Product Type: Fujifilm digital cameras
Newest Review: ... was handy when trying to upload pictures in internet cafes with dodgy connections, and trying to save to CD to take home. It also meant... more
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Fujifilm Finepix S5500
Member Name: melbadog
Fujifilm Finepix S5500
Advantages: Sturdy, good image quality and easy to learn with
Disadvantages: Screen is a little small and lacking in clarity.
This camera is a little gem.
Around five years ago I started to become interested in photography and needed to move up from a compact to something I could learn with. For my birthday, and shortly before I went travelling for a year, my parents bought me the S5500 for my birthday.
I was obviously pleased at the gift, but unsure whether it would be right for me - I didn't want to get really into photography and find that I'd outgrown the camera very quickly, and I'd been considering a full SLR.
But I started using the camera, playing about with the controls - using the set features and learning about the different combinations of ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance and framing.
I found that I didn't know as much about photography as I thought I did.
I took the camera away for the year travelling, and it was the best thing I packed in my backpack. The image quality of the photographs was brilliant, and shooting at 4 million megapixels gave as good results as some other compact competitors of the time who claimed higher megapixel capability. When we returned I was able to blow pictures up and put them on canvas around four times the size of A3 without any loss of quality. Skin tones normally came out perfectly (although some low light with flash washed them out a bit), and the colours were dynamic and generally enhanced the image. The size of the files wasn't huge either, which was handy when trying to upload pictures in internet cafes with dodgy connections, and trying to save to CD to take home. It also meant that you could get a lot of pictures on the XD format cards that the camera takes. I had a 1GB card, and two 512MB cards and could get hundreds on those so you need never be caught short, particularly with the price of XD cards now. The only downside to the cards is the physical size of them - they are pretty easy to lose, which could be really annoying if you have all your prize photographs on them! (luckily this never happened to me!)
The camera never let me down. Despite being pretty light for a camera like this, it was solid enough that even being bashed about on a backpacking trip it didn't fall to pieces. The battery life was good too. It takes 4 AA batteries, but the package I got came with a recharger and a spare set. So I'd always keep a set in the camera and a set charged up or on charge.
The 10x optical zoom is good, providing enough zoom to be able to assist with those far away pictures and close up photography, but without getting you into bad habits of forgetting to 'zoom with your feet' (as any photographer will tell you, it's better to move yourself physically to get a better shot than rely on the camera). The focussing is solid even in relatively low light, and the images are sharp. The camera was soon superceded by the S5600, but from what I could make out the only difference was an extra 2 x optical zoom (so 12x in total) and I wouldn't think that was necessary for any extra expenditure.
The camera has the option of Lanscape, Sports, Portraiture, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority and full Manual. Although the Manual settings are not that sensitive, and you will never get the same flexibility that you will on a full SLR, there is enough there to help the developing photographer learn how to handle these settings correctly. I found that just by noticing how the camera adjusted itself during different conditions I was able to learn a lot.
The ISO (film speed) settings helped me to learn when adjustments needed to be made to improve quality, and the sacrifices in digital 'noise' when going up to the higher setting. (For those newby photographers, The lower the ISO, the less noise but higher ISO's let you take photographs in low light.) The ISO options only extend up to 400, and now that I've moved on to a full SLR this seems pitifully small, but like everything else on this camera, it is more of an introduction - it isn't an SLR, and the features are scaled back accordingly.
The screen size on the back is quite small, and sometimes it's not clear if you've shot a perfectly sharp image or if it is slightly blurry. If there was a criticism, it would be that other cameras in this class have a larger LCD screen. But you tend to only use this as a quick review, because when you are shooting you'll want to be looking through the viewfinder (isn't this why you want a camera like this ;) )
Having used this everyday for a year when backpacking, I found that I was ready for a move to a full DSLR, and felt confident paying out more for a higher range model than I would have. In short, I felt like I'd skipped a stage of buying a 'cheaper' introductory SLR because I wouldn't learn much more than I had already before I'd want to move on. I'd done this stage but for a whole lot cheaper with the S5500.
I've since bought a D300 and found that this step was comfortable, having found my photography legs with the S5500 and proven to myself that photography is a passion, and not just a passing fad.
I guess that there are probably a lot of people like me, who think they may be interested in photography but who are nervous of taking the step to shelling out hundreds on an introductory SLR. For those people, I would wholeheartedly reccomend this camera. You'll find out if you love photography, and even if you don't - you won't have spent too much finding out (I think this retails at under £70 now), and you'll still have good pictures and a decent camera to show for your efforts.
And if you are considering backpacking, or any other active type holiday, you should consider this - it won't let you down, and it's a whole lot less 'stealable' and bulky than a full SLR.
Overall this is a fabulous little camera that has served me really well. I'd definitely reccomend it.
Summary: A great way to find out if photography is your thing.
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