Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL) digital video camera

An ultra-compact high-definition Sanyo camcorder with 720p resolution

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Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL)
  • Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL)
  • Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL)
  • Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL)

Pros

  • Attractive design (especially for the asking price), decent video performance, solid array of features

Cons

  • 'Only' 720p, Xacti pistol-purists will feel betrayed, still image mode is average at best

Bottom Line

The Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL) is a good camcorder that does a fair job in most areas. Its low price tag makes up for its assorted flaws.

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The Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL) is a compact digital camcorder that records high-definition video to SD/SDHC memory cards. With an RRP of $499, it’s one of the cheapest HD camcorders on the market, but there’s a catch (isn’t there always?)

Unlike most high-definition camcorders, it only captures video at a maximum resolution of 720p, as opposed to 1080i. It’s also saddled with a below average lens and sensor when compared to equivalent cameras from Canon and Sony. Nevertheless, the Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL) is a decent performer for the asking price, and it comes with some enticing modes and features. It is best suited to casual users who want something reliable and cheap that’s still impressive enough to screen on an HDTV.

The first thing that stands out about the Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 is its design, which is ironic given that it looks indistinguishable from most camcorders. The reason it stands out is because it's the first Xacti camcorder to sport a conventional shape. All of Sanyo’s previous models, such as the Xacti HD1010, Xacti VPC-CA8 (EXBK) and Xacti VPC-CG9, had unique ‘pistol grip’ bodies that bore little resemblance to a traditional camcorder. Though it lacks the distinct personality of its siblings, the VPC-TH1’s familiar shape will probably go down well with most users. (If you’re a pistol grip fan, don’t fret — there are still plenty of gun-shaped offerings in Sanyo’s Xacti lineup.)

It’s not a bad looking camcorder either. The LCD’s outer casing comes in a range of eye-catching colours (you can choose between black, silver, yellow and two shades of blue), while the rest of the camera has a sparkly black finish. There are a few caveats, however, including an anachronistic detachable lens cap that can be quite troublesome during shooting. Plus, its battery lid slides off like a cheap mobile phone's, and the hand strap is of so-so quality. To be fair, though, these shortcomings come part-and-parcel with the camera’s ultra-low price tag. For $499, it’s definitely not that bad.

In recent years, Sanyo has begun to make significant ground on its supposed ‘top-tier’ rivals, with the recent HD1010 proving to be a good all-rounder. The Xacti VPC-TH1 is definitely a step backwards, but it’s also $800 cheaper. The 1/6in CMOS sensor does a reasonable job of capturing sharp images, though you’ll need to use it in optimum lighting to avoid grainy footage. We found the colours in our test shots to be quite vibrant, with the vivid blues and reds in our test centre virtually popping off the screen. Its low-light performance was decidedly under par, though it produce marginally better results than the Kogan Full HD 1080p Video Camera.

One thing we like about this camera is the location of the directional stick, which resides on the back of the unit as opposed to the lip of the LCD cavity (which has become de rigueur). We’ve always preferred having it on the back, as it means you can make menu selections with the same hand you’re holding the camera with. It's just as well too, as there are quite a few modes and features to play around with on the menu screen. Highlights include manual focus, sequential shooting up to 13 fps, eight scene modes, three filter effects, Face Chaser technology (which automatically tracks up to 10 faces and attempts to keep them in focus) and adjustable exposure and ISO settings. It also comes with a 30x optical zoom, which is fairly impressive for a HD camcorder.

Sanyo is touting the Xacti HD-TH1 as a ‘Dual Camera’ due to its ability to capture both photos and video. We feel this phrase — which is all over the box and on the camcorder itself — is more than a little disingenuous. For starters, practically every camcorder on the market offers a still image mode, so the fanfare is presumably aimed at clueless shoppers. Secondly, its photos aren’t even that impressive.

With a maximum resolution of just 2 megapixels, its output cannot hope to match a digital camera, including bottom-rung models like the Samsung E15. We don’t usually spend time disparaging a camcorder’s still image mode, but all this ‘dual’ nonsense was clearly asking for trouble. On the plus side, our test photos appeared quite vibrant if a little soft and noisy — we wouldn’t have any qualms sticking 'em on Facebook, but prints are probably best avoided.

The Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1 (EXBL) records to SDHC memory cards, which currently have a maximum capacity of 64GB. A 16 gigabyte card will net you around four hours of video at the highest possibly quality, or 11 hours in TV-SHQ/standard-definition mode.

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