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.
Handling and Use
Ease of Use* (4.00)
*The Sanyo VPC-HD1010 is a difficult camcorder to use—it has lots of settings, a strange design, and a confusing menu system. Sanyo tries to help out beginners by offering a 'simple menu' setting, which is engaged by flipping the switch on the left side of the LCD. The problem is, once you exit 'simple menu' mode the HD1010 becomes increasingly difficult to deal with and control.
In 'simple menu', the entire menu of the VPC-HD1010 is whittled down to three settings: movie/photo size, focus mode, and flash mode. Pressing the menu button allows you to make adjustments to these three settings (and nothing more). Also, a large information screen pops up when each setting is selected to help you select your desired option. The 'simple menu' even works in playback mode, offering three options as well: start slideshow, adjust playback volume, and delete file. 'simple menu' also allows you to manipulate the zoom. With one flip of a switch, the VPC-HD1010 goes from being the most complex ultra-compact camcorder on the market, to one of the simplest.
In 'normal menu' mode, the VPC-HD1010 is one complex piece of technology. More modes, settings, and options are stuffed into this little device than most camcorders 2-3 times its size. For beginners, or anyone who dislikes manual controls, it would be wise to stay in 'simple menu' mode if at all possible.
Another issue worth noting is the complex instruction manual that comes with the Sanyo VPC-HD1010. The manual has a lot of information inside it, and anyone who wishes to fully understand the ins and outs of the HD1010 will definitely need to do some reading. Despite its breadth, the instruction manual does not have an index, which is a nonsensical move by Sanyo. The camcorder has so many complicated options and idiosyncrasies that a well organized and in-depth instruction manual is a complete necessity.
Holding the VPC-HD1010, without an attached lens cap
*The VPC-HD1010 doesn't feel like a solid, well-built device. It's plastic body is cheap, scratches easily, and gets very warm after long periods of filming. The upright design could appeal to people looking for a unique camcorder, but it's ultimately not the most comfortable way to wield a camcorder. Worst of all, the Sanyo has very confusing controls and the joystick is one of the worst navigation interfaces we've ever dealt with—this is especially disconcerting when you take into consideration how many controls there are to manipulate on the VPC-HD1010.
As with the Sony HDR-TG1, the Sanyo VPC-HD1010 has no hand strap and is designed as an upright, pistol-grip camcorder. Because the top of the camcorder (the lens barrel) is so heavy, the base of the camcorder (where you grip the device) feels too light, too short, and too thin. There really isn't enough to hold onto and thumbs don't fall naturally at the controls, making certain buttons—like the joystick—far too out of the way for easy access.
Any camcorder without a hand strap is more prone to drops and slips, and the VPC-HD1010 is no exception. Its angled base and protruding lens are easier to wrap your hands around than the straight, rectangular Sony HDR-TG1, but the camcorder isn't all that comfortable. Holding the VPC-HD1010 felt awkward and unbalanced, and button placement was clearly off the mark.
The VPC-HD1010 comes with a wrist strap and soft carrying case, but both are essentially useless. The wrist strap doesn't offer any comfortable method for carrying the camcorder and the soft case does nothing to protect from drops or falls. The case also has no neck or shoulder strap, but instead hosts a flimsy drawstring with a plastic tightener. It would be a surprise if either the case or wrist strap were used by many to transport their VPC-HD1010.
On a windy day, the attachable lens cover will quickly become a nuisance on the VPC-HD1010. It can get in the way of a shot or make noise hitting the side of the camcorder. A built-in lens cover, like the one on the Sony HDR-TG1, would have done wonders protecting the VPC-HD1010's large lens (and would have added to the camcorder's portability).
The dangling lens cap can be annoying
The body of the VPC-HD1010 feels cheap, especially all the port covers. The SD/SDHC card slot has no springs or flexible hinges, making it capable of snapping off at any moment. The DC input and mic/headphone ports both attach to the camcorder via plastic straps. These offer more flexibility than the SD/SDHC card door, but they still feel uncomfortably weak. The battery cover is not well designed, utilizing a primitive hinge-lock and a fragile, plastic construction. The camcorder also gets very warm after extended use. During our battery test, the handle of the camcorder became uncomfortably hot after thirty minutes of straight recording—making the camcorder, literally, too hot to handle.
The Sanyo VPC-HD1010 has difficulty standing on its own with the LCD open, but it is capable of accomplishing the feat. Still, the camcorder is very wobbly when resting upright on its own, making things difficult if you want to get a shot of yourself with the entire family. The inefficient image stabilization system on the VPC-HD1010 could also be an issue if you're used to camcorders correcting for shake and wobble. In our testing, Sanyo's movie stabilizer did nothing to reduce the shake produced by our specialized device.
Overall, the VPC-HD1010 doesn't feel like a well-built device. Its plastic body feels cheap, its ports are flimsy, the surface is prone to scratches and fingerprints, and its button placement is just no good. In comparison, the VPC-HD1010 doesn't have the heavy-duty feel, and solid construction of the Sony HDR-TG1.
Just like the Sony HDR-TG1, the Sanyo VPC-HD1010 falls over easily
*Sanyo didn't think out the menu system on the VPC-HD1010 all that well. There are a multitude of options, which is a good thing, but it's their organization that is often ridiculous. Having no separate menu for still images, hiding important features, and relying on the terrible navigation joystick to an excessive degree are all major problems that bog down the HD1010's menu system and make it exhausting to use.
Of course, there is always the option of using the camcorder in 'simple menu' mode, which is essentially Sanyo's version of Sony's 'easy' mode. In 'simple menu' mode, there are only three menu options for recording—movie/photo size, focus mode, and flash mode. There's another three options for playback—start slideshow, adjust playback volume, and delete file. One of the simplest menu setups you'll ever see.
A quick switch over to 'normal menu' mode, and an entirely new world of menu options sprawl out before you. Pressing the menu button brings up six tabs—three are headlined with Recording Menu and three are Option Menus. When in playback mode, the camcorder has a two-tabbed Playback menu, as well as the same Option menu you find in record mode. All menu navigation is done using the joystick on the back of the camcorder, which is barely preferable to the touchscreen on the Sony HDR-TG1. The joystick is inaccurate, too sensitive, and difficult to manipulate. Despite looking nearly identical to the ones used by Canon (on the HF11, HG20, etc.), the joystick on the VPC-HD1010 is far inferior.
The Recording and Option menus on the VPC-HD1010
The Recording Menu contains the following options:
|Recording Menu 1||Movie, Photo, Scene Select, Filter, Flash, Self-Timer|
|Recording Menu 2||Movie Stabilizer, Photo Stabilizer, Focus, Focus Mode, Exp Measure, ISO|
|Recording Menu 3||White Balance, Exposure, Face Chaser, Photo Wide-D, High Sensitivity, Digital Zoom|
The Option Menu contains the following options:
|Option Menu 1||Clock Set, Info Display, Startup Display, Operation Beep, Post View, Rec Folder|
|Option Menu 2||Shortcuts, Noise Reduction, Image Settings, Flicker Reduct, Brightness, Ext Mic Volume|
|Option Menu 3||Language, TV Output, Power Save, File No. Cont'd, Format, Reset Settings|
The VPC-HD1010 has a 'shortcut' feature located on the second tab of the Option Menu. The 'shortcut' feature allows you to assign different settings to the joystick for quick access. Each direction the joystick can push (up, down, left, right) can be allocated with a different setting. Now, you don't get to choose from every option the camcorder has, but Sanyo offers a good amount.
Available 'shortcut' options:
What's strange about this list of options is that four of them—AF Lock, AE Lock, Exposure Compensation, and Disp on/off—aren't found anywhere else on the camcorder. That's right, they're only available as shortcuts, and can't be found in the camcorder's regular menu. Maybe Sanyo thought these settings were so insignificant they didn't need to be listed in the menu. The problem of having them only as shortcuts is they can be easily overlooked, and you need to use up all four of your shortcut options if you want these features available to you (thereby making the 'shortcut' feature useless). It's a mystery why Sanyo would hide features like this, especially ones as as important as these.
The 'shortcuts' feature is not easy to use
There is no dedicated still mode on the VPC-HD1010 (there is the photo view button, however), which means there's also no separate photo menu. All the still image settings are mixed in with the video controls in the all-encompassing Recording Menu. Sanyo does post little camera/camcorder icons in the corner of the LCD screen to let you know if the option you're adjusting will affect stills, video, or both. This mixing of settings and options makes the menu system on the VPC-HD1010 a little difficult to navigate.
There's more to dislike about the VPC-HD1010's menu setup. Pushing the joystick while in record mode brings up an 'Instant Review' screen, which allows you to look through your clips and images much like you would in playback mode—the difference is you don't have access to the Playback Menu. 'Instant Review' doesn't serve much of a purpose on the camcorder, as it isn't any faster than switching over to playback mode to watch your footage. The truly annoying aspect, however, is how easy it is to accidentally push the joystick and enter 'Instant Review' when you don't want to. You could be making a manual exposure adjustment, and seconds later find yourself somehow watching a video you took ten minutes prior. Combining this with the aforementioned 'shortcuts' feature, Sanyo is putting too many options in the hands of the flimsy joystick.
*The Sanyo VPC-HD1010 is designed as an ultra-compact camcorder, but its shape isn't conducive for fitting into tight spaces. Its closest competitor in size and shape is clearly the Sony HDR-TG1, although the Sanyo has a far larger lens barrel. It is the lens barrel, along with the angled design of the grip, that makes the VPC-HD1010 very uncomfortable to transport via a pocket. The HDR-TG1 has a sleek, rectangular design (like a taller, thicker iPod), while the VPC-HD1010 looks like a small hair-dryer. It's a shame Sanyo couldn't have designed the VPC-HD1010 to be both ergonomic and portable. The large, awkward shape of the lens barrel simply isn't comfortable in even the loosest of pockets.
The VPC-HD1010 has dimensions of 89 x 111.8 x 53.3mm (3.5 x 2.1 x 4.4 inches) and weighs 309g (10.9 oz) with the provided battery pack installed. While roughly the same weight as the HDR-TG1, the VPC-HD1010 is approximately 40% longer and 65% thicker than the Sony. It really is the shape, however, that makes the VPC-HD1010 a bulkier, less portable device. A soft case and wrist strap do ship with the camcorder, but both aren't very good methods for transporting the device. On Sanyo's website is an available holster case with ratcheting belt clip, but its design doesn't look all that appealing. It definitely isn't nearly as stylish as the attaché case Sony designed as an accessory for the HDR-TG1.
The docking station for the VPC-HD1010 creates multiple portability issues that Sanyo easily could have avoided by simply putting a few extra ports on the body of the camcorder. For starters, you'll need to bring the station along with you whenever you want to connect the camcorder to a television or computer—there are no AV, HDMI, Component, or USB ports on the VPC-HD1010 itself. Secondly, the docking station must be powered by the DC unit in order to function at all, making the DC cable another necessary addition to your camera bag. Third, the AV and Component ports on the docking station are not universal, meaning you must use the cables that came with the camcorder. So, when packing up your camcorder, you'll need to make sure you bring the docking station, power supply, and any special-fit cables if you plan on hooking the camcorder up to a television. Of course, you could always forgo all these items and just show off your HD footage on the VPC-HD1010's tiny LCD screen.
No built-in lens cap is also an issue here. The provided lens cap simply isn't efficient if portability is your primary objective—its just another piece of equipment you need to bring along with you to keep your camcorder safe. The lens cover can be attached to the camcorder with a small cable, but the dangling cap can easily get in the way of a carefully planned shot. Also, the lens cover is bound to pop off if you carry the VPC-HD1010 in your pocket.
Sanyo's internal video editing feature also enhances the mobility of the VPC-HD1010, but the feature is quite difficult to use. In the Playback Menu, the edit video setting allows you to trim or join footage right inside the camcorder. Of course you'll have to master the art of using the pesky joystick to make all your edits, which probably isn't the best way to spend your time. The camcorder also has long processing times when any large edits are performed. Nevertheless, the editing feature could be a benefit to portability for some (although not most) users.
The VPC-HD1010 doesn't contain any internal memory. This means everything you record and capture must be saved on an SD/SDHC card. If you do lots of filming on the go, you will definitely need to purchase numerous memory cards (or one or two large cards), as well as get into the habit of routinely backing up your files to a computer or hard drive.
LCD and Viewfinder* (6.00)
*The VPC-HD1010 has a 2.7-inch LCD with an approximate 230,000-pixel resolution. This is a slightly higher resolution than the 211,000 pixels found on many HD camcorders (including the Sony HDR-TG1 and Canon HF100). The screen has 7 brightness levels and is capable of 285-degree rotation.
One problem with the LCD is that it's cluttered with icons, numbers and text—no matter what mode you're in. Turning the information display off during playback is easy, just select the option in the Playback Menu. To turn the display off while you're recording is a somewhat hidden feature on the VPC-HD1010 and you won't find the option in the menu. You need to first setup the 'shortcut' feature found in the second tab of the Option Menu. Then, you'll discover, Disp on/off is one of the available shortcut options. This roundabout method for clearing the LCD of icons and information just doesn't make sense—Sanyo should have made this option easier to find.
There is no viewfinder on the VPC-HD1010.
Battery Life* (9.30)
*The Sanyo HD1010 ships with a DB-L50 lithium-ion battery pack. The battery fits into an internal cavity inside the grip handle of the camcorder. This could be problematic for those hoping to upgrade to a larger battery—it's not possible. If you'll be away from power outlets for a while, a purchase of multiple batteries from Sanyo may be necessary.
We tested the life of the supplied battery pack by continuously recording in auto mode with the LCD open. No features or settings were engaged and no controls were manipulated during the test. We found the battery lasted for 93 minutes 20 seconds, which is far less than the 125-minute approximation on Sanyo's website.
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