Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR Overview
(#6 in our 2011 Travel Zoom Shootout)
The Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR is based around a newly developed 16 megapixel EXR sensor, which for the first time is a CMOS design, rather than a Super CCD design. Fuji's description in the press materials suggests it uses a backside-illuminated design, with the wiring moved off the light-sensitive side of the chip, hence increasing the light gathering area available for each photodiode. Fuji's EXR image sensors feature a rearranged Color Filter Array, offering more effective pixel binning (for improved sensitivity at reduced resolution), plus the ability to read out half the pixels during exposure (for increased dynamic range). It isn't clear whether the new EXR-CMOS chip retains the same 45-degree octagonal pixel layout seen in Super CCD EXR ships, which allows somewhat increased resolution on the horizontal and vertical axes. The camera can automatically select the best mode of operation -- favoring the best resolution, dynamic range, or signal/noise ratio -- via its EXR Auto mode.
The Fuji F550 couples its sensor with a FUJINON-branded 15x optical zoom lens with actual focal lengths ranging from f/4.4 at wide angle to f/66.0 at telephoto, equating to the same range as a 35mm camera with a 24mm - 360mm lens, a generous wide angle to a powerful telephoto. Although it isn't branded as such on the barrel, the lens apparently includes Fuji's Super EBC coating to minimize ghosting and flare. Maximum aperture varies from f/3.5 to f/5.3 across the zoom range. Given the powerful telephoto reach, mechanical image stabilization is obviously a necessity to fight blur from camera shake, and the Fuji FinePix F550 includes sensor shift stabilization. Images and movies must be framed and reviewed either on a 3.0-inch LCD display with 460,000 dots of resolution, as there's no optical or electronic viewfinder on this model. The LCD panel has a claimed 160-degree viewing angle, although it isn't stated whether this is in the horizontal or vertical axes, or in both axes.
Output from the EXR-CMOS sensor is processed by a newly developed Fujifilm EXR-branded image processor, and the combination allows swift shooting at 11 frames per second for an unspecified burst depth. The phrasing of the press materials makes it somewhat unclear whether this is achieved at full or reduced resolution. The Fujifilm F550EXR can also capture 1080p high definition videos at an unspecified frame rate using H.264 compression in a .MOV container, while still images can be saved in either JPEG or raw formats. There's also a 320 frames-per-second movie mode which shoots at unspecified resolution.
A Motion Panorama mode uses the camera's swift shooting to capture a number of sequential photos for stitching into a 180, 240, or complete 360-degree panorama, either horizontally or vertically. Other features include a multi-frame "Pro Focus" mode that attempts to simulate shallow depth of field by combining multiple images of a static subject shot with different focus, a "Pro Low Light" mode that averages out noise across four subsequent exposures of a static subject, the ability to recognize and track the faces of eight specific individuals, and to automatically correct red-eye. Connectivity in the Fujifilm F550 includes a high definition mini-HDMI video output.
One final noteworthy feature of the Fuji F550 is its built-in GPS receiver, which can be optionally disabled to save battery life. When active, the F550 tags the EXIF headers of images as they're shot, noting the geolocation of each image. The camera can not only indicate the locations as latitude and longitude coordinates, but also by place name. It includes a 500,000 item point-of-interest database, and can indicate the distance and direction of travel to shot locations, as well as to nearby points-of-interest. Finally, if left powered on, the F550EXR can record a track log of your movements, which can then be offloaded onto a computer so that you can see your photos alongside the route taken to capture them.
The Fujifilm FinePix F550 ships from mid-March 2011, priced at around US$350.
To see how the Fuji F550 compares to its competitors, see our Travel Zoom Shootout!