With plenty of choice in the tough camera market, Fujifilm's latest offering provides a run of features to cater for those who want to get rough with their camera. The company has been making tough compact cameras for some time and the latest models feel a little more premium than some in the past, from the outside at least.
The Fujifilm FinePix XP150 has a sibling, the XP170, which adds wireless image transfer to the already packed spec sheet of the XP150, but otherwise, the cameras are closely matched.
In the hand the FinePix XP150 feels great. It's of typical tough camera design, coming in a range of bright colours, the green of our review sample being particularly fetching. Exposed bolt heads, a large loop for strap attachment and a rubberised finish complete the look.
If you are venturing on to or into the water with it, it's worth knowing that the XP150 doesn't float, it sinks like a stone, but with waterproofing up to 10m, it will survive that shallow mishap. Elsewhere, the protection will withstand a 2m drop, -10C temperatures and keep you safe from dust ingress.
There is a single port on the side of the XP150 with a double locking mechanism. This houses the battery and SD card, as well as offering USB and micro HDMI ports for connection to your PC or TV.
The black edges of the camera are grippy, with a slightly rubberised finish, so the camera doesn't leap from your hands when wet and this is paired with just enough grip for your fingers on the right-hand side, although there isn't a thumb grip on the rear.
The placement of the lens makes it a little prone to being covered with stray fingers, or the end of a glove, because it's high in the left-hand corner. The central placement found on the Pentax Optio WG-2 or Olympus TG-1 makes more sense from a grip point of view. At least the lens cover is easy to get to and wipe with a corner of your T-shirt if it does get muddy, unlike rival Nikon and Panasonic models, which are harder to clean.
It's an attractive looking camera overall, eye-catching and feels solid in the hand. The bright colours make us smile too: in a world dominated by black and silver compact cameras, a splash of colour makes this rugged model a refreshing change.
Controls and functions
The controls are large for the most part, split between the top and the rear of the camera. On the top plate you have the GPS button, power and the shutter, along with a rocker for the zoom. The rocker works well enough when wet and is easy to find, but less practical in gloved hands.
However, there were a couple of occasions where we hit the power button rather than the shutter. The power button is slightly more recessed and the shutter button is larger and lozenge shaped, but when trying to grab a quick shot it's easy enough to lay your finger on the wrong one. That said, the size of the shutter button means it works well in gloves.
The GPS toggle button means it's easy to control that aspect of the camera. You can turn it on when you want to get GPS information without having to root through menus.
On the rear of the camera you have a dedicated video capture button, giving you instant video whenever you want it. There is a four-way controller and a central menu/ok button, with a large playback button in place too. We have no problems with these controls, they are easy to get to, but you'll be routing through menus if you want to make any real changes.
For example, accessing the P (program) mode is a button press, but it does give you access to the other photo controls that you lose in auto modes. There isn't a huge amount you can change - no aperture or shutter control for example - but you can tweak ISO or focusing modes.
The four-way controller gives you the normal shortcuts to macro focus, exposure compensation, flash and self timer, so regular compact camera functions are within easy reach.
With Auto SR (scene recognition) being the normal shooting mode, this feels very much like an "auto everything" camera, designed for those who want to just point and shoot. The scenes offer up the usual array of choices, and of specific interest in those tough model are those modes designed for use underwater.
It's a simple enough camera to use for those who don't want to tinker too much with the settings, so for pulling out of your pocket and grabbing a few shots, we like Fujifilm's approach.
With a 14.4-megapixel 1/2.3-in CMOS sensor and 5x optical zoom housed internally (28-140mm in 35mm terms), the setup is typical for this type of camera. We noticed that the far end of the zoom did tend to result in soft shots, lacking the sharpness of the mid range or wide angle. There is noticeable distortion at the wide angle, although that's not unexpected.
The f/3.9 max aperture doesn't set this camera up for the best low-light shots, and if that's something you're interested in, then the Olympus TG-1's f/2.0 lens may be of more interest.
The results from the XP150 are reasonable, with some nice rich and authentic colour renditions. It can struggle in brighter conditions with highlights blowing out, and if you get close to a light source then flare is a particular problem. The levels of detail achieved aren't too exciting either and blowing up images taken in anything other than idea conditions reveals a rather soft and mottled result.
The biggest problem, however, seems to be focusing. Looking through the test shots over the last few months, there are a lot of photos that didn't focus properly. We don't mean that the subject focus wasn't right, we mean that the camera failed to focus before taking the shot.
Being more deliberate and ensuring focus will give you the results you expect, but where many compacts will focus very swiftly these days, the XP150 seems to lag behind slightly. We also found this to be a problem when taking underwater shots.
At least the 2.7-inch display on the rear of the camera, despite having a relatively low 260k-dot resolution, has the brightness to cope with being used in brighter conditions. On the beach or underwater, we had no problem seeing the information on the screen, but it is rather unrefined and pixelated compared to many compact cameras these days.
Video capture runs all the way up to 1920 x 1080, Full HD, and the results are pretty good. One downside is the audio, as the mic seems very sensitive and subject to environmental noise. This is particularly evident in water, where, rather than the soothing rushing or "watery" noises, you get roaring like a jet engine.
You can use the zoom during video capture and there is the option of continuous autofocus, but you have to select this through the menus, worth doing if you're planning to move yourself in front of the camera at any point. We spent some time underwater with the XP150 at Hampton Pool (thanks guys!).
You'll get around 300 shots from the battery.
Overall, the Fujifilm FinePix XP150 is a nice looking camera that's a easy to use and meets the tough demands placed upon it. However, where the XP150 stumbles is in the results. Although we've enjoyed using the XP150 and it has given us some nice shots, there are too many foibles along the way and too many shots that could or should be better.
It's worth considering that this model is available for around £180, which considering it includes the GPS, makes it more affordable than some similarly-specced rivals. If you're accident prone or want a camera to take those action shots in the water or on the pistes, then the XP150 makes owning one much more affordable.
If image quality is more important, if this is going to be your everyday camera, then it might be worth weighing up rival models before parting with your cash.