Fujifilm FinePix XP30
14.2MP | 28-140mm (5X) ZOOM | $192/£123

The Fujifilm FinePix XP30 features a few notable upgrades over its predecessor the XP10. The XP30 has a higher pixel count at 14.2 megapixels, a 5X optical zoom lens starting at the wider focal length of 28mm, and increased specs across the board in terms of waterproofing to 5m (16 ft), shock resistance to 1.5m (5 ft), and freezeproofing to -10 °C (14 °F). When it was released January 5th, 2011, the XP30 was the first rugged compact with built-in GPS, something that has become more common in the months which followed.

The XP30 shares the ability to record 720p video with three of the cameras we tested (the Sony TX10 and Panasonic TS3 record in 1080i), and its 2.7 inch 230k dot LCD display is on par with all but the Sony and Olympus TG-810 which both offer 3 inch 920k dot screens. The XP30 is the cheapest camera inn this group, and generally this is reflected in its specification. That said, for under $200, the XP30 checks an impressive number of boxes.

Click here for full product information including reader reviews and image samples (opens in new window)

Design / Key features

The somewhat amphibian-looking shape and design looks very similar to the XP10, but there are some noticeable changes. There is now a dedicated zoom lever on the top of the camera next to the shutter and power buttons. The back of the camera surrounding the LCD is rubberized, and has added traction in the upper right corner where your thumb sits. The hump above the lens and a patch on the front of the camera are also rubberized. These details, together with the small grip on the front-right, and oval body shape, make the camera easy to grip and comfortable in the hands. Available in black, blue, orange, silver, and green, the XP30 certainly makes a statement.

A four-way controller on the rear of the XP30 serves to set commonly-accessed functions like AF, flash and self-timer, while movie shooting is initiated using a dedicated, red-accented button. The metal bar on the right of this photograph is a sturdy attachment point for the included handstrap.

Like many of the cameras we tested, the XP30 can record GPS data for the photos you take as well as log your location every 10 minutes, enabling you to see the route travelled while the camera was being used. Also, the camera has a database of landmarks stored which it attempts to match to your location where appropriate. In our experience, this was not always very effective as the camera chose pretty arbitrary landmarks that had little to do with where we were headed.

Interestingly, if you want to return to the location of a photo stored on the camera, the XP30 will provide you with directions to the GPS coordinates of the photo. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, with GPS turned on, battery drain increases to the point where we couldn't get a full-day's use out of the XP30.

Panoramic modes have become common in compact cameras in recent years, and Fuji has taken note with its own 'motion panorama' mode which provides the user with a specific alignment point for each photo being taken in the panorama. In bright conditions, we found this feature extremely useful and easy, especially when compared to having to line up two overlapping photos as many panorama modes require.

Even so, in many of the panoramas we took, the areas where photos have been stitched together are pretty noticeable. The panorama above is one of the best we were able to get, but panning from left to right, stitching errors are evident on close inspection.

The XP30 offers a useful array of post-capture editing features, including the ability to crop, change the aspect ratio, adjust the brightness, contrast/color, and the ability to apply up to 4 different sepia filters. There is also a playback mode called 'photobook' that essentially lets the user select a set of images to be displayed (on the camera) with a wide Polaroid-like white border. While this sounds nice, without a much large, higher-resolution LCD, the feature isn't as useful (or usable) as it could be.

  • 14.2 effective megapixels
  • 28-140mm equiv lens
  • CCD Shift Image Stabilization
  • 720p HD video (30 fps)
  • 2.7 inch LCD with 230,000 dot resolution
  • ISO sensitivity up to 3200
  • 21 shooting modes
  • GPS tagging with landmark identification and route logging
  • 'Motion Panorama' mode with stitch assistance
  • Waterproof to 5m (16 ft)
  • Freezeproof to -10 °C (14°F)
  • Shockproof to 1.5m (5 ft)

Performance and image quality

The Fuji XP30 is a pretty easy camera to operate. Its menu system is straightforward and only two clicks are required to access and select a shooting mode, which is useful, for example, if you plan to frequently switch from underwater shooting modes to any of the other shooting modes. And even if you choose to just use the automatic scene recognition mode, the XP30 generally does a decent job of identifying the correct scene.

With regards to speed of operation, though, we do have concerns. The XP30's power button must be pressed for a full second to power on the camera, and another 4-5 seconds pass before a photograph can be taken. Additionally, the XP30's AF tends to hunt a little in anything but the brightest conditions. These issues are not confined to stills shooting - after the video record button is pressed there is a 4 second delay before recording starts. The overall effect is of an unresponsive, laggy camera. Even at this price point, we would expect more.

The wide-angle shot to the left is a good example of how the Fuji handles a daylight landscape scene, metering the scene well, but struggling to resolve fine details, especially at the edges of the frame.

Fujifilm specifies that the XP30 can focus as close as 9cm in Macro mode, but we were able to get focus lock as close as 2-3 cm. In terms of central sharpness, the XP30 gives good performance in macro mode, as you can see from this example, of a golfball-sized mushroom.

In everyday shooting, images from the XP30 display good color, generally accurate white balance, and for many users should suffice for web viewing and sharing. But after looking through the hundreds of studio, and 'real-world' shots, it is obvious that images from the XP30 lack sharpness, and suffer from much higher levels of visible noise, even at base ISO sensitivities, than the competition. The understandably thick layer of glass in front of the lens used to protect and seal the inside of the camera is a partial factor in the lack of sharpness, and indeed several other cameras tested also suffer from softness in parts of the frame, but none are as consistently disappointing as the Fuji when it comes to critical image quality. It is worth stressing again at this point that for small prints and web use, this is less of an issue, but there are better cameras in this group for the more critically-inclined.

The Fuji XP30 produces vibrant but natural looking colors underwater. Its flash is more than equal to the task of illuminating most scenes, as you can see from the images above. In the image on the left, the XP30 was positioned roughly 10cm away from the anemone pictured, and the it has done a great job of picking up the rich orange, red, and pink colors. The image on the right was taken in a fairly dark pool at a range of roughly four feet, and yet the flash has provided more than enough light to expose the subject. The main issue - just like the shots we took on dry land - is a lack of critical sharpness in just about any condition.

As the ISO sensitivity increases the XP30's image quality drops. At all ISO sensitivities this is the noisiest camera in the group, but at its highest ISO settings, images are especially unpleasant, and compare very poorly with competitive models.

Video Samples

Video image quality from the XP30 is similarly sub-par, and noticeably noisy, even in what should be favourable conditions. On the plus side, video is well-exposed, and even in our underwater testing, the Fuji was able to illuminate a dark scene pretty well with its built-in LED light. The first sample below was taken with barely any available light, and although grainy, the footage is well-exposed and colorful. In the second video the XP30 struggles to attain consistent focus lock. You can also hear the lens zooming in and out pretty clearly on the soundtrack to this clip.

1280 x 720 30 fps, .AVI file, 37 sec. 104 MB Click here to download original .AVI file

1280 x 720 30 fps, .AVI file, 37 sec. 104 MB Click here to download original .AVI file


The Fuji XP30 comes equipped with all of the key features that we expect from this line of cameras. But now that this segment of the market is getting so crowded, simply being able to check off boxes on a feature list is not necessarily enough. The XP30 is undoubtedly a bargain at its price point when you consider the range of features it packs, and although it does not excel in any one area compared to the competition, it is easy to use, and perfectly satisfying for casual, non-critical photography.

If your primary criteria is that the camera is waterproof, cheap, and easy to use, then the XP30 is a logical choice, and we are confident the XP30 will make many of it's owners happy. But if you are interested in getting sharp pictures and a more responsive camera, we'd recommend coughing up an extra $50-$100 to get one of the higher scoring models in this test.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Fujifilm FinePix XP30
Category: Waterproof / Rugged Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Although the Fuji XP30 matches many of the cameras in this class for basic 'rugged' compact camera specifications, it delivers below-average performance in image quality and speed of operation. Even so, with the lowest price of any waterproof camera released in 2011, it is an affordable and easy to use option for those on a budget.
Good for
Casual underwater photography for web sharing and small prints.
Not so good for
Anywhere critical image or video quality is required.
Overall score