By October 29, 2008

Camcorder group test (Part 4) Sanyo Xacti HD700 Review

The Xacti HD700 is Sanyo’s weapon for its foray into the budget end of hi-definition consumer video. As seems to be the trend these days, it eschews traditional video tape for solid state storage for reasons of cost and robustness. In a rapidly growing market for cameras of this type how does it fair against recently reviewed competition?

hd700_no_dock hd700_open

The Sanyo Xacti HD700


What’s in the box?

  • Xacti HD700
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • USB cable and converter cable
  • AV cable
  • HDMI cable
  • Mains charger
  • Charging cradle/docking station
  • Remote control
  • Strap
  • Soft case
  • Printed instruction manual
  • Quick start guide
  • Software CD inc’ Adobe Premiere Elements


Sanyo Xacti HD700 unboxing video


The Xacti is entirely unconventional in appearance. It’s a bit like a cross between one of those widgets Captain Kirk used to point at misbehaving aliens and some kind of water pistol. In fact using it is like holding a gun – point, aim and shoot. More about that later.

The design is clean, simple and compact. It’s not much bigger than some mobile phones when the screen is closed. For this reason it’s eminently pocketable in a way that most videocams aren’t and therefore ideal for my travels on my motorcycle. It fits easily in the small amount of underseat storage I have or in the tankbag on top of the petrol tank. Fab!

The specification can best be described as very comprehensive for a budget camcorder.


Rear: (Left) stills record, (centre) zoom control, (right) video record, (lower centre) menu activate, (lower right) record/playback select, (bottom) 5-way multi-navigation switch for selecting modes and menu items, (top centre) full auto mode switch.

Underneath: HDMI socket, tripod mount.

Left: Power/standby switch (under the screen when folded).

Front: Flash.

hd700_controls hd700_sdcard hd700_angled

Sanyo Xacti HD700 Specification:

  • Effective pixel count: Stills: 7.1 megapixels. Movies: 4.08 megapixels (in HD). 3.58 megapixels (NORM).
  • CCD: 1/2.5 inch, 7.38-megapixel (total)
  • Recording media: SD or SDHC Memory Card (Up to 8GB)
  • Recording file formats: Still: JPEG (DCF, Exif 2.2, DPOF standard)
  • Video: MPEG4 AVC/H.264. Audio: 48kHz Sampling,16bit, 2ch, AAC (stereo)
  • Video resolution (pixels): [HD-SHQ] 1280 x 720 (30fps, 9Mbps), [HD-HR] 1280 x 720 (30fps, 6Mbps), [TV-SHQ] 640 x 480 (30fps, 3Mbps ), [TV-HQ] 640 x 480 (30fps, 2Mbps ), [Web-SHQ] 320 x 240 (30fps)
  • Still resolution (pixels): [7M-H] 3072 x 2304 (low-compression), [7M-S] 3072 x 2304 (standard-compression), [5.3M(16:9)] 3072 x 1728, [2M] 1600 x 1200, [0.9M(16:9)] 1280 x 720, [0.3M] 640 x 480.
  • Lens: 6.3 – 31.7 mm (38 – 190 mm on a 35 mm camera), 5x optical zoom lens, f/3.5 (W) – 4.7 (T)
  • Photo range: Standard: 10cm (wide) / 80cm (Tele) to infinity, Macro: 1cm to 80cm (wide)
  • Shutter speed: Video: 1/30 sec – 1/10000 sec (high-sensitivity mode, lamp mode: Max 1/15 sec.)
  • Still: 1/2 sec ~ 1/2000 sec. (Flash: 1/30 ~ 1/2000 sec., Lamp mode: max 4 secs)
  • Digital zoom: Shooting: 12x max. Playback: 58x max. ([10M] mode, depending on the resolution)
  • Focus: Auto (Still: 9-point AF/Spot, Video: Continuous AF
  • Scene Selector: Auto/Sports/Portrait/Landscape/Night View/Fireworks/Lamp
  • Exposure correction: +/-1.8 EV (in 0.3 EV steps)
  • Still Image Sensitivity: Auto (ISO 50-400)
  • Manual (ISO 50/100/200/400/800/1600/3200)
  • Self timer: 2sec./10 sec
  • White balance: Full Auto TTL
  • Manual: Fine/Cloud/Fluorescent/Incandescent/One push
  • Flash: Auto/Forced/Off (Slow, synchro mode possible in Night View mode)
  • Audio microphone: Built-in stereo, Speaker: Built-in mono (L/R mixed output)
  • Monitor: 2.7-inch, Amorphous Silicon TFT Colour Widescreen LCD display (transmissive type), Approximately 230,000-pixels, 7-level brightness, 285 degree rotation
  • Video output interface: HDMI, Component Video, Composite Video, S-Video, NTSC / PAL (interfacing via included docking station or connecting adaptor)
  • Power source: Lithium-ion battery (DB-L40/1200mAh, included), Charging AC adapter included)
  • Dimensions: 2.9 x 1.4 x 4.3 inches (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 6.7 oz. approx. (main unit only), 7.5 oz. approx. (including battery and a standard SD card)


  • Easy to use, simple but not limited
  • Uses SDHC cards
  • Very compact
  • Good battery life
  • Docking station


  • Build quality is a bit “loose”
  • No conventional viewfinder
  • Could be mistaken for a pistol in use!


The Xacti is so simple to use that my other half can use it whilst sat on the back of my speeding motorbike and wearing leather gloves. If a camera passes that test then it’s usable. The usability is key because I found it opened up a whole new way for me to use a videocam and the portability meant I was more able to carry it with me more often.

Fold the screen out and it switches on automatically to either present you with either stills mode or video mode. Start-up is quick and I never found myself waiting which, is a real bonus because a camera with a tardy start-up means you miss the action.

Filming is just a case of pointing it at the action and pressing the record button for either stills or video. There’s two buttons here and I think this is slightly less intuitive than it should be – instead of one button for stills and one for video, I would rather have a single trigger for both with a two-way mode switch that selected either stills or video. You might think that the choice of the word “trigger” is a bit odd – it isn’t. I used it because using the Xacti is a bit like pointing a gun and then pulling the trigger. In practice it soon becomes entirely natural and much less fatiguing than a more conventional videocam. Conversely, at the same time it also feels odd because it does look like you’re holding a gun and taking aim!

The Xacti is capable of recording in HD resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 frames per second (fps). This is on a par with the competition and more than enough for action work. As I said previously, you should be aware that editing such large images is fairly demanding for any pc and some well-known photo-editing applications still aren’t HD ready. The Xacti has a variety of video modes that will also go down as far as 320 x 240 pixels at 30fps – ideal for YouTube or if you want to conserve space on the memory card. Talking of cards, the Xacti takes SDHC with an 8GB £10 card providing ample space and performance for nearly 2hrs of footage in HD mode.

hd700_dock hd700_lens

Movie quality was fine. I had no criticisms of it at all. The anti-vibration feature wasn’t massively successful, although I think that using on a motorcycle at unfeasible speeds probably extended it beyond its design parameters (and no I am not going to fess up to how fast we were travelling – which reminds me – I must clean the bugs off the lens before returning it). The anti-vibration function is a digital one and does seem to have some minor effect upon sharpness of images but it worked well enough in general use.

As a stills camera the Xacti works well with a 7.1Mp sensor. It produces some decent results although composition is not always easy when having to rely upon an LCD screen in bright light. Of course, an optical viewfinder would help massively and this is something that is becoming increasingly rare on digital cameras and videocams. As I always say – if you want a stills camera then buy one, meanwhile the Xacti certainly is good enough for it to be your main stills camera if all you do is take snapshots.

Like the H10 I last reviewed, the Xacti has a 5x optical zoom. As I said before, this is quite limited when compared to conventional DV-cam opposition, but fairly typical for a budget camera. Again, like the H10, the lens zoom is a bit lethargic and something I think many cameras in this class suffer from. The slow zoom renders the camera less than ideal for sports footage. In normal general filming it’s less noticeable though.

Unusually for a camera in this price range, the Xacti comes with a very handy docking station for charging and connection to a desktop pc. This saves having cables hanging around.. Of note is the fact that the Xacti is Mac compatible. In this day of Windows-centric devices this is good to see and top marks are also awarded for including a comprehensive package of cables meaning that everything you might need is available out of the box.

The menu system itself is very easy to navigate and understand without having to refer to the manual although accessing it is a bit fiddly initially because the menu button is quite discrete. If you can use a conventional digicam then you can use the Xacti. That’s not to say it’s limited though – it isn’t. There’s enough flexibility to meet most needs in terms of customisation. If you are the sort of person who likes to avoid settings, then fear not – using a key on the screen it is possible to switch between simple menu mode and normal full menu mode. This has the effect of turning off all the detailed menus and restricting the user to just a few – quite handy if you want to stop a casual user from screwing up all your carefully chosen settings.

The battery is a removable 3.7v/1200mAh item which is charged via a conventional 5v power jack at the rear of the pistol grip. I never actually ran out of battery when using the Xacti so, it appears to have a good lifetime in general use. As readers of this erstwhile column will know, I loathe built-in, non-replaceable batteries so I was pleased to see that the Xacti is equipped with a removable battery. Whether a replacement is easily obtainable at a sensible cost is another matter altogether, but at least you have the option.

The overall feel of the camera in the hand is good due to its compactness and ergonomic design. However, it does all feel a little bit “loose” in terms of fit and finish. The screen moves when folded against the body, the battery cover is flimsy, the covers on the power jack and headphone socket are flimsy too and are just asking to be broken off eventually. The lens cover is a snap-on affair which is pretty shoddy and not in keeping with the rest of the camera. It is retained by a skinny strap that is more akin to a thread of cotton than anything else so it won’t be long before that is lost when it snaps. However, the cover does stay put and is not easily dislodged. Any owner would need to exercise some care to keep it in tip-top condition.

You can download a sample video – taken straight from the HD700 memory card with this link.


Of all the videocams I have tested to date the Xacti is my favourite because it’s compact, easy to use and gives decent results that satisfy most of my needs. It is probably the best travelling videocam so far and because of this I used it more than the others. At about £250 from the likes of Amazon you get a comprehensive package and highly-specified and capable videocam.

Join me again soon for the next camera in the Camcorder Group Test or head over and look at Part 1 to see which cameras we are including or have a look at my Panasonic SDR-S7 review or my Toshiba Camileo H10 review.


Review by: Nigel

[ Post Tags: Sanyo Xacti HD700, camcorder, video cameras, ]

Posted in: Videos/Unboxings

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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