Sanyo's Xacti camcorders were the first to combine video recording with the ability to take stills. It's a happy marriage and one that has logic on its side: if you want to record something for posterity enough to video it, chances are you would also like a photo or two of the occasion. The Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 is the latest in that line.
The first hybrid camcorder-cameras tended to offer very limited photo resolutions, but the past year or two has seen them up their game. So it is that you can now get pocket-sized 8Mp cameras such as the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 that also take 1080p high-definition (HD) video.
The Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 isn't the lightest such example - it weighs a not inconsiderable 311g - but it's one of the smartest and easiest to use.
There's no dial to turn to select video rather than still photo mode, for a start: instead, there's a semi-circular button in the middle of its control panel with a big camera icon and a matching videocamera icon on the adjacent button. Press to take a snap with the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 or to start or cease video capture.
To swap between recording and viewing footage with the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000, you push the rocker switch next to the video button. Similarly, in playback mode there's a corresponding switch to raise or lower the volume. In recording or photo mode this is used to zoom in or out.
Getting the shot you want is made easier by the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000's 2.7in widescreen preview display that can be turned through 270 degrees. There's nominally a face-recognition feature, but we failed to get it to work, despite messing with the Standard mode settings where you can adjust scene modes and more.
There's a separate button to manually activate or turn off the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000's pop-up flash (its status is shown onscreen, regardless of whether you're viewing in Simple or Standard mode). You can't use the flash in video mode; only when taking still photos.
The Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 has a 16x optical zoom (up to 160x when combined with the digital zoom) that operates very smoothly. Having zoomed in using the standard zoom we took some really quite detailed footage of underwater pond life from about 15ft above the surface. It helped that the water wasn't murky, but the colour and detail certainly impressed.
We were also surprised by how much audio the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 picked up. We took a riverboat trip down the Thames, punctuated by what seemed a fairly indistinct commentary. To our surprise, we were able to hear everything the tour guide had said when we played back the footage. A 2.5mm microphone jack is included if you want to record dialogue or pick up non-amplified voices. It's also worth noting that, unlike some camcorders, there was no audible interference from the zoom motor.
Your footage is recorded to an SD Card - unlike some digital camcorders, there's no internal memory. Sanyo supplies a solid transfer pod so you can get footage from the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 without running down the battery. It can also connect to a TV screen for direct viewing - standard cables are supplied, but you'll need to get an HDMI connector separately.
We’re not sure whether we’d pay £500 for a combined camera and video camera given the low cost of flash-based camcorders, but if you’ve the budget for an HD model, the Sanyo Xacti HD2000 won’t disappoint. If the high megapixel count is less important than high-definition recording on a sleek device, you may prefer Sony's similarly priced TG3.