The flood of new digital cameras continues unabated and Fuji didn't miss the party in 2012. While it is unlikely to generate much fanfare, one of Fuji's newest digicams might actually end up being be a fairly exciting camera. The Fujifilm Finepix XP170 is the top dog in Fuji's "Extreme Sports" lineup. 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 other P&S digicams.
The XP170 won't win any awards for stylishness or pocket friendliness, in fact the XP170 appears to have been designed by an industrial engineer. The XP170 is a rather awkward looking, somewhat chunky, and surprisingly heavy little camera. The XP170 has very impressive dust and water seals, a very tough polycarbonate and metal alloy body, and a full complement of automatic exposure options. It is available in either royal blue or bio-hazard orange (my test unit was orange), so it should be fairly easy to keep track of. The XP170 is waterproof to 33 feet (10 meters), dustproof, guaranteed to withstand a 6.6 foot (2 meters) drop onto a hard surface, and it's freeze-proofed down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Centigrade). The XP170 also features 14 megapixel resolution, a 5x periscope style Fujinon f3.9-f4.9/5.0mm-25mm (28mm-140mm equivalent) zoom, a 2.7 inch (6.86 centimeters) 230k TFT LCD monitor with approximately 96% frame coverage, a 1920 x 1080p @ 30fps HD movie mode with mono audio (the zoom can used during video capture), and 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 are a bit less than ideal, but that's almost to be expected with an underwater camera. All controls are fairly large, easily accessed, and logically placed -- meaning the camera should be lead pipe cinch to operate underwater or while wearing gloves in frigid sttings. AF seems a bit slower than similar cameras from Canon and Nikon that I've used and if you'll carefully examine the skateboarder photo you'll notice that while the XP170 was able to freeze him in mid air, there is still a lot of blur. It was late in the day when I shot the image, so that subject blur could be the fault of the failing light (and the dead slow maximum aperture) OR it could indicate that the camera isn't really fast enough to capture Extreme Sports action. I'll deal with this potential deal breaker in more detail (and shoot a couple of additional sample action photos earlier in the day) for my full review of the XP170.
I've only had the camera for a week and the weather here in the Ohio Valley has been rainy and cold, except for two fairly sunny days -- so I've only had the camera out a couple of times. I know that the camera is supposed to be tough enough to go out in the rain and cold, but the reviewer clearly isn't. I am impressed with most of the photos I've shot so far with the XP170, but a few of my images were burnt out and two were not accurately focused, even though the camera confirmed focus lock on both of them. The f3.9 maximum aperture is really fairly slow since most P&S digicams feature an f2.8 maximum aperture, which lets in twice as much light as an f4.0 maximum aperture -- and that may be a factor. Overall, I'm pleased with XP170, but I'll withhold making a final judgment until my full review.