When I’ve talked to people in and around the camera business about how they’re going to stay relevant when phones keep getting better at photography, two answers often come up: Make sturdier cameras, and let them talk to our phones.
Fuji’s FinePix XP170 performs both of those tricks — one better than the other. But this $279.95 camera doesn’t do enough to slow the point-and-shoot camera’s slide towards extinction.
The XP170′s ruggedized design deserves the most compliments. Fuji says it can withstand immersion in up to 32.8 feet of water, a drop from 6.6 feet and refrigeration down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, with complete protection against dust coming into its innards.
ANALYSIS: Camera Uses Eye Blink to Snap Photo
I didn’t want to do too much violence to the model Fuji loaned for this review–and the Potomac River isn’t close to 33 feet deep near me anyway. But I did dunk the review model in a kitchen sink, let it tumble about six feet onto a wooden floor and throw it in the freezer for a few hours. Only the last test had any obvious effect: The outside of its lens briefly fogged over, and the chill temporarily wiped out the battery.
This camera’s Wi-Fi Direct picture transfer didn’t seem nearly as sturdy.
This standard already suffers from weak support–only a subset of Android devices include software for it, including Samsung’s Galaxy S III and Sprint’s HTC Evo 4G LTE but not Google’s Nexus 7 tablet. Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8, due in October, will support WiFi Direct, but Apple’s OS X Lion and Mountain Lion don’t–even though its AirDrop file-sharing software is based on the technology.
Fuji’s implementation makes things worse. You need to install a free app on an Android device, then simultaneously press a button on the camera and in the app to set up a transfer–every time. And you can only transfer one photo at a time (videos don’t qualify). I don’t know why Fuji didn’t use Bluetooth, which works on far more devices and lets you “pair” gadgets for subsequent cooperation.
You also can’t use WiFi Direct to geotag individual photos using a phone’s GPS as last year’s Samsung SH100 allowed, although at least you don’t need to enable (and pay extra for) WiFi tethering on a phone.
HOWSTUFFWORKS: How Digital Cameras Work
The rest of the XP170′s interface showed a similar disregard to usability:
- Changing picture-taking modes–for example, switching from its default auto-everything mode to its panorama-generation option–required going two menus deep.
- Out of the box, the camera made an annoying high-pitched beep every time I touched a button.
- It wasn’t smart enough to rotate pictures taken with the camera held sideways to a portrait orientation.
- Its crudely-bitmapped onscreen fonts looked like junk.
- For no apparent reason, it doesn’t ship with a standard micro-USB cable like any other gadget would.
- You can’t recharge its proprietary battery over its proprietary cable anyway; instead, you have to eject it and pop it into a separate charger.
And in the bargain, the XP170′s 14-megapixel sensor, with a 5x wide-angle zoom, did not take the best photos. Some turned out fine (note that this camera’s output has been featured in every post I’ve written here since late June), but others looked as bad as any cameraphone’s output, down to a gauzy, halo effect around brightly-lit subjects. In two shots, nothing appeared to be in focus… much like how the camera industry’s strategy appeared after using this device.
Credit: Rob Pegoraro/Discovery