before, I guess I do have a "style" of taking photos, it's just what I see as pleasing to my eye!!
Yes, it is great for that, but so would any small compact, the main thing is to have one with you at all times just in case, and with the F550, it is fairly competent at covering most (not all!) situations!

Dave Roberts said...

Very fair and balanced review with some fine pics. The Paul Simon concert shots were remarkable given that it is a 300buck camera. I'm pleased to see that you got the FlipBaC, well worth the money.
Deewun from DPReview

David Harper said...

Many thanks Dave, yes, it is a great cam for the money if you put a little effort into it, and the FlipBac is a very handy piece of kit, even if when using it, it reminds me a little of my very first camera, a Box Brownie!! :-)

Dave Roberts said...

Don't laugh, my first camera was an Agfa box with the little viewfinder built in. My uncle had obtained it by cashing in coupons from cigarette packets prior to WWII. I used it with Gratispool film, which was paper negative marketed by a couple of guys using ex-RAF paper film stock.
This little box set me off on portraiture when I took this shot of my dear old grandad:http://www.pbase.com/deewun/image/24700973. Great blog David!

David Harper said...

What an amazing picture Dave, even without knowing the history (or sentiment) and using the most basic of tools, you have managed to capture a simply splendid moment from a bygone era, and that expression is priceless!
Thanks for sharing! ;-)

Andrejus said...

Read your review on F550. Sounds promising and gives some inspiration to continue exploring :)I can not believe those pictures are done with F550 and without any additional processing!
I have got mine the F550 for few days and still working on finding settings which would result in picture quality close to your photos. Will try to use your settings to play.
My F550 produce quite average quality photos in EXR and Point-and-Shoot mode in a daylight.
Battery life does not hold for 300 photos as claimed by producer. I will need a spare battery to live through the day. And this is without GPS enabled. Maybe firmware is not the latest one. I have v.1.10

David Harper said...

Hi Andrejus, thanks for commenting!
The F550 is a curious beast for sure, with so many modes and settings available, it can be a bit daunting, but with a little patients and practice you will soon make it shine!
EXR is handy to have, but personally, my images are not that great when I use it, or at the full 16mp size, so tend to stick to P mode, and the 8mp image size.
I assure you all these pics are from my F550 with little or no PP, so maybe the latest firmware update (1.13) helps, try it out from here; www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/firmware/f/finepix_f550exr/fupd.html
Always a good idea to have a spare battery, I have two cheaper versions that don't last as long as the supplied one, but good enough when I need to use the GPS.
Good luck with your new cam!

Anonymous said...

TY I wish I could understand all the tech stuff but from what I do understand I am going to return Fuji HC20 to QVC and buy the Finepix F550 EXR. The Fuji HC20 is a great Bridge camera but is far to heavy and bulky. Thank you again.

David Harper said...

Dear Anonymous, the HS20 is a great camera and would be my preferred travel cam if only the viewfinder was better, yes, there is a lot to learn to get the best out of it, but the same is almost true of the F550exr, only in a much smaller package!
I wish you happy snapping whichever cam you choose!

Chris Pattison said...

Hi David. Thanks for dropping by my site and leaving some comments on my review of the F550 EXR. Your excellent images clearly demonstrate what an excellent and versatile little camera it is. Cheers! Chris

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your detailed and enthusiastic review of the F550. I have ordered one but haven't received it yet. I want to use it for taking action shots of squash matches (indoor, fast movement). I know nothing of photography but have started to do some reading as it seems that I may not be able to use the automatic settings of the camera. Do you think this small camera will be able to perform this function for me? Can you recommend any settings that would help me get started? I have been considering the HS20 if this one isn't good enough however, I really wanted the smaller size.
Thanks in advance!
Shara

David Harper said...

Hi Shara,
Thanks for your comments. I have not tried to capture fast moving indoor shots yet, and feel the F550 might struggle with it's small sensor, that's not to say that you will not get any good results, especially if you set the camera to "Sport" mode and ISO at "Auto 1600", or go completely "Manual", even then I think the lens might not be fast enough!
The HS20 uses the same sensor, so if the F550 doesn't work as expected, it might be worth looking at the new Fuji X10 or similar, which does has a fast lens and larger sensor!
Whatever you choose (eventually) I wish you the very best in your new hobby!
Happy snapping!
David

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot David! I will test my F550 when it arrives and consider the X10 if necessary!
Maybe some day I will take as beautiful pictures as yours!
Shara

David Harper said...

Shara, you will for sure, trust me! ;-)

Andreas Ulman said...

Hi David,
just by googling around to find some information about the fujifilm f600 or f550 I landed on the site of Chris Pattison. And so I found your very interesting and detailed review of your fuji.
Like you I`m using a HS-10, wich sometimes seems a little too big and too heavy. On the other hand this cam replaced my whole Minolta SLR-Equipment.
But now I`m looking for an additional, smaller everyday-everywhere-cam, making even good pictures.
After looking at your really nice pics I`m quite sure that the decision to buy a fuji f600 will be ok.
So I`ll order one at amazon next week.
240,- Euros, seems to be a good offer.
Thanks for the information . . . Andreas
http://fc-foto.de/26870052

P.S. I hope, as a German, my english is ok;
I don`t practice it very often.

Anonymous said...

Nov 13, 2013

May I know
1) how to find out the firmware version number on this F550EXR?
2) what is the most-recent firmware version number for F550EXR?
3) how to embed GPS data (place name) as well as the date-stamp in the photo as they are taken on this F550EXR?

Thanks in advance for your help

David Harper said...

Hi Anonymous,
You can find out the latest firmware version (Ver.1.13) of the F550 EXR here; www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/firmware/f/finepix_f550exr/index.html
Would love to help you out with your other question, but unfortunately my F550 is no longer working, there should be details in the manual though, and if you can't find an answer there, maybe someone on one of the forums like DPreview can help.
As an afterthought, if it isn't possible to embed a place name automatically with the GPS data, and if you really want it added on certain photos, then you can always add it manually during post production (editing) in "properties", not the same I know, but might be the only way!
Regards,
Dave

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