Fujifilm FinePix XP30 Review

April 20, 2011 | Matt Grayson |


The Fujifilm FinePix XP30 is the world’s first water, shock, dust and freeze proof camera to feature built-in GPS. Replacing the XP10 model, the FinePix XP30 is waterproof up to 16.5 feet / 5m, shockproof up to 5 feet / 1.5m, freezeproof down to 14°F / -10°, and dustproof. The Fujifilm XP30 has a 14 megapixel CCD sensor, 2.7 inch LCD screen, and a 5x periscopic optical zoom lens with a focal range of 28-140mm. It also features 720p HD movie recording and an automatic Facebook / YouTube Automatic Web Upload function. Available in a choice of five different colors, silver, black, blue, orange and green, the Fujifilm FinePix XP30 costs £199.99 / $239.95.

Ease of Use

Looking at the Fujifilm FinePix XP30, you wouldn't initially think that it was a waterproof camera simply because it's not covered in rubber and plastic. The watertight seals are hidden away with a subtlety of design but on the front are two screws that, in fairness, are probably unnecessary but they make the camera look more set up for underwater use.

The unusual thing is that we've never seen a waterproof camera that has the lens stuck out of the corner of the body, but despite this the XP30 looks more like a waterproof camera than a typical digital compact . Maybe it's because the large round lens bears a fleeting resemblance to a porthole on a ship? The important thing to know is that the XP30 is pretty solid and can take a serious amount of abuse regardless of how it looks.

Because of the lens' position on the camera, we had to avoid placing our fingers in the corners of the camera. We still placed our index finger on the top over the lens but had to curl our other fingers over more than usual and after a while holding the XP30 this way, it became uncomfortable. Our right hand was positioned great for shooting, although we found that because of the position of our left hand, we placed more weight onto our right little finger which was under the camera. Again over time, our little finger began to feel the strain and the camera also has four "feet" which dug into our finger causing discomfort. We photographed a basket ball game with the XP30 and this is where we discovered these problems, as we were using the camera constantly for over an hour.

Fujifilm FinePix XP30 Fujifilm FinePix XP30
Front Rear

The waterproof seals are internal with rubber linings around the battery/SD card bay on the bottom. The XP30 feels heavy for such a small unit which is down to the high construction quality. On the top of the camera, there's two buttons; one for powering it on and one for taking pictures. There's also a small rocker switch for zooming in and out. We always find it interesting that the buttons and switches aren't sealed under a rubber covering to repel water.

As with most digital compacts these days, there are minimal buttons on the back of the camera and on the Fujifilm FinePix XP30, this is no different. In fact, all it sports is the menu button with the navigation pad wrapped around it, and direct playback, display and dedicated video buttons. The rest of the camera's back is reserved for the 2.7 inch screen. Generally larger controls are used on underwater cameras because of the distortion and difficult conditions to see in. However, this isn't a camera that would be used heavily in scuba photography, it's only good for 5m or 16ft which sounds sufficient but when you're exploring the depths of the sea, 5m isn't that far. It's come on a lot since these cameras first surfaced (no pun intended) though.

The Fujifilm FinePix XP30 's LCD screen is nice and bright and doesn't suffer from motion blur or the purple bleeding when it goes over a bright area such as a window. The rear area is covered in a plastic casing with metal only covering small portions of the top, front, bottom and sides.

Fujifilm FinePix XP30 Fujifilm FinePix XP30
Water-proof Dust-proof

Moving into the menu, it has the usual Fujifilm set up which is intuitive and easy to navigate. To the left of the main screen are two tabs for shooting options and set up. The shooting menu will allow more or less access depending on the mode that you're in at the time. The first option is for setting the mode and you can choose from scene recognition, auto, program (like auto but opens up more features in the menu), natural and flash, natural light and then 16 different scene modes to help the scenarios you may find yourself in.

Interesting scene modes include a portrait enhancer, motion panorama, night shot while using a tripod and three underwater modes. The primary underwater mode is used for general subaquatic shots then the other two expand your options for shooting at wide angle and at macro. This doesn't mean that the XP30 won't allow wide angle shooting in the normal mode, the camera will still zoom in and out, it just means that the wide setting is prepared for the distortion of being underwater and the barrel distortion of being at wide angle.

The 5x optical zoom is fast and responsive. It goes through the range in steps and we managed to get 15 steps but felt that it could possibly do better than that. One problem that it has it the sheer noise that it makes. Even holding it at arms length, we could still hear a clicking noise as the camera was scrolled through the zoom range. Unfortunately, in video mode, the clicking sounds like it's been run through an amplifier as it's much louder and in this day and age, it shouldn't be making any noise at all.

Start up time is fast on the Fujifilm FinePix XP30 at less than a second although you have to hold the power button down for longer than is normal on a digital compact camera. Focusing is also relatively fast and there are three types of focusing available on the camera. As well as standard and face detection, there is also a AF subject tracker found in the menu system. To enable the tracking, you must press the left button of the navigation pad and then press it again if you want to cancel it. While it's locked on the subject, it won't release focus of that area unless it leaves the frame or you press the cancel button. One area that we found problematic was at the basket ball game. We kept missing the vital baskets because the camera couldn't respond fast enough even in sports mode. We had to compensate by around a second which then also lost focus and despite the hall being well lit, the XP30 still had exposure issues.

Fujifilm FinePix XP30 Fujifilm FinePix XP30
Scratch-proof Shock-proof

One thing we always liked about the Fujfilm digital compacts was the film replication settings in the Colour menu. Previously the cameras have offered options of slide and colour film as well as more in depth simulations such as Velvia and Provia. The processor would use slight inflections in colour and saturation to give the feel of these well known film types. Unfortunately, these days, it seems to be relegated to a few higher specification cameras and the XP30 only offers monochrome (black and white), sepia and chrome (slide film) options on top of the standard colour.

The biggest feature that Fujifilm are shouting about on the XP30 is geo tagging. The technology has been around for a while now with lots of digital compact cameras being fitted out with it, but this is one of the first tough cameras to sport it. If you're unfamiliar with this feature, it works in a similar way to a GPS satellite navigation unit in the way that it communicates with a satellite to give the precise location of the camera. Now, before you start getting all excited about having a built-in compass, the camera doesn't work exactly  like that although it does take existing GPS tracking one step further. As you record the GPS information, you can have it displayed on the screen in longitude and latitude when you're reviewing your pictures in the playback menu. You can also add place names and search for them in the menu system. This allows you to also create a photobook documentary using the Fujifilm software that comes in the box. The GPS system will also let you know how far away you are from the location of a previously taken picture using the GPS from that picture, which is a cool idea.

You can still do what other GPS systems are used for and correlate the information from the EXIF data. It uses the date and time from the camera along with the location details from the GPS and will pin-point exactly when and where you were on Google Maps. We tested how long it took for the camera to locate the satellite and from start up of the camera, sat in a room around 2ft from a window, it failed to get a signal. Putting the camera at the window, it also failed to get a signal which is a problem with the UK weather system. To tell us that it couldn't get a signal took around 4 minutes. It's a weak system and won't work unless you're outside and it's a clear day. There are GPS units available that will work indoors so the technology is available and has been for a while. If you want to use the system abroad, be careful where you use it because there are some countries that restrict GPS such as China. Check with your travel agent when you book your trip for clear guidelines.

There's always a dedicated picture viewing software program included in the box and the Fujifilm has FinePix Studio version 2.1. The same CD also holds the owner's manual and the only paper based instructions included is a quick start guide. There's also a lithium ion battery, charger and USB cable. The charger doesn't have a lead, it's plugged directly into the socket which can make it difficult to use on awkward sockets. Being a diverse company, Fujifilm offer a few different optional extras that you may not normally find in this section. There are two cases available; the Mini Multi-Purpose Case which is capable of storing lots of things along with the camera or you could choose the flamboyantly named FinePix XP Action Jacket. It's made from Neoprene and a karabiner for clipping to scuba gear if that's what you're using it for. There's also a battery, charger, AC adapter and a coupler which seems to only extend the AC adapter by replacing the battery and slotting into the battery compartment.

Fujifilm FinePix XP30 Fujifilm FinePix XP30
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Throughout our time using the Fujifilm FinePix XP30, we tested all the features within tolerance parameters of what the manufacturer have stated the camera is capable of. During the shockproof test, we dropped it from a maximum height of 10cm (Fujifilm state that the camera can withstand drops from up to 1.5m). The camera still works after the test but it's worth noting that the battery door snapped open. The card and battery remained inside but we thought the door shouldn't open like that. The door also had trouble closing again because of what looked like a problem with the catch. The catch is spring loaded to open the battery door but when it's closed, you also need to pull it right back as a sort of double lock which Fujifilm say is to ensure total waterproofing. It's a good idea and it's better to be safe than sorry.

During the sand and dust test, we placed the XP30 in a sand pit, covered it over with sand and removed it straight away. We washed it under the tap before using it but some sand had still got caught in the zoom rocker rendering it inoperable to zoom in. It worked itself free eventually, but the stepping zoom feature no longer works, the camera goes from tele straight to wide-angle. We had no problems with the freeze and water proof testing and were perfectly happy with the camera's performance in those two categories.

The Fujifilm FinePix XP30 takes a lithium ion battery that's dedicated to the camera. It slots in the side of the camera and shares space with the SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card. Life of the battery is very good although it does get a hammering when the GPS is switched on. Using the GPS in the always on position drained the battery in 24 hours while using it when just switched on doesn't deplete it as much. However, using the latter takes longer to get a fix on your location. Inserting the battery can be a problem because it's a symmetrical shape and the camera lets you insert it even if it's the wrong way round.

After some of the problems that we encountered, we contacted Fujifilm and they offered to send a secondary unit out to us to compare it in case it was a specific camera that was at fault. We received a green model which looks beautiful. The issues we raised in the testing were: the battery door snapping open when dropped and sand getting into the zoom rocker. We dropped the new model from around 10cm (the same as the first blue model) and we had the same problem with the door falling open. Our issue is that if you were taking pictures at the seaside and dropped it into a rock pool, the camera would be ruined. As for the sand test, we placed it in the same sand pit covered with the same amount of sand for just a few seconds and the camera worked perfectly after being washed under the tap.