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Background: I bought the S5500 by accident. I teach PhotoShop and one of my students has an S5500 so I knew it was a nice bit of kit, but I was not looking for a new camera (I already had a cam that was fine for the time being) so it was academic. My Girlfriend had said a few times that she wanted a digi-cam, but the S5500 was not an option here either. This is where luck and/or fate stepped in, I had to fly to Bangkok with a colleague on business, and he wanted to buy a camera there, as they were cheaper. I had rather stupidly left my camera at home, so decided to accompany him and get a cheap disposable. While at the shop I noticed the S5500 on the shelf for far less than I had seen it for in the UK, I bought it as my new main camera and phoned my girlfriend to tell her my old camera was now hers, everybody was happy.
The Look and Feel: The S5500 looks the business, if you show up with one of these in your hand you will look like you are serious and know exactly what you are doing (even if you don?t). Although
smaller than an SLR, it retains the look and handling of one. It is big for a digital though, so be warned if you just want something to stick in your shirt pocket, this baby will not fit. I keep mine on me most of the time, worn in a Lowepro pack on my belt, and I have got wedged in chairs because of it on more than one occasion. The grip and most of the camera has a non-slip rubberised feel to it, which makes it very nice to use on extended shoots.
Power: It takes four standard AA batteries, which I was concerned about to begin with, but the original batteries lasted several days of intense use and when they ran out, I just nipped into the nearest shop, got replacements, and carried on. Otherwise, it could have meant stopping half way through for a trip back to base to recharge, and anybody who has ever held a camera before will know you can not always just stop and pick up again a few hours or a day later.
In Use: The camera has two ways of targeting, a largish LCD on the back and a smaller EVF in the more traditional viewfinder. They are mutually exclusive and you switch between them using a button located just above the LCD. Personally, I prefer to use the viewfinder for most things, which might be why I am getting such good battery life, so if you prefer to use the LCD you may want to check out some other reviews.
The One slight problem I do have is it takes a little time to get ready to shoot. From the off position, flicking it past playback to shoot, waiting for the lens to extend, focus, and shoot, takes a little longer than I would like. I quite often deactivate the auto-power off if I know I am going to want to catch something quick. Once the camera is ready though, speed, or lack of speed, is not an issue.
Something that could be both a pro and a con is the 10x optical zoom. This is much better than anything the cigarette box size cameras can offer, and you can get close enough to feel you can touch distant subjects. However, at maximum magnification it can be hard to avoid the shakes. An icon appears on screen to warn you, so it is not the problem that it could be but it does warrant extra care. This is not actually a fault with the camera, just high magnification.
Picture Quality: The biggie with digital cameras, and honestly I cannot fault it. The S5500 is a 4.0 mega pixel camera, which some people consider a little on the low side, but unless you are going to be printing very large images at very high resolution, you are not going to need more. The colour balance is very good and the only time I have noticed much noise was on some low light images taken without flash that I pushed a little far when trying to clean up in PhotoShop, but still noticeably less than I have seen on cameras several times the price of the S5500.
Overall: A great solid camera that will do all you ask of it, and it will do it with great panache too. I would like to see the time from off to ready to shoot reduced, but I am just splitting hairs here with that gripe.
Worth buying: In a word yes. For the price I paid, unbelievable, for the standard price, an excellent buy you will not regret. Go get and one.