Fujifilm Finepix XP200 Digital Camera Review
Fujifilm's top-tier tough cam has brawn but lacks brains.
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Last year, we had the displeasure of reviewing one of Fujifilm's previous tough cams, the XP150. We were hoping that the same company that's made huge strides with its high-quality X-series (like the X-Pro1 and X100s) cameras could infuse some of that magic to its beleaguered tough cams. Not so much. The XP200 (MSRP $299.95) brings a new look and a few minor new features, but one important point hasn’t changed—there’s still far too much room for improvement.
By the Numbers
As you might know, we base our scores not only on subjective factors but, also upon the results of our numerous scientific tests. The XP200 didn't do well in our tests, showing early on that it wasn't likely to impress.
Even in a controlled lab setting, the XP200's small sensor, its aggressive noise reduction and its soft lens made for some shockingly bad test images. Video was not up to scratch, either, struggling especially in low light. Even though it brags about its "Full HD" capability, the XP200 failed to deliver anything remotely approaching quality video.
If you were to look strictly at the numbers we got from the XP200, you'd do a double-take. This camera broke our sharpness test! But, breaking down the results, you can quickly see that its sharpness is nothing but smoke and mirrors. You don't need Penn and Teller to explain what's going on here—the XP200 uses its JPEG processing to fake sharpness.
Design & Handling
It sure looks weird, but handling isn't completely terrible.
When designing a tough cam, you have to imagine that there's a lot of debate that goes on. On one hand, it should advertise its rugged credentials in some way. On the other, it still needs to look, and act, like a regular camera. A tough cam needs some chunky rubber around the edges to help it in case of a fall, but all that extra armor can’t get in the way of using it, well, to take photos.
If you're a fan of crazy-looking cameras, hold on to your seat. While some tough cams are a little more tasteful with their toughness (like Olympus's TG-2) the XP200 goes off the deep end with its macho flourishes. Garish chrome trim pieces? Check. More ridges than the sides of a 1990s Pontiac? Oh yeah. Dip it in a Goodyear factory’s worth of rubber and you've got the XP200.
The unit we reviewed was a bright yellow, somewhat reminiscent of the shade of yellow on Jacques Yves-Cousteau's famous diving saucer submersible. We suppose that would make it easier to find should it become lost in mud or underwater (maybe Cousteau thought the same thing), but we didn't have the chance to find out. For the adventurer who likes to keep things on the DL, Fujifilm also offers the XP200 in red, black, and blue.
Using the XP200 isn’t complicated, but its design has some drawbacks. Its waterproofing means it has slightly mushy buttons, but everything responds basically as it should. The flat, small power button is a little tough to press with gloves on, so if you're planning on going skiing with the XP200, think again. You'll likely have to expose your skin to the elements in order to turn the camera on with any certainty. The shutter button, likewise, could have been improved upon, for easier operation in all kinds of environments.
The XP200 failed to convince us that it was a “Born Survivor,” as Fujifilm’s promotional video proudly exclaims over some hot guitar licks. After spending mere hours at water’s edge, the supposedly-robust Fujifilm had picked up some bad scratches on its 3-inch LCD and sand stuck in a few crevices that just wouldn’t come out.
Fujifilm has built the XP200 around two and only two color modes—standard and chrome (which tries to emulate Fujifilm's Fujichrome film). Both exaggerate colors in different ways, over saturating beyond what would constitute perfect color. We saw 108.4% saturation in standard mode, and a color error of 3.63. For more information on where the XP200 massages the colors it interprets, check out the graph below.
The XP200 doesn't have a great deal to offer in the white balance category. It's stuck with a mediocre auto white balance mode with a few presets for different color temperatures. There is no way to create a custom white balance profile for a scene. While the XP200 did a decent enough job under simulated daylight and florescent lighting, it couldn't adjust color temperature to properly represent subjects under incandescent light. While many cameras have a hard time accommodating for the orange hue of incandescent light, the XP200 didn't even seem to notice the color temperature had even changed.
Standard WiFi can't make up for a short feature list.
Very few of the new features of the XP200 have anything to do with its toughness. It's rated to be a little more waterproof (50ft, up from 33), it's just as resistant to shock (6.6 ft) and it's still freeze- and dust-proof. WiFi remains (tying into iOS and Android apps), but GPS is a no-show. Fujifilm enables piggybacking off of a smartphone's GPS tracking but on its own, the XP200 can't locate squat. This type of camera is an ideal use-case for GPS—automatic tagging of location on photos taken in the middle of nowhere should be a given. Nikon’s AW110 remains the most interesting GPS-enabled tough cam with its street-level GPS tracking (with points of interest). The XP200 also doesn’t pack any of the additional sensors of the Panasonic DMC-TS5 (which includes a compass, barometer and an altimeter). The XP200 is the first Fujifilm tough cam to pack a 16-megapixel sensor.
Seeing how this is a tough cam, Fujifilm has designed it to withstand water, drops and dust. We found that it worked basically as-advertised, keeping water away from the XP200's sensitive electronic innards. While we didn't have the chance to take it to the ocean depths or into the arctic tundra, it survived a plunge into a fountain and a day at the beach and still worked afterwards. Unlike the Olympus TG-2, Fujifilm's XP200 isn't rated as being crushproof though it certainly feels rigid enough to withstand some abuse.
We liked the amount of zoom on tap. With 5x optical zoom, the XP200 makes it fairly easy to get in on the action. Even though the zoom rocker is imprecise, and it's clumsy to zoom in a little at a time, it was nice to be able to get closer to subjects with just a press. Macro shooting was a little finicky. The camera's regular autofocus refused to lock on when as close as a few feet from an object. Although the X200's autofocus speed was hardly speedy, its lack of snappiness didn't get in the way.
New for 2013, the XP200 packs a familiar set of Fujifilm's Advanced filters—Toy, Miniature, Pop, High Key, Soft, Cross Screen, and a whole mess of selective color filters. Color modes are really limited, though. You can use a normal color mode, one that emulates Fujichrome film, as well as black and white, and sepia. The scene modes are tailored to the types of things you’d think this camera would be used for, including Underwater, Underwater Macro, Snow, Beach, Landscape, and a few other more standard scenes like Night, Portrait, Sport, Sunset, and Party.
Manual features are basically nonexistent here, leaving aperture and shutter speed up to the XP200’s tiny brain to decide given the present conditions. Exposure can be adjusted but only 2 stops in either direction. ISO sensitivity only goes to 3200 at full resolution, with an ISO 6400 faked by halving the resolution of the photo.
Noise and ISO
Where the XP200 really surprised us was with the way it dealt with ISOs and noise reduction. The XP200 has an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 3200. While the camera can also shoot up to ISO 6400, it's using one crazy old trick— it halves the resolution of the image in order to get that extra sensitivity.
There are no options to turn down the extremely aggressive, poor-quality noise reduction software at work in the XP200. As it is, the XP200 quickly lost detail very fast as ISO was increased, with photos looking blurry and splotchy by ISO 800. Even though we found that noise never crossed the 2% mark at any ISO (a point we use to represent a noise level unacceptable to print), the pervasive noise reduction used to keep the numbers low rendered images at higher ISOs hideous, blurry, and featureless.
It's tough, so it can withstand being thrown against the wall in frustration.
The XP200's performance was disappointing any way you slice it. Colors weren't rendered very accurately and the camera's processor overcompensated for a lack of sharpness by over sharpening edges. Even with optical image stabilization, night shots turned out blurry and grainy. We can't help but feel frustrated that Fujifilm took away few lessons from the atrocious XP150.
Video quality was lacking as well, and even though it shoots 1080/60i, we saw plenty of trailing and ugly artifacts, especially in dim lighting conditions. We found that the XP200 needs plenty of light in order to shoot acceptable video. The XP200 doesn't shoot in the more complicated AVCHD, instead going straight to H.264 inside an .MOV wrapper, which is easier to upload straight to YouTube or quickly edit.
There's a couple of high frame rate video modes available. They're lacking in resolution, but entertaining to play with nonetheless. If you think a postage-stamp sized 224x168 resolution video is tolerable then you can have 360 fps. We opted to try the 640x480 120 fps mode and you can see a sample of its output below.
The XP200 did deliver a decent burst mode and a fun high-speed video mode but neither produced great results. We were able to eke a little more than 7 fps from the XP200 at full resolution. The buffer filled up after that, slowing down the rate to around 1 fps. It's good enough to capture a quick burst of action, but for people who like shooting a lot of continuous shots, it's not going to cut the mustard.
To see the full results from all of our performance tests, please visit the science page.
It’s inexpensive, but for a little more, you can do better.
Of all of the tough cams we've seen this year, the XP200 was the least desirable. Even though it rings in at under $300, you're a stone's throw (roughly $75) away from the best all-round tough cam, the Olympus TG-2. Your $75 nets you much better image quality, great autofocus, a fast f/2.0 lens, and even options for adding filters and a tele or fisheye converter lens. It's a great package and it takes good photos for a point-and-shoot and excellent photos for a tough cam. There's nothing that the Fujifilm offers that the Olympus doesn't do better, period.
We should know. We recently finished our annual Waterproof Showdown and, the numbers don't lie. The XP200 was just about the worst competitor in the category. It produced some of the worst images out of the group and turned in mediocre to bad performance in all of our scientific tests.
As spring turns to summer and the weather turns hot, we wanted to sign "See you this summer," in Fujifilm's yearbook. Instead, the XP200 will be stuck inside all summer long, until it finally passes tough cam 101.
Even though the XP200 has a plethora of different resolutions and frame rates available for video, it doesn't change the fact that this camera just can't do moving images justice. The top frame rate is 1080/60i, which makes action look choppy just by the fact that it's interlaced video. The footage is also just generally bad, manifesting the deadliest of video sins— trailing, compression artifacts, and poorly rendered subjects. See for yourself in the samples we've posted in this review.
The XP200 also required plenty of light in order to make images. We measured a required minimum of 15 lux in order to produce a 50 IRE signal (a broadcast standard of illumination). In bright light, we saw video sharpness numbers of 600 and 400 lp/ph on the horizontal and vertical respectively. That's not too bad, and its lower vertical resolution is all because of the interlacing at work. But the XP200's lack of sensitivity made its resolution score plummet in our low light test, cutting those numbers to 575 and 350 lp/ph.
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