camcorders

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD1010 Camcorder Review

here aren\'t too many ultra-compact camcorders capable of delivering full 1920 x 1080 HD video. Those that do, like the Sony HDR-TG1, are usually geared towards beginners or users looking for an easy-to-use travel item. Enter the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD1010 ($799 MSRP), an ultra-compact device packed with so many manual controls it almost sounds like a professional camcorder on paper. Surprisingly, the camcorder was also able to put up some incredible video performance results in our testing. The trouble is, regardless of how good the quality is or how many features the camcorder has, the Sanyo HD1010 is still a cheaply made device—with awkward handling, bad button layout, poor auto controls, and terrible menu structure. Nevertheless, with the ability to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure and image settings, combined with an external microphone output, 8 video record settings (including a 30P mode), and 9 photo qualities (including a 7fps photo sequence feature)—pound for pound, you\'re looking at one of the most versatile camcorders in the world.

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Performance

Video Performance* (9.50)

*The Sanyo VPC-HD1010 has a large, 1/2.5-inc CMOS sensor and an effective pixel count of 3,560,000. This is one of the largest sensors you'll find in a consumer HD camcorder, and it's double the size of the 1/5-inch sensor Sony put in the HDR-TG1. It is the same size sensor Sanyo used in the older VPC-HD2, but that model couldn't capture full 1920 x 1080 HD footage. Now, sensor size isn't everything when it comes to video performance, but it's still very impressive that Sanyo squeezes such a large chip into an ultra-compact device.

Sanyo has eight different recording settings, but we focused only on the two 1920 x 1080 full HD settings in our testing. One recorded at 60i (60 fields per second), while the other captured at 30P (30 frames per second). Having alternate frame rates is a wonderful option for Sanyo to include. 30P offers a different aesthetic than 60i and it does wonders boosting performance in areas with lots of detail or in low light situations. The 30P rate may also be more compatible with certain editing software or computer programs. In comparison, the Canon HF100 (along with most of Canon's HD camcorders) features both a 24P and 30P mode, while the Panasonic HDC-SD100 and HS100 both have a 24P setting. The Sony HDR-TG1 does not have any 30P or 24P frame rate options.

The Sanyo HD1010 has received some buzz for its 300 frames per second video mode—capable of capturing extremely slow motion. While it can be a neat feature to show off to your friends, you must record in 448 x 336 (standard definition) resolution to utilize the slow frame rate. The resulting video sure is slow motion, but it's also a horrible, youtube-ish quality. The 300fps may fascinate some, but experienced videographers won't be impressed by the low video quality.

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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 at 3000 lux in 60i

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Sony HDR-TG1 at 3000 lux in auto mode

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Panasonic HDC-SD100 at 3000 lux in auto mode

Beginning our video testing, we shot a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde chart at an even 3000 lux (bright light). We then pulled frames from that footage and compared it to other camcorders that have come through our labs. In this testing, the VPC-HD1010 performed exceptionally well. We first shot the chart at 60i, with the camcorder capturing a decently sharp image. It had slightly less detail than the Sony HDR-TG1 as well as most of the larger HD camcorders on the market. Its colors looked great, however, as it produced tones that appeared to fall in between the over saturation of Canon and Pansonic and the softer colors produced by Sony.

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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 at 3000 lux in 30P mode

Shooting at 30P, the VPC-HD1010 turned everything up a notch and blew the Sony HDR-TG1 out of the water. The Sanyo captured a startlingly sharp image that rivaled some of the best consumer HD camcorders (although still not quite a match for Canon or the Samsung SC-HMX20). Besides besting the Sony HDR-TG1 it also captured more detail than Sony's HDR-CX12 and HDR-SR12. The Sanyo even had a sharper image in 30P than the Panasonic HDC-HS100 or SD100.

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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 in 60i mode

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{{article.attachments['Sony_HDR-TG1_3000_lux_auto_blowup.jpg']}}Sony HDR-TG1 auto mode100% crop

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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 in 30P mode

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Panasonic HDC-SD100 auto mode

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Looking at the blowups above, it's hard to imagine the two Sanyo images came from the same camcorder. In bright light at 60i, the VPC-HD1010 has a blurry, artifacting image when you look closely, but in 30P everything is crystal clear. The question is, what will most users do the bulk of their shooting in? 30P mode doesn't have much of a different look than 60i (things appear to move a tiny bit slower), but the image quality is clearly superior at the slower frame rate. The thing is, even at 60i, the Sanyo VPC-HD1010 is a strong performer—second only to the HDR-TG1 in the ultra-compact camcorder class.

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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 in auto mode, 60i
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Sony HDR-TG1 in auto mode Outside of our labs, in the real world, the Sanyo showed us some wonderful images, but nothing looked as good as we'd hoped from our lab results. This is probably due to the camcorders poor auto white balance, and bad auto exposure. The two images of the pipe above are both very sharp, with both capturing a good amount of detail. The VPC-HD1010 gave the wall attachment a greenish hue, which seems to darken the overall image and does not look very pleasing. The HDR-TG1 does a better job with colors, although the image is not as saturated or deep.
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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 in auto mode, 60i
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Canon HG20 in auto mode Shooting side-by-side with the Canon HG20—one of the best HD camcorders on the market—the color problems with the VPC-HD1010 are more prominent. In the images above, look at the color of the blue sky behind the tree. The Sanyo produced an almost neon blue, while the Canon shows a cooler tone with more depth. Looking at the leaves you can see the Sanyo did a wonderful job capturing detail in this very complex image, even holding its own against one of the best camcorders in the business. The VPC-HD1010's problem really comes down to color reproduction and bad auto white balance.
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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 in auto mode, 60i
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Canon HG20 in auto mode In these two images, again side-by-side with the Canon HG20, the Sanyo HD1010 shows off its bad auto exposure. The image from the Canon is much brighter and captures more detail as a result. The Sanyo's picture looks nice, but the entire image is lacking simply because it's a bit darker. These images help establish the fact that the VPC-HD1010 doesn't have the best automatic controls. It's a device that is meant to be manually adjusted and perfected by people who enjoy spending their time playing with settings and controls. That being said, the camcorder still put up a tremendous fight against a variety of different HD models. It's capable of performing on a higher level than the Sony HDR-TG1, but you'll have to fiddle with settings to make that happen. **Video Resolution*** (15.81)* We test video resolution by shooting a DSC Labs resolution chart under a bright, even light. We then watch the footage on an HD monitor to determine the resolution, which is measured in line widths. The VPC-HD1010 produced a horizontal resolution of approximately 550 line widths and a vertical resolution of approximately 575 line widths. These scores are close, albeit slightly lower, to the video resolution measurements we made for the Sony HDR-TG1. They are also lower than the scores you'll see on elite HD camcorders (like the Canon HF100 and Samsung SC-HMX20). **Low Light Performance*** (7.09) *We test low light performance in three separate stages: comparative analysis, accuracy/noise/saturation testing, and light sensitivity measurement. For the first test, comparative analysis, we shoot a DSC Labs Chroma DuMonde chart at 60 lux and 15 lux, then compare the results with other camcorders we've tested as well. Because the Sanyo HD1010 automatically drops its shutter speed to 1/30 of a second in darkly lit scenes, we did all our low light testing with the shutter speed locked at 1/60 of a second (the normal minimum for a camcorder)—otherwise, we'd be giving the Sanyo an unfair advantage.
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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 at 60 lux, 1/60 shutter speed, in 60i

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Sony HDR-TG1 at 60 lux in auto mode

 

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Panasonic HDC-SD100 at 60 lux in auto mode

Recording at 60i, the Sanyo VPC-HD1010 captured a bright image at 60 lux (which is moderately low light). This isn't a surprise, considering the camcorder has a large 1/2.5-inch CMOS sensor. Compared to the Sony HDR-TG1, the two camcorders had a very similar image—Sanyo's being slightly brighter, but Sony's having more detail.

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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 at 60 lux, 1/60 shutter speed, in 30P

At 60 lux, the HD1010's 30P mode was again a game changer. Shooting in 30P the Sanyo not only had a brighter image than the HDR-TG1, but it was sharper as well. Colors were more saturated and didn't appear to blend together as they did on the TG1. The HD1010's bright, crips image in 30P came close to rivaling Canon or the Samsung SC-HMX20 at 60 lux. Sanyo easily had a better image at 60 lux than Panasonic.

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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 at 15 lux, 1/60 shutter in 60i

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Sanyo VPC-HD1010 at 15 lux, 1/60 shutter in 30P

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Sony HDR-TG1 at 15 lux auto mode

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Panasonic HDC-SD100 at 15 lux auto mode

Bringing the lights down to 15 lux (which is very low light), Sanyo's large sensor began to come into play. Even recording at 60i, the HD1010 had an extremely bright image at 15 lux compared to the competition. The Sony HDR-TG1 has a blurred, fuzzy image, while the Sanyo has colors that are nearly as strong as results achieved by Canon. In 30P Sanyo's image is even brighter than Canon, although colors were not as deep and the image was not as sharp.

This brings us to our second stage of testing—our accuracy, noise, and saturation analysis. For this test, we shoot an X-Rite Color Checker chart at an even 60 lux. We then take frames from this footage and run it through Imatest imaging software for evaluation. According to Imatest, the Sanyo HD1010 produced a color error of 7.98 when recording at 60i and 7.31 in 30P. These are terrific scores, besting the Sony HDR-TG1 by approximately 7 points (the TG1 produced a color error of 14.7). The large CMOS sensor inside the Sanyo definitely helped produce strong, accurate colors.

The HD1010 measured a noise percentage of 1.115% at 60i and 1.28% in 30P. These aren't tremendously low scores, but they still are both significantly better than the HDR-TG1, which had a noise percentage of 1.5675%. Our final Imatest results showed the Sanyo had saturation levels of 93.12% at 60i and 90.58% in 30P.

Our final stage of low light testing measures sensitivity. We hooked the VPC-HD1010 up to a waveform monitor, which is a device that determines exposure (expressed in IRE, the standard in broadcasting). We slowly lowered the lights until the camcorder peaked at 50 IRE on the waveform monitor. The Sanyo HD1010 needed 13 lux of light to reach 50 IRE at 60i, which is identical to the amount of light needed for the Sony HDR-TG1 to reach the same level. In 30P, the HD1010 needed only 10 lux of light to peak at 50 IRE. Since the Sanyo is loaded with such a large CMOS sensor, we expected it to have a better light sensitivity than this. While these are still very respectable results, it doesn't come close to the abilities of the Samsung SC-HMX20 (which needed only 5 lux of light to produce 50 IRE on the waveform monitor).

Overall, the low light ability of the Sanyo VPC-HD1010 was impressive. It's large sensor, combined with the 30P frame rate option, created an exceedingly sharp, bright image even under very low light. It's a mystery as to why Sanyo would set the automatic minimum shutter speed at 1/30 of a second on this camcorder—it already has an incredibly solid low light performance and it doesn't need any boost from a slow shutter. Combined with options for adjusting ISO and high sensitivity settings, the VPC-HD1010 is one of the best little low light performers out there.

Stabilization* (0.31)

*The VPC-HD1010 uses an electronic image stabilization system (EIS), which reduces unwanted motion using a digital process and can sometimes result in a loss of image quality. Most elite camcorders have optical image stabilization (OIS), a feature that typically uses gyroscopic sensors inside the lens to produce a smooth image with no quality degradation.

Sanyo missed the boat with image stabilization on the HD1010. We tested the camcorder using a specialized device in our lab. Our device produces shake at two speeds: speed one is roughly equivalent to the motion of a wobbly hand, while speed two is closer to the agitation of a moving car. At speed one the VPC-HD1010 did absolutely nothing to improve the smoothness of the image, and at speed two the feature reduced an abysmal 16.7% of the shake.

These are horrendous results, making us wonder if Sanyo's stabilization feature is anything more than an advertising sham. The instruction manual offers the following explanation: 'Due to the mechanical characteristics of this function, it may not be possible for the camera to compensate for violent motion.' It's unclear what Sanyo means by 'violent motion,' but our tests suggest it appears to be any motion whatsoever.

In comparison, the Sony HDR-TG1 (equipped with OIS) reduced 68% shake at speed one and 75% at speed two. A respectable performance for a small, lightweight camcorder.

The VPC-HD1010 also has a photo stabilization feature, but the setting does not function while recording video.

Wide Angle* (8.40)

*The wide angle capabilities of the Sanyo VPC-HD1010 measured at 42 degrees. This is a a good deal narrower than most camcorders we test. In comparison the Sony HDR-TG1 had a wide angle measurement of 47 degrees.

Sanyo does sell two attachable lens converters that offer wider angles: the VCP-L07WU 0.7x wide angle lens converter and the VCP-L04FU 0.4x semi-fisheye lens converter. An attachable 1.6x telephoto lens converter, the VCP-L16TU, is also available from Sanyo.

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Sections

  1. Performance
  2. Format
  3. Auto / Manual Controls
  4. Still Features
  5. Handling and Use
  6. Audio / Playback / Connectivity
  7. Other Features
  8. Conclusion & Comparisons
  9. Photo Gallery