The Fuji XP150 isn’t the fastest compact out of the blocks, taking around four seconds to fully start-up, after which you can start shooting. While autofocus speed isn’t exactly dazzling, it remains functional in good light and is on a par with other ruggedised cameras - if you’re using it outdoors in good light to shoot stationary subjects with then you're unlikely to experience any major problems. The AF Tracking function isn’t too bad either - just so long as your subject isn’t moving too fast or erratically.
Once light levels drop below optimum, however, the XP150’s AF module soon begins to struggle, which means you can expect to experience some focus hunting, even indoors under anything less than bright artificial light. In addition to the built-on flash there’s also an LED illuminator light on the front that stays on during the recording of still images or video. While it’s not overly powerful it could prove quite useful to illuminate nearby subjects in otherwise murky conditions, or even when the camera is being used underwater in the shade.
Processing times aren’t particularly speedy. While this isn’t likely to be a problem if you’re shooting individual images with the camera set to Single-shot drive mode, if you’re using any of the high-speed Continuous drive modes then you can expect a fairly lengthy processing time after shooting a burst of images. The quality of images shot using the high-speed Continuous drive modes leaves a lot to be desired too, with all images recorded at 3MP and lacking in detail.
Our biggest bugbear with the XP150, however, is the poor quality LCD monitor on the back of it. With a resolution of just 230k-dots the XP150’s 2.7in screen is firmly in budget compact territory. This would be fine if the XP150 was priced as such, but at around £200 we’d expect to see something a bit better.
By way of contrast, the Olympus TG-820 (c.£230) we reviewed earlier in the week offers a 1.03m-dot 3in screen. The difference between the two cameras when held side by side is really very noticeable – whereas the TG-820’s display is sharp and precise the XP150’s looks blurred and mushy. On the plus side the XP150’s screen is treated to an anti-reflective coating for better visibility in direct sunlight and underwater, however the actual image it displays just isn’t very good.
One further problem is how easily the screen scratches. For a supposedly ‘tough’ camera, it’s ridiculously easy to mark. We managed to do so just by placing it gently on some rocks while shooting the underwater river shots on the Sample Images page.
Image quality is best described as a bit hit and miss. The evidence suggests that the XP150's 14.4MP sensor is somewhat overpopulated and as result suffers in low-light and at higher ISOs. We noted exactly the same flaw in our review of the 14MP XP30 last year, which in turn suggests that Fuji would probably be better off reducing effective resolution down to around 10-12MP and focusing on providing a cleaner image at a smaller size rather than just cramming the extra pixels in.
At its lowest sensitivity settings of ISO 100 and 200 image quality isn’t all that bad. However once you’re forced to raise the ISO image quality does go downhill fairly rapidly. As low as ISO 400 and detail starts to visibly soften. By ISO 800 this trait has become even more pronounced with a loss of saturation too – a trend that only accelerates as you hit the top settings of ISO 1600 and 3200 with the latter being all but unusable.
We were also somewhat disappointed to find that the XP150 lacks Fuji’s regular range of Film Simulation types (Provia, Velvia and Astia), instead just getting a Standard colour mode, a slightly muted ‘Chrome’ effect, along with B&W and Sepia options. Image sharpness, so often a bugbear of compacts that use a folded-lens design such as found in the XP150, isn’t too bad on the whole. Images are certainly sharper in the centre than at the corners and edges but this is a trait the XP150 shares with most compacts.
We found that when left to its own devices in Scene Recognition the XP150 tends to produce quite vibrant images although greens and blues can sometimes look a little over-saturated and unnatural. Tonality can be a little flat too, lacking the subtle gradations better cameras would be able to capture. We also found that many images were slightly underexposed – generally by no more than around one-third of a stop, but still enough to keep highlights muted.
The Fujifilm XP150 is a waterproof, shockproof, freeze-proof and dust-proof compact digital camera that’s as at home underwater as it is in the snow. Aside from the ruggedised and GPS aspects – all of which could certainly prove useful in the right circumstances – the XP150 is very much a middle-of-the-road compact that doesn’t really stand out from its peers, either in terms of performance or image quality. It’s certainly competent and given the right conditions can produce a pleasing image too, however the low-resolution and far-too-easy-to-scratch LCD screen really let it down. For that reason it just about scrapes a respectable 7 out of 10, but no more.