In an attempt to create a new category of devices, Sanyo dubbed its latest Xacti camcorder models "dual cameras," designed to be equally adept at shooting movies and still photos. With the VPC-CG10, the company certainly got the design and features correct; going from capturing videos to stills and back again takes little thought and you don't feel like you're missing out on anything by getting a combo device. Well, at least not until you're waiting for the thing to focus or you've looked at its photos.
|Key specs||Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG10|
|Dimensions (WHD)||2.8 x 4.4 x 1.5 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||6.6 ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||No internal storage/SDHC card (up to 32GB)|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||10 megapixels, 2.3-inch CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution||3-inch LCD, 230K dots|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f3.5-3.7, 40-200mm (35mm equivalent)|
|Minimum illumination||16 lux|
|File format (video, audio)||.MP4, AAC (stereo)|
|Resolution (video/photo)||1,280x720 (30fps) / 3,648x2,736|
|Recording time at highest quality||3 hours, 51 minutes (per 16GB card)|
|Image stabilization type||Digital|
|Battery type, rated life (continuous)||Lithium ion rechargeable, 70 minutes|
Unlike the slim, boxy Flip-style camcorders, the CG10 uses Sanyo's familiar pistol-grip body. The upside is that the design gives you a 5x optical zoom lens and a big, high-quality rotating LCD--perfect for when you want to be in the video or need to shoot above or below your eye level. The lens adds to the overall size, but it's still a lightweight and pocketable device. However, the grip is wide, so smaller hands may have a tough time using it comfortably. Also, while it can be held and controlled with the left hand, the placement of the screen makes it easier to use in the right.
On back of the screen is a stereo microphone, which did a very good job of picking up audio, though its handling of wind noise is not great, which is typical of its class. Below the lens is a flash that does not double as a video light. Most of the body is made from glossy plastic, so expect to spend time wiping it down if you want it to remain pristine. The only part that's not glossy is the LCD cavity/inside handgrip; it's matte black with a fake leather grain. This is where you'll find a power button and door for the SDHC card slot. On the bottom are a threaded tripod mount and a proprietary USB/AV jack. However, despite being HD, the camcorder comes with only a composite-out cable; the component cable is an extra $25 and there is no HDMI option.
All of the controls are closely packed together on back, but are well positioned for swift operation with your thumb. On the upper right is a video-record button, on the left a shutter release for photos, and between them a spring-loaded slider for the zoom. Below them are a tiny five-way joystick for navigating and selecting things, a play button, and a menu button that can be programmed to bring up a simple set of options or the CG10's full settings menu. The joystick can also be programmed to quickly change things like ISO, flash, exposure compensation, and selecting manual, standard, or macro focus. Considering all the CG10 can do, it's an efficient setup.
|Features||Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG10|
|White balance||Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Manual|
|Scene modes||Auto, Sports, Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Snow & Beach, Fireworks, Lamp, Program, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual|
|Focus||Auto, Manual, Spot AF, Macro|
|Color effects||Black & White, Sepia, Cosmetic|
|Lens cover (auto or manual)||Manual|
Sanyo did an excellent job of rounding out the shooting options for both videos and photos. Essentially everything you'd expect to find on a simple point-and-shoot still camera is included: face-detection AF, scene modes, filters, and exposure, focus, and ISO controls. Everything you get for photos is available for movies, too, including manual and semimanual controls that you really don't find on other pocket camcorders.
Performance is, on the whole, slow. When recording movies, the AF system is pokey even in bright conditions. The same goes for shooting photos, plus it seems to take an eternity to capture a shot and get ready to take another. It can shoot continuously for up to 11 frames, but the speed improvement isn't worth the trouble. The movie AF sluggishness is more tolerable, because it's typical of pocket camcorders. Those buying this as a primary still camera looking to improve over their camera phones will likely be disappointed.
The CG10's video quality, though somewhat soft, is on par with or better than other HD-quality minicamcorders in its class. Colors are natural and exposure was typically good, with only an average amount of highlight clipping; dark areas proved a little trickier for it. Noticeably better than most pocket camcorders was its low-light performance. It's by no means perfect, but artifacting/noise was more under control than I'm used to seeing from these devices.
The CG10's photo quality is pretty below average even for a cheap 10-megapixel still camera. Thanks to what appears to be some heavy-handed noise reduction, photos look smeary and soft regardless of shooting conditions. The camera has a selectable ISO range from 50 to 1,600; however, detail and the modicum of sharpness in photos are gone by ISO 200. Colors are generally dull, too, which doesn't help things. Basically, the results might be fine for very small prints and for Web use at reduced sizes, but the quality--regardless of the camera's capabilities on paper--is on par with a good cell phone camera.
The Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG10 comes close to being a good option for both photo and movie capture--more so for its design than the results it produces. If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive HD pocket camcorder with an optical zoom, it's certainly the way to go. The video quality is considerably better than its photos, though, and its movies are only very good considering its sub-$200 price.
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