Sanyo VPC-CA100 review
If you cast your minds back to September 2010 you will remember that I reviewed the Sanyo Xacti VPC-CS1 compact camcorder and you might also remember that I am not really an expert camcorder, in this area I'm just an average consumer. I do use a camcorder frequently time for family events etc. so that's the approach I am taking for this review.
So with this review of the latest iteration from Sanyo the Xacti VPC-CA100 camcorder I am more experienced and more knowledgeable (in theory anyway)
So if you are in the market for new camcorder then please do read on to find out what I think of the latest from Sanyo.
Oh yes and I mustn't forget to mention that if you haven't done so already I will point you in the direction of Matt's CA100 unboxing video on the site.
What's in the box?
- Sanyo Xacti VPC-CA100 camcorder
- 3-pin UK Plug with adapter
- Li-ion Battery pack
- Micro USB cable
- AV cable
- Xacti Software CD 2.1
- Quick Guide
- Safety manuals
- Basic operations guide
The 10 Second review
- Product: Sanyo Xacti VPC-CA100
- Price: Range from £214-335
- Summary: Brilliant little camcorder to look at but performance is below par for what a customer will have to pay. Disappointing.
- Best of: Build quality, Design, Specifications
- Worst of: Lack of HDMI cable and no lens cap, HD quality video is sub standard, too expensive.
- Buy from: Various
On the top of the device is nothing other than a couple of screws holding the device together.
If I turn your attention to the below photograph of the camcorder you will see the back when the LCD display flap is closed.
At the top you will see some controls and these are as follows from left to right: Still camera button, Zoom in and out, Record button and then just below these is a little button that is called Zoom range.
Finally underneath the controls is a flap which I will show you in a little while.
On the bottom of the camcorder there is only 1 thing and that is the tri-pod connector for placing the camera on a tri-pod.
On the left of the device when closed in merely the LCD display mechanism, and when you open it the display is revealed as shown below.
On the display itself there are a couple of bits of text as you can see, they are the manufacturers' name which is Sanyo and to the left is the format of video that the camera is capable of recording in.
When the display is out the menu controls are revealed and also the names of the ports that are hidden by the control flap.
The controls are as follows: Menu, D-pad with Set/ok button in the middle of it, play/record button. The names of the ports are USB/AV, HDMI (Mini), On/Off button.
Here also is a photo of the connections underneath the flap I mentioned earlier.
The right side of the device is where the battery cover is, also underneath the battery is where the SD card goes.
Finally is the front, here is where we find the LED flash and directly above this is the camera lens, shown below.
Here I have Sanyo's latest creation the Xacti VPC-CA100 Full HD pocket camcorder (What a mouthful!) I was quite looking forward to reviewing another camcorder with cautious optimism hoping that it will be better than the device's predecessor. I will be honest and say that I had no idea what Matt was sending me to review so I was actually quite surprised to find this device as I'd not really heard any news of a new one being released.
With the CS1 I remember a few silly little problems that made the device very difficult to use like poor build quality and design so you may want to know if the CA100 has some of the same problems? Read on to find out
When I first removed the camcorder from its box and packaging I was greeted with a very bright yellow exterior which immediately made me not want to be seen in public with it! In other words the yellow is an awful colour in my opinion I mean why?? Having said now how much I dislike the colour coding I have to say that the device is much heavier than the CS1 and also has 10 times the build quality that the CS1 had. The quality of the build feels super sturdy, sturdy enough even for it to be dropped numerous times and it not smash, I didn't test that theory by the way just in case I get in to trouble or something. The materials feel superb in the hand, I'm not entirely sure what the materials used are but they are used to brilliant effect with this device, I am very impressed with the overall build quality.
Onto the design of the device now and I have to say that it just doesn't match up to the build quality at all, firstly can anyone reading this explain to me why Sanyo provided a lens cap for the VPC-CA100 but they have neglected to provide one for its successor? It makes little or no sense to me to be honest. Anyway moving on now, the battery cover is perfectly placed on the right of the device as you look at the controls, it is a really sturdy mechanism that has a lock button that secures the battery even further. Also here is the Memory card slot which requires the battery to be removed to access it, quite a design floor I think.
The design isn't all bad though as the ports for the USB/AV and HDMI cables are in a great place just underneath the camera keys underneath a nice and secure flap that keeps them free from dust and damage.
The menu controls as you can see below aren't really in a great place, in my opinion a compact HD camcorder is something that should be super simple to user in every aspect but with the way that the controls are with this camcorder simplicity just isn't there I'm afraid. Something else about the actual buttons themselves, they can barely called buttons because they are barely raised from the device's flat surface if at all, and to press them requires a little extra pressure than on other devices I've seen in the past, so for anyone with hand issues like arthritis and can't really apply pressure to things may find it difficult to use the controls. The d-pad is also very tricky to use because it is so small, I constantly found myself going into the wrong menu because I have large fingers so in essence not the greatest designs with this camcorder.
The last bit of design I want to mention is the fantastic LCD display and pivot/swivel function, there isn't really a lot to say other than the swivel function is brilliant and feels as if it's unbreakable and the LCD display itself is very bright and doesn't feel flimsy at all which is a major plus with a device such as this.
As with every device that I have for review I use it extensively for a week or 2 and this one is no different, I think I have had this one for about a week and a half and my opinions have been constantly changing during that time because the device is a little hit and miss. The very first recording that I did was in my garden and it was just a simple stroll nothing heavy and to be honest with you I thought it was just awful and I was also wondering how anyone could fork out over £200 for this! But since I figured out the settings and have taken lots of recording of various things my opinion has changed, my opinion now is that the device is an attempt at a high level Full-HD camcorder that just comes in at an average entry which from my point of view isn't good enough.
I will pose a question to you guys reading this, Should we expect now for camcorders to be superb with every aspect? Or do you think that the platform has a long way to go to match up to full on camcorders?
Hopefully the rest of the review will explain why I've asked you the question, I want to first of all talk about the still images now I know I should probably focus a lot more on the recording seen as though it is a camcorder after all but I think that still images look much better than HD recordings, below are a couple of still images taken to try an illustrate my point a little.
The photo above and left was taken using the camera's super macro mode which I think performed quite well, surprisingly well really. The photo next to it was taken using the Auto setting and you will be able to tell that it looks a little dark compared to the one on the left? Well I will surprise you and say that they were taken on the same day! You really wouldn't know it would you? I think that this illustrates the importance of getting your settings right before you take a photo.
I think I will point out at this point the important settings that the device has, important settings include: Recording resolution of which there are 6 to choose from and they are- 1920 x 1080 60 frames per second, 1920 x 1080 30 frames per second, 1280 x 720 60 frames per second, 1280 x 720 30 frames per second, 640 x 480 and voice record. The resolution that I found worked best almost all of the time was 1280 x 720 60 frames per second because it seemed to record more fluently than the other settings, there was also almost no lag during recording whereas with the 1080 resolutions there was quite a bit.
Also lurking in the menu you'll find options for the digital stabilisation, the metering, focusing, ISO (Auto to 1600), digital zoom, white balance of which there are 6 to choose from- Auto, sunny, cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent and one push. The white balance setting that I found to work best was Auto surprisingly enough it does what it is supposed to do! It changes the setting according to the environment so if it's sunny it will change accordingly.
Other settings include exposure which contains program, shutter, aperture and manual and I just left it on program, there is another setting named target a subject and it contains face chaser, target a colour and off. There is also focus mode and different scene modes to choose from and they are: Landscape, portrait, night portrait, sport. There is a wealth of options dealing with both stills and video as mentioned earlier but they are neither obvious nor easily accessed because the menu is so poorly laid out.
One thing that really let's still imaging down though is the physical camera button, it suffers from major lag between pressing it down and the picture being taken, the autofocus seems to be the primary issue with it but the button doesn't help.
Onto recording now and I will point out that although the controls on this device may seem simplistic think that the idea makes more sense than having lots of buttons to confuse people. You can pretty much just point and shoot once you've configured the settings to your liking, the electronic stabilisation seems to be quite effective, this is very much an improvement over the CS1 because with that there was a considerable amount of wobble when the device felt any slight movement, this became quite annoying but the thing is with this camcorder while taking hand-held walking shots it didn't seem t encounter the sort of wobble that its predecessor and other smaller models suffer from, so I would say that this is worth playing around with.
The stereo microphones are placed on the front of the display which in my opinion is just far enough away from the working parts to avoid it capturing zoom or focusing noise which is a good bit of design I think. There is a wind reduction option available as the exposed position means that it is prone to any type of environmental noise, and it is surprisingly sensitive. Unfortunately there isn't an option for an external mic which did show up that the video recordings had a certain level of a hiss, plus any kind of noise is picked up by the built in microphones so you've really got to be careful when adjusting your grip or the screen angle.
The biggest weakness is the camcorders focusing, as although the CA100will often target an object and stick to it there is the common pulse as it attempts to confirm focus. Zooming, especially in lower light conditions can see the focus lost considerably to the point where you can't really see anything but blur for about 10 seconds until the lens wakes up and decides it wants to focus. Used slowly and deliberately however, it is much less of a problem but sometimes if there is something spectacular that needs to recorded quickly in order to capture its beauty then haste is required so slow and deliberate goes out of the window at that point, so that fact that the camcorder almost requires the user to use it in a slow, deliberate way defeats the object of a good pocket camcorder I think.
Below is a video comprised of 3 little bits of footage that I have put together just to show you different recording methods really.
I do unfortunately have a bit of a rant now but don't worry it's not about anything seriously catastrophic just something that has been continuously annoying me lately. I am referring to the lack of an HDMI cable again! This problem is increasing which is weird because the sheer amount of HD capable devices such as mobile phones and camera etc that are being released you would think that manufacturers would be able to spare a cable wouldn't you?! Doesn't not having a HIGH DEFINITION cable defeat the point of a customer buying a high definition device?
Anyway rant over because I did actually happen to have my own mini HDMI cable that I did connect the CA100 up to my HDTV with, the playback was average at best which was a big of a disappointment, I mentioned the hissing and environmental noise earlier in the review and it is so prominent in the playback that it ruins it for me. I would say that providing you have recorded in either of the 1280 x 720 resolutions then the video will look pretty good, not amazing but pretty good. In my opinion, the point that I've just made defeats the object of a Full-HD camcorder what do you think??
Also in the box is a software CD which has Arcsoft Total Media Extreme for Sanyo on it, this includes editing software, Movie making, and an upload to you tube button which is quite self explanatory. The software is quite basic but it does the job, in my opinion it's basically a more glorified version of Windows moviemaker which isn't a bad thing but I would just prefer to use that than this.
Finally I will mention the battery life of the device, in the specifications it states that it is capable of up to 60 minutes of Full-HD recording and up to 210 minutes of continuous playback, does 60 minutes seem a little low to you? Because it does to me, you pay all of that money for something that you can't even record over an hour of footage at Full-HD? I don't think 60 minutes is long enough at all! The device did unexpectedly turn itself off a few times while I was using it, I think I had to charge it 3 or 4 times in a week and a half which I wouldn't call brilliant.
Here we are at the end of another review, I have to admit that I've enjoyed my time with this little camcorder which I think is due to it being something a bit different to what I'm used to. The problem with it though is that it hasn't grown on me at all, I mean I wouldn't go out tomorrow and purchase one without thinking not even as a gift I don't think, that is partly due to its stupidly hefty price tag!
Yes the specs state that it is capable of recording at Full HD 1080p but I honestly didn't notice any different between that and 1080i to be honest, the device has a couple of nice touches but none are good enough to outweigh the poor points that it has so if you are in the market for such a device then I would suggest keeping clear of this one unless of course it is reduced to £100 or less.
Review by: Chris