Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2
At a Glance
The Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2 ($699 as of May 15, 2007) is the high-definition model in the company's line of "digital media cameras," all of which record video and photos to an SD Card. Like the other models in the line, the 7.4-ounce VPC-HD2 is significantly smaller and lighter than a typical camcorder, which must accommodate a built-in a hard disk drive or DVD drive. The Xacti slips easily into a jacket pocket.
The camcoder's high-definition video capture didn't quite live up to our expectations. The VPC-HD2 records video at 720p, not 1080i, as do the three other high-definition camcorders we tested concurrently. The VPC-HD2's video suffered from fuzzy details and dull-looking colors; in low-light footage, shadow areas lacked subtle gradations. As a result, of the four high-definition camcorders in its cohort, the VPC-HD2 earned the lowest scores for video quality in standard light, video quality in low light, and audio quality.
Its shortcomings were particularly apparent when I compared the VPC-HD2's video to test footage from the far more expensive ($1199) Panasonic HDC-SD1 on a 50-inch Pioneer Elite plasma TV, connected via HDMI: Video from the HDC-SD1 looked much sharper, colors looked more vibrant, and greater detail appeared in low-light footage. Like the VPC-HD2, the Panasonic camcorder records video to an SDHC Card, but it's considerably larger and weighs more than twice as much (17 ounces).
The VPC-HD2 did a better job as a digital still camera. It earned the highest overall score for still-photo quality among the four high-def camcorders, and it earned the highest score for color accuracy, sharpness, and lack of distortion. Its battery performed adequately, lasting for 85 minutes in our test.
The VPC-HD2 comes with a docking station for charging the battery and for hooking the camcorder up to a PC or TV; the dock supplies USB, AV, component, and HDMI outputs. Also included are a soft-shell case and a basic remote control for initiating playback--and for performing basic editing, such as deleting footage and combining files. Because the remote is so small--about the size of a USB key--manipulating its four-way control button is a little cumbersome.
Operating the VPC-HD2 itself is straightforward, especially because it has relatively few controls. On the back you'll find a joystick, a menu button, a record/play switch, a zoom lever, and buttons for selecting video or photo recording mode. A panel situated beneath the place where the LCD folds against the body holds the power button, a button for selecting high-definition or standard-definition video recording, and a high-sensitivity button for shooting in low light. Unfortunately, video shot in high-sensitivity mode looked quite pixelated.
Considering this Sony's marginal video quality, you might do just as well to spend $200 less on the similarly pocketable Xacti VPC-CG65, which records video in standard definition.