Xacti VPC-HD2000 review

Sanyo’s new top-of-the-range Xacti follows on from its predecessors by featuring an upright design. Resembling a Star Trek blaster crossed with a hairdryer, it will divide opinion. Realising this, Sanyo, now partnered with Panasonic, has simultaneously issued a traditional horizontal version in the otherwise identical VPC-FH1. We think the VPC-HD2000 looks very cool, however, and the gun-like grip feels instantly natural, recalling childhood games of cowboys and Indians.

Rather than going the whole hog and featuring a trigger with which to ‘shoot’ stills and video – Sanyo’s marketing this as a ‘Dual Camera’ – a command pad is situated at the top of the grip. The function buttons fall under the thumb as your remaining fingers snake around the handle. Maintaining a minimal layout, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels HD video, in MPEG-4 format, or 8-megapixel JPEGs (with a further 12-megapixel interpolated option) are captured via the press of a central disc. This disc is divided down the middle with photo recording on one side, and video on the other. Inevitably, it’s all too easy to accidentally start recording video when you meant to snap a photo, and vice versa.

The HD2000 is initially activated by pressing the on/off button hidden behind the flip-out and twist 2.7in widescreen LCD. This is folded flush to the body, screen facing inwards when inactive. Flip it out and you’re instantly ready to shoot, as long as you’ve inserted a removable SD or SDHC memory card – otherwise a disembodied female voice advises that you do. A 4GB SD will allow for 1,000 images or around half-an-hour of full HD footage.

Zoom action is smooth and responsive – equivalent to 38-380mm (10x) in 35mm terms when capturing stills or 44.4-710mm (16x) if shooting video. Screen visibility is bright and clear when shooting outdoors, but murky if not. The Xacti comes with a docking station that, alongside standard USB, AV and external power ports, features a HDMI connection for hooking the unit up to a HD TV.

OUR VERDICT

While the Xacti features light sensitivity up to an impressive ISO3200 it struggles to focus in darker environments. It’s also tricky to hold steady enough to avoid camera shake if you don’t want to rely on the pop-up flash. Some corner shading and softening of detail is visible in images taken at maximum wide angle, and barrel distortion too. Video, like stills, is more impressive when there’s plenty of light around – so a sunshine holiday is the prefect environment for this convenient catch-all device.

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