Waterproof cameras have come a long way in the past few years. They used to be rather specialized pieces of gear, and they often didn't work well as well out of the water as in it. These days, though, there are many more cameras available with waterproof and dustproof features in otherwise full-featured compact cameras with decent picture quality. These are designed as go-anywhere cameras without some of the old compromises. Whether you're wandering around the streets of Paris, going on a family skiing vacation, kayaking around icebergs in Antarctica, surfing in the waves of Hawaii, or snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, these cameras are designed as a kind of one-stop solution. They're not quite action cameras like GoPros, and they're not quite old-school compact cameras. I call them adventure cameras for the reason that you can take them almost anywhere on your travels, and they perform just as well in or out of the water (or should).
Now that this type of camera has gone mainstream, there are more options to choose from and prices have come down. There are now several capable models under $200. In my attempt to find the best waterproof camera under that price point, I’ve been testing out the FujiFilm XP130. And, as you might have noticed, it’s my current favorite of the crop. But I thought it worth diving in more deeply with its own review.
FujiFilm XP130 vs XP120
First, though, it's worth asking what the difference is between the XP130 and the XP120, because at the time I'm writing this you can find both models available at major retailers. I own and use both models, and the short version is that they're very, very similar. They’re mostly identical, in fact. And not just in looks.
The XP130 was released at the beginning of 2018, a year after the XP120. Both models use the same sensor and lens, a 16.4MP BSI-CMOS sensor and a 28-140mm (35mm equivalent) 5x optical zoom lens. They're both rated to be waterproof down to 65 feet (20m), shockproof if dropped from up to 5.7 feet (1.8m), and freeze proof down to 14°F (-10°C). They have built-in wifi and records video up to 1080p60. And they have the same controls, layout, and body.
The new model doesn’t really much new that will make an enormous difference in the quality of your photos, but it does add a handful of bells and whistles. While both models have wifi for connecting wirelessly and transferring images over wifi, the new model adds Bluetooth connectivity. That allows for a lower power consumption as well as automatic transfer and being able to set the camera's clock from your phone's clock (you'll need FujiFilm's Camera Remote mobile app to do these things).
It also adds an electronic level, a tool to help you keep horizons straight as you're composing them through the live screen.
The closest to a new feature that might result in better photos is the new eye detection feature. This is something that many other cameras have, though they’re usually more expensive models. When enabled, it automatically detects the face and eyes of the people in your photos and prioritizes those for focus. Because there’s nothing more off-putting than looking at a photo of people when their eyes are out of focus. It's not perfect--depending on the lighting and distance of the person from the camera, it doesn't always lock on accurately. But it locks on enough to be helpful.
Aside from these features, the XP130 and XP120 are the same camera, and most of what I write below applies equally to both models.
Design & Build
While not the smallest camera amongst its competitors, it’s still well within what you’d consider a compact camera and fits easily in a pocket. While it has colorful and somewhat splashy look to it, it still looks basically like a conventional compact camera.
Locking Mechanism. An essential feature of waterproof cameras is that they have a reliable watertight locking mechanism. Most of these types of cameras (although not all) still require you to access the memory card, battery slots, and cable connections inside the camera.
The XP130 (and XP120) have a single door on the side of the camera to access those things. The inside of the door is lined with a bright orange rubber seal. The lock itself is a type that both Nikon and FujiFilm also use, where you push in a central button and then rotate a dial to lock or unlock. It works well, and I prefer it over the two-lock latches that some other camera, like those from Olympus and Panasonic.
The XP130 has a 5x zoom lens. It's a Fujinon optical zoom lens that, when factoring in the size of the sensor, is the equivalent of a 28 to 140mm zoom on a full-frame camera. You control the zoom with the W and T rocker at top right on the back of the camera. It responds quite well and is relatively smooth--just don't expect any smooth zoom shots when filming video.
[caption id="attachment_27403" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Zoomed fully out.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_27404" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Zoomed fully in.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_27413" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Zoomed fully in.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_27412" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Zoomed fully out.[/caption]
The lens is relatively slow, with a largest aperture of ƒ/3.9 when zoomed out and ƒ/4.9 when zoomed in. That's not great for low-light shooting at dusk or at night.
It's also not particularly sharp. The results are good enough for general holiday snaps, but you wouldn't want to use them for much more than that.
Controls & Interface
I particularly like this camera's controls. It strikes me as the right balance of enough buttons and dials to get things done but not enough to be clutter. The overall feature set and image quality is good (with the constant caveat of "for the price").
With relatively few buttons on the outside, the settings are changed using the menu system on the back screen. The layout of the menus is fine--a little more cluttered than it probably needs to be, but it does teh trick.
Shooting Photos with the XP130/XP120
One of the things you notice right away when you start shooting is that it has a big, sharp, and bright screen with natural color balance. It's easy to see what you're shooting (so long as you're not wearing polarizing sunglasses—more on that below), and the results look good when you're playing them back.
Overall, the image quality isn't bad, but it's also an area where there's plenty of room for improvement. In particular, the automatic exposure system can be hit and miss. Even on bright, clear days on the beach, the auto exposure is often off the mark, and there's an overall tendency to underexpose. While that's pretty straightforward to fix when you're editing the photos, you really shouldn't have to--at least not as often as you do with the photos that come out of these cameras. I've found both the XP130 and the XP120 to suffer from this, so it's not just a defect in a particular camera.
I tend to turn the flash off for most of my shooting, but I've found that the fill flash on this camera actually works quite well. It's among the most effective and natural-looking I've found in these entry-level waterproof cameras, and it can be very useful in brightening up harsh shadows even on the sunniest days at the beach. That said, it's still a tiny flash bulb with limited power, so you have to realistic about how far it can reach (topping out at around 14 feet / 4 meters maximum.
You also have some control over the shooting, with exposure compensation and being able to manually set the ISO all the way up to ISO 6400. But in general, this camera works best in bright conditions. The image quality at ISO 6400 drops off quite a lot, and the lens has a pretty high maximum aperture. So it's not a particularly stellar performer in low-light conditions.
There are several shooting modes you can choose from: Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night, Night (Tripod), Sunset, Snow, Beach, Underwater, Underwater (Macro), Party, Flower, and Text. Each of these priorities settings that help capture better photos in those circumstances. The sport mode, for instance, prioritizes a fast shutter speed, while the underwater mode tries to compensate for the blue color cast you get underwater because less red spectrum light can penetrate the water.
There are also burst modes (a fast sequence of photos to caption fast action), time-lapse, panorama, and macro modes, as well as a Cinemagraph mode that creates hybrid photos and video clips (it's a bit of a gimmick, but it's a fun one). I've found the panorama and Cinemagraph features to be quite half-baked with mediocre results, but the burst, time-lapse, and macro modes work well enough.
As you'd expect it has automatic white balance as standard, but you can also choose from among several presets for different types of lighting conditions, such as fluorescent lights, underwater, shade, or sunny daylight.
Sample Photos Taken with a FujiFilm XP130
Here's a small selection of photos shot with this camera. I haven't made any effort to process or correct these images--they're as they were out of the camera.
Shooting Video with the FujiFilm XP130/XP120
The video quality is good, and it shoots up to 1080p at 60 frames per second, as well as a few low-resolution, high-framerate modes that can be used to create slow-motion footage. While those specs won’t necessarily knock your socks off—there’s no 4K, for instance—and the results are heavily compressed, it’s good enough for shooting vacation clips to be shared online.
There's a separate shutter button for photos and video, so there's no need to turn a dial to switch between photo and video modes.
It saves HD video at 1080p (resolution 1920 x 1080) with a standard HD aspect ratio of 16:9.
The video stream's bitrate is 13 Mpbs, and the overall bitrate with the audio stream comes to around 14.6 Mpbs. And the files save as .mov files.
It does have built-in stabilization to help smooth out jittery footage, but it's not especially effective--at least, not as effective as we've become used to with modern smartphones that do a much better job of it.
Battery and Charging with the FujiFilm XP130
The battery it takes is model NP-45S. It's a 2.6Wh, 740mAh lithium battery. Battery life is about what you'd expect from a regular compact camera.
It uses the micro-USB standard and comes with the
The battery won't charge while the camera is on.
There is also a bit of a gotcha with this battery. Most camera batteries are asymmetrical, so you can only insert them in the camera the right way. And even if you get them in there, the battery compartment door won't close. But the battery for this camera is symmetrical--or at least, symmetrical in its outer case--and it's entirely possible to insert it upside down and even close the door. If you do that, it won't power on and the battery won't charge. So if you're trying to charge it and not seeing an orange light on the front, the first thing to check is that the battery is inserted correctly. This caught me out the first time--I though the camera was DOA--but turning the battery around solved it.
What's in the Box?
- Bbattery (model NP-45S | 2.6Wh, 740mAh)
- micro-USB cable
- Compact AC wall charger
- Light wrist strap
Some retailers put together bundles with some accessories, so it's possible you might find one that includes these accessories, but by default the XP120 doesn't come with these:
- memory card
Recommended Memory Cards for the FujiFilm XP130 and XP120
Since the XP130 and XP120 don't come with a memory card as standard, you'll most likely need to pick one up separately. The good news is that it's not particularly demanding on its memory card speed, so many of the SD cards that are currently on the market will work just fine.
If you're just after some quick recommendations, these are some good options that I've found to work well, that are readily available at major retailers, and are cost-effective.
I've also put together some more detailed recommendations.
Polarizing Sunglasses. This might sound like a strange complaint, but if you’re using polarizing sunglasses—which isn’t an unusual thing to be wearing in the conditions you’re likely to be using the camera at the beach, out on the water, or on the slopes—it becomes surprisingly difficult to use the camera. That’s because the back screen’s cover is out of phase with normal polarizing sunglasses, so the screen becomes completely black. So you can’t see what you’re shooting or use the menu system without pushing your sunglasses aside. To be fair, this is by no means the only camera in this category with this issue--the Lumix DC-TS7, for example, or suffers from it. And it falls more into the category of pet peeve than design flaw, but it's something that make using the camera harder if you're also wearing polarizing sunglasses.
This was taken with an XP120, but the XP130 uses the same sensor and image settings. This is straight out of camera without any processing. To my eye, the white balance is cooler (bluer) than it should be, but the automatic exposure has done a better job here than it does in many others.
Final Thoughts / Pros & Cons
The XP130 is my current favorite among the sub-$200 everyday waterproof cameras. If the budget stretches a bit further, the Olympus Tough TG-5 and the Panasonic Lumix TS7 are much better cameras. But they're both priced at more than double the XP130.
That's not to say there isn't room for improvement--there is. The auto exposure is frustratingly inconsistent. Too many photos come out too dark, which seems like something that they should be able to fix pretty easily with some software tweaks to the exposure algorithm. The Scene Recognition mode, which is the default automatic shooting mode, doesn't always choose the appropriate option. For example, you might be trying to shoot a flower a few inches away, and it will switch to landscape mode. I did run into an issue where some grains of sand jammed the shutter. It resolved itself fairly quickly, but in the meantime the camera was unusable, and it shouldn't be happening on a camera built for this type of use. And the lens just isn't as sharp as it could be.
If you don't need the electronic level, the Bluetooth connectivity, or the eye recognition (for people photos), the previous model, the XP120, is otherwise the same camera and you can find some good deals on it at the time of writing.
- Large, clear screen.
- Practical controls that are easy to use even in wet conditions.
- Decent image quality. At this price point, image quality is largely about expectations. No, it doesn’t have the same image quality as something like the Nikon D850 or the Sony a7r III. But it’s also a small fraction of the price. And truth be told, much of the time it’s not any better than you can get out of the latest smartphone cameras. But when you factor in the camera’s core selling points—waterproof and cost-effective—it’s a much more attractive proposition.
- Overall, I've found that the auto exposure algorithm leans towards underexposure, and I've found it hard to get consistent results in the kind of bright and contrasty outdoor conditions that you'll probably be wanting to use a rugged waterproof camera like this in. The biggest issue is that it tends to underexpose, which results in dark shadows on people's faces. Using the automatic fill flash certainly helps, although sometimes that can go overboard in the other direct and end up looks quite unnatural too.
- At the same time, the white balance also tends to be too cool. They can look good on the bright screen on the camera, but once you look at them on some other device or download them to your computer the results can look quite muddy.
- Photos (and video) just aren't very sharp.
Where to Buy
- 16.4 MP BSI CMOS Sensor
- Waterproof to 65ft/20M, freeze proof to 14 Degree/-10 Degree, Shockproof to 5.8ft/1.75M, and dustproof
Images and product information from Amazon Product Advertising API were last updated on 2019-03-20 at 10:18.