Fuji Finepix XP30 Review
The Fuji Finepix XP30 is a rugged ultra-compact camera with a built-in GPS designed for adventurers on a budget. It is waterproof down to a depth of 5m and sealed against rain, moisture and dust. The body of the Fuji XP30 is shockproof to drops of up to 1.5m onto concrete and freezeproof to temperatures down to -10C.
This digital camera incorporates a wide-angle 5X optical zoom lens using a folded-optics design to keep the lens from extended out of the camera body. Behind that lens is a 14 megapixels sensor mounted on a CCD-shift stabilization system to reduce the effects of camera shake and favor lower ISO sensitivities.
The XP30 uses Fuji's latest GPS technologies to store position information directly in images. It also has a database of locations which identifies the location of photos by name.
This express digital camera review analyses the features, ergonomics, usability, performance and image quality of the Fuji Finepix XP30.
Fuji Finepix XP30 Features
- 14 Megapixels CCD sensor
- Auto or manual ISO from 100 to 3200
- 5X optical zoom, equivalent to 28-140mm
- F/3.9-6.2 Fixed aperture
- 1/2000-4s Shutter-speeds
- Multi-segment metering only
- Exposure-Compensation, ±2 in 1/3 EV increments
- 1280x720 @ 30 FPS 16:9 HD video capture
- 0.8 FPS Drive, Max 3 images
- Auto and 6 presetFine (Sunny), Shade (Cloudy), Fluorescent 1-3, Incandescent white-balance
- Standard, Chrome, B&W and Sepia color modes
- Single-shot center and continuous tracking autofocus
- Optional Face-Detection
- Macro focus down to 9cm
- Waterproof down to 5m
- Shockproof to 1.5m
- Freezeproof to -10C
- Built-in GPS stores camera position
- Location database and navigation
- Built-in LED illuminator
- Built-in flash, 3.1-2.7m range
- Optional redeye removal
- Auto, On, Off and Slow-Sync Flash modes
- Self-timers, 2s or 10s, Couple or Group
- Automatic panorama stitching
- 18 Scene modes
- 2.7" LCD 230K Pixels
- Lithium-Ion Battery
- SDXC Memory
Capability - What can it do?
This Finepix requires its capabilities presented from a different angle than usual. It is more about where you can shoot than what you can shoot this time. The greatest enabler for the XP30 is its waterproof construction. Since it goes down to 5m underwater, this digital camera is perfect for swimming and even snorkeling. One obviously does not have to get that wet to take advantage of this as the Fuji Finepix XP30 remains perfectly usable in rain, snow, sandstorms and other inclement weather.
The shockproof construction is about being less worried about the camera and taking it more places. One can ride a bicycle or use it during sports without worrying about such a drop, up to 1.5m over concrete officially, but your mileage will vary. This is also an easy camera to loan to young kids. Messy activities which may dirty the camera are also less worrisome as one can wash the camera under running water.
The GPS is a nice add-on. Many people simply want to know where a photo was taken and, for the adventurous, it becomes even more fun to know how far off the beaten path they went to take a shot. Not only that, the XP30 can show you how to get back to the same spot, at least as birds fly.
Photographically speaking the XP30 is as much a point-and-shot as there ever was. Outside for control over ISO and ±2 stops of Exposure-Compensation, this digital camera is completely automatic. There are no metering choices and no custom white-balance either. The 18 scene modes and Automatic Scene-Recognition are all variants of automatic. Two modes of note are Natural-Light & Flash and Panorama modes. The former takes two photos, one with flash and one without. The latter takes 3 stops in landscape orientation and combines them into one directly in the camera.
Action often looks static in photographs, which is why we a lot of amateur sport videos. The Fuji XP30 captures 720p widescreen or VGA full-screen video at 30 FPS with sound. The quiet folded-optics lens can even be used while recording, something that many much larger cameras cannot do.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The Fuji Finepix XP30 has a minimal feature set photographically speaking and this lets it be simpler to use. Simplicity is important and even more so while operating under difficult conditions where this type of camera is expected to be taken. Taking a shot while hanging from a rope, biking or skying requires a camera like the XP30 which can be entirely operated with one hand.
This digital camera has a rounded exterior which leaves it without sharp corners and easily slips into a pocket. Unfortunately the curved bottom creates an odd problem that the camera is not level when mounted on a level tripod. The tripod mount being towards the opposite side as the lens exasperates the problem. The curved front has a minimal depression which barely provides more purchase than a bar of soap. Luckily, Fuji provides a handstrap with a tightening element to keep the camera from being dropped.
The top of the XP30 has a tiny power button, a wide shutter-release and a vertical zoom rocker. The power button is flush with the surface to prevent accidental activation. The shutter-release is a standard two-stage button with a more resistance than usual at the halfway point. The zoom controller is an the small side and, while it works acceptably with dry bare hands, it poses some difficulty otherwise. Still, it is easy to appreciate that the vertical mounting allows for a more consistent grip over the camera.
The lens opening is at the top-right corner of the camera and even protrudes a little from the top. When the camera is held with two hands, it becomes easy to partially obstruct the lens. There is no retractable lens cover of any kind. This is customary for waterproof cameras which have hardened glass to protect the optics therefore extra care must be taken not to dirty it.
The back of the camera is dominated by a 2.7" LCD with 230K pixels covered by hardened glass. The camera's remaining controls are all cramped to its right. This leaves little room to rest the thumb but makes everything easily accessible with little movement. At the top is the movie-record button which starts and stops video. Just below it isa standard 4-way controller with central Menu/OK button. Further down are the Playback and Display buttons.
The direct video button gives away the lack of a video mode. Despite sounding like a broken record, we have to say it again: No video mode and no framing guidelines make it impossible to setup video framing properly. When the video record button is pressed, video recording starts 2 seconds later. When it is pressed again, it stops 1 second later. All this makes using the video feature a pain unfortunately. Hopefully a firmware update can add video framing guidelines in the near future.
The 4-way controller is used to navigate the menu system and has functions assigned to each direction:
- Up: Activates EC during capture. Prompts for deletion during playback.
- Right: Cycles over flash modes.
- Down: Cycles over self-timer options. Self-timers automatically reset after each use.
- Left: Toggles macro mode.
Below the 4-way controller, the Play button enters Playback mode while the Display button cycles over display modes. The Display button is also used to exit menus and other modal states.
In use, the XP30 is simple and mostly intuitive. Only redeye removal seems truly out of place in the Setup menu. Since there is no mode-dial, all 21 modes are selected via the Camera menu.
Each opening on the camera must be sealed against water pressure, so it makes sense that this Finepix has a single opening for battery, memory and its only connector. Fuji used a neat double-door design where one half of the door holds the other one closed.
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
The image quality of the Fuji Finepix XP30 is certainly weak. The tiny 14 megapixels sensor has trouble delivering noise-free results even at the base ISO sensitivity of 100. The next ISO of 200 is visibly worse but given the resolution still gives an acceptable mid-size print. Anything beyond that shows visible noise except for postcard-size prints. This means that the XP30 can produce output which is usable on the web and for 4"x6" prints but not much more.
While the AWB system adapts well to outdoor lighting, it struggles under artificial light. There are six presets which can help but rarely produce neutral results with indoor lighting. Since there is no custom white-balance option, it is therefore difficult to obtain realistic colors from the XP30.
Metering is good considering the limited dynamic range of a sensor with such small pixels. There is occasional over-exposure and under-exposure but less often than usual. The metering range is very limited though and it often fails to produce an acceptable exposure in moderately low light. It takes one of the night scene modes to get shutter-speeds longer than ¼s but then ISO and EC get locked. The zoom speed is average.
When the autofocus system manages to lock, it does so accurately. There is rarely a focus error but in relatively low-light the camera often gives up. Focusing is rather slow, taking between 1s and 2s for most scenes. There is a short but noticeable shutter-lag after pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot speeds exceed 3 seconds which is slower than even most ultra-compacts.
The XP30 takes 2s to power on and less than 1s to shutdown. This is quite reasonable. Entering and existing Playback mode is sufficiently fast too. Panning and zooming on the other hand are excruciatingly slow. Battery life from the tiny battery used is below average. Using the GPS puts a big toll on the battery as well. It can be set to keep searching for its position when the camera is off. Needless to say, this is the fastest way to run down the battery without taking any photos.
The Fuji Finepix XP30 is an interesting offering for its price-point. This is by far the cheapest waterproof camera to include a built-in GPS. Its shockproof body is small enough to slip into most pockets. Its rugged freezeproof construction makes it one of the toughest digital cameras.
While budget-conscious adventurers will welcome its features, the image quality will disappoint people wanting to print larger than a postcard except in the brightest light. Slow performance hinders capturing actions. Rather, this is one to use for sending postcards or blogging about off-the-beaten path places.
With the XP30, it is certainly clear that there is a high-cost to having that GPS and rugged construction. If you do not pay for it with money, you pay for it in performance. Once you know what you are getting into, it is easier to decide whether the XP30 is for you. Since people often use disposable cameras to second their high-end gear for underwater and rough environments, something like an XP30 makes a respectable alternative. Consider the cost of a few disposable underwater cameras including development and it is easy to realize that the Fuji XP30 comes in extremely cheap for what it can do.
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