Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD700 review
The distinctive pistol-grip Xacti camcorders have been around since 2003, when we reviewed the Sanyo VPC-C1. The video quality of the original model wasn’t quite good enough to justify its high price, but things have since changed dramatically.
The design of the HD700 may not be a big departure from its predecessors, but it still impresses. The upright format fits comfortably in the hand, and all the buttons fall directly under your thumb, so you can easily use the camera with just one hand.
Our only gripes are that it won’t stand upright on a flat surface and that the pistol-grip design cries out for a trigger-style record button. But these are minor niggles: the VPC-HD700 is a triumph of ergonomics that makes you wonder how standard box-like camcorders have sold so well for so long.
The HD700 still uses the same SD cards as the very first Xacti, but the format’s capabilities are now much more impressive. 16GB cards can now be bought for under £50, which will store over four hours of footage at the HD700’s highest settings, or a collection of still images that would be difficult for all but the most prolific photographers to shoot in a year.
SD cards have clearly grown into a role that they weren’t quite ready for with the VPC-C1. But there’s more to them than simple convenience. The lack of moving parts means that the Xacti is more robust and resistant to vibration than tape- and hard disk-based recorders, and its silent operation means you’ll never hear the a motor whirring away in the background. We only wish that Sanyo had seen fit to include an SD card in the box.
The camera aims to serve as a capable still camera and camcorder, but not for the high-end of either market. It’s fine for the odd still snap, but the quality of the shots don’t compare to most mid-range consumer cameras. There’s a lot of noise even at ISO 100, purple fringing is a problem and the lens produces images that are a little soft around the edges. The 7.1 megapixel resolution is decent enough, though. Advanced settings are limited too, but the Xacti doesn’t claim to rival the features of SLR or high-end compact cameras such as the IXUS 960 IS.
Video is the Xacti’s forte. With resolutions of up to 1,280 x 720, recorded in the H.264 format used by both Blu-ray and the now defunct HD DVD formats, this produces footage far superior to the grainy webcam-like clips of many consumer digital cameras.
Footage can be copied from it using the card or USB connection on the cradle, and for instant gratification there’s also an HDMI output on the dock which you can use to get your HD content onto a larger display. Still images can also be shot while recording video, should you need to.
There may not be a huge range of options when shooting video or images, but the interface makes it simple to get good results. There are essentially two separate interfaces on the camera; normal and simple, which you can select with a small switch on the edge of the viewfinder. In simple mode there is little to alter except the resolution, focus mode and flash mode, while normal mode allows manipulation of settings such as ISO and white balance.
As long as you don’t need SLR features, the intuitive interface, comfortable pistol-grip design, acceptable still images and convenient, reasonable quality video make this a great option. It is similar in size and weight to many compact cameras, but offers the bonus of HD video, making it a good all-rounder at a reasonable price.
|Camcorder HD standard||720p|
|Camcorder maximum video resolution||1280 x 720|
|Camera megapixel rating||7.4MP|
|Camcorder recording format||AVCHD|
|Camera optical zoom range||5.0x|
|Camera optical image stabilisation||no|
|Electronic image stabilisation?||yes|
|Number of sensors||1|
|Camcorder internal storage type||N/A|
|Memory card support||SD|
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