Fujifilm Finepix S5500
Review Date: March 17th 2005
Ease of Use
The Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom uses exactly the same camera body design as the Fujifilm FinePix S5000 Zoom that I reviewed last year, and therefore a lot of the same comments apply. The Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom has a reserved yet stylish all-black appearance and feels very much like a miniature SLR camera. If you are accustomed to using a small film or digital SLR camera that you will be instantly at home with the Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom - it's definitely a refreshing change to the many box-like digital cameras on the market. The SLR-styling does come at a price, however, as the Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom isn't a pocketable camera, despite being quite compact and not weighing too much. It falls somewhere between a compact digicam like the Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital and a bigger SLR-type camera like the Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Zoom. On the other hand, the chunky hand-grip ensures that the camera can be held comfortably with either one hand or two. Personally I found the Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom a joy to use due to its combination of weight, size and SLR styling.
As with the Fujifilm FinePix S5000 Zoom, Fujifilm have ensured that the build quality of the FinePix S5500 Zoom is up-to-scratch. Despite the competitive price tag, Fuji haven't cut any corners, with all of the various buttons and switches being well-fitted, and even the battery compartment and memory card door, both typically weak parts of a digital camera, work well despite their plastic construction. A large part of the camera is covered in a rubbery compound which again makes it feel more expensive than it actually is, as well as improving the handling and grip. Due to its diminutive stature, the buttons on the rear of the camera are a little on the small size, especially the button for switching between the EVF and LCD displays and the "F" button, but Fuji have cleverly raised them slightly so that they are still easy to operate. The Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom has an easy to understand layout in terms of the external controls on the body of the camera.
Arrow Pad (including Macro Button / Flash Button)
|Shooting Mode Dial|
There is a traditional dial on the top of the Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom that lets you select the different exposure modes; Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual, the Movie mode and the various scene modes. This dial is a typical feature of SLR cameras and enables you to quickly change between the various modes. As with a number of Fuji's other digital cameras, the FinePix S5500 Zoom has a Menu button on the rear of the camera which, as you would expect, gives you access to the software menu system. This lets you set various parameters including focusing, sharpness and white balance. There is also a small silver button with an F on it above the LCD screen, which opens the Photo Mode menu and allows you to control the file quality setting, ISO speed and colour settings (B&W, Chrome or Standard). I'm not really sure why these 3 settings alone should fall under the heading of Photo Mode, and things like white balance and sharpening are just part of the standard menu. And I'm undecided about whether it is a good idea or not. The F button does give quick access to certain features, but you do have to memorise what another button does.
The main menu system of the Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom is as well designed as previous Fujfilm digicams that I have reviewed, and is accessed by pressing the Menu button. There is a horizontal row of icons along the bottom of the screen, which when selected reveal the options for that particular function, which you then access by scrolling up and down. Very easy to see and access. There are a couple of key features that you won't find in the main menu, which are accessed by pressing the left and right arrows on the arrow pad. These are the macro and flash functions. There are also a couple of dedicated buttons on top of the camera which allow you select continuous modes and exposure compensation. The Fujifilm FinePix S5500 Zoom strikes a nice balance between having enough external controls to allow easy access to the camera's key features, yet not having so many that you feel overwhelmed.
|Shutter Button / Off / Playback / Camera||Battery Compartment|
The start-up time of the Fujifilm Finepix S5500 Zoom, from turning the camera on to being ready to take a photo, is a little slow at around 2 seconds as you wait for the 10x zoom lens to extend. The zoom lens takes less about 1 second to zoom from the widest focal length of 37mm to the longest of 370mm. The zooming mechanism is a little on the noisy side, but not too bad. Focusing, confirmed by a green LED below the electronic viewfinder, is quick in good light, but the camera sometimes struggled to achieve focus indoors or in low-light situations. This was especially true when the zoom lens was at the longer telephoto settings. Thankfully the shutter lag time of less than 0.10 second is much quicker. The LCD screen is bright and clear and the refresh rate noticeable but perfectly acceptable. It takes about 0.50 second to store an image. The Fujifilm Finepix S5500 Zoom a number of continuous shooting and focusing modes which make it suitable for action photography. All in all the Fujifilm Finepix S5500 is average in terms of general operational speed, but is not the best choice for taking photos in low-light or indoor environments.
Once you have captured a photo, the Fujifilm Finepix S5500 has a good range of options for playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, play slideshows with various effects, and zoom in and out of the image. You can also delete an image, trim an image, lock images so that they cannot be deleted, and set various printing options. There is also a very useful histogram feature, accessed by holding down the Exposure Compensation button, which is a great help in evaluating the exposure of each image.
So overall the FinePix S5500 Zoom is an extremely well-built SLR-style digital camera that is very easy to operate and ergonomically well-designed. Its achilles heel is in low-light or indoor situations where it struggles to focus on the subject.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Fujifilm Finepix S5500 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.