Top positive review
63 people found this helpful
A great camera with quirky controls
on August 25, 2010
The VPC-CA102YL is the yellow version of the VPC-CA100 that you will find on the Sanyo site, and is the model sold in the US. I do not know if the black and pink colors will be released in the US.
This is about my 10th family video camera. I bought this one to replace the Sanyo Xacti VPC FH1, which is the ordinary box-like form factor, and is a great camera. I'm not an expert by any means, but over the years I've developed a handful of criteria that I have found to be useful. Here are mine, with comments on this camera.
Size: The camera I use is the camera I have with me, and to be with me all the time it has to be small. This camera weighs 245 grams, with battery, on my scale. Considering the quality of the video, and the fact that you can also get great stills, that's amazing. (I go back far enough to have held a black and white video camera on my shoulder. ) There are a number of other very small cameras out there shooting HD (although not usually in 60 fps progressive like the VPC CA102), so there are other choices, but as far as I know, this one takes the highest quality combination of video and stills for its size, especially if you add a waterproof constraint.
Waterproof: This is not important for everyone, but it is for me, and that's why I bought this particular camera. I'm outdoors a lot, and travel a lot. I want a camera that is dust-proof, sand-proof and rain-proof. I've had a whole video record ruined by the Amazon jungle rains. I assume this camera will also be fine for light immersion, but it isn't an "underwater" camera per se, and the attractiveness of the waterproofing for me is ordinary outdoor use--rafting on severe rapids and the like. I've also owned waterproof still cameras, and over the years have experimented with a handful of waterproof video cameras or used waterproof housing. Now I can get extremely high quality video with a waterproof camera that fits in my hand. Nice.
Video and photo quality: This is important for me, but I will admit that formal lab testing is not paramount. Over the years I've noticed the best pictures--video and stills--come from people who take good pictures, and is far less dependent on the camera. Nevertheless, the CMOS in this camera is terrific, and surprisingly large (1/2.33"). Not all HD cameras take the same quality video. I got fantastic video out of my VPC FH1 on a trip to Ladakh, and this sensor is even better. 60 fps is incredibly smooth.
Design and ease of use: This camera has a double whammy for ease of use, and I'm not surprised to see the complaints from early reviewers more used to regular cameras. First of all, it's a pistol grip. It handles completely differently from either a regular stills point-and-shoot or a regular box-type hand-held video camera. Second, Sanyo put all of the pre-shoot controls on the side of the camera, so for the most part it's difficult to change them on the fly. Finally, the actual buttons which you push for taking a still, zooming, and starting/stopping a video are definitely a little klutzy. I have found that one-hand use means I get a little jerk at the beginning and at the end when I am starting and stopping the video. On the other hand, the pistol grip makes for very stable video while you are taking it. For stills, I use a two-second delay, which is a shortcut default setting, so that I can position the camera. In my opinion, this is NOT a great camera for quick point-and-shoots, although you could probably get pretty good at using it for that, especially if you are willing to use both hands. Since most people use two hands to control regular point-and-shoot cameras, that limitation does not seem unreasonable to me.
The controls themselves are driven off the rocker button on the left side. I find the menus easy and intuitive, although I've seen complaints about how Sanyo organizes them. You can select four settings of your choice as shortcuts; for instance I have Flash, TimeDelay, Display and PictureFormat as my four. Before shooting I can just press the rocker button and rotate through the settings rapidly for each of those four choices.
In order to make the camera waterproof (I assume), Sanyo made this rocker button flush. It's a bit klutzy but I don't find that insurmountable, and I've gotten pretty good at it already.
Image stabilization. If you've followed the Sanyo Xacti line, you know that one concern is the use of electronic, instead of optical, image stabilization. This was definitely an issue at high zoom for my Sanyo VPC-FH1, although like most photographers I recommend a tripod stabilizer wherever possible (This one does have a tripod screw mount on the bottome). Sanyo claims a new EIS on this model, and in brief testing outside it does seem to be pretty good. Unfortunately this is one area where only formal lab testing will really define the difference; in general the average opinion to date is that EIS has not been as good as optical image stabilization.
File sizes. I noticed one reviewer mentioned jerky playback. This almost certainly related to hardware or software, and not the camera. Full HD AVC H.264 MPEG-4 at 60 frames/second creates large files, and how smoothly they play back depends on your computer's video substructure as well as the software. Sanyo includes ArcSoft's TotalMedia Extreme for playback, editing and DVD authoring; I have not used it. On my computer I can play back even the largest files using almost any software. I use Premiere for DVD authoring.
Battery. I was very disappointed that Sanyo puts a battery with only 700mAh in this camera. They claim an hour of video from this, but I have not tested that. My habit is to keep several batteries with me anyway, but my FH1 has a 2000mAh battery, and I loved that. This camera ships without an external charger, so I'll be buying a TechFuel external charger (about $15) plus some extra knock-off batteries.
Connections. Output ports are a miniUSB which goes to an RCA composite video plug and a single white RCA plug (I assume for sound). The other (main) output is a mini HDMI port which I assumes outbounds the full stereo audio as well as the HDMI picture. However the camera does NOT come with the HDMI video cable.
Sound. No external microphone. There is a speaker on the camera for internal playback, and instructions are voiced audibly in English for various features.
Great quality video in a waterproof format. Quirky controls that you can get used to. High-quality stills but too awkward for zipping around pointing-and-shooting. Fine for landscape stills. Image stabilization unknown, but probably at least acceptable.