Well...for $200, we have come to expect a little more for our money. The Fuji XP170 has a decent spec list: it is rugged. It is waterproof. It is dustproof. It is freezeproof. However, the image quality is lackluster and the video is just acceptable.
With the introduction of the little Fujifilm Finepix XP170 (the same camera without Wi-Fi - the XP 150 is still available), Fuji is offering consumers the option to buy a genuinely tough camera that can not only slip beneath the waves (down to 33 feet/10 meters), but is also drop proof (Fuji calls it shockproof) to 6.6 feet (2 meters) and freezeproofed to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Centigrade) and dustproof. The Fujifilm Finepix XP170 is aimed directly at the "Extreme Sports" demographic. Many camera users call this class of imaging device underwater cameras or all- weather cameras, but cameras in this class are really designed for Extreme Sports aficionados. Extreme Sports fans skin-dive, snorkel, ski, water ski, snowboard, mountain bike, BMX, and skateboard so they need a different sort of camera - one that's tougher and more durable than most other digicams.
Canon, Nikon, Pentax and other major OEMs used to sell underwater housings for their more popular cameras, but those contraptions occasionally leaked, cost almost as much as the camera, and were bulky and quite complicated in use. One of the most impressive things about the current crop of underwater digital cameras is that unlike the dedicated underwater cameras of the past, Nikon's venerable Nikonos series for example, today's underwater cameras are simply tougher waterproof versions of general use compact digital P&S digicams with all (or at least most of) the bells and whistles of their above water siblings.
The Fuji XP170 is available for around $200.
Build and Design
The XP170 is neither a particularly compact nor an especially stylish digicam - rather it sports a kind of blocky utilitarian industrial look. The Fuji XP170 is built around a 14 megapixel CMOS image sensor that offers sensitivities from ISO 100 to ISO 3,200. The XP170 is very easy to use and has very impressive dust and water seals, a very tough (primarily) metal alloy body, and a decent selection of automatic exposure options. It is available in either royal blue or traffic cone orange. For Wireless Image Transfer - users will need to download the Fujifilm Photo Receiver app for their smartphone or tablet, because the XP170 can't communicate directly with the World Wide Web.
Ergonomics and Controls
Ergonomics are a bit less than ideal, but that's to be expected with an underwater camera. All controls are fairly large, easily accessed, and logically placed. In hand, the XP170 is a tiny bit awkward because of its unconventional brick like shape, but the user interface is uncomplicated with large clearly marked buttons and a simple intuitive control array. Operation is dead simple since all exposure options are minor variations on the auto mode theme. Fuji obviously designed the XP170 to be useful in a broad range of shooting environments and to be usable by just about anyone. Most purchasers will have no difficulty using the camera right out of the box.
Menus and Modes
The Fujifilm FinePix XP170's menus are straightforward, logical, and easily navigated. The font size is large, so they are also easy to read. The XP170 provides four exposure modes - Auto, Program, Scene Recognition Auto, and 20 scene modes, (three of which are for underwater use). Navigation is brutally simple since the camera permits only minimal user input.
XP170 shooting modes include:
Like many current point and shoots, the XP170 doesn't provide an optical viewfinder, relying instead on the same outdated 2.7 inch (230,000 pixel) LCD screen featured on all previous XP series models. The XP170 really ought to have featured a newer and higher resolution LCD, since this version is really showing its age. The XP170's 2.7 inch TFT LCD is not very bright and it is fairly coarse, but it is hue accurate, relatively fluid, and automatically boosts gain in dim/low light. The XP170's LCD screen is barely sharp enough for most compositional tasks and captured image review I can only imagine how difficult it must be to use as a framing tool 30 feet underwater.
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