Excellent image quality at low sensitivities
Superb LCD screen
Manual exposure control
Raw image capture
Automatic geo-tagging via built-in GPS
Slow start-up time
Mode dial easily knocked off desired setting
Occasionally miss-focuses at maximum zoom
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With each new update to Fujifilm's F-series, they have added features that promise to push the boundaries of what's normally expected from a compact digital camera.
These cameras have been popular with enthusiasts looking for something compact, due to their inclusion of manual exposure control, low noise at high ISO sensitivities, or extended dynamic range.
With the Fuji F550 EXR price tag at £270, Fuji's latest high-end compact sits at the top of its range of compact cameras and sports a rear illuminated EXR CMOS sensor, which has a few extra tricks up its sleeve.
The red, green and blue photosites are arranged in such a way that pictures can either be taken at the full 16-megapixel resolution if conditions are ideal, or at a reduced resolution of eight megapixels in either of the alternate EXR modes.
One mode is designed to reduce the amount of noise when shooting in low light, and the other increases the dynamic range captured in high contrast situations.
The 15x zoom lens covers a range equivalent to 24-360mm, without making the camera overly large or bulky. The 24mm wide angle is great for capturing groups of people, whilst the telephoto is useful for picking out details over distance, or for isolating subjects.
As it may be difficult to hold sufficiently steady at maximum telephoto, the CMOS-shift image stabilisation is a welcome addition. This works by moving the sensor around behind the lens to counter motion associated with hand-holding the camera.
Aperture and shutter priority exposure modes are included alongside full manual exposure control. Automatic scene recognition will suit those who prefer to point and shoot along with other photographic aids, such as face detection and red-eye removal.
If pets are more your cup of tea, rather than people, dog and cat detection is also provided.
Raw and JPEG images can be captured simultaneously, which is a feature not often found at this price point and should please many enthusiasts. SilkyPix Developer Studio is bundled with the camera to process the Raw files, along with Fujifilm's photo management software.
As HD video recording seems to have become a standard feature on digital cameras, the F550EXR sports full 1080p capture at 30 frames per second. Unlike many other compacts the built in microphone captures stereo sound and the zoom can be used during recording.
An on board GPS function automatically tags images with location information, including the names of places visited. Images can then be searched for by place name in the software provided or in camera, which is great for sifting through hundreds of images quickly.
If you've lost track of where you've been, the GPS can be used to navigate back to the spot from which a picture was taken. The direction and distance to where a particular image was taken can be displayed on-screen.
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