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Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR GPS Camera Review

Joshua Waller reviews the new Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR - a compact pocket or travel zoom with GPS.

| Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR in Digital Cameras

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR GPS Camera Review: Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

The Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR is the latest high-end compact zoom from Fujifilm, and features a 16 megapixel EXR CMOS sensor, 15x optical zoom lens, 3 inch screen, GPS, and RAW support.

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR GPS Camera Review: Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Features

The Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR sits at the top of the range in Fujifilm's lineup of pocket-zoom / travel-zoom cameras, and features a wide angle 15x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 24-360mm.

Another feature of the F550 is a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor for high speed shooting, and Fuji's unique EXR pixel arrangement to give three modes of operation: HR: High Resolution (uses all pixels to make a 16 megapixel images), SN: High Sensitivity for high ISO, low noise at 8 megapixels, and DR: for dynamic range improvements (upto 1600% now available), at 8 megapixels.

The F550 goes beyond what the F500 offers, by including manual controls and RAW support, and GPS support. If you don't need or want these features you can save some money by going for the Fujifilm FinePix F500 EXR instead. Both cameras are capable of recording Full HD video with optical zoom and stereo sound.

GPS options are: GPS On (permanently), On (when switched on), Off. Location info ON/OFF. GPS Tracking data on/off (creates a text document on the memory card with GPS information). GPS KM/Mile setting.

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR GPS Camera Review: Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

Key Features 
  • 16.0 megapixel back-lit EXR CMOS sensor
  • 15x optical zoom lens, f/3.5-5.3, 24-360mm in 35mm equivalent
  • 3inch screen, 460k pixels
  • Full HD video, 30fps, with stereo sound
  • High speed video 320/160/80fps
  • Scenes / Pro shooting mode / Pro Focus / Pro Low Light
  • 120/180/360 degrees motion panorama
  • Image stabilisation: Image-sensor shift type
  • ISO100 - ISO3200, ISO6400 at 8mp, ISO12800 at 4mp
  • 5cm Macro mode
  • Pop-up flash (automatic, electronic)
  • RAW+JPEG mode, Manual controls

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR GPS Camera Review: Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Handling

Despite being quite a compact camera, it features a rubber front grip, along with clever design touches such as the bumped edge on the left hand side of the camera to aid grip when holding the camera steady with two hands. There is also another rubber grip on the back of the camera, although they are simply rubber spots where your thumb rests. This design gives good grip generally, although a tripod may still be necessary when using the full optical zoom.

On the back is an easy to use slanted mode dial, and a number of buttons on the back provide quick access to the main modes, including playback, and video mode. The video button is quite large, however it felt a little spongy which meant I occasionally wondered whether the camera had started recording.

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR GPS Camera Review: Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

The F550 is really quite compact for a camera with such a large zoom, and it's just the lens that protrudes out of the camera when off, meaning it will easily fit into the more compact camera cases such as the Tamrac Neo 14 (possibly one of the smallest cases available for this camera) with a very snug fit.

The camera features a stylish metal body, with a metal tripod mount. The electronic pop up flash pops up every time you switch the camera on, but unlike other models where you can pop it back down, the F550 doesn't really like it when you do this, and it doesn't go down fully, even when flash is switched off.

Menus: The Fujifilm FinePix F550 menus are quite straightforward, with the main controls split into photo menus and setup menus. Another set of options can be changed by using the F button on the back of the camera, this gives quick access to: ISO, Image size, Continuous shooting, Location search (Permanently On, When switched on, and Off), Advanced anti blur, and film simulation. Although the availability of the options are dependant on the mode you are currently in. More advanced GPS options, IS mode selection, Red-eye removal, and RAW options are available in the Setup menu, including the option to save the original image - this works when using red-eye removal, pro focus, or pro low-light modes.

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR GPS Camera Review: Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR

Battery Life: The CIPA rating is 300 shots, although I suspect this is with GPS positioning switched off as the battery life seemed much lower when GPS was left switched on. The battery is a 1000mAh 3.6v battery (NP-50) and is rather small, which would explain the slightly disappointing battery life of only 190 shots.

Speed: We tested the Canon Powershot SX230 HS, and tested the camera with the Panasonic Lumix TZ20, Sony Cybershot HX9v and Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR, taking 6 shots and using the average to ensure consistent results.

Fujifilm F550EXR Panasonic TZ20 Canon SX230 Sony HX9
Shutter Response* <0.05 <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.20 0.25
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.20 0.25
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 3.7s
Shot to Shot (without flash) 2.4s 1.2s
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.5s 2.0s
Continuous Shooting
(full resolution)
(8 shots)
(14 shots)
2.5fps 10fps
(10 shots)
Continuous shooting (with flash) N/A N/A 1.2s N/A

The Fujifilm FinePix F550 has a good number of options for continuous shooting: No. of frames: 4, 8, 16, 32. 8fps full resolution (max 8 shots), 11fps at Medium (8mp), max 16 frames / or 32 frames at S (Small, 4mp). *when pre-focused.

The fast performance of the HX9v is rather impressive, with the quickest continuous shooting available, the quickest shot to shot time with or without flash, and a very quick switch on time (only beaten by the Canon Powershot SX230 HS). The camera also has the fastest focusing time, joint with the Fujifilm FinePix F550.

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Performance

Here are a number of photos taken with the camera to demonstrate the performance of the camera taken under various lighting situations. Click the image to view full size images.

Portrait with flash Street party (8mp)

Portrait with flash - little to no red-eye. Street photo taken in EXR Auto more - has used DR to extend dynamic range.

ISO and Noise Performance:

ISO100 200 400 800
1600 3200 6400 (RAW not available)  

Pincushion distortion is visible in these shots, when using the camera with 5x optical zoom.

Noise results at ISO100 are excellent, with low noise and smooth images. At ISO200 results are very good with low noise. ISO400 results are good with low noise, but noise becomes noticeable with some chroma noise (coloured splotches of noise) appearing. At ISO800 noise becomes more noticeable, with black dots appearing, but chroma noise is practically non-existent and noise is made out of black dots, rather than the usual RGB dots. At ISO1600, noise increases and chroma noise (yellows) starts appearing, with detail around edges being reduced. At ISO3200 noise increases again and appears quite high, with detail becoming even more blurred, with the noise starting to dominate the image. ISO6400 is only available at 8mp, and shows quite high noise, with low detail, but the results aren't much worse than ISO3200, most likely due to the smaller size image. Using ISO100-400 should be fine, with ISO800 and ISO1600 coming in useful at times, but I would say that if you want to use ISO3200 you would be better offer reducing the resolution to 8mp.

Wide-angle Mid-zoom
Full 15x optical zoom House sparrow - Full zoom

The optical zoom provides a very good zoom range for a compact camera, offering an ultra wide angle view starting at 24mm equivalent, zooming all the way to 360mm equivalent.

The Advanced option on the mode dial give you access to the panoramic, pro-focus, and pro-low-light modes. The Panoramic modes are: 360° Vertical 11520 x 1624 Horizontal 11520 x 1080, 180° Vertical 5760 x 1624 Horizontal 5760 x 1080, 120° Vertical 3840 x 1624 Horizontal 3840 x 1080.

Some more of the features are shown below, and the ability to save the original image is useful in case the features don't give you the results you were expecting.

Pro-focus original Pro-focus blurred background, 8mp
Pro night mode original Pro night mode, combined shots, 8mp

Above you can see the "advanced modes" pro focus mode (blurs background), pro low light mode (combines a number of shots for low / noise increased detail). Pro low light gives improved detail, and lower noise than the single shot and improves colours as well.

Plant 8mp Sunset

High speed shooting: shooting at 8mp, you can shoot at speeds up to 11 fps for upto 16 shots. Full resolution continuous shooting is available with shots being taken at 8fps. Image quality when using these high speed modes doesn't affect image quality negatively, apart from changing the image size when you increase the shooting speed.

Sunset-lens-flare Low-light colours 8mp

White Balance:

Auto white balance - Incandescent light Incandescent preset - Incandescent light
Auto white balance - Fluorescent light Fluorescent preset - Fluorescent light

Auto white balance under tungsten lights gives a warm / yellow cast to images, and using the preset gives a more accurate colour rendition. Auto white balance under fluorescent light is very good with very natural / accurate looking colours, and using the preset gives the image a magenta / pink cast. Under the majority of situations, indoors or outdoors auto white balance produces good results.

Macro Performance: 

Macro watch St Pancreas International station, clock

Macro focusing is possible with the subject 5cm away from the front of the lens, this produces good macro photos, as can be seen above.

Video Mode

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Full HD Sample Video.

The video quality is good and there are a large number of options, including high speed video with upto 320 frames per second (at reduced resolution), for examples have a look at our youtube channel. Full HD video struggled at times focusing at full optical zoom, more than I've seen on other compact pocket zooms.

Value for Money
The Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR offers very good value for money priced extremely competitively compared to the competition, undercutting the Sony Cybershot HX9v, Panasonic Lumix TZ20, Canon Powershot SX230 HS, although the Casio Exilim H20G is available for roughly the same price, it features a 10x optical zoom lens instead.

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Verdict

The Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR packs everything into a compact body, and does so at a significantly lower price than the competition. With a wide angle 15x optical zoom lens, a large 3inch screen, and built in GPS, the compact camera would make a great travel companion, especially as it's one of the smallest pocket zooms available with GPS. The use of an EXR CMOS sensor allows high speed shooting, high speed video, improved dynamic range, and low noise modes. Image quality is very good with pleasing colours, and impressive video quality.

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR GPS Camera Review:
The Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR packs everything into a compact body, and does so at a significantly lower price than the competition.
Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Pros:
Full HD video, stereo sound and high speed video
High speed 8fps continuous shooting for 8 shots
Quick performance (particularly at wide angle)
Huge amount of zoom in a pocket-able body
Dynamic range expansion, low noise modes
Built in vibration reduction
Excellent 3inch screen
Great value for money

Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Cons:
Some purple fringing
Some pincushion distortion
GPS lock can be slow


Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Specification

Price £229
Lens Fujinon 15x optical zoom lens, F3.5 (Wide) - F5.3 (Telephoto)
f=4.4 - 66mm, equivalent to 24-360mm on a 35mm camera
Resolution 16.0 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2-inch
Sensor type B.S.I CMOS EXR with primary color filter
Max. Image size 4608 x 3456
Aspect ratio L : (4:3) 4608 x 3456 / (3:2) 4608 x 3072 / (16:9) 4608 x 2592
Monitor 3inch, 460k dots, 100% view
Shutter speed (Auto mode) 1/4sec. to 1/2000sec., (All other modes) 8sec. to 1/2000sec.
Focusing system TTL contrast AF, AF assist illuminator available
Focusing modes Mode: Single AF / Continuous AF (EXR AUTO, Movie), AF frame Selection: Center, Multi, Tracking
Focus distance Wide : Approx. 45cm / 1.5ft. to infinity, Macro Wide: Approx. 5cm - 3.0m / 2.0in.- 9.8ft.
File types Still image: JPEG (Exif Ver 2.3)*3, RAW (RAF format), RAW+JPEG (Design rule for Camera File system compliant / DPOF-compatible), Movie: H.264 (MOV), Sound WAVE format, Stereo sound
ISO sensitivity ISO100 - 3200, ISO6400 at 8mp, ISO12800 at 4mp
Metering modes TTL 256-zones metering, Multi, Spot, Average
Exposure compensation -2.0EV - +2.0EV 1/3EV step, AE Bracketing : ±1 / 3EV,±2 / 3EV,±1EV
Continuous 8 frames (3 / 5 / 8 frames/sec.) full resolution, 11fps at 8 megapixels
Image stabilisation CMOS shift type image stabilizer
Movie mode Full HD 1920 x 1080, 30fps, stereo sound, optical zoom, High Speed Movie (80 / 160 / 320 fps.)
Media type Internal memory (Approx. 39MB), SD / SDHC / SDXC(UHS-I) memory card
Interface Video output: NTSC / PAL selectable with monaural sound, Digital interface: USB 2.0 High-Speed, HDMI output: HDMI Mini connector
Power Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NP-50
Box Contents Camera, Li-ion battery NP-50, Battery charger BC-45W, Hand strap, USB cable, A / V cable, CD-ROM, Owner's manual
Size 103.5(W) x 62.5(H) x 32.6(D) mm / 4.1(W) x 2.5(H) x 1.3(D) in. (Minimum depth : 22.9mm / 0.9in)
Weight Approx. 195g / 6.9oz. (excluding battery and memory card), Approx. 215g / 7.6oz. (including battery and memory card)

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Photographs taken using the Fujifilm FinePix F550 EXR

"Deadwood".Bridleway.GEYSER"Captive".Sherman.GANNEL GRAFFITI.Newquay Chalets.Mussels.TO INFINITY.Returning Home.SPIDEY.Seven Bridges

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bluedog69 Avatar
A useful review in trying to decide between the Sony HX9v and Fuji F550exr (I think I've now ruled out the Panasonic TZ20 on picture quality)

Perhaps the Fuji is going the same way?

Certainly agree about purple fringing (top left of your wide angle shot) and the very obvious distortion showing on your colour card shots.

It's interesting also to look at colour balance - especially on your outdoors 'full tele' shots which seem to have been shot within minutes of each other.
Nice blue sky on the Fuji - grey on Sony. What was it like on the day?
joshwa Avatar
It was very grey - the clouds were dark grey and the grey on the Sony shots are much more realistic. Not sure why they're showing blue on these pics. Also have a look at the TZ20 review - same pics taken with that camera too.
bluedog69 Avatar
Thanks for that joshwa - the Fuji looks increasingly disappointing to me.

I had great hopes for the exr sensor, but it doesn't seem to offer much 'extra'.

Your shots showing the effect of 'Pro Night Mode' are interesting too. Whilst this does clean up the image a bit I thought your similar shot with the HX9's twilight mode was much more pleasing. Did you shoot the same nightshot with the TZ20 by any chance?

I'll go ponder your TZ20 review now

budapestbill Avatar
More food for thought Joshwa, thanks for the review. I have a subjective view based on objective facts. Initially i bought a Fujifilm FinePix F30 (6 MP, 3x zoom) camera as a back-up to a Canon EOS 50E SLR, and was suprised by the results after a trip to Naples.

After much to-ing and fro-ing, I was glad to see Fuji had got it's act together, and purchased the Fujifilm Finepix F300 EXR.

I had my reservations, but the clincher's for me to upgrade to the F550EXR, is the bonus of the GPS, and the extra Megapixels - this also saves on the added expense of purchasing a Nikon GP1 GPS Unit (£199.00'ish) as opposed to a new F550EXR GPS (at around £229.00).

This is an ideal supplement and/or Reconnaissance camera, alongside my Nikon D700, and in my book, in it's class, there's nothing to touch it.

While I know that not everyone has, or can afford what is classed as a Pro format digital camera, whatever you own can only be enhanced by having such a good secondary piece of kit.

Just remember, whatever you decide to buy, these (point and shoot camera's, for want of a better word - because they do offer so much more nowadays) are nearly as effective, and in some instances surpass many mid-range digital SLR'S on the market. In my humble opinion, this is definitely one.

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