So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG9
Cheap as chips.
- High quality stills mode, pistol-grip design has its fans
- Poor low-light performance, sub-par video, buttons are too small
The Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG9 is a cute standard-def offering that comes with some interesting modes and features. Unfortunately, its poor video performance and annoying control scheme are kind of hard to overlook.
Price$ 349.00 (AUD)
Anyone who remembers those ‘Monsters in my Pocket’ toys from the late 1980s will be instantly familiar with the Xacti VPC-CG9 — not only is it similarly pocket-sized, it’s also pretty monstrous! [You’re fired — Ed.] Kidding aside, this is a fairly lacklustre effort from Sanyo that suffers from poor video quality and an unwieldy control scheme. Its main claim to fame is probably its 9.1-megapixel stills mode, which does a pretty good job of capturing photos. Plus with a retail price of just $349 it’s one of the few camcorders on the market that practically anyone can afford.
The Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG9 is a standard-definition camcorder that records MPEG-4 video to either SD/SDHC memory cards or its 44MB of internal memory. The tiny inbuilt memory is mainly there for show; it will net you around one minute of top-quality video (count it!) or 10 images at the highest resolution. You’ll therefore need to buy some SD/SDHC media to go along with your purchase (8GB cards currently cost around $100). Depending on the card’s capacity, this will boost recording times by up to 114 hours.
Like the rest of Sanyo’s Xacti range, the VPS-CG9 sports an unusual pistol-grip body that bears little resemblance to a traditional camcorder. Similar in shape to an electric razor, it has been tailored for one-handed operation, with the user’s thumb manning the controls (it’s the same basic design as the Xacti VPC-C1, which hit stores way back in 1995). Personally, we’ve never been big fans of the Xacti look, though it would appear consumers are quite taken with the concept (why else would Sony rip it off with the recent HDR-TG1?)
If you can get used to the lack of a hand strap, the shooting process becomes fairly intuitive after a while. Or at least it would do if it wasn’t for the ridiculously tiny controls. In an attempt to aid one-handed operation, Sanyo has crammed nearly every button onto the upper-rear of the device. Not only does this make for a cluttered interface, it also forces you to use your big fat thumb. As you can imagine, it’s not an ideal combo. Subsequently, unless you’re a child or pygmy, you’re going to find the control scheme highly cumbersome. On the plus side, the CG9’s menu is intelligently laid out, with the assorted modes and functions residing where you’d expect to find them. It is also reminiscent of a digital camera menu screen, which fits in well the unit’s hybrid functionality.
The 9.1-megapixel stills image mode is a welcome addition to the VPS-CG9, and probably its saving grace. In optimum lighting, we were quite pleased with the quality of our output, which remained colourful and highly detailed. The camera also comes equipped with advanced photography features (including face detection and red-eye correction), a 12-megapixel mode (via interpolation) and a built-in flash. When you consider that most decent compact cameras cost around the same price as the CG9, its value for money can’t be denied. Unfortunately, the control issues that plague the video side of things also crop up here. The shutter button is both undersized and erratic, producing occasionally blurry results.
If you’ve read up to this point, you’re probably thinking that the Xacti VPS-CG9 seems like a pretty decent purchase — particularly if you’re blessed with petite and nimble hands. Unfortunately, when we tested the CG9’s video performance, things took a decided turn for the worse.
In its adverts, Sanyo has been touting the CG9’s "high-sensitivity techmology", which apparently "enables shooting in dark locations". We’re not sure what high-sensitivity "techmology" is, but we’d suggest it go out and find a real job. Frankly, the VPS-CG9 exhibited one of the worst low-light performances we’ve seen. Noise levels were ruinously high, with image details smothered in a snowstorm of grain.
Naturally, the unit fared a lot better in bright, outdoor environments, but we’d still class its output as adequate at best. Tellingly, the camera includes a ‘Web/Blog’ mode as one of the main shooting options, which gives an indication of its poor resolution. (This also puts it in the inglorious company of the Creative Vado, Firebox Flip Digital Video Camera and Sony NSC-GC1 Net-Sharing Cam.)
To end on a positive note, the VPS-CG9 comes bundled with a comprehensive instruction manual that puts most other camcorder booklets to shame. If you’re new to video and would prefer to be guided through each and every step, this manual will be a big help.
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