It was about time Fujifilm made an ugly camera. Everyone knows that ugly cameras take better pictures, are more resistant to being nicked and - most importantly - show the world that you're a "real" photographer.
Well, cameras don't come much more "real" than the FinePix E550, a plastic-and-metal Frankensnapper with more awkward bits than an episode of The Office. Although it's built like a tank, it handles very well, has a super-fast start-up, minimal shutter delay, a good burst mode and a continuous autofocusing mode that gives you, in footballing parlance, 110 per cent.
The lens is a fast-moving, 4x optical zoom, the two-inch LCD is quick off the mark and Fujifilm has also pulled out the stops when it comes to features. Among the multitude of metering, focusing, processing and drive options is a useful dedicated /- button that makes setting priority and manual exposure completely effortless.
Just like previous Fujifilm snappers, the FinePix E550 can double up its six-megapixel sensor to produce (slightly strange-looking) 12-meg files, but more interesting is a feature that'll have techie photographers drooling. Instead of fiddling with colour, sharpness and so on, in menus you can now capture the data direct from the chip, in RAW format.
This creates huge files (around 13MB per frame) but extracts every last pixel of detail, and has previously only been found on expensive digital SLRs.
The E550 combines superb ease of use with beautiful colour, sharp detail and some of the best creative photo features at this price. It may not look all that attractive, but this Fujifilm has a wonderful personality.