The Sanyo Xacti DMX-CA8 is a waterproof camcorder that's up to the challenge of holidays, adventures and wet weekends. It will set you back around £210, and is available now.
The CA8 is waterproof to 1.5m, so it's suitable for paddling or perhaps snorkelling, rather than full-on Scuba diving. The hatch for the SD/SDHC card, battery and USB connection is securely locked and sealed against the elements. The camcorder's weatherproofing seems ideal for ski or snowboarding trips. It comes in a variety of funky colours to match your 'boarding gear.
We're not keen on the odd clickpad/joystick combination. The whole pad rocks up and down, and it just feels loose and wobbly. The problem is that the OK button in the centre of the pad is independently wobbly, but doesn't actually scroll up or down menus -- it just got in the way when we were trying to zoom in and out. Above the pad are two buttons for switching between stills capture and video. A menu button sits next to that.
The fold-out, twist-over screen measures a distinctly average 64mm (2.5 inches), with a disappointing 150,000-pixel resolution. Opening the screen powers up the camera. The playback and power buttons are in the screen well.
A snazzy holster is included in the box, but it's only for protection when the camcorder is loose in a bag, as it lacks any kind of strap attachment or belt loop.
The CA8 features a 1/2.5-inch CMOS sensor, boasting 8 megapixels for still images. Video is recorded in MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format.
A 5x optical zoom lens gets you closer to the action, while a built-in microphone records in stereo. The mic is positioned in the front of the screen, so to a certain extent it can be angled for different sound sources.
As well as video, the CA8 shoots 8-megapixel stills. You can capture a still while filming. You can also capture up to 10 sequential full-resolution snaps in 6 seconds. Both images and video are electronically image-stabilised, which basically means the camera chops off the edges of the frame to make it look less wobbly.
There are a number of scene modes, including the usual portrait, landscape and night modes. Sports and snow, and beach are aimed at those looking to make the most of the camera's tough construction.
Face detection can find and track up to 12 people, following them as they move. In playback mode you can zoom in on faces to check exposure and focus.
The CA8 can be knocked about on slopes and beaches and still deliver VGA video. But the price of its sturdiness is a compromise on image quality. Its 8-megapixel stills are nothing to write home about, with the lens not particularly wide and traces of distortion present.
Stills are more of a bonus than a necessity, then, up to capturing frame grabs rather than replacing a stills camera. Video isn't sparkling either, with heavy compression applied to even the relatively small VGA footage. Compression artefacts show up in videos.
Low-light video is particularly gritty, but no worse than any other similarly sized and specced camcorder. Ultimately though, if you do choose the CA8 it'll be because you're prepared to compromise on video quality to get the benefit of the sturdy construction.
For holiday footage you post on YouTube, the CA8 is decent enough. It's twice the price of the Flip Video Ultra, despite delivering comparable perfomance. But it also packs 'proper camcorder' features such as optical zoom and stills capture, which demand a premium in the Sony TG3E. Ultimately, the CA8's ace in the hole is its weatherproof construction rather than its video quality.
Edited by Nick Hide