Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG65
At a Glance
Camcorders tend to be far too big to fit into a coat pocket. But not Sanyo's Xacti VPC-CG65 ($400 as of April 24, 2007): This small, lightweight camcorder stores video and photos on an SD Card, thereby avoiding the need to accommodate a bulky hard-disk drive, tape drive, or DVD drive.
The Xacti VPC-CG65 is slightly larger than a typical point-and-shoot camera. Because it records video and still images to an SD Card (a storage mechanism that has no moving parts), the CG65 ought to handle hard knocks better than an HDD or DVD camcorder. The CG65's case feels plasticky and not particularly rugged, however.
The CG65 produces good-looking video, which it shoots in MPEG-4 format (all of the HDD and DVD camcorders we looked at for our July issue's camcorder roundup shoot in MPEG-2 format) at a maximum resolution of 640 by 480 pixels (it doesn't capture wide-aspect video). That translates into a data transfer rate of 3 mbps. Low-light video was particularly impressive. Overall, the CG65 earned a score of Very Good for its video quality in our lab tests. The outdoor footage that I shot in daylight during informal testing looked very attractive. The nighttime footage I shot indoors looked good but not perfect: Errant pixels danced in shadow areas, and the exposure changed abruptly as I moved into well-lit areas from darker ones.
When used as a digital camera, the CG65 records still images at resolutions of up to 6 megapixels. It was one of only three camcorders we tested for our roundup that earned a score of Superior for photo quality. The CG65 also earned the highest score for sharpness. In my informal shots, colors looked vivid and accurate. in particular, the device worked exceptionally well in macro mode, focusing accurately for most of my close-ups of flowers, though its auto focus failed to lock on to the subject at some extremely short distances.
The CG65 keeps operation very simple. A four-way joystick, a menu button, a record/play button, and a zoom lever are its main controls, along with recording buttons for video and photo capture. The CG65 lacks exposure bracketing and a video light, among other features, and its 2.5-inch LCD is slightly smaller than the wide-aspect screens on most of the other camcorders we tested. Also, its battery life was short, at just 74 minutes; you'll want to carry an extra lithium ion cell, since the first one will run out long before you reach the video capacity of a 4GB SD Card (2 hours, 45 minutes at the highest quality setting). No SD Card comes in the box, so you'll have to invest about $45 to pick up a 4GB card separately.
The included software is nothing special. You get Ulead Photo Explorer 8.5 SE Basic for transferring files to a PC, and Ulead DVD Movie Factory 5.0 SE for creating DVDs. The CG65 also lets you copy a screenshot from your PC to the camera's SD Card, though it's hard to see how this function would be very useful.
The compact CG65 offers far fewer controls and features than most DVD and HDD models do. But if you want a pocketable model for recording video and capturing still shots in out-of-the way places, this inexpensive model is very well suited to the task.