The Bottom Line
It's important for the best waterproof cameras to be tightly sealed against the elements. The last thing you want is to use your camera underwater, only to discover that it wasn't properly built and that it leaks.
With the Fujifilm FinePix XP170, you won't have that problem. Fujifilm has created a very well-built camera with the XP170, ensuring through a double-locking mechanism that this camera will not have problems with leakage.
The other side of the equation is the camera's performance and image quality. Unfortunately, the XP170 isn't quite as strong in this area, as its performance levels are inconsistent. You will achieve some great photos with this camera, but some will suffer from soft focus or poor exposure.
The price of the XP170 (around $250) represents a pretty good bargain for such a sturdily built waterproof camera, so it's well worth taking a look at this model, despite some uneven performance levels. Most cameras of this build quality with waterproof options will have a higher price tag, so for those people who want a bargain waterproof model, the XP170 represents a pretty good value.
For a camera in this price range, the image quality of the FinePix XP170 isn't as good as it should be, at least not on a consistent basis. There are times when the XP170 will shoot a perfectly exposed photo. However, there are enough problems with exposure or with color accuracy that you're going to have some frustrations with the results.
Flash photos aren't consistently good, either, as the small built-in flash often causes hot spots on the images in the scene. One unintended benefit of the XP170 being an underwater camera, though, is that it has a build-in LED illuminator light, which is designed to provide extra light in underwater photos. However, I found that it also works well in low light photos, rather than using the flash. Just remember that using the LED for an extended period of time will quickly drain the battery.
Even though the XP170 offers full HD 1080p video capabilities, its video quality is also a little uneven. If you're going to spend around $250 on a camera, you're going to expect to have better overall results. Obviously, part of what you spend on the XP170 is related to its waterproof features, but, in this price point, it's tough to recommend this camera based on its image quality alone.
The features of this camera that are designed to provide the toughness are pretty strong for a camera in this price range. You can use the XP170 in up to 33 feet of water depth or in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The FinePix XP170 also can survive a fall of up to 6.5 feet, so this camera compares very favorably to other tough cameras in this price point.
The camera's photographic features aren't quite as powerful as its tough features, unfortunately. The 5X optical zoom lens is at the low end of what you're going to find in the digital camera market right now, as most cameras -- especially those in this price range -- have closer to a 10X optical zoom lens.
Another area that was a bit frustrating to deal with concerning the XP170 was its start-up performance. Fujifilm included a bit of an odd feature with the power button, in which you must hold down the button for about half a second before the camera will actually power on. This will take a lot of practice to get use to doing, and you may find yourself missing some spontaneous photos because you didn't press the power button quite right.
Shutter lag and shot-to-shot delays are a bit of a problem for the XP170, too. The delays between shots are especially pronounced when you're shooting flash photos. The XP170 offers a couple of burst modes, but none of them allow shooting at the full 14.4MP of resolution, and none of them are particularly fast.
Another advanced feature of the XP170 is its wireless capabilities, through which you can send photos to a smartphone. It's a little tough to set this feature up, however.
I liked the battery life with the FinePix XP170, although turning on the LED and using the brightest setting on the LCD will drain the battery pretty quickly.
I like the look of this family of FinePix waterproof cameras, which has been pretty consistent for a few years, including the Fujifilm FinePix XP10. The XP170 offers blue or orange camera bodies, both with silver and black trim. The lens housing is in the upper right corner of the camera (as viewed from the front), and the lens never extends outside of the housing, even when using the full 5X optical zoom magnification. There's an indented area on the front panel for comfortably holding the camera with your right hand.
Among the tough cameras I've reviewed over the years, the XP170 has a really sturdy feel and construction. There's only one compartment that you can open on this camera, and it houses the memory card and battery. The compartment has a double-lock mechanism that prevents you from making a mistake when closing the compartment that could allow water to leak inside.
Even though the 2.7-inch LCD screen is a little small, it doesn't suffer much from problems with glare, which is nice. Fujifilm included 11 different brightness settings with this camera, which will easily allow you to combat any glare issues that you experience.
This camera is pretty easy to use, in part because it doesn't offer a lot of options for changing the settings manually. Outside of its tough features, this is a point-and-shoot camera.
The control buttons on this model are far too small to be used comfortably, which is common on really small cameras. I also didn't really like the on-screen menu structure with the FinePix XP170, as its organization makes it difficult to find the exact command you want to use.
Basically, the Fujifilm FinePix XP170 offers image quality that's pretty similar to what you're going to find in a basic point and shoot camera that costs quite a bit less. When you add in some really nice tough features, though, it's easier to justify the price of this model. If you know you're going to use this camera's tough features, it becomes a much better value.