Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD1000 Camcorder Review

Set Phasers to HD

Hands down, the HD 1000 gets its highest marks for coolness. Whip it out at the next family reunion and envy will fill the air. This camera is genuinely stylish; add in its light weight and small size and it becomes a very useful little tool.

Let’s be clear, though. Many of the HD 1000’s features aim right for the home movie shooter and the hobbyist. But, for professionals who prefer to use a “stunt camera” for those really risky shots, the HD1000 could fill this role nicely.

What It Is

Sanyo’s latest affordable high-resolution camcorder sports a CMOS chip-not a CCD-with 4 megapixels. It shoots video in six different resolutions, ranging from full HD down to 320 x 240. There are also eight different resolutions for stills.

Both video and stills are stored on an SD memory card about the size of a large postage stamp. Up to 85 minutes of the highest quality video or about three thousand stills of the highest quality fit on the 8GB SDHC memory card. The Li-ion battery will last for approximately two hours of video shooting.

The “Full HD” resolution is 1920 x 1080i (the “i” stands for interlaced, as opposed to progressive). At the highest resolution, the data capture rate allows for 60 interlaced “fields” per second, not 60 full frames per second (fps).

The camera comes with a docking station, an assortment of cables, a cloth case, software DVD, battery, lens cap, hand strap, AC cord, a good paper manual, and the most darling little remote control you’ve ever seen. The lens accepts 40.5mm filters.

The 2.7 inch color display pleases the eye from any angle. When turned 180 degrees, the display automatically inverts to allow those trendy arm’s-length self-portraits.

Usability

Sanyo’s press releases tout the “ergonomic” design of the HD1000. One thumb can access all the controls needed to operate the camera. And comfortable operation is possible with either hand.

A small slide switch performs the zoom function. The still shot and video Rec buttons each form half of a small circle, which could be dangerous, but during several hours of testing I think I hit the wrong button once. A four-way thumb toggle navigates the menus; after a bit of practice, this method proved easy to use.

Shots are stored individually on the SD or SDHC memory card as MP4 files in the AVC/H.264 format. The camera comes bundled with Nero Essentials and Corel’s MovieFactory 5. If you want to use a different video editing application, make sure your version supports H.264.

One of the big advantages of solid state storage is random access. And files transfer as easily as those on a USB memory stick. Without any special software, the camera, via the docking station and USB cable, was recognized as an “external drive.” All of its MP4 and JPEG files were available to be moved, copied or manipulated right from the memory card.

The docking station allows output to HDMI, USB 2.0, composite, component or S-Video, which obviously allows a lot of flexibility. Unfortunately, no video output happens without either using the docking station or removing the SD/SDHC memory card and placing it in a compatible reader.

The thumb toggle drives the manual focus and exposure settings via menu options. It was a bit awkward to try to manipulate both as the indicator for one would disappear when the other was selected. Creating toggle “shortcuts” for these functions helped, but even that solution proved less than ideal.

Performance

The color rendering is vibrant, but did not appear overly saturated. The image quality is acceptable for a single chip camera this size.

The auto white balance performed well in variety of challenging settings. Other white balance options include sunny, cloudy, fluorescent, incandescent and manual.

The auto focus responds in about one second to dramatic changes in focal length. Truly extreme close-ups become possible in “Super Macro Mode.”

The auto exposure took about two and a half seconds to adjust to rapidly moving from dark to bright light. As might be expected with a CMOS camera, it prefers well-lit subjects. In low light situations the image has more “noise” than would be found with its CCD cousins.

The onboard mono mic leaves a bit to be desired. The audio sounded slightly tinny. Fortunately there is a mic input with adjustable record level.

The suggested retail price on this camera started at $1,000. Aggressive market conditions led Sanyo to quickly drop that to $800. The street prices are even lower, making the HD1000 an attractive entry-level option to the world of high-definition video.


TECH SPECS

Format: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264

Number of CMOS image sensors: 1

Size of CMOS: 1/2.5″

Pixels on CMOS: 4 megapixels

Video Effective Pixels: 3.56 megapixels (HD video), 2.18
megapixels (SD video)

Focus: auto / manual (thumb toggle)

Shutter Speed: auto/manual

Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/30 (1/15 in “lamp mode”)

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/10,000

Lens: f Stop f1.8 – f2.5

Programmed AE: Full Auto, Sports, Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Snow & Beach,
Fireworks, Lamp

Optical Zoom: 10x

Focal Length: 38mm – 380mm

Focal Range: 10cm to infinity (Total Mode), 1cm to 1m
(Super Macro Mode)

Image Stabilization: yes, electronic

Manual White Balance: yes

LCD Monitor: 2.7″ color multi angle, approx. 230K pixels

HD Modes: 1920 x 1080, 60 fields/sec (interlaced);
1280 x 720, 60 fps; 1280 x 720, 30fps

Video Out: (docking station only) HDMI, component,
S-video, USB 2.0

Onboard Mic: stereo

Microphone: In 2.5mm jack w/ converter to 3.5mm

VU Meters: no

Manual Audio Level Controls: yes

Headphone Jack: 3.5mm

Speaker: yes, mono

Memory Card Included: no (takes SD/SDHC Memory card)

Flash: yes (off, auto, forced, red-eye reduction)

Wireless: Remote yes

External Battery Charger Provided: yes

Battery Type: Li-ion

Onboard Video Light: no

Accessory Shoe: yes (cold)

Weight: 9.5 oz. w/o battery or mem. card

Dimensions: 3.54″(W) x 4.43″(H) x 2.15″(D)

Strengths

  • Looks great
  • Multiple outputs provide flexibility
  • Truly ergonomic

Weaknesses

  • Awkward manual focus / exposure controls
  • Noisy image in low light
  • Onboard mic slightly tinny
  • Video out only on docking station

SUMMARY

Good HD camera for home users and hobbyists. Professionals will want more control.

Greg Robinson is the owner of an independent production company.

Sanyo Fisher Company

21605 Plummer St.

Chatsworth, CA 91311

www.sanyodigital.com


$800

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