By September 10, 2010

Sanyo Xacti VPC-CS1 Review

sanyo_xacti_vpc_cs1 Here I have the Sanyo xacti CS1 compact full HD camcorder, when I got the question from Matt ‘would you like to review a HD camcorder?’ to say I was thrilled would be quite the understatement; so as you can imagine I jumped at the chance as I have never used one before and this was a great opportunity as I was going on holiday!

My first thought when I received the camcorder was ‘How can it stand up against the vastly popular Flip HD range of pocket camcorders?’ Now the people who know me will know that I am not the most ‘clued up person’ when it comes to any type of camera, so I am reviewing for a novice point-of-view which I think will be a particularly realistic test as I beleive that this camera is likely to appeal to noobs like me. To find out how it all went please read on.

 

What’s in the Box?

  • Sanyo xacti CS1 camcorder
  • USB Cable
  • TV AV cable
  • Re-chargeable Li-on Battery Pack
  • Battery Charger
  • Lens Cap
  • User Guide
  • CD-ROM (xacti software 1.7)
  • Wrist strap

Check out Matt’s CS1 unboxing video for more too.

 

Sanyo Xacti VCP-CS1 specification:

Image sensor C-MOS sensor, 1/5 inch, Approx. 3.4 megapixels
Effective pixels Photo: Approx. 3.3 megapixels; Video: Approx. 2.8 megapixels (Full HD / HD), Approx. 3.3 megapixels (SD)
Recording media SD memory card, SDHC memory card (up to 32 GB), SDXC memory card (up to 64 GB), Approx. 50 MB internal memory
Recording file format Photo: JPEG (DCF*1, DPOF*2, Exif Ver. 2.2*3 standard); Video: ISO standard MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4); Audio: 48 kHz sampling, 16-bit, 2-channel, AAC compression
Resolution (pixels) Photo 8M: 3264 x 2448 (Interpolation); 6M (16:9): 3328 x 1872 (16:9) (Interpolation); 3M-H: 2048 x 1536 (low compression); 3M-S: 2048 x 1536 (standard compression); 3M (16:9): 2288 x 1288 (16:9); 2M (16:9): 1920 x 1080 (16:9); 2M: 1600 x 1200; 0.9M (16:9): 1280 x 720 (16:9); 0.3M: 640 x 480
Sequential 8M: 3264 x 2448 (6 fps / 20 shots); 3M: 2048 x 1536 (6 fps / 20 shots)
Video*4 Full HD: 1920 x 1080 (60 fields / sec., 16 Mbps); Full SHQ: 1920 x 1080 (30 fps, 12 Mbps); HD-HR: 1280 x 720 (60 fps, 12 Mbps); HD-SHQ: 1280 x 720 (30 fps, 9 Mbps);
? (iFrame): 960 x 540 (30 fps, 24 Mbps); TV-SHQ: 640 x 480 (30 fps, 3 Mbps)
Lens f = 3.2-28.8 mm; F = 2.8 (wide)-3.0 (telephoto); Auto focus: 9 groups, 12 elements (3 aspheric elements, 6 aspheric surfaces); Built-in ND filter
Angle of view/zoom ratio (35 mm equiv.) Photo: f = 38-342 mm, 9x Optical zoom; Video: f = 38-380 mm, 10x Advanced zoom
Photo range Standard: 50 cm-infinity (wide), 1.0 m-infinity (telephoto); Super macro: 1 cm-1.0 m (wide)
Shutter speed Photo: 1/2-1/1000 sec. (Lamp mode: max. 1 sec.); Sequential: 1/15-1/1000 sec.; Video: 1/30-1/10000 sec.
Digital zoom Shooting: max. Approx. 10x, (total zoom range: 90x [photo] / 100x ); Playback: max. Approx. 51.0x ([8M] mode, varies with resolution)
Focus Auto (Photo: 9-point AF / spot AF; Video: continuous area AF); Manual: 22 steps
Scene select Auto / Sports / Portrait / Landscape / Snow & Beach / Fireworks / Lamp*5
Digital filter Standard / Cosmetic / Monochrome / Sepia
Photometry Multi / Center-weighted / Spot
Minimum illumination for video Approx. 15 lux (Auto mode, 1/30 sec.), Approx. 4 lux (High-sensitivity or Lamp mode, 1/15 sec.)
Sensitivity Auto (LED light off ISO 50-400, LED light on ISO 50-800), Manual (ISO 50 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600, switching system)
Exposure correction ±1.8 EV (in 0.3 EV steps)
Digital image stabilizer Photo: multi-calculation electronic image stabilizer; Video: electronic image stabilizer
Subject targeting Face Chaser (up to 12 faces at the same time) / Target a color
Other functions Red-eye correction in photos, Wind noise reduction
Self-timer 2 sec. / 10 sec.
White balance Auto: Full auto TTL; Manual: Sunny / Cloudy / Fluorescent / Incandescent / One-push
LED light LED light on, LED light off
LED light range Approx. 10 cm-1 m super macro (wide)
Audio Microphone: built-in stereo (with Sound Zoom); Speaker: built-in monaural (L/R mixed output)
Monitor 2.7-inch low-temperature polysilicon TFT color widescreen LCD, approx. 230,000 dots (7-level brightness, 285-degree rotation)
Interface AV output (Video: HDMI, Composite video [NTSC/ PAL]; Audio: Stereo, USB 2.0 (high-speed mode)
Languages English / French / German / Spanish / Greek / Italian / Dutch / Russian / Portuguese / Turkish / Finnish / Swedish / Thai / Korean / Simplified Chinese / Traditional Chinese / Japanese (Differs depending on region)
Power supply Lithium-ion battery (DB-L80, included: 700 mAh)
Power consumption Using battery: 3.5 W (when shooting video)
Approx. Battery life*6 Photo: Approx. 200 photos (CIPA standard), Video: Approx. 60 min. [Full HD mode], Continuous playback: Approx. 210 min.
Dimensions/ Volume 62.5 (W) x 26.8 (D) x 123.5 (H) mm (maximum dimensions, excluding protruding parts); approx. 126 cc
Weight Approx. 159 g (including battery and SD card), Approx. 142 g (body only)
Operating environment Temperature: 0-40°C, Humidity: 30-90% (non-condensing)

 

General

On the top of the device is nothing really as the buttons for the user are delicately placed a little further down the device towards the right hand side as you can see below. The buttons are the still camera button for taking still photos, the record button, zoom in and out rocker and an LED indicator light.

Just below the buttons is a flap, underneath the flap is where the Memory card goes.

IMG_1309

 

On the left hand side of the device as you can see if the camcorder’s lens with LED flash, and just below this it tells the user that it has 10x advanced zoom and this is displayed on top of the other flap; under this flap is the micro HDMI connector and USB connector.

IMG_1308

 

When the LCD display is closed as you can see below it shows the user information regarding what the camcorder possesses, and just above the Full HD sign there is the loud speaker and at the bottom there is the name of the device.

IMG_1304 IMG_1307

And finally when the viewing screen is open there are a number of buttons and these are as follows: Record/play button for switching between the 2, menu button, a directional pad and a set button which doubles up as an ok button inside the menu. Also you will see that underneath the screen it says the manufacturer name and the type of video and size of video that is recorded.

 

Highlights

  • Good size
  • Amount of settings available
  • Still photos and Full HD recording
  • Noise reduction

Lowlights

  • Very difficult to grip when using
  • Battery life
  • Lack of HDMI cable
  • Not that simple to use overall

IMG_1310 

Review

Although I was really nervous about doing the review I was still anxious to open the box to see what the camcorder was like, when I did open the box I found quite a dashing device (even though it’s a PR unit). As for the contents of the box I wasn’t impressed at all if I am honest and this is because of the lack of a HDMI cable to connect the device to a HD ready TV, now I am pretty sure I won’t be the only one to think this but If I was to purchase a full HD camcorder I would want the HD cable to be provided instead of the provided AV cable like with this model?? That was my only real gripe with the provided accessories as the others such as the charging adapter and USB cables generally come as standard anyway with any device. The charging adapter paired with the charger seem to be made extremely cheaply as the adapter feels really plastic like and a bit too light and the battery seems very small in capacity for the type of camcorder this is.

Now that I’ve spoken about the contents of the box I want to tell you about the build quality of the xacti CS1 as I am sure that this would be a major factor in wanting to buy one for personal or any other use. In my full and wholehearted opinion I think that Sanyo have made a huge mistake with the build and design of this particular device and this is because it is so hard to grip with one hand when shooting video or still photos too. It is too rounded and too thin which meant for me personally I had to use both hands as I was constantly blocking the lens with my fingers. As for the materials used for the device I do actually think that Sanyo have made a big effort to make it look stunning by using metals and plastics combined with the good looking display I think it makes a good looking device.

Now onto the user interface, for a pocket camcorder I would say that the interface is both simple and difficult to understand meaning that it could well be extremely simple to understand if you know what everything means, but if you are the type of person that only knows what they need to know about cameras like what setting to have a camera on when taking a type of picture in the dark etc, then it could be seen as quite hard to get to grips with for a while; I will be really honest here and say that I am quite clearly one of the latter people of the world who basically knows about a few settings and how to take photos, this however was before I used this camcorder along with the help of my photography expert partner I realised that cameras aren’t as alien as I thought they were and I eventually got past how confusing the menus were and managed to get to grips with what they all did and exactly how they work.

Speaking of the menus and settings there are 8 scene modes all of which offer their own unique qualities to both still photographs and video recording to create different effects depending on the environment at the time. The scene modes are as follows, full auto, sports, portrait, landscape, snow, beach, fireworks and lamp, now I would usually have said that for a camcorder of this type the amount of scene modes available gives very effective changes for different types of photograph or video images but to be honest they really don’t make that much of a difference at all with the xacti CS1 which really disappointed me as I took the camcorder to the beach whilst on holiday and also to the zoo and it didn’t blow me away.

As well as the scene modes there are also a few different filters to choose from and they are, cosmetic this is a filter that utilises the natural light from outside to its ability which in turn brightens the LCD pull out screen up when you are about to take a photo. The second filter available is sepia; this will change the colour of your photos to create an almost negative photo slide look which I found to work really well and it’s quite an unusual addition but a welcome one too. The final filter to choose from on the xacti is called monochrome and this is capable of completely changing a photo from colour to black and white. When I tested the filters I found that only the last 2 Sepia and Monochrome worked really well with the cosmetic filter working averagely without being brilliant, however all 3 did give their individual qualities to photos.

The brightness levels available on this camcorder were something that I found to be a really positive thing for the device as the choice was actually more than I personally have seen in any type of digital camera before, however this is not to say that there aren’t any camera out there with more than 1600 ISO setting it’s just that I’ve not seen any myself. When using a digital camera in the past for random photos I’ve tended to follow website suggestions on what they claim to be the best ISO settings for various types of environments; a prime example of a setting that has worked almost perfectly indoors all of the time is setting the ISO to 400 because of low light, this then creates almost no pixilation as opposed to if the ISO was set as low as possible it is likely that the photo is very pixelated. The built in ISO settings range from 80 to 1600 which setting to choose does again depend very highly on how bright it is outside and indoors. Although I have stated that certain ISO settings have worked almost perfectly on digital cameras I have used before, the xacti CS1 was far from perfect as no matter which ISO setting I chose the picture wasn’t really affected that much which was quite disappointing again.

One truly brilliant addition to this device is noise reduction this is very useful for when you’re recording video as it helps amazingly to block out external noise meaning that if there was any noise in the background when recording video then that would either be very faint or none existent. This was definitely the case with this camcorder as the quality of the final recording was nothing short of fantastic when external noise wasn’t there. The noise reduction feature also includes wind sound noise reduction which is a very nice feature if you’re high up on a hill/cliff or on the beach as the feature reduces the sound of the wind in the background to nothing more than a whisper.

The lens is of good quality for what it is really, it does focus quite well on the subject almost all of the time and to do the close ups of a subject there is a really good feature called super macro, this setting basically means that when zoomed in on something the lens is capable of then focusing perfectly on that something making the picture of great quality obviously depending on the camera; but this worked really well. The only problem that I found when using the super macro setting was when I used the camera in low light situations, the reason for this is because it tended to become quite pixelated in the background behind the focused subject. Another feature that has gradually become a standard component of any camera or camcorder is the self timer, in this particular camcorder the self timer for still photos works really very well but only when someone is holding the camera or if it’s on a tripod, so basically if you don’t have a tripod then it’s a pointless feature and I found this because of the overall design of the device; it is designed in such as way that you can’t stand it anywhere upright so a self timer must really be used on a tripod only.

Now that I have spoken about the main components of the Sanyo xacti CS1 I will move swiftly on to the battery life, well to be honest this part of the review won’t be very long as there really isn’t anything else to say apart from it isn’t very good at all. I say this because from a full charge and hardly any video footage taken or still images taken I only managed to get 2 full hours out of the device, this annoyed me greatly as when the battery lost all power I was almost always doing something with the camcorder so I wasn’t impressed by this at all.

 

Conclusion

Now is the conclusion to my review of the Sanyo xacti CS1 pocket camcorder, I can say truthfully that I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the full HD recording and a few of the settings that go with that function of the device but apart from that I have to say that it’s a camcorder that I will not pay £200-250 retail for at all as it isn’t any better than the Flip HD pocket camcorder range which start at around £99 retail. After saying that though if retailers did lower the price of this camcorder I might be tempted as the HD recording is so good! I think that Sanyo are trying to aim for a target market of experienced photographers with the CS1 because of the level of detail involved with video recording and the surprising quality of the 8 megapixel still camera also.

So to conclude my full review I wouldn’t recommend the device to anyone who wants a camcorder for every now and then use because it will be wasted to be honest, but I would recommend it to people who would use the device a lot (providing that the price comes down).

Thanks for reading and if you have any question please don’t hesitate to head on over to the forums and ask away!

 

Reviewed by: Chris

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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