Steve's Conclusion

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    Fujifilm XP170 product photo 275.jpg
  • 14.4-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor
  • FUJINON 5x optical zoom lens (28 - 140 mm equivalent)
  • 2.7-inch anti-reflective LCD (230,000 dots)
  • Up to 3,200 ISO available
  • Waterproof up to 33 feet (10 meters)
  • Shockproof up to 6.5 feet (2 meters)
  • Freezeproof up to 14°F (-10°C)
  • Dustproof
  • Wireless Image Transfer
  • CMOS-shift Image Stabilization (CIS) System
  • Full 1080p HD video (30 fps)
  • 10 fps burst shooting
  • Scene Recognition Auto (SR AUTO)
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery 
Pros
  • Colorful, sharp design
  • Camera feels sturdy
  • Very easy to use
  • LED illuminator light is helpful in low light shots, either underwater or in normal conditions
  • Offers built-in wireless connection option to a smartphone
  • Tough features seem to work pretty well
  • Lens mechanism completely encased in camera body
  • Full HD video mode
  • Battery and memory card compartment protected by double-locking mechanism
  • Focus is sharp most of the time
  • Separate battery charger included
  • HDMI slot included
Cons
  • Response times are pretty disappointing, especially when using the flash
  • 5x optical zoom lens is a bit small
  • Automatic exposure settings get fooled on occasion, leading to poor results
  • Indoor photos sometimes are a bit dull
  • Flash photo results are washed out too often
  • Outdoor photo quality should be more consistently better
  • Video quality is inconsistent
  • Control buttons are too small
  • Must hold down power button half a second to turn on camera
  • Menu structure doesn't seem to have much organization, and making shooting mode changes is a hassle
  • Wireless capabilities are tough to set up
  • Very few manual control options
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.7 seconds (with start-up image turned off)
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.7 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay without flash = 3.6 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.6 seconds with review Off
  • Shot to shot delay with flash = 4.1 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 3.6 seconds with review Off
  • Continuous Mode (High) = 10 frames in 2.7 seconds @ 3M
  • Continuous Mode (Low) = 10 frames in 3.6 seconds @ 3M
  • All tests were taken using a PNY Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
 The Fujifilm FinePix XP170 "tough" camera is a sharp looking model, and it has a sturdy, well-built feel to it. A sturdy camera is exactly what you want when you're going to be using this camera underwater or in tough elements while on a hike. Although the XP170's image quality and performance levels are slightly better than a low-end point-n-shoot camera, its price tag is well above those types of models. Inconsistent results from the XP170 make it difficult to recommend this camera to anyone but those who absolutely need its tough features.
Pick This Up If...
You need a relatively inexpensive shockproof, waterproof, and freezeproof camera that looks sharp, and you're willing to put up with some inconsistent results and performance.
With camera manufacturers tending to lean toward releasing models that offer something more than your standard point-n-shoot cameras, the market has really seen growth in a few different categories. Mirrorless digital interchangeable lens cameras (aka ILC or EVIL cameras) are now available from almost every manufacturer. Advanced fixed-lens cameras provide high-end features without the requirement to change lenses.

Waterproof, tough cameras also have been very popular lately, with a wide variety of models now on the market. The Fujifilm FinePix XP170 is one of the more recent releases into the point-n-shoot waterproof segment of the market, although its design is hardly new. The XP170 is one of several colorful, waterproof cameras that Fujifilm has released in the past few years, and all of them offer a similar look and a very sturdy, well-built feel. Like other waterproof FinePix cameras, the XP170's lens housing is contained in the upper right corner of the front of the camera, and it never extends beyond the camera body, which is great for underwater photography with a compact camera.

Because of this camera's tough features -- which include being able to work in up to 33 feet of water depth, to survive a fall of about 6.5 feet, and to work in below freezing temperatures -- the XP170's price tag is going to be quite a bit higher than your typical point-n-shoot camera with below average specifications. You'll probably pay about double for the XP170 versus what you'd pay for a point-n-shoot camera with only a 5x optical zoom lens, 14.4 megapixels of resolution, and a 2.7-inch LCD screen.

Unless you plan to make full use of the tough features found with the FinePix XP170, you can gain much more value for your camera dollar with a model without the tough features.

If you are absolutely certain you will make use of the tough features of the XP170, just also be certain that you're going to be able to live with some inconsistent photographic performance. The XP170 has some issues with slow performance, especially when using the flash, and with occasionally poor photo quality. This camera's image quality isn't poor all of the time, or even on a regular basis. However, there are just enough times where the camera won't get the exposure right, where the flash will wash out a scene, or where the colors are a bit dull that you'll have some disappointing image results.

One area where the XP170's struggles are particularly disappointing is in its response times. This FinePix model has some shot to shot delays and shutter lag issues that will cause you to miss a few spontaneous photos. That's a significant problem if you plan to shoot photos of fast-moving underwater animals with this camera. Start-up requires almost 3 seconds, which means that you may miss a photo while waiting for the XP170 to respond. In addition, you have to hold down the power button for almost half a second to turn on the camera, meaning there may be a few times where you think you've turned on the camera, only to have it be unresponsive because you didn't hold down the power button long enough.

The 5x zoom lens is below average in today's compact camera market, where 10x zoom lenses are common. As an advantage, though, Fujifilm included 15 distinct stops within the zoom range, making it easy to find the exact magnification you want. The zoom moves through its full range quickly and smoothly.

With its shutter lag issues and small 5x optical zoom lens, the XP170 really isn't designed for shooting sports or animals from a distance. However, if you want to shoot close-up photos, you may have some unexpected success by using the built-in LED illuminator light. While the LED light is designed primarily for shooting underwater, it works well for average low light photos, too, even outperforming the built-in flash unit at times.

Most point-n-shoot cameras that match the specification list of the XP170 at least perform well when shooting outdoors, but this FinePix model wasn't as consistent as it should have been with outdoor photos. Images shot outdoors are dull from time to time, and the camera's automatic exposure measurements are inaccurate on occasion, leading to images that are too dark or too light.

There are plenty of times where the XP170 produces really nice images, and its focus is sharp the majority of the time, especially when you have time to press the shutter button halfway and pre-focus. However, you'll end up with just enough poor photos that it'll probably cause you to end up with an unusable image at some point on a really important photo.

The LCD screen is pretty small with this camera, but that's common for LCDs on compact waterproof models. There are 11 different brightness settings with the LCD on the FinePix XP170, and it doesn't suffer much from glare when using it outdoors, so even though it's not a large screen, it's an adequate display option.

Operating the XP170's various menus is a pretty frustrating experience. This camera's on-screen menus just don't seem to be organized very well, making it tough to find the feature that you really want. Further complicating matters is the fact that the XP170 has no mode dial. All features must be picked using the on-screen menus.

I didn't like the control buttons with this model, because they were just too small for me. Most of the buttons are at least raised away from the camera body, which makes it a little easier to use them, but a better design of the controls would've been nice. The shutter button is larger than what you'll find on most cameras and it's rectangular, which does make it a little easier to find it with your finger while your attention is on the LCD screen.

By this point, you may be wondering why anyone would be considering the XP170. It's the tough features on this camera that set it apart from point-n-shoots and that justify its price tag.

Not every camera can survive a fall of a few feet onto a hard surface, but the XP170 did just fine in my tests. Fujifilm only included one compartment with this camera, placing the memory card slot, battery slot, and the HDMI and USB ports all within this single compartment. The compartment has a double-lock mechanism, guaranteeing that the XP170 won't suffer from water leakage, as long as you take care of the o-ring.

The XP170 does have a built-in wireless capability, but I thought it was really difficult to use. It won't connect to just any random Wi-Fi network, as it's designed to send photos to your smartphone. You must download apps that match your cell phone model, and it was difficult to set up the connection. If you're able to set up the wireless connection properly, it's then difficult to maintain the connection.

The full HD video performance was about average with the XP170, when compared to other models in its price range. The zoom moves pretty smoothly, although the audio quality is hit and miss. Fujifilm did include an HDMI slot with this camera, which is great for downloading the HD movies. However, you do have to purchase an HDMI cable separately.

Fujifilm did include a separate battery charger with this model, which is a nice feature. Battery life is pretty good with this camera, although you will drain the battery in a hurry if you use the LED illuminator light and the wireless options extensively.

Bottom Line - Certainly, anyone who is considering the Fujifilm FinePix XP170 is going to be carefully considering its waterproof and tough capabilities, which are pretty good for a compact model. I like the sturdy feel of this camera. It feels like it's well-built and the double-lock on the compartment latch should make you feel comfortable taking this model into difficult environmental conditions. This is a sharp looking model, too, available in orange or blue. Unfortunately, the XP170's photographic qualities and specifications list look more like what you'd find in a low-end point-n-shoot model. The camera's speed and image quality has just enough inconsistencies that you're going to have a few frustrations while using this model. A poorly organized menu structure and small control buttons add to the frustration level. Still, if you know you will make extensive use of this model's tough features and you need a pretty inexpensive waterproof option, the XP170 is worth a look. Just be sure you can live with this model's flaws before you buy it.

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