Review of the Sanyo Xacti VPC HD1.

April 15, 2006

Can a video camera be the greatest piece of technology available today? I can tell you this is the type of wonder that this device instills in me. It’s almost like I bought something from the future. It seems that sophisticated. The button on the right starts recording in HD (720p) and the button on the left takes 5 megapixel pictures. The switch in the middle zooms in and out. The zooming mechanism is the only moving part. The camera writes its data to an SD card. I bought a two GB version. The viewfinder is the clearest I’ve ever seen and the camera is light and fits perfectly in my hands. The combination of ease of use and portability make it easily the best video camera and digital camera I have. It is a first in so many categories. It’s the first digital video recorder that got the still camera part right. It’s the first HD camera I’ve ever used. It’s the first tapeless video camera I’ve had. It does things like allowing you to make panoramic pictures by sweeping the video or extracting decent stills from video. It has a long battery life and it will use the new four GB SD cards.

So you’re thinking by now that I have stock in Sanyo or something. No I don’t and in fact, I remember when Sanyo built really low-end cheap stuff and when Sony was the big innovator. And this device is not without some issues. Remember that one moving part? The manual says that you can hear the noise of those gears in your videotapes. It’s almost like Sanyo is saying: “Hey we made this thing incredibly tiny and flexible to do all things for all people for 800 bucks, what do you want from us? It’s not perfect.”

Actually, I got mine for about $600 at Broadway Photo.  If you shop around on the Internet, you can get real savings.

The state of the art aspect of the camera can work against you too. The HD mpeg4 files are not for low-end computers. You need a 3GHz Pentium or a 1.6 GHz G5 to play the things. Actually, I beg to differ on the G5 rating. My 1.8 GHz G5 iMac chokes on them. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a computer that’s powerful enough to do something I want to do that’s not a game. Of course this gives me and excuse to build another, more powerful computer! Another problem is that while you can do some primitive file cutting and joining with the camera itself, I haven’t found software to edit the mpeg4 files themselves. You can string together the files and burn them as a movie to a DVD, but I haven’t figured out how to edit the clips. I’ve just been shooting them like completed clips.

Getting them off the camera is easy. The computer recognizes the camera in its base as a drive. So you just copy the files over to the computer. Easy. You need to use the base though, because the camera uses a special formatting on the SD card.

I’ve uploaded some sample video on Youtube. Youtube has dumbed it down, but you get the idea. This is definitely not a low light camera. You’re going to need plenty of light. I’ve also got some flickr links so you can see a couple of pics. It shoots at 10 megapixels too, but I believe that’s an extrapolation. I have links to the video and the pictures. Here are videos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Here are picture links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6.

I’ve saved my one real disappointment for last. The camera has no inputs. You aren’t going to be using it to digitize material from other devices. I had hoped that I could do that. I wanted to take some old minidvs and record them in HD format (even though I know I would not have any better resolution). The camera base plays on regular tvs and has component outputs. Since I don’t have an HD TV, I have yet to see the true HD performance beyond what’s on the viewfinder.

All in all, I feel like I’ve bought an everyday video and digital camera from five years in the future. It has the button placement and ease of use of a device that’s been through many versions. I’m very impressed with it and I would highly recommend it.

(you can hear an audio version of this review on Odeo)

 Edit:  I'm very pleased that this article has been republished or perhaps, "reblogged" at an extremely cool tech site:  Zatz Not Funny.

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18 Responses to “Review of the Sanyo Xacti VPC HD1.”

  1. Rantim Desai Says:

    I am considering buying this camera, though your comment about needing a high-end computer daunts me. Are you saying that a high-end computer is required to view the video or do you think it is also need to burn DVD’s? What I want to do is burn DVD’s of my video (of course, I’ll be losing the HD in the process). I think Sanyo provides the software to do so. Do you think I will have a problem burning DVD’s on my 3-yr. old Dell laptop (sorry, I don’t know the specs). I have a decade-old Hi8 mm camcorder and would like video of at least that quality, preferably better.

  2. thaed Says:

    The manual says you need a 3 GHz computer to burn DVDs. Or you need at least a 1.8 GHz G5. Yes, I think you’ll have trouble with the 3 year old Dell.

  3. Joris Says:

    I’d like to see some original HD footage from the camera. Even if it’s only 10 seconds.
    Can you put a small clip online or do you know a website that has one?
    And thank you for the review!

  4. Denzer Says:

    First at all i doubt that a 3yo Dell Laptop will have problems burning a DVD. If it burns DVDs fine right now it sure will do the same with the the HD footage – just the conversion from HD to DVD will probably take ages but thats the only disadvantage in my opinion.

    I would like to see some unaltered HD footage from the cam too and suggest http://s3.quicksharing.com/ as host for it (up to 500MB space without registering and no traffic limitations).

    Youtube is the worst place to upload HD content because it looks like from a webcam when published. Also the example pictures posted on flickr have a max size of 1024.. thats not even close to 5mpix.

    Else i really appreciate this review – good job, just the quality examples need to be unaltered.

  5. thaed Says:

    I would be glad to put up some HD footage as soon as I get a free minute. I’ve been kind of busy as of late though. I’ll check out that hosting site soon. Maybe this weekend.

  6. Brian Says:

    Hi Thaed,

    I have a Xacti and am unable to find a DVD home player that properly plays the mpeg4 files. The best is a Philips DVP5900 which gives video but no audio. I have tried -R and +R. The DVDs play perfectly in any PC.

    Is there a compatible player on the market or am I chasing a lost cause, and if so which would be the best solution for me to play DVDs through my home system?

    Thank you for you advice.

  7. thaed Says:

    I’m not having any problems, but then it’s not playing the mpeg4 files, it’s playing a normal DVD encoded using Nero. I’m also using a Philips player with the audio going out to a Onkyo surround sound system via optical cable. I had a heck of a time getting to the point where I could burn the DVD +R videos until I settled on Nero. It’s not an issue of computer speed either, as my old PIII 1GHz can do it just as well as my dual core machine (only slower).

  8. Stig Says:

    I have on of these. I uses a FujiFilm 4 GB SD card, and I have transfered the files to my computer through the enclosed USB cable. When I see the files on my computer sound and video flickeres. I have also used the Moviedirector til copy to DVD, but the DVD also flickers in sound and viode when I watch it … What could be wrong? I record in HD quality.

  9. thaed Says:

    I’ve used Sonic and Nero to burn the mp4 files and that seems to work great. You might have some trouble with DVD media. I had trouble at first with this and then started using better media.

    As far as playing them on your computer, I blame the player. Quicktime messes them up pretty badly. I have yet to find a player on the computer that does it right.

    The only other thing that might be happening is that the SD card you have might not be fast enough for the recorder.

    Good luck!

    Thaed

  10. Joris Says:

    “I would be glad to put up some HD footage as soon as I get a free minute.”
    Did you find a free minute yet? πŸ™‚

  11. thaed Says:

    Alas, no. I need to look at that quick sharing website, but lately, it’s all I can do to keep writing the blog. Maybe this weekend?

  12. Joris Says:

    Or next weekend? πŸ™‚
    I’m still checking this blog post about every week πŸ™‚

  13. thaed Says:

    Clearly you missed this post made just for you:

    https://thaed.wordpress.com/2006/07/29/just-for-joris/

    πŸ™‚

  14. RD Says:

    thaed, thanks for all your helpful information. What are Sonic and Nero, BTW. Are they applications you used to burn DVD’s from your HD footage. Did you use both? Which worked better? Any clarification you can provide will help me immensely.

  15. thaed Says:

    Nero and Sonic both make software that allows you to master and burn DVDs. I have indeed used both to make DVDs. I’m not sure which one I like better. Right now, it’s probably Sonic even though it’s slow and crashes. The problem is that mp4 files are difficult to work with. They require seriously fast equipment and the very latest software.

  16. Vicki Says:

    have you found a software or figured out how to edit the clips on the PC as opposed to the primitive stuff you can do on the camera itself?

  17. RD Says:

    thaed: Exactly what is the name of the Nero DVD Burning software that you used for your Sanyo HD1 video? I founf a deal on Nero 7 Essentials Suite 1 ($3.99+S&H) is thei the one. If you could provide the exct name of the Nero and Sonic DVD-burning softwares that you used, I will really appreciate it.

  18. thaed Says:

    It might be Nero Vision Express 3? I normally use Sonic now. Also, when I changed computers, I don’t know if I installed the right version of Nero.


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