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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Fujifilm FinePix E550


   


Fujifilm FinePix E550 Review

Review Date: Jan 3, 2005

Category: Serious Amateur

IMAGE QUALITY

The Fujifilm FinePix E550 is a digital camera targeted to serious amateur photographers. It has 6.3 effective megapixels resolution (12 megapixels output) on a 1/1.7 in. Super CCD HR image sensor. The Fujinon lens is a 32.5-130 mm (35mm format equivalent) f/2.8-8, 4x optical zoom, thus providing a slightly more wide-angle coverage than the standard 35mm.

We find the overall image quality of the Fujifilm FinePix E550 to be good.

4x Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 7.2mm
(32.5mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 28.8mm
(130mm, 35mm equivalent)

In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 32.5mm and 130mm. The E550 provides medium wide-angle to medium telephoto coverage. Optional wide-angle and tele lenses are also available.

Here is one thing that Fujifilm has done right and other camera manufacturers should follow: you won't see any digital zoom option in the Menu. At the 12MP resolution, no digital zoom is possible. At 6MP and lower, digital zoom is automatically available -- and we have no problem with this because only a crop of the image is performed without re-enlargement and resultant image degradation.

The 12MP output results in rather large files: 4048x3040 saved to about 4.5MB in size. At this 4.5MB size per image, computer hard disks fill up quite quickly! Images can also be saved at 6MP but perhaps a bit too highly compressed (2848x2136 to about 1.5MB in size). It would be interesting to see if Fujifilm can provide an intermediate 6MP with minimum compression in future models.

The E550 can also record images in RAW file format. There is no internal RAW buffer, and it takes about 7 sec. to save each RAW image to memory card. You select RAW in the Set-Up option of the Menu.

[The RAW file format records the image as captured by the camera's CCD with minimal processing, and allows you to precisely adjust white balance, contrast, sharpness and saturation in an image editing software without any loss of quality.]

Macro
7.2mm, Programmed Auto, Pattern, 1/200 sec., F2.8, ISO 80

The E550 can focus in Macro mode to as close as 7.5 cm (3 in.). I bemoan the lack of a swivel LCD monitor on the E550 for macro shooting. On the plus side, the 2 sec. self-timer helps in eliminating camera shake, and the Area AF option makes it very easy to obtain sharp macro shots with off-center subjects. The Area AF needs to be activated each and every time you want to use it from the Menu, which is a bit of a bother.

Auto White Balance Indoors
AWB Custom WB

As the above two pictures show, the auto white balance works quite well indoors under fluorescent light, even better than using WB = Fluorescent 3. The E550 allows you to set a Custom White Balance, which gives the best results. As expected, AWB works very well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 80
ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 (3M)

The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white rectangle) demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds of 80, 100, 200, 400 and 800. At ISO 80 and 100, noise is not visible and under control. At ISO 200, noise starts to be visible in the images when viewed at original size. At ISO 400 and upward, noise becomes quite visible. Note that the image records at only 3M at ISO 800, resulting in less noise and I find the images quite acceptable when it's a matter of getting a picture or nothing.

Note that ISO 80 is a first for Fujifilm's Super CCD HR image sensor which usually starts at a high ISO 200 with the resultant accompanying noise. As far as noise is concerned, I must say I am pleasantly surprised and very encouraged at the improvement the Super CCD HR image sensor has achieved.

All the ISO pictures were taken on a tripod, using the AF Area to position the AF Frame on Allegra's left eye, using the 2 sec. self-timer to eliminate camera shake, lens zoomed in at maximum focal length, and using Manual Mode. Exposure ranged from 1/4 sec. to 2 sec. at F5.6. In Manual Mode, an exposure indicator displays to give you an indication how much under- or over-exposed you may be at your chosen setting.

Chromatic Aberrations

We found CA at the corner delimited by the red square at top middle (reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right). In everyday shots, CA is visible in strong highlights situations.

Long Shutter Speed
7.2mm, Manual, Spot, 3 sec., F5.6 ISO 80
Custom WB, Macro, 2 sec. Self-Timer, Tripod Used

The E550 provides a maximum long shutter speed of only 3 sec. in Manual Mode (1/4 sec. in Programmed Auto mode). For this shot, the AF will not lock if there is not enough ambient light on the subject, so I move Bamm-Bamm from the shadow into the light.

For those who like to use the movie mode, the image quality at 640x480 Motion JPEG (30 fps) with sound is quite impressive.

Flash indoors is quite good and as usual with on-board flash you get the best results with subjects at portrait distance. You can vary the output of the flash from +2/3 to -2/3, which helps for subjects a bit further out (+2/3) and for close ups (-2/3).

You can display a grid of horizontal and vertical lines on the LCD of the E550 in Record mode. This feature is missing in many digital cameras, but quite handy to ensure level horizons.

One note: If you like to preview the image you just took, set image display to ON instead of PREVIEW in Set-Up. If you select PREVIEW, the image you just took will display on the LCD and you are then required to press OK (to accept and save it) or BACK (to cancel and not save it). If you turn off the camera without pressing any button, the image is not saved -- and I've lost quite a number of good images this way. If you use ON, the image is displayed for about 2 sec. I prefer to just save all pictures I take and decide later which ones to keep or reject.

The last feature I will mention is the histogram. The histogram can be viewed in Playback mode. The histogram is invaluable to give an indication of under- and over-exposure (don't rely on the LCD/EVF since the brightness is adjustable and may be misleading).

The pictures in the Fujifilm FinePix E550 Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the E550 is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements).

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!

 

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