While Fujifilm was one of the first manufacturers to start making waterproof compacts, the firm has always focused on budget-friendly splash-abouts rather than rivalling higher-end ultra-tough models. That, however, is all set to change with the FinePix XP150, a compact that's waterproof to 10 metres and shockproof from heights of two metres. Faced with long-standing market leaders like the Panasonic FT4, Olympus TG-820, as well as the likes of the Sony TX20, we can only hope that Fuji has made some decent updates to its underwater snapper, as least year's XP30 failed to impress us.
From first contact, it's plain to see that the FinePix XP150 is pretty closely related to last year's XP30, with the same controls in the same places and the same springy feeling buttons. The camera body has changed, however, as the XP150 is heavier, bulkier—no doubt due to its extra toughness (it can go twice as deep underwater as the XP30)—and the grip handle on the front of the camera is deeper-set to help you keep hold of it more effectively. Although the casing isn't quite as nice as the Panasonic FT4, and it's obviously nowhere near as sleek as a Sony TX20, the XP150 seems like a sturdier, more serious piece of kit than the XP30.
The screen hasn't changed a bit. It's still a 230,000-dot LCD with ridiculously tight vertical viewing angles, excessive contrast (dark greys become black and light greys become white) and colour fidelity that could be better.
The battery compartment door has now been reinforced with a twin-lock system that should stop it opening accidentally. It stays firmly in place even when handling the camera with wet hands. All in all, it's a practical, well-designed system.
The GPS has a few strange features. For example, although it can automatically set itself to local time, you still have to manually enter whether your location is using summer or winter time.
Good news—Fuji has improved responsiveness in its new waterproof compact. Over a second has been shaved off the start-up time, which was a real downside of the XP30. At 2.3 seconds, start-up still isn't amazing but it's by no means catastrophic.
The autofocus and photo-saving times have also been improved in the XP150, bringing boosted speed and reliability. Although against the clock it's no match for its Panasonic and Olympus counterparts, the XP150 is still on the better side of average.
There is, however, one rather surprising thing about the XP150—there's no burst shooting mode at maximum resolution. When you switch to continuous shooting, no matter which mode you choose, resolution drops to three Megapixels. And there were we thinking that one of the advantages of CMOS sensors was fast image processing ...
The XP150 has the same lens as the XP30, well-known for its slow speed (f/3.9 at wide-angle!) and hit-and-miss quality at telephoto settings. It does, however, come equipped with a new 14-Megapixel CMOS sensor.
The new sensor isn't a great success. The ISO test results show some rather ruthless smoothing from 400 ISO, with a loss of detail visible on an 8" x 10" print (20 x 27 cm). At 800 ISO the image looks hazy, even in 4" x 6" prints (11 x 15 cm), with visible granularity. The result is actually quite reminiscent of old-generation Panasonic CMOS sensors—the one used in the TZ20, for example, barely does a better job than the CCD sensor used in Fuji's XP30.
While it's not clear exactly which firm made this sensor (as well as Panasonic, Aptina makes sensors like this, notably used in certain GE cameras), the result isn't overwhelming. In fact, it serves to highlight the real difference in quality between 'standard' CMOS sensors and the BSI CMOS variety.
The lens holds no real surprises since it was lifted straight out of the XP30. It therefore has the same qualities (like all periscopic lenses, it doesn't stick out from the camera body when you zoom) and the same faults (quality isn't consistent across the frame at wide-angle, the whole frame looks hazy at telephoto).
Al in all, the XP150 takes photos that aren't really on par with current market standards for compact cameras. If Fujifilm really wants to out a higher-end model capable of rivalling the likes of the Panasonic FT4 and Olympus TG-820, it'll need to get a new lens and shell out for a decent sensor—like the very good home-grown CMOS used in the F770 ...
The XP150 films 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. Exposure is handled well, as dark parts of the picture don't block together in black clumps and light, bright areas aren't overexposed too quickly. However, barrel distortion is quite strong and speckles of video noise can be seen in darker, shadowy parts of the picture.
Sound is unfortunately recorded in mono rather than stereo. The whole thing sounds quite confused, with various noises not recorded particularly accurately and the zoom lens motor picked up in the background.