Sanyo's Xacti range has just got serious, with 1080i 'full HD' from a pocket-sized camcorder. This we gotta see...
Never have we willed a camcorder to succeed quite like Sanyo's HD1000. From the all-black finish to the outsized metal lens barrel, it packs more features into its tiny pistol-grip body than camcorders twice the size.
And while previous generations of Sanyo's SD-card shooting cams have promised HD video with only limited success, with this new model we get 'full HD' 1920x1080i, just like the big boys.
A winner – on paper
So good is the HD1000 on paper that, if it were human, we'd marry it on the strength of its personal ad. Sanyo's managed to squeeze on a hot shoe so you can add a video light, a mic input so you can improve the sound, a headphone socket so you can hear what's going on and full manual controls so you can tweak like a pro. It's a collection that's hard to find on even some top-end cams.
It feels good too – solid in the way only a well-made gadget can be. The pull-out display is now in full widescreen, stretching to an impressive 2.7in. Swing it out and you've got a comfy grip to cling onto.
Top video performance
We're hovering with the 'five stars' stamp, but how does it perform? Video quality is fantastic – admittedly not as good as, say, the Canon HV20, but the size of this thing means it's going to get used far more than its bulky rivals.
The 1080i footage is razor sharp, but we're even more blown away by its 720p performance. It may not be quite as high-res, but with its 60fps frame rate (double that of 1080i) it's the smoothest footage we've seen from a consumer cam.
Whether you shoot 720p or 1080i, a 1GB card will hold just over ten minutes of footage. There's no card in the box, but since 8GB SDHC cards can now be picked up for less than a round of drinks that's not really a problem.
Low light improvements
Colour is impressive – a tad over-saturated, but then we quite like that saccharine view of the world. Sanyo's even cracked low-light. Previous versions tended to implode on being taken indoors, but the HD1000 makes itself right at home, coping pretty much as well as rivals like the Panasonic SD5.
It's even easy to use. Pull open the screen and it's ready to shoot in around a second. The neatly arranged thumb controls round the back glow a satisfying blue and keep everything at hand.
The editing issue
So what's the problem with the HD1000? Well, Sanyo's stuck with its own, slightly random, AVC/H.264 format rather than the AVCHD that everyone else uses. That makes editing it a bit of a nightmare.
The bundled PC software seems useless – you'll need to invest in Nero 8 or Cyberlink for around £50 – and editing in iMovie only works if you install a bunch of new codecs.
Then there's that lovely, smooth 60fps video. It looks great on a PC but can become seriously jerky on a PAL TV, which uses 25 and 50fps frame rates.
The solution is to set the camera – or any discs you burn from edited footage – to play out as 30 or 60fps NTSC, which most tellies and DVD players can handle. Some do it better than others though, and the results aren't always great.
Why Sanyo didn't just add a 25 and 50fps mode for its UK release we'll never know. As it stands, what could have been the camera of the year has a serious flaw. It can be overcome, but do you really want the hassle?
Sanyo HD1000 review
Great video, tons of features, easy to use... if only there was a PAL-friendly version