Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 camcorder

Sanyo has updated its flagship pistol grip camcorder with the new HD2000, but has the update been worth it? We get recording to find out.

Compact but chunky, the new HD2000 replaces the HD1010 and takes a similar form factor. The pistol grip design means that you get to hold it in one hand while your thumb becomes the key-controlling element. A widescreen display that can be rotated 180 degrees offers the vital statistics.

The HD2000 offers what Sanyo calls a "Dual camera", basically offering you a still and movie camera in one device. Switching between the two modes is as simple as pressing a button and you get a 16x optical zoom with which to shoot.

Aside from the array of controls, the camcorder offers a pop-up flash when in camera mode and a hot shoe for adding additional accessories like a directional mic, top light, or any other gadget you can think of.

Elsewhere there is a 2.5mm mic socket so you can improve the sound recording capabilities, something worth bearing in mind if you are planning on filming in noisy environments.

Footage is stored on SD card rather than an internal solid state or hard drive and with cards now ranging up to 32GB in size swapping out cards is very easy.

If the idea of taking the card out of the back isn't for you, the HD2000 comes with a docking station. On the plus this doubles as a charging station, making connection to the PC or television easy (it's got an HDMI socket - cable not in the box) and a nice place for it to live on your desk. The downside, however, is that you won't be able to connect the VPC-HD2000 any other way.

When it comes to controlling the camcorder or digital camera elements the menus have been kept as simple as possible: this is clearly a device aimed at consumers rather than indie filmmakers.

While the "normal" menu is simple enough, Sanyo, not taking any chances, has opted for a switch on the widescreen display that allows you to turn on a simple menu. It reduces your choices to three: movie recording quality, focus mode, and flash options.

Back in the menu that actually gives you some control you get to set video resolutions, photo resolutions, scenes, filters, flash, whether you want video or photo stabilisers turned on, focus modes, ISO (up to 3200) and then the usual array of white balance, exposure, as well as a host of other bits and bobs.

When it comes to video modes, this being the flagship model, you get Full HD quality recording (1920 x 1080) at 60 frames per second. In real terms that's 19 minutes for a 4GB SD card and although the quality of playback was impressively crisp and clear, it's worth noting that the VLC movie player running on our MacBook Pro 2.33GHz laptop complained that our computer wasn't fast enough to process the information. QuickTime struggled too. If you're planning on editing HD, then it's not just your camera you're going to need to upgrade.

Back to the camera and there are some nice features; the ability to set the white balance for example or the 12 face detection mode.

On the still camera front you get an 8-megapixel resolution camera that allows you to snap up to 13 images continuously before it creaks to a halt. It's strange that Sanyo is pitching this feature as a plus considering Casio clearly dominates the continuous shooting mode with the EX-FH20 and EX-F1 and that's before you mention the yet to be available EX-FC100.

It's also worth noting that the camera might be able to snap shots quickly, but not quickly at the press of the button. We were amazed that button press to shutter time was deathly slow - it might say dual camera on the box, but we wouldn't recommend this being your first choice camera.

So what is the result? Well it's probably as you would expect, the camcorder, although geared towards the novice rather than indie, offers you lots of scope in an easy to use form factor. We like the design, we like the SD card slot, we like the basic menu that doesn't go about trying to confuse.

The camera might in Sanyo's mind be worth a double billing, but it's a far cry from it. It's a nice addition but we would still advise you carrying around a digital still camera if you're looking to snap decent pictures. The 8-megapixel camera doesn't really cut it if you are looking to crop in on the action and the shutter lag means you'll miss the action too many times if you've got to rely on it.

On the battery life front we are as impressed as we are with the video footage. 135 minutes recording, 350 minutes standby with the camera living up to those claims. It's certainly better than Canon's HG offering whose battery seems to die very quickly.

Verdict

At £549, plus the PC or Mac you are no doubt going to have to buy to actually edit the footage you've captured, the Sanyo VPC-DH2000 is a nice camera, but one that you'll probably find you aren't making full use of.

The still camera isn't a complete waste of time, for example it's helpful that you can grab pictures while you record but it's not the reason you should be buying it. The trouble is at this price you could probably get something that is more feature-packed if you are looking to make the next Blair Witch Project.

For ease though, it probably is worth checking out. If the price was slightly lower, which it no doubt will be online, this is one still worth a closer look.


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