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Hands on with the Sanyo Xacti HD1

We thought Sony's HC1 was a small high-definition camcorder, but the march of technology is unstoppable: Sanyo's new HD camcorder sent our heads spinning on the first day of CES Las Vegas

With the Internet almost choked by the number of words already written about Sanyo's new posterchild for the HD revolution, Crave monorailed over to the Las Vegas Convention Centre to take a look at the new Xacti HD1 in the flesh. For reclusive electronics buffs recently emerged from their hermitages, the Xacti is the smallest high definition camcorder we've ever seen. It t's not much bigger than a pack of cards.

Image quality on this camcorder is impressive for such a small device. The Xacti shoots a 1280x780 progressive-scan picture, encoded in MPEG-4 with a 9Mbps frame rate. The OLED screen looked sharp and bright and the image-stabilisation system in the camera compared very well with the higher-end offerings from Sony. The Xacti's 10X optical zoom and simultaneous video and still recording features should satisfy the hungriest gadget fiends.

The tapeless design means HD video is stored on removable SD memory cards. A charming Japanese girl at the Sanyo stand explained to us that a 1GB card will store 20 minutes of HD footage -- meaning that video shot with the Xacti, while brilliant, will be a short-lived experience. There is the option to record footage in SD (standard definition) mode, which increases the recording time significantly.

During a 10 minute spot-check, we were impressed by the shooting position and build quality of the Xacti. The camcorder is held in the hand like those old 8mm cine film cameras -- it's retro but it works.

The Sanyo staff were too attentive to let us get away with crash testing the camcorder, but its casing looked pretty solid. In fact, the Xacti looks like it could be the perfect holiday camcorder for those who like to pack a fortnight's clothes into a Tickle-Me-Elmo rucksack but still expect top-quality camcorder footage.

If HD camcorders are this small already, it's anyone's guess where we'll be a year from now. Once we get an Xacti in for review, we'll let you know how it compares to the tape-based HD camcorders. First signs, at least, are good.

Visit our CES 2006 Special Report for more coverage and the Sanyo Xacti HD1 video. -CS