The BEST Value-For-Money Underwater Tough Camera!!
I’m going to get straight to the point — the Fujifilm FinePix XPs are the best tough cameras for the money. I’ve owned a Fuji XP130 for over a year now and it has proved to be one of the best pieces of camera equipment I own. This camera has not only survived some incredible and extreme conditions, but thrived in it — and I only paid £70!
If you’re anything like me, the main reason you’re in the market for a tough camera such as this is you want to be able to capture moments in extreme places without risking your phone/shelling out a fortune. What you want is something you don’t want to have to think about; that u can fling about in your bag and take with you wherever you go and something that’s simple and intuitive to use. The FinePix XP cameras ticks all these boxes and for a bargain price.
For me, I was about to embark on a trip of a lifetime to Iceland, involving a visit to the Blue Lagoon and to go snorkelling in the Silfra Fissure. I knew I wanted to capture these amazing experiences, and on a whim bought the cheapest waterproof camera I could find — this refurbished, bright yellow Fuji XP130 for just £70. If only for that single trip to Iceland, the camera was more than worth it: 20m waterproofing is ample for anyone who isn’t deep-sea diving, and the camera stood up to the icy glacial meltwater in the fissure with ease. (The below image was taken on the Fujifilm XP130).
In the Blue Lagoon, the water is filled with various minerals and salts that give the water its milky look and healing properties, but also might prove a hazard to electric devices. I even dropped my XP130 in this water at one point, and after a two minute panic eventually retrieved it to find it completely in-tact. After an hour or two once the camera had fully dried, I found salt crystals had formed around the edges on parts, but a quick brush off and rinse with water and the camera looked as-good-as-new. (The image below was taken on the Fujifilm XP130).
My trip to Iceland was last year, however, and since then the FinePix has proved its usefulness yet again. I’ve taken it on both of my Gold Duke Of Edinburgh expeditions, one to the Lake District and one to the Isle of Arran, both encountering some extreme weather. I had my camera tied to my bag strap and so exposed and out in the open from about eight o’clock in the morning through to six at night. I encountered persistent, heavy rain on both expeditions, and strong winds (up to 50mph) on the Isle of Arran that certainly blew the camera and knocked it about a bit. At rest stops, I’d fling my bag to the ground, the camera crashing down with it onto gravel tracks, sometimes with the whole weight of the rucksack pressing on it. The camera’s been sat on, scraped against and sniffed by horses, and survived it all with barely a scratch. (The image below was taken on the Fujifilm XP130).
In terms of features: the Fuji is not the most fully featured camera, and its a definite change of pace if you’re used to shooting with a D-SLR like me. Even it’s competitors, such as the Olympus TG Cameras, have more features than the Fuji, but the Olympus TG-6 is 2.5x the price of the latest incarnation of the XP camera, the XP140! On top of this, I believe most of these features are a bit gimmicky, and the XP cameras provide everything you need. At the end of the day, do you think you’ll need the Olympus’ macro shooting features? Would you not rather have an extra stop of optical zoom and an extra 5m of water resistance for half your money? (The image below was taken on the Fujifilm XP130).
All that being said, the Fuji gets the basics right — it’s got a self-timer, a decent flash and decent optical zoom for its size. The Wifi system works surprisingly well too, allowing for quick image transfer to a smartphone if you’re out in the filed without an SD card reader handy. There’s also the capability to shoot RAW which is nice to have but I’ve always used JPEG just to ensure I can get as many photos as possible. The image quality is good considering its size, a 16MP sensor produces a decent file with room to edit. The menus can be a little finicky and the UI is basic, so I’d dial in shooting modes and settings before you go out into the field, but the Fuji has a range of scene modes such as low-light, sports , underwater you can try, or you can be like me and stick it in “P”.
The Fuji also features an autofocus system complete with face/eye detection, but I haven’t yet found a use for it as it tends to produce flatter images with an infinite focus, like a smartphone. At the end of the day, I come back to the fact that this camera is allowing you to capture moments you simply can’t with your heavy D-SLR or fragile smartphone, and cheaply. The controls on the XP130 are again basic but satisfying: three buttons on the top of the camera, each with individual sizes and textures, makes it easy to operate the camera by feeling need to. With heavy gloves things become a bit more difficult but still very manageable, just have to be careful between the “record video” and “on/off” button. The good thing as well is the Fuji is very quick to turn on, no faffing with a brand-name splash screen and an annoying welcome jingle, the camera very quickly picks up and is ready to shoot. The battery life is also superb — I barely used 30% over six days in the Lake District, and taking plenty of photos everyday. (The image below was taken on the Fujifilm XP130).
Some little things about the camera that I like: the wrist-strap that comes with the camera is durable, it’s been on the camera for over a year tugged, yanked, stretched, submerged, you name it, and hasn’t even started to fray. I like the fact that you can go into the settings and turn off all the annoying chimes whenever you do anything (and I mean whenever you do anything, as default the camera is pretty much a musical instrument as every button press results in a high-pitch tone). I like the fact that I don’t ever have to think about it, and it can just sit there in these harsh conditions unperturbed until I need it. (The image below was taken on the Fujifilm XP130).
Anything I don’t like about the XP130? Well, I could say things like I wish it had a viewfinder and I wish it had 50x optical zoom and I wish it had everything else but then it wouldn’t be a cheap and affordable tough camera. I think the only thing I’d really like is a GPS, because I like to geotag my images, but that’s a personal thing and not a dealbreaker, and certainly not for an extra £50. My Fuji has proven to be an absolute workhorse of a camera, and I’ve never once had an issue with it. I picked mine up refurbished from the Fujifilm for £70 last year, you can have a look at current stock here. The XP130 I use has now been succeeded by the XP140, featuring 4K video, so if that’s a dealbreaker for you, you may want to look here.
Other than that, there’s nothing more to say about the Fuji XP cameras, other than they are reliable, solid trojans that face anything you can throw at them. Without a doubt, this is the best value tough camera on the market.
Jack Paton, August 2020.
Click below to see more images using the Fujifilm XP130, and more!