Sanyo, which produces many of the snapshot digital cameras you see marketed under other brand names, is stepping up its efforts to gain some brand recognition of its own. Given that the company's name is hardly synonymous with high quality, we started off with low expectations for the company's Xacti VPC-E6, a 6-megapixel, 3X-zoom ultracompact. We were pleasantly surprised to find it a decent--albeit a little pricey--snapshot camera with an eye-catching 3-inch LCD, a graphical user interface, and reasonable image quality. Only the performance disappointed.
The size of a thin bar of soap (and about as visually interesting), the slender and lightweight Sanyo Xacti VPC-E6 measures 3.9 by 2.3 by 0.9 inches and weighs 5.4 ounces with battery pack and SD/MMC card installed. External controls are limited, given the large LCD and the point-and-shoot nature of the camera. The graphical menu system can be a little confusing initially, and while it's not the fastest to navigate, the text and the icons are large, bright, and easy to understand.
Like most snapshot cameras that lack manual exposure controls, the E6 gives you the choice between using limited manual controls such as exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, white balance, metering, autofocus, and resolution, or choosing from a long list of scene modes. Sanyo includes a best-shot option, which takes four consecutive shots, bracketing each for exposure. A couple of novelties include a calendar-based photo organizer and an ID-photo option, which displays a head-and-shoulders overlay to position your subject.
You can't set resolution and compression independently at native resolution: your choices are High and Standard quality. The Sanyo Xacti VPC-E6 can also interpolate to 10 megapixels, but as you'd expect, photo quality suffers. The E6 does offer a high-quality video mode with sound.
The camera's performance ranged from a blazing five frames per second--for just three frames--to around 2.5 seconds between shots, with and without the tiny flash engaged. A Touch Sensor option totally eliminates the modest shutter lag. While this sounds great in theory, the shutter button is so sensitive that even a very light touch snaps a picture--sometimes before the camera achieves a focus lock.
Although the high-resolution 3-inch LCD performs well under low-light conditions and the large menu is easy to read at any time, extremely bright sunlight can render the display almost unusable for composing a shot.
The camera's 38mm-to-114mm (35mm equivalent) lens moves smoothly through its range, although we found that telephoto shots were not always clearly focused. But the camera does a very good job in macro mode, capturing crisp details.
Image quality was better than expected, and most will probably appreciate the bright, saturated colors, especially when using the Vivid scene mode. Highlights were often clipped, however, eliminating details. Also, purple fringing was noticeable in some shots. In general, images looked overprocessed and, when in focus, oversharpened.
At half the price, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-E6 might rank as an above-average snapshot camera; in its current price range, it's competing against much better, fuller-featured models--and coming up short.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Shutter lag (typical)||Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)