Fujifilm's rugged FinePix XP30 is dustproof, freezeproof, shockproof and waterproof. At around £160, it also costs less than many similar cameras. As such, it could be an interesting budget option for adventurous travellers and sporty types.
Bit of rough
The XP30 looks similar to most other rugged cameras, with a hardened exterior adorned by strong-looking bolts and rubber edges. The shape and available colours -- black, blue, green, orange and silver -- lend the camera a youthful appearance.
The battery, SD card and USB slots are all sealed by dustproof and waterproof covers, while the folded zoom lens is protected by its own layer of reinforced glass.
The XP30 is waterproof to 5m. You're never going to be able to take snaps of those weird see-through creatures that lurk at the very bottom of the ocean, but the XP30's comparative immunity to the wet stuff means it isn't going to conk out on you if you take it to the beach or white-water rafting. The camera certainly survived being plopped into a washing-up bowl during our tests.
Similarly, the camera is freezeproof down to -10°C. That means it's perfect for a spot of seasonal après-ski in Gstaad, say, but not so good for a truly extreme trip to the South Pole. And, while Fujifilm claims that the XP30 can survive a fall of around 1.5m, you wouldn't necessarily want to take it with you on a parachute jump unless you were absolutely certain that your pocket were zipped up tight.
Something else that may interest outdoors types is the fact that the XP30 has a built-in GPS system. As with other cameras that bear this feature, the main benefit is the ability to geotag your photos, providing you with accurate data as to precisely where you were when each shot was taken. It's worth mentioning, however, that the GPS doesn't always work well indoors and can also have a significant impact on battery life.
Let's talk numbers
The XP30 is based around a 14-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor. The 5x zoom lens has a focal length equivalent to 28mm-140mm on a 35mm camera. The camera's sensitivity range is ISO 100 to 3,200. The LCD screen on the rear measures 2.7 inches and the video mode allows you to capture footage at up to a 720p resolution, with mono sound. All of that is roughly average for a mid-range digital camera these days.
The curved shape of the XP30 makes it very comfortable to hold and use, although we did find that some of the buttons, including the power button and shutter release, were rather hard to press. This might not sound like much of a problem but it can cause you to tilt the device slightly while taking a shot, which can, in turn, lead to some composition issues.
Intended almost exclusively for photography of the point-and-shoot variety, there are precious few options available, barring a selection of preset modes aimed at getting the best from the camera is a range of different situations. Among these are beach, underwater and snow modes, giving you an idea of the type of environments Fujifilm assumes the camera will be best suited to.
One interesting option is the 'natural + flash' mode, which takes two photos of the same subject, one with the flash on and one without. That's useful for moments when you're not sure whether there's enough ambient light for the camera to cope on its own.
As it happens, you'll probably need to rely on the flash much more than you might like. In our tests we found that the XP30 injects unsightly amounts of picture noise into images at ISO settings as low as 200. This is a shame, especially since low-light shots tend to be pleasingly blur-free, thanks to the camera's CCD-shift image stabiliser.
In daylight scenes, subjects look sharp and colours are bright and vibrant, if a little overcooked on occasion. In auto mode, colours can be strangely unpredictable. On several occasions during our tests, we took two consecutive shots of the same subject only to find a vast disparity in the way the colours were presented in the two images.
Users will also notice a fair amount of barrelling around the edges of pictures. This is to do with the shape of the lens and isn't uncommon, although the effect here is somewhat more noticeable than usual -- at the wide end of the lens, it's almost like you're using a fish-eye lens.
For casual, largely outdoors use, the Fujifilm FinePix XP30 isn't a bad camera to have in your pocket. While it's hardly invincible, it's tougher than most snappers and cheaper than many of its rivals. Its weak low-light performance and a number of other quality issues let the side down, however, so, if you want to capture those sporting or adventuring moments at their best, then it may be worth checking out some of the slightly pricier all-weather cameras available, such as the superior, but more expensive, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3.
Edited by Charles Kloet