By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Until recently, capable waterproof digital cameras were considered the domain of prosumer models which required expensive waterproof cases as add ons. Fujufilm's XP 20 and XP 30 cameras shoot 14 megapixel stills, HD quality video and are waterproof (up to 16 ft), dustproof, freeze proof (up to -10'c) shockproof (up to 4.9 feet) point and shoot cameras packed with creative and functional shooting options.
We've avoided the sporty camera segment for some time now because we were under the impression that these tough and water resistant point-and-shoot cameras offered increased durability at the cost of great picture quality and control.
We have also been critical of their look and feel, bright trendy colours and mostly exposed (although clearly reinforced and quite durable) lenses, somewhat simplistic handling and way limited user options. Boy, were we wrong.
Fujifilm's XP line are made up of the XP20 (SRT $199) which we are testing and the identical (although it features a GPS for geotagging) XP30, a veritable steal at ($230).
Bringing the best elements of small size, sturdy build quality and tanklike construction, the XP series is designed for people who want a competent camera that takes stellar photos, can manage video and want the added versatility of using it in conditions that would kill regular cameras.
Here's the thing, Fujifilm also decided it was going to add its best point-and-shoot camera technology, its prodigious AI and the impressive Fujinon 5x optical and 28mm wide lens, high ISO sensitivity (up to 3200 ISO), image stabilization and 21 of shooting modes including an impressive three-frame stitch panorama mode (see above), preset modes for underwater video or photography plus the more common settings.
The XP20 is deceptively easy to use. Most people will be satisfied with the simple and straightforward controls, the quick access to menu items and the great photo quality on almost any setting.
Dig a little deeper into the menu system, learn the controls and the camera really starts to pay dividends. Fujifilm has thought about all possible shooting conditions for such a camera and choosing the right setting for the right picture delivers exceptional results.
We actually field tested the XP20 and took it to the beach. It was immersed in water for photo and video tests and we were satisfied by its performance, specially with photos (see below).
Photos were well saturated, realistic and accurate under a cloudy summer day (lots of light changes) and we dunked the XP20 in seawater without any issue whatsoever (an activity that caused a lot of anxiety as we debated the water-resistant vs. water proof argument and were hoping Fujifilm meant what they said (they did).
Video was less impressive (see below) colour accuracy and contrast was off and details were not perfect. Still, this camera was shooting 1020p resolution HD video while being slammed by waves and it had been not only soaked but also thoroughly submerged.
The Fujifilm XP20 also managed to keep out sand, dust and debris. We didn't have to worry about it and just tossed it in with our snorkeling gear.
After hours of use, we marvelled at the tough build and construction of the XP line. We managed 220 photos and some videos on a single charge but a number of these were panoramic in nature.
Made up of hard plastic, metal accents and rubber; the XP 20's cheerful coloured exterior belies a truly tough exterior and exceptional set of features for a camera in this category and price. For travellers or parents of sall children interested in photography or even the extreme sport set, the XP20 and geo-aware XP30
Rating: 4.5 out of 5