Water-, shock- and freezeproof digital camera with built-in GPS.
As point-and-shoot digital cameras have become more of a commodity product, manufacturers are trying to come up with ways to differentiate from the competition. Fujifilm claims to be the first to offer a water-, shock- and freezeproof digital camera with built-in GPS—the FinePix XP30. This 14.2-megapixel camera also sports a 2.7-inch LCD screen, 5x optical zoom and 720-pixel high-definition video recording. For the last couple of weeks I have been testing a review model loaned to me by the company. While the promise of such a rugged camera is intriguing, for me the proof is in the picture quality. Suffice to say, I wasn’t blown away.
Getting the XP30 up and running was relatively easy. The camera uses a rechargeable lithium battery, which you install in a compartment on the right side of the camera. This compartment, which also houses the memory card, did present some troubles when trying to close it. It is spring-loaded and tended to pop back open after repeated attempts at closing it. Only after a good solid push on the door did it latch and remain closed.
Once the battery and memory card are installed, you are ready to start taking pictures. Pressing the power button on the top of the camera for a couple of seconds turns it on. In order to compose pictures and video you use the 2.7-inch LCD screen on the back of the camera. The shutter release and zoom rocker are also on the top of the camera, but are easily distinguishable from each other.
Holding the camera does take a little getting used to. The XP30 is compact, making it perfect for carrying in a pocket. However, the lens is situated at the top left of the camera. Therefore, if you are holding the camera with both hands you have to take care not to cover the shutter with your fingers. After a while I gave up using my left hand and went “one-handed” with my right.
On the back of the camera there is a four-way control pad with a central Menu/Ok button. Below this are separate playback and display/back buttons. Lastly, on the top right of the back plate, there is a dedicated video record button.
The XP30 has several shooting modes to select from, depending on the situation. By default, the camera is set to automatic scene recognition, where the camera selects the optimum settings for the situation. Unfortunately, based on the picture output, the camera needs to improve its decision-making. Pictures taken indoors were colorless and blurry, despite the built-in Optical Image Stabilization. The blurriness diminished in pictures taken outdoors, but the pictures were still not what I had hoped for from a 14-megapixel camera.
Manually selecting the mode to fit the situation did noticeably improve the picture quality, so if you were to buy this camera, I would strongly suggest getting to know these shooting modes instead of relying on the scene recognition mode. In all, the camera offers 16 different scene modes, including portrait enhancer, landscape, motion panorama, sport, and three underwater modes.
The XP30 also allows you to shoot 1280- × 720-pixel video at 30 frames per second. Overall, the video quality is above average. Ideally, however, the XP30 would be used to take silent video, as the audio quality is atrocious. The sound is tinny, but what is more aggravating is the sound of phantom noises seemingly coming from nowhere.
As the XP30 I was using was a review model on loan, I didn’t test the camera’s limits to see just how rugged it really was. According to Fujifilm, the camera is waterproof up to five meters (16.5 feet), shockproof up to 1.5 meters (five feet), dust- and sand-proof for trips to the beach, and freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
A few reviews I read, however, did question these tolerances. Several reviewers reported moisture getting inside the camera after it was submerged in only inches of water. Others had problems with controls due to sand. While these are second-hand observations, I read enough to think twice about testing the camera’s limits in the out-of-doors.
For me, the most attractive feature of the XP30 is the built-in GPS. I have thousands of digital photos from numerous trips I have taken around the world, and I have no idea where they were taken. As more and more digital cameras become equipped with GPS, you can “geo tag” your photos with geographic coordinates so you know exactly where the picture was taken. That is, if you can get the XP30 to lock onto its satellites. Getting it to do so indoors is impossible, which is common for most GPS devices. However, even outside, it can take several minutes, or even longer, for the camera to lock in.
Another interesting GPS feature is Photo Navigation. With this feature, you can pull up a photo (assuming you embedded the coordinates or location in it) and the XP30 will tell you how far you are from that location and give you the directions to get there.
Lastly, the Route Logging function stores your location every 10 minutes. Once you download your pictures to your computer using MyFinePix Studio, which is included, a map of the route you took, along with the pictures you took along the way, is created using Google Maps.
Of all the products I have reviewed over the last year or so, few held so much promise as the Fujifilm XP30. Having used it these last couple of weeks, I can’t say that it failed, but it failed to impress. The pictures taken using the scene recognition mode were some of the worst I have taken with digital cameras, even ones with far fewer megapixels. Luckily, manually selecting the proper mode did improve things markedly. While I did not put the camera’s ruggedness to the test, I have found a number of reviews that put some of these claims in question. I certainly wouldn’t take the camera for a swim, but I wouldn’t hesitate taking it out and using it in the rain.
The GPS tracking functionality is also exciting, if and when you can get the camera to lock on to its satellites.
At $240, the Fujifilm XP30 is reasonably priced, given its capabilities. However, it is just quirky enough that I wouldn’t rely on it as my primary camera. This camera is designed for those who are looking to take pictures off the beaten path and don’t want to put a more delicate machine at risk.
Fujifilm FinePix XP30
$239.95 (currently $199.00 from Amazon.com)
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.