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Sanyo XACTI CA65

As you might have noticed, I record a bit of video every so often. To do this, I use a Sanyo Xacti C4 - which has been absolutely brilliant. I've had it for about a year and a half and it was a purchase from Akihabara during my last trip to Japan. The device has proved itself to be an invaluable tool. It's small and inconspicuous enough to take good quality digital photos, but will also take video which isn't an embarrassment. I use it on a fairly regular basis to record my ju-jitsu training - I then use the video as a coaching tool. It's also been good as a point-and-shoot camera when I don't want to lug my larger Fuji around.

That's not to say it doesn't have the odd thing that could be improved. Performance in low-light levels isn't that great, resulting in video quality that's somewhat grainy. Sanyo has released several subsequent versions of the Xacti, but they didn't seem to go far enough towards rectifying this issue.

Until now, that is.

A few weeks back, I saw a press-release that Sanyo had released the E1, which apart from correcting the light issues, generated video files that were 25% smaller and (the best bit) the camera was waterproof to a depth of 5 feet, so I investigated further. It appears that in the rest of the world, the model is actually the CA65 and after reading a review or two, I decided to take the plunge and buy one from PurelyGadgets.

So, I guess the best think to do first of all is compare the two side-by-side.

XACTI C4 (Left) and CA65 (Right)

Notice that the new-fangled one (right) is bigger? That came as a bit of a surprise. Most of the pictures you'll see of the new version appear to take a sideways-profile look at the camera, but it's actually a bit misleading because you realise that it's thicker than they're letting on. It's not a big deal, though. It still fits in the pocket nicely.

The new version also has a significantly larger screen, which is nice, plus the socket to screw in the tripod is still there (thankfully). Most of the controls are in the same place as they were, with the exception of the record/play button being moved around to where the power button is on the side of the main camera body- not really a big deal. The controls have a sort of rubbery feeling to them now, but I guess it's the waterproofing that does that. The pistol-grip you have on the unit still allows for one-handed operation.

Other things of note are that the dock has gone (fine by me), along with the device using a more normal USB cable - now you don't need a strange lego-brick-like attachment to connect it up. The charger is also 50% smaller. This makes life much easier if you're taking it on holiday with you. You can still connect the device to your TV via the provided leads, but the remote control has gone (who used it anyway?).

Now we get to actually using the device. Here's an example of a 6MP (low-compression) image - it's pretty good.

(Click on the thumbnail to show the big version).



The camera will take pictures in several formats - 10MP (3680*2760), 6MP (2816*2112 - low or standard compression), 16:9 (2816*1584 - good for widescreen tellies), 3MP (1536*2048), 2MP (1600*1200) and 0.3MP (640*480). The 16:9 mode is an interesting one, because it means that those people with HD TVs can display pictures correctly. There are also a variety of scene modes, which tweak the exposure settings. They generally seem to work pretty well.

Then there's the video. It records in VGA (30fps at high or standard quality) or QVGA (high quality or 15fps). They've also kept the sound-recorder feature, which was a personal favourite. Click here for a sample movie, which I cobbled together. Admittedly, I've edited it using iMovie, but the quality hasn't changed and covers most things - namely good light, not so good light, the zoom, sound quality and the under-water bit (I was a bit nervous about trying that one out). As you'll see, the quality is pretty good and even though the light isn't so good in the second part, things still look fine and the graininess of old isn't there. The sound quality is also a significant improvement. The under-water thing is a definite plus. It's only to a depth of five feet, which isn't far, but you can go swimming with it or take it out on a rainy day without issue. The manufacturers advise that you get the internal seals replaced once per year, but I'm not sure how you go about that. When I find out, I'll let you know.

The editing functions have improved too. Once you've taken video or pictures you can start to play - the options available have increased. There's now an option to automatically remove red eye, along with rotation, cropping, resizing, etc... They're fairly impressive and mean that you can get pictures looking whizzy before they've left the camera. As per it's predecessor, you can still edit video (trim clips, extract still images, join clips, etc...). Still shots can also be captured whilst recording.

As for battery-life and storage, well, it's still as it ever was. You can record just over 1hr and 20 mins on a 2GB SD card, although you can put higher capacity cards in (I think the currently limit is 8GB?). Thing is, you'll only be recording for about 1hr 20 minutes anyway due to the battery life, so be prepared to take a spare with you (it's the same battery as before). You can get them pretty cheaply these days.

In terms of computer connection, the device mounts as a mass-storage device and the USB-2 link is quick in comparison to the USB-1 of the C4. The CA65 has shedloads of options for direct printing, amongst other things, but I've not tried those yet and can't give you a summary. The video plays nicely in Quicktime 7 (Mac). I can't comment on the Windows video performance.

I've only had the camera for a week, but I'm impressed with it. My old C4 shall be on E-Bay very shortly. It's a worthy upgrade. If you're considering buying one, you might want to consider these points:

Pros

- Video quality improvements (sound, performance in low-light, file-size)
- In-camera editing features
- Increased screen size

Cons

- Battery life (although it's no worse than before)
- Screen can be hard to see in bright-sunlight.

There's little else to say. Overall, it's a winner.
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