Sanyo VPC-HD1 Xacti Mini HD Camcorder Review

Poised for Your Pocket

When Sanyo introduced the HD1 Xacti at this year's International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in January, they had everyone's attention. Even from the people looking at remote-controlled refrigerators. The tiny Sanyo garnered much attention for good reason: who wouldn't want a pocket-sized gadget capable of recording progressive HD video onto a memory card, and for under a grand? Sanyo set the bar high. The HD1 Xacti isn't without some faults, but it certainly stands out as a good all-around performer. Although the Xacti fared marginally in a few of our tests, we kept finding great features around every corner. True progressive recording, full manual controls, and excellent still photo capabilities make it the next gadget for those who enjoy taking equal amounts of photos and videos.

Small Bird in Hand

The HD1 Xacti weighs in at 210 grams, or just under seven and a half ounces. Even at that paltry weight, it feels solid. There are no moving innards to rattle around, and its snappy OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) display and pop-up flash don't wobble. At about the size of a PDA, this Sanyo fits easily in hand: we wrapped three fingers comfortably around the grip, and let our pinky stabilize it from below. Almost all of the controls are located on the top back of the camera. A small joystick, vertical slider, three buttons and a switch allow you to access menus, zoom, record video and take photos. On the Xacti, your thumb does more than press a red button! Also, the narrow end of the angled handgrip slides easily into a shirt pocket.

A few thoughtful accessories are bundled with the Xacti. Its USB 2.0 high-speed connection passes data from the Xacti to your PC or Mac computer. The charging station dock's component video port allows for a one-cord connection to the TV as well. Another extra is a pod-shaped semi-hard case, which protects and organizes the camera while traveling.

Where's the Interlace?

The HD1 Xacti is a multi-talented device: along with its multiple video modes, the Xacti offers voice memo recording and still photo capture. In fact, Sanyo doesn't make 'camcorders'-they call them Digital Media Cameras.

At Videomaker we see the Xacti as having a definite emphasis on recording standard definition video, with HD video and voice recording features secondary. You can record standard definition video at 15, 30, and 60 fps onto a solid-state memory chip. More flexibility is available, as it records a resolution of 640×480 at 2, 3, or 6 megabits per second. Each level provides different image qualities, similar to the "Normal/Fine/Super-Fine" still camera functions. The Xacti has no interlaced video mode, which means smooth motion is recorded without the "tearing" characteristics that interlacing is famous for. A few unusual video modes are also on the lineup: a true slo-mo 60fps mode, a 320×240 WebCam type mode, and true 720p HD which is recorded at 30fps. The Sanyo's 60fps mode takes 60 whole frames per second, twice the number normally taken. We put one second of this video on a 29.97 timeline, and it played for 2 seconds. This is a real standout feature for anyone taping, er, shooting sports. A 320×240 mode at 15fps makes for a nice WebCam, but not much else. Unless you know you're shooting for the Web only, we'd advise you to shoot video at a higher quality, and then down-convert it to 320×240 if needed.


720p HD

The HD1 Xacti uses advanced MPEG-4 encoding for its Normal and HD video modes, including 1280x720p HD. While the HD motion and color are true, the image clarity suffers somewhat. It isn't as sharp as the HDV camcorders we've tested. We also noticed a good amount of noise in the shadows, which became worse in low light. Also, the images showed noticeable compression artifacts, especially when enlarged to see detail. To be fair, though, a high-end HD camcorder still costs as much as a sports car. The Xacti's sub-$800 price tag is as innovative as the HD technology behind it. If you have a High Definition TV, the ability to plug in and see an HD picture is a joy.

Great Motion Menus

The Xacti's menu options are vast, and a different menu is available during playback and recording. One big advantage of recording to solid-state memory is the instant access to any of your video clips. The Xacti HD1 makes a new video clip each time you press the record button. Inside the Recording menu, you'll be able to modify several image settings. Choose from "vivid," "soft," or "normal" image adjustment. The vivid setting seems to increase the saturation and contrast. The result is a punchy image that has a distinct look. Another option is the ability to edit in-camera. In the Playback menu, simply select a clip, then select at which point to edit. You can erase the unwanted portion of any clip. This is an easy way to "clean up" your memory card to allow for more recording time.

After a week's worth of testing, the Sanyo HD1 Xacti held up quite well. Though its low light quality needs some work, it performed higher than expected in most areas. Using the Xacti is almost effortless thanks to its thoughtfully placed controls. And, the ability to record video onto solid-state memory is really cool.

TECH SPECS

Format: SD memory card

Number of CCDs: 1

Size of CCDs: 1/2.5 inch

Pixels on CCD (k): 5,360

Video Effective Pixels (k): 5,100

Focus: auto and manual

Shutter Speed: auto and manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/10,000 sec

Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/30 sec

Lens f Stop: f/6.3

Exposure Modes: Manual, Sports, Portrait, Landscape, Night View, Fireworks, Lamp

Optical Zoom: 10x

Focal Length: 38mm- 380mm (film conversion)

Image Stabilization: electronic

Manual White Balance: Auto, Manual, Sunny, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent

Viewfinder: none

LCD Monitor: 2.2 inch OLED

Progressive Scan: Yes

HD Modes: 720p at 30fps

Video In: no

Video Out: USB 2.0, S-video, Composite, Component

Mono/Stereo Recording: Stereo

Microphone In: Yes

VU Meters: No

Manual Audio Level Controls: No

Headphone Jack: No

Speaker: Yes

Still Shot Media: SD memory card

Memory Card Included: No

Flash: Yes

Wireless Remote: Yes

External Battery Charger Provided: No

Battery Type: Li-ion

Card Loading Configuration: Rear

Onboard Video Light: No

Accessory Shoe: No

Strengths

  • Easy manual focus and exposure
  • Slow motion recording
  • Small design

Weaknesses

  • HD compression
  • Low light shooting

SUMMARY

Look for more companies to take a cue from the well-designed Sanyo HD1 Xacti.

Andrew Burke is Videomaker's editorial assistant, a member of AIVF and has worked in video production worldwide.


Sanyo Fisher Company

21605 Plummer St.

Chatsworth, CA 91311

(818) 998-7322

www.sanyodigital.com

$800

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