Despite the provision of a GPS system that proves accurate to within a few feet, the main USP of the F550 remains Fuji’s proprietary EXR technology. Working in tandem with the back-side illuminated CMOS sensor that places the electrical wiring on the underside of the sensor rather than the top in order to maximise the surface area of the light-gathering side, Fuji’s EXR technology is designed to widen the camera’s dynamic range and to make it especially adept in low-light conditions and for capturing fast action with.
Indeed, speedy shooting is one of the F550’s principle strengths. Not only does it offer a maximum continuous shooting speed of up to eight frames per second at full resolution, there’s also an option to record high-speed VGA-resolution movies at 80 frames-per-second that play back in slow-motion when opened on a computer. If neither of those sounds quite fast enough, then the F550 can go even faster – up to 11 frames per second in stills mode and 320 frames per second for movies – albeit with overall resolution greatly reduced to 4MP and 320 x 112 pixels respectively.
Taking advantage of its inbuilt speed, the F550 offers a better than average range of bracketing options – from standard exposure bracketing to film simulation and dynamic range bracketing. However, you’ll need to enter the menu system each time you want to do so as the camera automatically reverts to single-shot mode each time one of the burst functions has been used.
Befitting its billing as an advanced-level compact the F550 offers a wide range of shooting modes, including the regular creative quartet of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual (PASM), along with an Automatic mode and 18 individual Scene modes. In addition the F550 also offers three Advanced shooting modes and three EXR-specific modes that both warrant a closer look.
Turning first to the three Advanced shooting modes, these are: Motion Panorama, Pro Focus, and Pro Low-Light. Motion Panorama works in much the same way that the Sweep Panorama feature on Sony compacts does, with the camera able to create 120, 160 or 360-degree panoramas with a single button press and a sweep of the camera in the desired direction.
Pro Focus mode, meanwhile, is designed for portraiture and works by employing Face Detection AF to get the subject’s face in focus before shooting a quick succession of frames at different focal lengths. These are then combined into a single image with a sharp subject and defocused background.
Finally, Pro Low-Light mode helps out in low-light by, again, taking a series of images, again with a single button press before combining them to produce a final image with less noise than any of the individual shots. Since both Pro Focus and Pro Low-Light mode work by firing off and combining a series of shots, it’s good practice to use a tripod, although it is just about possible to use them hand-held if needs must.