Sanyo Xacti E1 review: Sanyo Xacti E1

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The Good Frequently captures surprisingly high-quality still photos; waterproof.

The Bad Awkward, frustrating design; slow focus.

The Bottom Line If underwater YouTubing were a market segment, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-E1 would be the camera to get. But the awkward design and slow performance make it hard to recommend for landlubbers.

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6.4 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 7

Nowhere is the line between still cameras that capture movies and video cameras that take stills fuzzier than in the ambiguous market segment occupied by the Sanyo Xacti VPC-E1. Despite the moniker "digital movie camera" and the nontraditional pistol-grip design, everything about the E1, which includes the ability to shoot 640x480, 30fps movies as well as 6-megapixel still photos, says plain, old camera.

And in that respect, though we're not exactly swimming in waterproof cameras, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-E1 has some strong competition, notably the Olympus Stylus 770SW and the Pentax Optio W30. Though the E1 incorporates a 5x zoom lens, the other models cost less, have otherwise similar or better specs and can produce better underwater credentials: you can submerge the W30 to as deep as 10 feet for 2 hours and the 770SW to around 32 feet for as long as an hour. Those make the E1's mere 5 feet of depth for an hour pale in comparison. (All are JIS Class 8 qualified, but that just means they've been certified to be submerged for a manufacturer-specified duration at a manufacturer-specified depth.)

So right out of the gate, the E1 faces both an identity crisis and the challenge of distinguishing itself from better-equipped veterans. Unfortunately, it's not really up to the task. On one hand, the vertical design makes for a solid single-handed grip; your right hand wraps around the body with your index finger perched above the lens. But the shutter and record buttons are mushy with too little tactile feedback, so it's difficult to tell if you've successfully grabbed the shot or begun recording. Unless you have very tiny thumbs, it's nearly impossible to use the zoom switch or the user-programmable left and right arrow switches without impinging upon the Set button in the middle. That makes executing a consistent-speed zoom nearly impossible. And it all becomes a bit more difficult and awkward under water, especially if your hands get cold.

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