The VPC-CA6 is a an extremely small SD-card based video and still camera; our product review sample came in a box that proclaimed it was the "blue" variant (with a "red" and "silver" variant also available), but that's a strange definer of the camera, as it's actually only the bezel around the foldout LCD that comes in a blue colour. The rest of the VPC-CA6's casing is white with a prominent black ridge running down the bottom of the camera; this includes the hinge that houses the VPC-CA6's battery and SD card slot. Our review sample came with a 1GB SD card. The battery is charged with an external charger, and there's no facility to directly charge the camera battery while it's in situ.
The VPC-CA6 has a 5x optical zoom and supports four recording modes, topping out at standard VGA (640 x 480) video at 30fps. Everything recorded comes out as a compressed MP4 file, and the supplied 1GB card should be good for about 60 minutes of footage, which is not that much more than the VPC-CA6's estimated battery life of 80 recording minutes. Given that the camera is pitched towards the home or sports enthusiast shooter that's not too galling. The specifications for the VPC-CA6 state that it's compatible with newer SHDC cards, which can store 4GB or more. On the digital still front, the VPC-CA6 features a six megapixel sensor with a variety of pre-set shooting modes.
One of the selling points for the VPC-CA6 is that it's splash-proof. It's important to note that Sanyo don't claim that it's waterproof -- and we were unwilling to shell out AU$799 to see what happens if you drop it into a pool but if you're keen and try it, be sure to let us know what happens. In theory, though, the VPC-CA6 should be good for swimmers, skiers and the like, simply because you should be able to handle it with wet hands. That probably covers people doing dishes as well, now that we think of it.
The Sanyo VPC-CA6 represents some fascinating contradictions. Being undeniably small, it is extremely portable -- you can quite literally just throw it into a handbag as long as the battery is charged -- consequently all the controls are quite small. It's also not the most comfortable camera to hold for long periods of time, so we suspect that the VPC-CA6 was built purely for capturing short bursts of video action. Likewise, the controls initially seem as simple as it would be possible to make camera controls -- it doesn't get much simpler than buttons labelled "Photo" or "Movie", after all. Scratch the surface, however, and you realise that the zoom is awkwardly placed for actual usage, the focus is very slow to resolve when zooming and the menu system is quite slow to flick through. This is a particular problem on the digital camera side, where it can take an age to change settings prior to taking a shot. Not so much a problem with photographing trees but for action shots, it's way too fiddly, and this is clearly an action camera. There's also no facility for an external microphone, and the inbuilt microphone on the VPC-CA6 can be quite poor at picking up sound in a clean fashion.
The VPC-CA6 on paper looks like a cute gadget, and ultimately that's exactly what it is, with all the limitations that the word gadget brings with it. Anyone with AU$800 to spend could do a lot better in terms of configurable video cameras than the VPC-CA6. It's a very easy to use camera in terms of the way it presents its functionality to the end user, but the actual experience of using it isn't anywhere near as straightforward.