My family is holidaying in central Australia later this year, where desert sand and the occasional waterhole will make it tough on cameras. So I’ve been on the prowl for cheap shockproof and water resistant cameras which I can give to the kids to safely knock about with. With that in mind I paid $150 for a used Fujifilm XP30 a couple of days ago, without having done any research. The camera has built-in GPS, so I thought it would be fun for one of the kids to take ownership of during our trip, so they can trace their location. At $150, I won’t be too upset if it ends up being taken by a dingo.
The camera is smaller than a cigarette packet and boasts more bits of plastic than the Pacific Ocean (or a very small part of it at least). The fact that Fuji has crammed 14 megapixels into that small space doesn’t suggest it’s ever going to be a five-star product. However I figured that if Fuji made the X100, the X10 and X-Pro 1, they must know how to make a decent point and shoot. But after reading the online reviews my confidence dropped. The helpful shoppers on Amazon have given the camera particularly bad reviews: ”Do not buy this camera. Useless camera, even worse bells and whistles… Do not buy, trust me… Onto third replacement – DO NOT BUY… DO NOT BUY – Honeymoon Pictures Ruined!”.
Wow! I’d never come across such a total piece of crap before, let alone bought one. (OK that’s not true. This same week I returned a $250 Bronica ETRS to an ebay seller because it was an inoperative brick, but you can’t blame Bronica for that.) What struck me most about the comments on the XP30 at Amazon and elsewhere was the number of people who took this little camera on their honeymoon, and were furious that it either took terrible pictures or the waterproof door came open under water and as a result the camera died after the first swim, snorkel, dive, spa, shower, or presumably other honeymoon activities which involve liquids. As a gadget junkie and camera snob I was also surprised at how many people bought this camera as their only camera for a significant holiday to Mexico, Maui and other places where Americans travel to. Why would you take a camera like this as your ONLY camera to capture important family memories?
Of course the answer is that not everyone is into photography, and they expect any $200 P&S camera to take good enough photos. Add underwater capability, GPS and 14 megapixels (whatever that means) and you’d be mad to walk past the Fuji XP30, right? Well, maybe.
The complaints about this camera fall into two categories. Firstly, poor design and quality (“Vacation in Italy was destroyed as far as pictures go when the door opened underwater. I can tell you for sure, the door was closed when I went in the water but it is so poorly engineered that it flipped open without me understanding to this day why. Fuji has not been helpful at all. Wasted Money in recession.”) Second, terrible pictures (“Every time I pull the camera out to take a picture, I cringe as I imagine what the result will be when I download the images to my computer.”)
You can’t argue too much with poor quality, and as a result I’ll keep this camera out of the water and not let my kids treat it with the same violence they inflict on our beautifully reliable Panasonic DMC-FT2. But to test how bad the picture quality really is I took it on a walk around Sydney’s CBD today and took some snapshots. You can see some of the better ones below – most of the others I deleted. These are all JPGs straight from the camera with the resolution at its highest quality. The picture mode was set to auto everything, except where I forced the flash to fire. I’ve made no adjustments.
Based on this short and unscientific experiment, if I had just returned from my honeymoon and felt compelled to write a review on Amazon about the Fujifilm XP30, it would go something like this: ”We didn’t expect much from this camera given its size and the unrealistic 14 megapixel sensor. We also read all the other reviews and decided to keep this camera away from too much moisture (giggle) and not treat it like the shockproof camera Fuji says it is. However with a bit of attention to the settings, and knowing that it’s important to half-press the shutter to focus before taking the picture, you can get decent results from this camera. However I won’t be taking it on my next honeymoon and at $150 it’s a rip-off … and I want my money back.”
Just for kicks and to prove that my honeymoon was many years ago, after saying goodnight to my wife this evening, I performed some basic tweaks on the last image in Photoshop and Colour Efex Pro 4 to see what those disgruntled Amazon shoppers could have achieved if they’d just spent another few thousand dollars on an iMac, and some high-end software. The processed image is at the bottom.