Sanyo VPC-HD1 Saint John NB

Digital video cameras that use memory cards for storage have never caught on. Many are cheap and nasty budget models, and even the best can't match the quality or quantity of video storage offered by MiniDV.

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Sanyo VPC-HD1

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Digital video cameras that use memory cards for storage have never caught on. Many are cheap and nasty budget models, and even the best can't match the quality or quantity of video storage offered by MiniDV. However, Sanyo's VPC-HD1 is more promising, as it's capable of recording 720p HD video.

It uses SD cards for storage, but you'll need big ones, as a 2GB card holds only around half an hour of HD video. It's a big drawback and makes the VPC-HD1 unsuitable for long events such as weddings, or even for taking on holiday. However, its compact size and 210g weight mean it's perfect for everyday use.

The plastic body is rigid and it resisted scratches throughout our testing. The key controls are all positioned beneath your thumb and are self-explanatory and the menu is laid out well and controlled by a small joystick.

Unsurprisingly on such a small camera, there's no viewfinder. Also, the usual LCD has been replaced by an organic LED (OLED). It has improved power efficiency, better viewing angles and superior contrast than an LCD screen. Unfortunately, it isn't a widescreen display, so it uses a letterbox mode when shooting widescreen video.

The CCD used is a huge 1/2.5" - the biggest one we've seen in a camcorder. The quality of the video captured is not as good as we had hoped, though. HD video is captured at only 9Mbit/s, which is around the same as a DVD movie. So although the video resolution is high, a lot of compression is used to achieve it. This is more evident when shooting fast-moving subjects.

There are other problems, too. We found the autofocus sluggish, taking longer than expected to adjust properly. It also doesn't handle scenes with strong contrast well. When shooting on a bright sunny day, we found the video suffered badly from over- and underexposure as we moved from light to dark areas. No camcorder deals with these kinds of conditions without issues, but we felt the VPC-HD1 was notably poor.

It's easy to enjoy the video you've shot, though. You can plug the camcorder directly into a 720p LCD TV using the included component lead or use the memory card to copy the video to your PC or notebook for editing.

Despite its compact size and ease of use, we can't recommend the VPC-HD1. The video quality issues and the need to buy a 4GB SD card to record an hour of video make it little more than an expensive toy. If you're serious about shooting HD video, Sony's excellent HDR-HC1E is a better choice; see What's New, Shopper January 2006 for details.

System Specifications

DV CAMERA SD memory card storage, 10x optical zoom, 1/2.5" 5.36-megapixel CCD, 2.2" OLED screen, component, S-video, composite and phono outputs, USB2 interface

Author: Seth Barton

Computer Shopper Online