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Sanyo Xacti VPC HD2000 Review

Sanyo Xacti VPC HD2000 Review - In an ePHOTOzine first, Matt Grayson takes a look at the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 dual camcorder/camera.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Sanyo Xacti VPC HD2000
Price : £475
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Digital still and video are so closely related that I'm surprised this kind of thing hasn't been done before. Of course there was the Samsung Duocam series that had two lenses but the specification wasn't up to todays expectations.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Specification
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 Video

  • Zoom: 16x optical
  • Resolution: 5.31Mp (HD)
  • Definition: High
  • Scan method: interlaced & progressive
  • File type: MPEG-4
  • Image size: 1920x1080
  • Focus types: Continuous area AF, manual
  • Minimum illumination: 2lux
  • Monitor: 2.7in TFT LCD screen
  • Interface: HDMI, component, S-video, composite
  • Formats: NTSC, PAL
  • Power: Li-Ion battery

Still

  • Zoom: 10x optical
  • Resolution: 8Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/2.5in
  • Sensor type: CMOS
  • Image size: 3264x2448
  • File type: JPEG
  • Sensitivity: ISO50-3200
  • Storage: SD/SDHC
  • Focus types: 9 point AF, spot
  • Normal focusing: 50cm-infinity
  • Close focusing: 1cm-1m
  • Metering types: Multi, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: /- 1.8EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 1/2-1/1000sec
  • Flash: In-built
  • Monitor: 2.7in TFT colour screen
  • Interface: USB 2.0 via docking station (included)
  • Power: Li-Ion battery
  • Size: 112.6x90x54.5mm
  • Weight: 311g (inc. battery and card)

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Features
Compacts have had a basic video system available on them for years although they only ran at VGA quality so you get that badly broken YouTube effect with the image pixellating out every few seconds. Couple that with the jerky 15fps playback and you have an image that a webcam would be ashamed of.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
The built-in flash sits on top of the lens with a cold shoe just behind for lights or external microphones.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
All controls are to the rear. Operated by the thumb, it's a texters dream.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
The lens says it's a Xacti HD lens but with a current collaboration with Panasonic, could we see Leica lenses here?

These days, advancements in the technology includes adding HD video to compacts as well as a couple of DSLRs. Why is this camera different to previous camcorders that also offer a decent camera on them? Well it's because the emphasis is more heavily weighted to the stills than other manufacturers tend to give.

One such camera is the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 which not only records video in full 1920x1080p (progressive) at 60fps but also records still images at 8Mp with 12fps continuous shooting (sequential shooting in the camcorder world), has a 10x optical zoom fitted into the small gun shaped body, face detection, 3D noise reduction and 12Mp interpolation output.

Labelled as a "pistol-grip" model, the camera has a handle under the main optics which houses the battery and is where the 2.7in screen folds away. A black power button sits on a black body under the screen which isn't very helpful to a newcomer. It would also be a hindrance to partially sighted users who may have difficulty deciphering black on black as we found when we spoke to The Disabled Photographers Society.

At a recent press event where Sanyo announced the HD2000 as one of a range of world first cameras, they announced a partnership with Panasonic which could suggest the lens being manufactured them. If that's the case then it could be even better news if Panasonic use information taken from their optical partner, Leica.

On top of the 16x optical zoom (10x optical in stills mode) is a small flash and a cold shoe under  a removable cover but the back is where all the action is. It's designed to be operated by your thumb and held like a gun. A large circle with buttons and spring loaded levers sit just below the top of the camera with a small joystick below that and the memory card slot at the bottom.

There are two levers on the command dial which are used for switching between recording & playback and zoom. A button at the top gives you a photo view on the screen when taking still images. This is due to the regular screen having a wider field of view than what the still camera takes. Photo view then adds a small white rectangle to the screen so you can frame your images nicely. In contrast, a button on the bottom gives access to the main menu. You navigate the menu with the joystick and there are six tabs divided into two parts of three each for shooting and set up. Annoyingly, scrolling through one page of the menu doesn't pass over to the next page. Instead you have to go back to the tabs, scroll down to tab two and go back into the menu.

Finally, two large buttons in the centre of the command circle are for shooting video or stills and which side of the pad you press determines which type of photography you're performing.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
The SD/SDHC card bay is on the back. 8Gb will give you 2000 photographs.

An 8Gb SDHC card gives enough space for just under 2000 photographs or just over an hour of video. With SDHC cards reaching up to the maximum of 32Gb this will mean around 8000 images or four hours of video.

To access some of the photographic functions, you have to go into the menu system and choose them. It's a shame that it's not touch screen, but for the price, I can't really grumble.

First of all, don't be fooled by the photo and video options, they're only for resolution although it's worth noting that to add continuous shooting, it has to be done in the resolution area.

The first tab is your quick access menu to the most used options such as resolution, scene modes, filters, flash and self timer. In the meantime the second and third tab access more rarely used or in-depth modes and features.

Options such as image stabiliser, focus modes, ISO, white balance and exposure modes can all be altered in tabs two and three. However, I'm surprised to see face detection and exposure modes buried away in here. I consider them to be much more important. I'd like to see shutter or aperture-priority at the front of the options, not near the back.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Build and handling
At 311g with the battery, it's slightly heavier than a compact with a similar sized 10x optical zoom. Of course the dual camera means you don't have to take two cameras so the weight issue drops dramatically when you're out using it.

The shape is ergonomic with everything in easy reach of probing fingers and thumbs.  The screen articulates to around 240 degrees as is normal with camcorders these days. This could cause long term problems with the wiring if it's over used but there's been no such stories in many years of articulated screens. The image on the screen will invert if it's turned round to face the lens when shooting yourself.

Buttons are nicely responsive and everything fits where it should such as the battery and docking station. I would've liked to see the accessory shoe with intelligence instead of a simple cold shoe fitting. Being able to take additional flash would be brilliant with the development of the still camera.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Performance
I've been looking forward to testing the performance of the Xacti to see if it fits in with expectations of what we want from a camera as well as ease of use and image quality. While the end can sometimes justify the means, that shouldn't be at the expense of comfort.

While the screen is bright and clear, I discovered that this only appears to be the case in brighter areas. Go into a dark room or outside at dusk and visible noise appears which makes seeing your image more difficult.

Through a few test videos I made, the camera can't cope with differences in white balance which gave the darker areas a blue tint. I also caught a light in a mirror and got some really bad lens flare even when the light wasn't in shot.

Continuous shooting is a tricky one to master. If you get this camera after owning a digital compact then the way it operates might confuse you at first. Once you've changed the resolution to continuous shooting resolution, taking pictures is done by holding down the shutter release button on the back. So far so good, but the camera works in the same way as the Pre-record shooting mode on the Casio EX-F1 or the Final3 option on Fujifilm compacts where it records all images from when you've pressed the button but only stores the final eight from the final second before you took your finger off the button.

This is all very well, but doesn't help if you were wanting the first eight images which is what you expect to happen because it's been programmed into us since it was invented.

All images seem to have a flat, paleness to them and the colour test chart image shows this perfectly. All the colours are dull to the point where the only results that I can see as any good are the mono tones.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
All colours appear dull and flat with nothing jumping out from the frame. Only the mono tones have any worth to them. Primary colours are lifeless.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
Portrait mode has given a balanced exposure. There's no warmth in the exposure though.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
Adding flash has removed hard shadows and added catchlights.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
The cosmetic filter changes image characterisations to enhance an image. I see no difference at normal size.

Portraits came out with a pale skin tone (no warmth added to aid the skin) but an even exposure. Using flash gave a good result with balanced light filling in the shadowed areas.

There are also filter effects on the HD2000, one of which is the cosmetic filter. It's designed to adjust a setting such as colour balance to give a desired effect. Comparing against a normal portrait shot, I can't see anything different and it's not until the image is enlarged that a slight smoothing of pores is noticeable.

You may think that it's worthless having the feature, but a subtle adjustment is just what it needs. Some compacts with this feature have a really hard skin smoother that takes no hostages but because it's designed to loctaed certain colours, it doesn't do all the skin and is more noticeable.

Video is an altogether different matter. The record button is responsive which allies Sanyo's perception of todays consumer and the "YouTube society" that we've become.  The zoom is quiet and only a minor whirring can be heard in deathly silence from the camera's own motors. That includes zooming and focusing. 

I think the sole use of the thumb is an error for both recording types as it pushes the camera to one side slightly due to the firmness of the buttons.

One feature I think is good about the HD2000 is that when you're filming, you can press the still button and a still image will record without a break in video.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
Two other camera effects for changing to black and white or sepia are available.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
Like other cameras, it can look quite sickly and it's best to tone in an editing suite.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
Macro is as close as 1cm which is great but nothing new on camcorders.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Focus and metering
Let's face it, cameras aren't worth the paper they're printed on if they don't have decent focus and metering systems. You can change the focus points in the menu system from 9-point AF to 9-point spot focus. The inclusion of AF in the previous title suggests that the spot focus is manual, but it isn't. You can also change to manual focus if you wish by choosing the menu option above the focus mode. You can also select supermacro mode here which can close down to 1cm focusing.

An unusual boast as camcorders have had a near point blank focusing ability for years now. I'm guessing that it's a marketing ploy to look like it has an awesome feature. That doesn't detract from its capability and it is very good.

Focusing is pretty slow by the standards of today's compact cameras. It will also sometimes just sit out of focus until you press the exposure button half way. Usually this is after trying to close focus in normal mode and then bringing the camera back to a regular distance. 

There are also three metering modes of centre-weighted, multi and spot metering. Centre weighted will take an average reading from the whole area given priority (weight) to the centre while multi metering divides the frame into separate factions and takes a reading from each one. It then analyses the results and gives the best exposure from the read outs.

Spot metering reads a small percentage of the centre, usually about 2-3% of the frame. It ignores everything else so can give some wild results.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Noise test
The Sanyo Xacti HD2000 has a 1/2.5in CMOS sensor which is a little on the small side even for compacts. It ususally means that noise will start to appear at low sensitivities and this is no exception. Although it's noticeable at all stages, it becomes a problme at ISO200 where purple and green colour invasion can be seen on the grey tile. Detail is also starting to dissipate on the petals.

The trouble only escalates from here and I would've recommended stopping at ISO800 if possible due to the lack of quality but there's another two settings to go and by ISO3200 the image has deteriorated into chaos. White and black flecks litter the whole image rendering it useless.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
The ISO50 test.
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000
The ISO3200 test.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Verdict
I can see the appeal of having one camera doing everything and other consumers must also otherwise video function on a compact would've been removed years ago.

I think the performance of the Xacti HD2000 as a stills camera needs some definite improvement but it is essentially a camcorder so the priority must lie there. You wouldn't expect a still camera to record better video than stills.

Other than that, I was happy with the results from the perspective of the type of person who would use it. Keen photographers would find it under performing to their tastes though.

For the user travelling the world looking for a camera that does everything for them without the size then this camera is perfect. Especially with the convenience of SDHC cards as videos and stills can be emailed home from an internet café.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Plus points
Small body
Full 1080p HD video
8Mp digital stills
10x optical zoom
Takes SDHC cards

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000: Minus points
Suffers from lens flare
Bad noise performance
Flat colours

FEATURES

HANDLING

PERFORMANCE

OVERALL


The Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 costs around £475 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000

 

 

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Photographs taken using the Sanyo Xacti VPC HD2000

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