02.Colour & Noise Performance
03.Motion & Sharpness Performance
04.Low Light Performance
05.Compression & Media
08.Handling & Use
09.Playback & Connectivity
Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG10
Manual Controls Summary
• Excellent white balance, auto exposure, and auto focus
• Multiple metering methods for exposure; multiple focus methods
• 5x optical zoom lacks true variable speed control
• Manual focus is only available in hard increments
• Aperture priority, shutter priority, full manual aperture/shutter, manual exposure
• ISO applies to video and still recording
Auto Mode (9.32)
|All menus and controls are navigated using the rear-mounted joystick.|
The availability of manual controls is one of the main advantages in choosing the CG10 over some of the other camcorders under £300. The Flip—and others like it—have no manual controls whatsoever. However, many consumers like to have their cake and eat it too: they want the option of manual controls, but with a reliable and effective auto mode.
That means that any camcorder in this price range needs to shoot good video when shooting in auto-pilot. The CG10 fares quite well in all of its automatic adjustments. Focus works quickly and smoothly: if you want the effect of a sudden focal change, you'll need to use manual focus. Exposure is similarly smooth, but perhaps too slow when shifting between two extreme lighting conditions.
To complement the excellent auto focus and exposure, the CG10 has multiple focus methods and metering methods. Auto focus has be set to spot focus or 9-point focus; metering can be multi, centre, or spot. A 'Face Chaser' option allows the camcorder to detect faces and automatically adjust exposure and focus to accommodate those faces. An auto focus lock and auto exposure lock can be accessed through the customisable shortcuts.
The Sanyo VPC-CG10 also has excellent automatic white balance, which is a real treat for these ultra compact camcorders. The Sanyo Webbie HD MHS-PM1 has strong auto white balance, but many of the others (such as the Flip series and the Kodak Zx1) have terrible automatic white balance. What's worse, most camcorders in this price range lack a manual white balance, so you're stuck with whatever poor colour balance the camcorder has selected for you. With the CG10, you have excellent auto white balance, several white balance pre-sets, and a manual white balance option.
Low Light Modes
In auto mode, the Sanyo will automatically switch to a low shutter speed, but you can tweak a couple of manual controls to further boost brightness in low light—such as shutter speed, aperture, exposure, and ISO. There is also a High Sensitivity mode, which will automatically adjust all of these things whenever you're shooting in very dark conditions. A handful of scene modes may also be appropriate for low lighting (see below).
The Sanyo comes equipped with a number of scene modes that the user can use to guide auto adjustments to a particular setting. Options include: Sports, Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Snow & Beach, Fireworks, and Lamp.
The Sanyo VPC-CG10 has a sliding zoom toggle that rests in the centre of the rear controls. Technically, the slider could respond to variable finger pressure, but we could only really accomplish one very quick zoom speed—or a series of brief stutters. The slider doesn't even engage the zoom until the switch has been pushed halfway up or down. The HD2000, by comparison, had a similar slider switch, but we could definitely get a couple speeds out of it. While zooming, a small scale appears to show you your relative position in the zoom range. There are no numerical values displayed to show a precise zoom ratio.
|The zoom slider switch doesn't allow for variable zoom speeds.|
Of course, all of these controls are a significant improvement over what you will find on most camcorders in this price range. The Flip series of camcorders (and most of their clones) have only a measly 2x digital zoom, usually controlled by the up and down arrows on a directional pad. Even those with a more traditional zoom toggle—like the Sony MHS-PM1 still only offer 2x digital zoom.
Zoom Ratio (2.55)
The Sanyo VPC-CG10 has a 5x optical zoom, which is more than most camcorders in this price range. The pistol-grip design allows for a longer lens barrel than you'll see on the flat, iPod-like ultra compacts. That means there's enough room for the lens elements necessary for an optical zoom. There is an additional 12x digital zoom, but we recommend that you leave that turned off, especially if you always want the highest quality video.
Many top-of-the-line camcorders these days are offering a smooth ring or dial control for adjusting manual focus. Sanyo, unfortunately, still employs an archaic joystick for this function. On both the VPC-CG10 and the MHS-PM1, the joystick allows the user to select one of several hard focal increments. On the CG10, there are sixteen increments from 1cm to infinity. At the bottom end of that range, you have 1cm, 2cm, and 5cm. How do you focus on something that's 3.5cm away? Move the camcorder until it's 5cm away.
|The manual focus tool on the CG10.|
While we believe that focus should be a precise adjustment handled by a smooth control, the joystick is still better than touch screen focus, where your finger blocks the viewfinder as you step through focus levels. It's also better than the complete lack of manual focus offered by most of the competition. At least the CG10 allows some rudimentary control over focus. And if you don't like the way focus is handled on the CG10, you can stick with the camcorder's auto focus, which is really quite good.
Auto focus can handle objects from 50cm to infinity, while super macro focus is good for shooting 1cm to 1m.
|-1.8 to +1.8 in thirteen 1/3-stop increments|
|3.5, 4.0, 4.7, 5.6, 6.8, 8.0|
|For Auto Shutter Speed, Shutter Priority mode, or Manual Shutter: 1/30, 1/60, 1/100, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/1500
For High Sensitivity mode or Lamp mode: 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/100, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/1500
For Still Photography: 4, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/100, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/1500
|White Balance Controls|
|Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Manual|
|ISO 50, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600|
As was the case in the poorly designed menu system of the MHS-PM1, exposure is buried in a needlessly hidden location. It is only accessible via shortcuts on the joystick menu. By default, Sanyo has assigned exposure compensation to the joystick, but if you reassign that shortcut in the settings menu, there will no way to access feature. This confusion is compounded by the fact that the menus hold an 'Exposure' setting, which allows you to switch between aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual aperture/shutter speed.
|Exposure compensation is hidden in the shortcuts menu.|
If it's exposure compensation you want, then you will find that tool simple enough to use—if not easy to find. Sanyo offers thirteen increments on a sliding scale from -1.8 to +1.8.
The Recording menu of the CG10 houses an Exposure setting, which allows users to choose Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or full manual aperture and shutter speed. In Aperture Priority mode, you can manually adjust aperture and the camcorder will automatically adjust shutter speed to compensate. In full manual mode, you can change both aperture and shutter speed independently.
|The manual aperture tool on the CG10.|
There are six available aperture settings ranging from 3.5 to 8.0. A warning about the manual aperture controls: we found that it took at least a full second for the aperture display to react to the joystick. This is excessively slow and was often frustrating.
Shutter Speed (8.60)
Shutter speed, like aperture, can be controlled from within the Recording menu. There is a Shutter Priority mode, which allows the user to adjust shutter speed, while aperture is handled automatically. There is also a full manual mode, which will let you change shutter speed and aperture independently. Though there is a wide range of shutter speed options available, only some of these will actually impact video recording. If the camcorder is set to High Sensitivity mode or Lamp mode, options range from 1/15 to 1/1500. For still photography, you can use a full 4-second shutter, as well as several other slow shutter options. In regular video recording mode, however, the shutter speed range is narrowed: options range from 1/60 to 1/1500.
|.Shutter speed can be adjusted in Shutter Priority mode
or in full Manual Exposure mode.
White Balance (8.00)
There aren't a lot of white balance pre-sets available on the VPC-CG10, but any control over white balance is more than you'll find on most of the competition. Ultra compact budget camcorders like the Flip series give the user no ability to control colour balance. If the automatic white balance is good, this isn't a problem. Some budget cams, like the Kodak Zx1, have poor auto white balance and a regrettable lack of white balance control.
|There aren't many white balance pre-sets,
but the manual white balance works well.
On the CG10, the four white balance pre-sets (sunny, cloudy, fluorescent, and incandescent) are usually enough to cover the basics. What will come in more handy is the simple, one-push manual white balance. The results of this manual white balance are accurate—more so that the automatic white balance or the pre-sets—so, we recommend using it whenever possible.
A couple of the major camcorder manufacturers have begun to offer gain control in their consumer line-ups. JVC allows you to turn gain off or leave it to the camcorder's automatic settings. Canon lets you turn it off or limit gain. And Panasonic lets you boost gain if you've fully opened the aperture and need even more light in your shot. This year's Sanyo camcorders, however, handle gain gain differently, by allowing users to adjust ISO separately from all other exposure controls.
|Gain can be manually controlled by altering the ISO.|
If you want to boost the gain for low light situations, you can set it anywhere from ISO 50 to ISO 1600. The flexibility of using setting ISO while recording video is a real treat; one we're likely to see on more of these video-still hybrids in the future.
Colour & Image Controls (4.50)
The Sanyo VPC-CG10 does not offer much in the way of additional image controls; there is no sharpness, colour depth, or contrast controls. There are, however, a few different colour modes that will impact the way colour is captured in your video. There isn't a lot of a difference among the various settings, but if you're going for subtlety, it's a nice option to have. (You can see the small difference in the Colour Performance section of this review.)
|Image Settings||Normal, Vivid, Soft, Soft & Vivid|
Other Manual Controls (2.00)
|Noise Reduction||On, Off (separate noise reduction for still photos)|
|Super Macro||Allows you to focus on items close to the camcorder
(focal distance is approximately 1cm to 1m)
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