Sanyo Xacti C6

We should have seen it coming: camcorders are starting to take on the capabilities of stills cameras, namely forgoing the standard miniDV tape for removable Flash SD cards. These camcorders are amazingly small and completely quiet. Gone is that little motor whine that was always present: recording to Flash card is a silent process. With Flash prices falling all the time and currently achieving capacities of 2GB, it shouldn’t be too long before the miniDV tape becomes as obsolete as Betamax.

Unfortunately, there is a major problem when it comes to importing footage onto a Mac. With iMovie and FireWire, there was never a problem with regular miniDV camcorders. You just plugged them in and away you went. However, of the handful of consumer tapeless camcorders out there only one was Mac compatible.

Compatibility test
We tested five camcorders. The Sony DCR-SR90E is a hard drive-based camcorder that was so dependent on its computer application that it refused to mount the drive until it could talk to it – that application is PC only. The Samsung VP-X220L Sports Camcorder produced incompatible AVI files. The 3CCD Panasonic SDR-S150 and the JVC Everio produced files that were compatible – if you were willing to purchase a terrible piece of software called CaptyDVD. This would enable you to convert files manually one at a time to a format QuickTime could read. A tedious, time-consuming process that totally negates the advantages of these camcorders (get a miniDV camera instead).

It’s hard to believe that these manufacturers are willing to spend a lot of time designing consumer editing suite for the PC yet do not provide Mac users with a simple, automatic file conversion application to enable editing in iMovie. It’s a worrying trend.

The Sanyo Xacti C6 is, thankfully, fully compatible and is an impressive camera for its price. Its most striking aspects are its small size (68 x 108 x 23mm) and light weight (140g).

The controls appear quite sparse with nearly all of them present on the thin edge of the camcorder (the power button can be found by opening the viewscreen). However, every control you would expect is there, available via easy-to-navigate buttons: zoom, built-in flash, timer, ISO selection, white balance, auto-focus and basic image stabiliser, among others. One missing piece is the optical viewer: viewing and browsing your shots is done solely through the 2in LCD monitor.

For the record
You have various recording choices from high-quality video images (640 x 480) to low resolution (176 x 144). Regular TV screens have a resolution of 720 x 576. The Xacti C6 doesn’t quite match that but the high-quality setting comes close. It takes about 23MB to record one minute of footage at the highest quality, so a 2GB SD card should hold about 85 minutes. You can also use it as a stills camera. The maximum resolution for photos is an impressive 6 megapixels. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with an SD card so you need to factor that cost in.

The Xacti comes bundled with a convenient docking station. Once docked, pressing the transfer button lets you import shots to your Mac via the included USB cable (the dock must be plugged in to the mains for this to work which makes importing your shots a difficult process without a card reader when on the road). The Sanyo records movies in MP4 format, which means it works flawlessly with your Mac, and films are even stored in iPhoto as you upload the contents of the SD card, making cataloguing a snap.

Its microphone is located on the right side panel and, depending on how big your hand is and how you hold the camera, there’s a chance you could affect the sound by unwittingly covering up part of it. The Samsung, for instance, has a similar idea but has the microphone on the LCD monitor’s panel, bringing the microphone to the front when in use. It’s a shame Sanyo didn’t think of that as well. The included lens cap has to be attached to the side of the camcorder. It’s very flimsy and as it dangles over the microphone it will probably affect your shot’s sound at some point. Not using it seems the most practical option, although the lens will get smudged easily as a result.

OUR VERDICT

For its price, this is a very good camcorder. It performs well as a stills camera and its video features, though basic, were surprisingly good. Considering its competition, the fact that it’s Mac compatible is a major bonus point.

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