The small and easy-to-use Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG100 aims to blend the capabilities of both a 1080p high-definition camcorder and a 14-megapixel camera. It's also shaped like a ray gun and comes in a range of natty colours. Plus it only costs around £230. What's not to like?
Jack of all trades
As part of Sanyo's promisingly named 'dual camera' Xacti range, you might expect the VPC-CG100 to shoot equally good photos and videos. Previous models, however, have often failed to excel at either, so we weren't exactly filled with hope when the VPC-CG100 came our way.
Aside from an extra zero in its name, the latest Xacti initially appears very similar to last year's Xacti VPC-CG10, sharing many of the same technical specifications and, potentially, many of the same flaws. On closer inspection, though, a number of small but important improvements seem to have been made.
Among them is the VPC-CG100's better video performance. In the past, we've found the automatic functions of Xacti models to be slightly lethargic -- the autofocus, for instance, has often taken an agonising second or two to work out what it's supposed to be focusing on. In our VPC-CG100 tests, we noted a marked improvement in areas like these. Consequently, it's a much more capable point-and-shoot camcorder than some of its predecessors.
Compared to previous models, the VPC-CG100 also offers advances in photo quality. Our test shots of spring flowers were crisp, without being over-sharp, colourful without being over-saturated, and extremely detailed.
Sanyo hasn't changed the VPC-CG100's design hugely since last year's models, but it still looks stylish, and it also offers some practical benefits. The VPC-CG100 is incredibly small and light, which means you're much more likely to take it with you on your adventures. Sensibly, Sanyo has retained the uncomplicated menu system and limited number of buttons.
Of the new features on offer, it's worth noting the presence of an HDMI output and the 12x 'double zoom', which basically allows you to switch between two levels of zoom instantly with a single button press -- well, almost instantly. In fact, there's a tiny amount of lag, which means that, if you switch to, say, the wider zoom level in mid-shot, you'll notice a brief glitch in your footage when you watch it back.
The VPC-CG100 has other flaws. We found we had to hold the device at an oddly uncomfortable angle in order to film properly. If we held the camera naturally, everything we shot appeared to be on a slight slant. This may be purely down to our limp wrists, but it's certainly worth trying the VPC-CG100 out for yourself before you buy it, to see if this is a problem for you.
We also found that the image stabiliser wasn't very effective when filming video. All the footage we shot looked alarmingly shaky, even with the electronic stabiliser switched on. It doesn't help that pressing any of the buttons on the device is an unexpectedly awkward experience that causes the camera to jerk suddenly. The wobbling effect looks worse the more you zoom in. At full zoom, the effect can put you on the verge of blowing chunks.
The VPC-CG100's video quality falls short of expectations too. Colours aren't as accurate as we'd like, even if you fiddle with the manual settings. Motion isn't as smooth as we'd hoped for either, with noticeable distortions evident in even fairly slow movement. And the level of detail present in both 1080p and 720p video is some way below that which we've seen recently from other HD camcorders. The uncharitably brief instruction manual and lack of an HDMI cable are annoying as well.
Although far from perfect, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG100 is a significant improvement on last year's models. If you're after a rough and ready camcorder that can offer both high-resolution photos and high-definition video, you'd be hard-pressed to find one as simple, stylish and competitively priced as this.
Edited by Charles Kloet