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Sanyo Xacti VPC-SH1 review: Sanyo Xacti VPC-SH1

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The Good Affordable; relatively impressive photo quality; 23x optical zoom extends to 30x with no loss of quality; easy-to-use simple mode.

The Bad Terrible image stabiliser; flimsy grip strap; framing photos is awkward on the 16:9 LCD screen.

The Bottom Line Fairly affordable and offering a decent balance of abilities, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-SH1 is a good camcorder that takes notable still photos. Superior video quality is available elsewhere, however, for around the same price.

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7.5 Overall

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Despite being one of the earliest exponents of the pocket camcorder, Sanyo's Xacti VPC-SH1 has more in common with traditional models than the Flip Video. At £275, the SH1 is more expensive than some of Sanyo's other products too. But does it have the raw power to beat the big boys at their own game?

Dual personality

Sanyo promotes its camcorders as 'Dual Cameras' -- making the claim that they're equally as good at taking photos as they are recording video. The SH1's specs would appear to bear this out. As well as video recording up to 1080p, the SH1 can take high-resolution photos up to 3,648x2,736 pixels (with interpolation), which works out at around 10 megapixels.

Despite this marketing, the SH1 looks very much like it's primarily intended for video work, with a proper grown-up camcorder design replacing the compact pistol-grip look you'll find elsewhere in Sanyo's Xacti range. Though it apes the appearance of many full-size camcorders, Sanyo's sculpted barrel-grip body is still somewhat smaller than most, plonking it somewhere in the middle ground between pocket videocams and mainstream models.

The Xacti is eminently portable, but unfortunately doesn't come with very good grip strap. Instead, the supplied wrist strap can be attached to the tripod thread underneath the unit to act as a kind of makeshift grip. It's not the best solution, as the device tends to loll to one side unless you keep a firm hold on it.

Video and photo buttons above the lens housing are a handy alternative when you're shooting two-handed.

Sanyo acknowledges some users may wish to hold the device their own way during filming, providing two sets of video and photo start/stop buttons. One set is on the rear of the unit where your thumb might rest, whereas the other is on the top towards the lens housing, for those who prefer to film with two hands.

We'd recommend two-handed filming where possible. It's the best way to keep your camcorder steady, especially since the SH1's electronic image stabiliser is worse than useless. We found switching this feature on actually caused our footage to look more jerky than with it off.

The doppelganger effect

The Xacti VPC-SH1 shares several traits with Toshiba's Camileo SX500, which we've also just reviewed -- so many, in fact, we're beginning to wonder whether Sanyo and Toshiba have been sharing factory floor space with each other. As well as similar prices and similar abilities, the two also feature an almost identical menu interface and navigation system.

It's rather old-school in that there's no touchscreen capabilities, just a five-way mini joystick to help you get around and make your selections. It's fairly easy to use, however, and there are some interesting options on offer.

The first thing you'll want to do is switch off the annoying musical tone and chirpy female voice that greet you whenever you switch the thing on. But there's also a light smattering of manual controls to investigate (including white balance, exposure and ISO), and a targeting feature that allows you to track faces or colours. If you're not interested in any of the settings, however, it's possible to switch the camera to simple mode and banish any of the unit's potentially confusing options from even being displayed.

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