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The built-in flash charges quickly and has a useful range of 4.9 metres, which isn’t bad for a unit this size, although it does seem to have a tendency to over-expose indoor flash shots. The movie mode is adequate, although with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels at 30fps with mono sound, it’s nothing to write home about.
In normal light the multi-point AF system is reasonably quick, taking well under a second to lock on, but the lower the light levels the slower it gets, and quickly gets to a point where it won’t lock at all. The camera has no AF illuminator, so you can expect some very blurry nighttime shots.
In general use, the S55 performs well. Colour balance is excellent, focusing is sharp and under most conditions exposure is also very accurate, however it does seem to have a problem with bright reflected light, and burned out highlights were found on a number of shots taken in bright Mediterranean sunshine.
Image noise was also a bit of a problem. In Auto ISO mode the camera will automatically set the sensitivity to 400 ISO in low light conditions, and as you’ll see from the accompanying sample shots, at both 200 and 400 ISO there is a great deal of noise and colour distortion. Results at 50 and 100 ISO are better though.
In summary, the Optio S55 isn’t a bad camera, especially considering the price of £150.70. The use of AA batteries gives it an appeal for those holidaying in out-of-the-way places, and the build quality will make sure it survives the trip. It’s just a pity that the control interface is so complicated, and that the image quality isn’t a little better.
As a budget compact, the Optio S55 has a lot going for it, but unfortunately it is let down by image noise problems and a very confusing list of modes and options. It is rugged and well made though, so you could do worse for your winter holidays.
Note: Test shots to follow shortly.