Just about every major camera manufacturer has at least one rugged camera in its lineup now. Not just waterproof, but shockproof, dustproof, freezeproof, and, in some cases, crushproof. Fujifilm has two, the FinePix XP20 and XP30, with the only major difference between them being a GPS receiver; the XP30 has one, the XP20 doesn't. Both cameras are tested to survive underwater depths of 16 feet for up to 2 hours; drops from 4.9 feet; and temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Probably the best part about these cameras is that you can get this kind of protection fairly inexpensively; rugged cameras generally aren't cheap. However, it seems there are trade-offs in photo quality and shooting performance, so if the XP20 is going to be your one and only point-and-shoot you should probably keep shopping. But, its price is low enough that it might be acceptable--depending on your needs--as a second camera for the beach, hiking, or the slopes.
|Key specs||Fujifilm FinePix XP20|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9x2.7x0.9 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.7 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f3.9-4.9, 28-140mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,320x3,240 pixels/ 1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Mechanical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li ion rechargeable, 200 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No; wall charger included|
|Bundled software||FinePix Viewer (Windows, Mac)|
The overall photo quality from the XP20 is merely passable considering its price and rugged construction. When used outdoors in bright lighting, photos are OK; good enough for Web use and 4x6-inch prints or smaller. The main issue is noise. At and below ISO 200, noise isn't very visible unless you view photos at full size. But go above that sensitivity and you end up with noticeable noise, color shifting, and soft and smeary details. That basically means that shooting indoors or in low-light conditions will not turn out good photos.
Colors aren't accurate, but they're bright and pleasing. At least, they are at and below ISO 200 before color noise kicks in. Also, many of my test shots were overexposed. There's some minor barrel distortion at the wide end, but otherwise, given its protective glass, the lens is reasonably sharp at the center and consistent edge to edge.
Video quality is on par with a basic HD pocket video camera; good enough for Web use. Panning the camera will create judder that's typical of the video from most compact cameras. There is also a lot of smearing when shooting in bright sunlight, which appears as purple or white streaks in movies. The zoom lens does function while recording, but you will here it moving in your video.