If there's one thing we can count on in this world it's that Fujifilm will release a new tough camera each year. The FinePix XP60 is the latest in an ongoing line of waterproof point-and-shoot cameras, adding a yet higher-resolution 16-megapixel sensor to the hardened series. Is it enough to make it swim, or does the added resolution weigh this model down and sink the ship?
The last time we reviewed an XP-series camera was a couple of generations ago, back when the XP30 was Fujifilm's tough champion.
Since that release - and there's been the XP40 and XP50 since - the XP60 has made subtle changes that are for the better, but it's hardly a complete series overhaul.
Its list price is £159, a fairer entry point than the older generation's £199 asking price, while the finish of the body, although still plasticky, is suitably robust. The rear buttons are also a better quality than the predecessor's with a metallic shine to them.
The body is sealed against water to a depth of 6 metres, with a twist-to-lock mechanism to the side to protect the SD card and connection ports.
Knocks or drops are no bother either, as the camera can survive drops up to 1.5-metres and is even freezeproof to -10C.
The same protected nature also means that there's no traditional zoom rocker to adjust the zoom, which helps avoid grit and grime getting in the way. Instead the XP60 is operated by two buttons to the rear for wide and tele adjustment, but the positioning feels poorly placed and makes using the camera a little awkward.
The XP60 keeps everything contained within its shell, including the 5x optical zoom lens which is housed behind a protective window. This means no protruding parts throughout the 28-140mm equivalent range. But the thing is that the lens is the very same one that's appeared in all the previous models and it's nothing particularly special.
The XP60 doesn't aim to be the top-spec tough camera out there though. It's a balance of price to performance, so there isn't the abundance of high-flying features that some more advanced snappers may pine for. That's not unusual for a tough camera.
In use the XP60 is a mixed bag. The camera will happily autofocus at a reasonable pace, although low-light conditions can throw up errors.
If you're after more detailed control then within the menus there's the option to switch off face detection which opens up centre, multi and tracking autofocus options.
Also on the plus side is close-up focus which works a treat when macro mode is switched on - it's possible to focus on a subject just a couple of centimetres away from the lens when at its widest angle setting.
However the built-in flash is poorly metered and will often significantly overexpose shots with a bleached-out look, while the 2.7-inch LCD screen is not only small but also has a poor viewing angle. Trying to use the camera above or below eye-level reveals issues with the preview, including light leaking to the bottom corner in this particular review sample.
Fujifilm's decision to increase the resolution of the XP60 to 16-megapixels is an oddity. Cramming all those extra pixels on to the 1/2.3-inch image sensor space doesn't help out quality compared to its predecessors.
Images are fine enough at the lower ISO settings, but when viewed critically at 100 per cent there are plenty of weaknesses.
Image noise is an issue throughout much of the ISO 100-3200 sensitivity range, there's colour fringing, and softness is prevalent at the longer end of the zoom.
The highest sensitivity of ISO 3200 also shows considerable image noise, softness and muted colours. A small-scale ISO 6400 option is also available, but we wouldn't advise using it.
We're not really surprised given the price point, but we're not saying the XP60's images are a write-off either. Used at smaller sizes - such as prints or shared online - and the shots have enough colour and clarity to appeal. Some shots we took on a beach came out well and were sharp through much of the centre image portion too.
One problem we did find with the camera is that it opts for lower shutter speeds when there's often no need. This can mean an ISO 400 shot isn't sharp as the sensor-based image stabilisation system - while an improvement point that does help stabilise shots - isn't quite enough to withstand some of the settings the camera selects; instead an ISO sensitivity boost should be used when it often isn't.
In short, the XP60's not for those hyper-critical shots, but it'll serve well enough for those day-to-day shots and family snaps. Chuck it at the kids - literally if you feel like it - and have no fear about what they may do with it. The tough aspect is what makes the camera what it is, far more than the resulting pictures.
The Fujifilm FinePix XP60 continues the company's tradition of subtle upgrades to the tough cam series.
Its available for a welcome price, and although somewhat plasticky the overall rugged build is the obvious key selling point. It fires up quick enough and autofocus, as well as close-up macro focus, works with few issues to raise.
But overall the camera has a stack of weaknesses: A poor viewing angle to the small LCD screen, limited battery life, a tendency to opt for excessively low shutter speeds, so-so image quality when viewing critically at 100 per cent and a plasticky build quality stack up into quite a list.
We weren't expecting wonders from the range, but it's about time Fujifilm gave the tough and waterproof camera series a kick and turned it around to produce a more premium model. The XP60 delivers on the tough front, but its pictures are its weakness overall.