The compact camera market continues to dwindle, with fewer new models released every year, but there’s one area where it still makes a lot of sense to opt for an inexpensive point-and-shoot: underwater. The latest phones may be waterproof, but not to the point where you’ll want to take them diving in salt water. The Fujifilm FinePix XP130—priced at $229.95 but selling regularly for less—will adequately serve photographers on a budget. But if you can afford it, we recommend spending more for a waterproof camera that will net better photos and video, like our Editors’ Choice, the Olympus Tough TG-5.
Bold and Bright
Fujifilm offers the XP130 in a variety of bold colors. We received one in bright green for review, but you can also opt for blue or yellow, or if you prefer a more conservative look, black or white. Its form factor is pocket-friendly—2.6 by 4.1 by 1.0 inches (HWD) and 5.8 ounces. The design incorporates rounded edges, including a silver-ringed porthole around the lens. The typical loop to hold a wrist strap is replaced by a sturdy metal bar.
The 5x zoom is modest in range when compared with pocket cameras without waterproofing, but they achieve 30x or 40x zoom ratios via optics that extend from the body. The waterproof XP130 puts the entire lens inside its body, protecting it from 5.8-foot (1.8-meter) drops and the stress of working at depths of up to 65 feet (20 meters) underwater.
The wide-angle coverage is about the same as a 28mm full-frame lens, and it zooms in to capture a narrower view, 140mm in full-frame equivalent terms. The aperture isn’t ambitious—it starts at f/3.9 and narrows to f/4.9 when zoomed all the way in. It’s not as wide or as bright as the lens on the premium TG-5, which features a 25-100mm f/2-4.9 zoom, though it does zoom in further.
Controls are straightforward and basic—if you’re looking for a camera with full manual exposure control, look elsewhere. Out of the box the camera is set to Scene Recognition (SR), an intelligent, but fully automatic, shooting mode that adjusts settings to match what the camera perceives as the type of image you’re making. It also has a number of Scene settings, a standard Automatic setting, and Program, which gives you a modicum of control in the form of exposure value compensation (EV) adjustment.
The shutter release is a big, silver button on the top. It’s easy to press, even if you’re wearing gloves. The On/Off and Record buttons are also on the top. The rear houses W and T buttons to adjust the lens zoom, as well as Play, a Drive button, and Disp/Back, along with a four-way directional pad. It gives you access to the Menu via its center press, along with Delete/EV adjustment, Flash, Self-Timer, and Macro shooting options via its cardinal direction buttons.
You might not notice the Drive button at first—the icon is engraved, which is hard to see given its small size and dark finish. The Wi-Fi icon is next to it, painted white for high visibility. I wish it was better labeled, but there aren’t that many buttons to begin with, so it’s not too difficult to locate when you want to switch from single to burst capture.
There’s no EVF—the pricey Panasonic TS7 ($449.99) is the only rugged model we’ve seen with one. Instead you’ll frame shots on the rear LCD, which is 3 inches in size with a 920k-dot resolution. It’s bright and sharp, so you shouldn’t have any problems framing and reviewing images, even on bright days. Touch input isn’t supported, which isn’t a big surprise when you consider the XP130’s asking price.
The memory card and battery are protected by a locking door, accessible via the right side. The battery is good for about 240 images, which are saved to SD memory. The door also covers a micro HDMI output and a micro USB port, the latter of which is used to charge the removable battery. Fujifilm does not include an external battery charger, just a micro USB cable and AC adapter.
Wi-Fi is built in, which is a given in almost every new camera. The XP130 adds Bluetooth, which can be used to speed up pairing with an Android or iOS device. When connected to your phone you’ll be able to transfer photos and control the camera via the Fujifilm Cam Remote application.
So-So Imaging and Video
The XP130 doesn’t offer the blistering speed of an interchangeable lens camera, but it isn’t slow either. It powers on, focuses, and fires in 1.8 seconds. Autofocus speed is solid for a pocket camera, 0.1-second in bright light and about 0.8-second in very dim conditions. The lens aperture is narrow, so you’ll want to use a flash for indoor snapshots.
Burst capture is available at about 4.8fps, but only for ten shots at a time, with a few seconds required between bursts to give the camera time to write images to a memory card. There is a tracking option for focus, but the camera’s autofocus system is pretty simplistic. The only focus options aside from tracking are a wide area, which automatically selects the focus point, a center area, or a flexible spot. You need to dive into the menu system to change the focus area or even move the position of the flexible spot. I found using the center focus point and recomposing my shot to taste after focus is locked suited my style best, but you may prefer to simply let the XP130 pick the focus point automatically.
I used Imatest to check the XP130’s image quality. Its fixed lens delivers decent results at the wide angle, netting 1,890 lines in a center-weighted sharpness test. That’s better than the 1,800 lines we want to see from a point-and-shoot with a 16MP image sensor. It loses resolution at the 65mm position (1,622 lines) and at 140mm (1,516 lines), delivering images that are on the soft side at both settings. Edges are soft throughout the zoom range, showing best results at the wide end (1,622 lines), but dropping off at the midpoint (938 lines) and telephoto end (740 lines) of the zoom.
There is some barrel distortion visible at 28mm (3.3 percent), which is surprising as compact cameras generally correct distortion automatically. The effect is negligible when zoomed in. You’re also likely to notice some flare when shooting into the sun. Most waterproof cameras do the same thing, as the cover that keeps the lens watertight can induce the effect—we also see flare with the lens Olympus uses in its TG-5.
The Olympus TG-5 is similarly sharp at its wide setting (1,830 lines) when shot at f/2, but will narrow the lens to f/2.8 for most bright-light use for sharper results (2,096 lines). It puts these numbers up despite backing its lens with a 12MP sensor, which puts it at a disadvantage when compared with the 16MP XP130. The TG-5’s lens also loses resolution when zoomed in, virtually tying the XP130 at the midpoint of its zoom and bettering it by about 100 lines when zoomed all the way in.
The XP130’s lens isn’t as wide, bright, or sharp as the TG-5, but the camera does cost about half as much. But remember what you are losing. At the 28mm the XP130 is an f/3.9, almost two full stops dimmer than the TG-5’s f/2.0 rating at its 25mm wide-angle setting. That means the XP130 captures about 25 percent of the light when zoomed out, giving it a distinct disadvantage when shooting in dim conditions. Its macro mode is also underwhelming. The TG-5 is one of the best pocket macro cameras out there, but when I turned on macro focusing with the XP130 to get a close-up shot of a large insect that landed on my car door, I wasn’t able to focus that close at all.
The 1/2.3-inch image sensor isn’t world-class for low-light shooting, and the dim lens doesn’t do anything to help. You’re going to use the flash indoors, or resort to shooting at a high ISO—the camera can be set as high as ISO 3200 in full resolution. You can also set it at ISO 6400, but resolution drops to 8MP. If you have automatic ISO control turned on the camera will only range as high as ISO 1600, but modes that top out at ISO 400 or 800 are also available.
Imatest shows that the XP130 keeps image noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 800, and shows about 1.6 percent at ISO 1600, 1.9 percent at ISO 3200, and 2.3 percent at ISO 6400. Typically photos with less than 1.5 percent noise don’t show offensive grain, but cameras like this use automatic noise reduction to fight the effect, which can result in less-than-clear images at higher settings. The XP130 delivers its best images at ISO 100 and 200. Photos shot at ISO 400 take a step back, with some blur erasing fine detail. The blur effect is stronger at ISO 800, and at ISO 1600 and up all fine detail has washed away. We’ve included pixel-level crops from our ISO test scene in the slideshow that accompanies this review.
The XP130 supports video capture at 1080p resolution at 30 or 60fps, and 720p at 60fps. For additional slow-motion, you need to step down to SD resolutions; you can shoot 480p at 30 or 120fps, 240p at 240fps, and 120p at 320fps. Video quality is about what you’d expect—the 1080p resolution feels dated when compared with pricey pocket cameras that roll at 4K, and the lack of 24fps and any sort of manual exposure adjustment will turn off anyone who wants to get creative with exposure. You can’t even brighten or darken the frame with EV compensation for movies.
Budget Price, Budget Camera
The Fujifilm XP130 isn’t top of the line in any regard, but that includes price. It sells for around $200, about half that of our Editors’ Choice Olympus Tough TG-5, and that seems about right. The XP130 is a good, but not outstanding, option for budget shoppers. It’s tough and waterproof, so you can take it places where you wouldn’t risk your phone’s safety, it includes Wi-Fi for on-the-go image sharing (via your smartphone), and it offers a solid, 5x zoom range.
If you have the money, you’ll find that the Olympus Tough TG-5 is a better camera overall. It shoots 4K video, has a wider, brighter lens that does a better job making snapshots when you’re not outdoors, and has a much better macro capability, which can be supplemented with add-on lights that are also waterproof.
Budget shoppers who are willing to live with the XP130’s limitations should also check and see if the XP120 is still available for sale. At press time it is, and is selling for under $150. It doesn’t offer Bluetooth, which isn’t essential, and aside from that it’s the same camera as the XP130.