Turning to the XP30's main USP - its built-in GPS system - we had mixed feelings. On the one hand it can be a useful tool to have, especially if you're looking to Geotag your travels or simply mark the location of a fantastic view. It's also incredibly accurate, to within a few feet. However, having the GPS either 'always on', or even just 'when camera is on' is a huge drain on battery life, while turning it off altogether kind of defeats the purpose of having it. We found that in constant usage, with GPS set to 'when camera is on' the battery lasted for an hour and a half before dying, producing a total of 160 images and just over two minutes of HD movie footage.
It's also worth noting that the GPS function only operates outdoors, so trying to Geotag photos from inside a building isn't possible - at least we couldn't get it to work indoors. Connection times will vary wildly too, depending on your location and environment. In field tests with the GPS function set to 'when camera is on', we found that the initial attempt to link-up with a passing satellite could take up to a minute, although subsequent connections gradually reduced in time.
Image quality is a bit of a mixed bag. While the XP30 produces images that are more than adequate for web use or smaller prints, we wouldn't really want to rely on it for making larger prints with.
Automatic white balance is generally quite accurate, which helps to ensure true colour reproduction. Colour strikes a good balance, being neither too flat nor overly saturated. Sharpness is a problem though, with the folded Fujinon lens often struggling to produce acceptable edge sharpness in images.
As regards image noise, the combination of such a small sensor crammed with so many megapixels did lead us to worry that the XP30 might display excessive noise at mid to high sensitivities, and indeed this turned out to be the case. Perhaps if Fuji had limited sensor resolution to 10MP this wouldn't be such an issue, but at 14MP we can't but help feel the XP30's tiny sensor is overpopulated.
At ISO 100 and 200, images remain sharp with good fine detail, however above this noise begins to become more noticeable, visibly intruding into fine detail and shadow areas. By ISO 400 noise becomes visible even in images of a reduced size, and by 800 it is even more pronounced. Further up the scale ISO 1600 is fuzzy in the extreme and ISO 3200 all but unusable.
Of course, image quality needs to be taken in context. Not only is the XP30 a 'tough' compact, it's also a very competitively priced tough compact, which is built to survive the kinds of knocks, scrapes and soakings that would damage most non-toughened cameras. As such some image quality compromises are all but inevitable. The recently tested Panasonic FT3 does display better overall image quality, along with far superior ISO performance, but costs twice as much as the XP30. As the old saying goes, you pays your money and takes your choice.
The XP30 is a keenly priced and stylish addition to the burgeoning tough compact market. Easy to use and thoughtfully laid out in terms of controls it's capable of decent, if not great, results. The addition of GPS functionality is a fun, if somewhat battery depleting, feature too. Our only real concerns are with lens sharpness and image noise. It's to be hoped that the next model in the series will address these issues by dropping the megapixel count down to something more manageable. In the meantime, the XP30 is certainly worth a look if you're in the market for a tough compact on a budget.