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(MPG4) Sanyo Xacti (all models)
A compact 720p MPEG4 digital media camera recording to SD Card.


 
 
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Old March 14th, 2006, 05:13 PM   #1
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Manual controls for light, focus and sound

When adjusting for focus, can you make minute changes or are you limited to step-like variations in focal length? Same with exposure controls, are you limited to only a certain number of step-like changes in aperture or can you make minute changes? And speaking of exposure, are there no zebra stripes to look for? How do you know when the whites are overexposed otherwise?
Oh yeah, I forgot sound --how do you monitor sound levels? Only by running a test and playing it back or are there VU meter-like read-outs to look at? Do you at least have earphone jacks to listen into?
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Old March 14th, 2006, 05:36 PM   #2
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When adjusting for focus, can you make minute changes or are you limited to step-like variations in focal length?

I'd say step-like controls. Does not appear to be continuously variable.

Same with exposure controls, are you limited to only a certain number of step-like changes in aperture or can you make minute changes?

Again, not continuously variable, so more step-like.

And speaking of exposure, are there no zebra stripes to look for? How do you know when the whites are overexposed otherwise?

No zebras. Hope that the OLED screen is accurate, which it seems to be. Though the performance in bright sunlight of the OLED, as others have noted, is not that great.

Oh yeah, I forgot sound --how do you monitor sound levels? Only by running a test and playing it back or are there VU meter-like read-outs to look at? Do you at least have earphone jacks to listen into?

No VU, no earphone jacks. The manual controls for sound levels are a couple steps into a menu, as well, so not something you can change on the fly.


All this being said, this is obviously not a professional cam. But, it is one helluva handycam (maybe the best in a lot of ways--form factor, tapeless workflow, simultaneous high quality stills shooting). If I were to use this cam in a semi-professional situation, let's say a documentary where I gave one of the subjects this camera to record their personal thoughts, I would leave it in the full auto settings, which actually aren't too bad. In fact, most of the time I just shoot with it full auto and the results have been good.

Hope this helps,

Peter
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Old March 14th, 2006, 08:06 PM   #3
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Hi Lynne,

It sounds like you are looking for the features of a studio HDV camera - things you won't find in the $800 price range. If your goal here is to attain anything close to the features of a studio system, this is not your camera. That said, this camera is quite pleasing; it certainly produces the best video of any consumer videocam on the market today.

I assume what you are trying to determine is if this is the right camera for you. Can I ask what the purpose of the camera is, and what your maximum budget is for a camera? I, and the others on this forum, can give you some pretty straight answers about suitability if we know the camera's purpose.
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Old March 15th, 2006, 07:00 AM   #4
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I make backpacking videos and since I'm into lightweight backpacking, the lightest camera is what I'm looking for. At eight ounces, this camera wins hands down. However, another consideration are the SD cards. At some point in a long (several weeks) hike I would have to download onto a laptop--that could be a major hassle. So, another camera I'm considering is the new, about-to-be-released HC3 from Sony. At 3 ounces over a pound and using miniDV tapes, but without any ext. mic jack, it's a mixed bag. Using a bigger battery would put it at almost a pound heavier than the HD1 and that's significant!
Back to the Sanyo, I mainly want to know before I purchase just what it can and can't do so I will have realistic expectations. Which raises one more question--editing within the camera. Say if I shot a scene that was 3 minutes long but only 30 seconds of it was useful. Is there a way to trim the shot within the camera and thereby free up more space on the SD card? Can you trim both the in and out point or only the out point or only delete entire scenes?
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Old March 15th, 2006, 08:02 AM   #5
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I would expect you will find yourself using the automatic functions most. The camera focuses well, much better than the other DV models I tried. Even in low light, it doesn't hunt much. Flipping to manual if there is a hard shot to compose isn't so essential due to the focus lock feature. I've played with manual, but I think I'll compose difficult subjects by auto-focusing, then locking it in place.

The mini-DV cartridges of the Sony are small, but you'll need a few and likely find them time consuming to edit afterwards. If carrying significant video is your concern, consider adding a portable video player to your collection. There are a few on the market that have high performance SD slots and as much as 100GB capacity. This way you can get over 20 hours of total 720p capacity. They are as small as, if not smaller than, this camera. If you want even smaller than that, some of the mini-hard drive MP3 players have SD slots and could also do the trick... to my knowledge they go up to 30GB, or about 6 hours at 720p. These are smaller than a deck of cards.

The internal mic is good if you are recording close subjects, but won't do the trick if you are planning on capturing distant subjects. I would rate this mic below that of my Sony handicam, but would say that even the handicam needed an external mic to capture audio at a distance. There are good external mic options available to solve this limitation. My external mic had an earbud set attached, and a small spot for a few watch batteries. Adjustment of the earbud volume increased the sound to the buds, and also the input to the recorder. The batteries powered a minute amplifier. This was some time ago; I'm sure there are better options. I just wanted to present this option, as it was able to capture sound that I could not hear with my naked ear. My device, closed up, fit in a case measuring 1/2" X 1" X 2 1/2". Sorry, I do not recall who made it any longer.

The zoom function works well, and I've had little difficulty establishing a moving focus to about 8X. The range beyond 8X seems ineffective when lighting is low.

Image stablization is effective to about 3 or 4X. If you plan to use zoom functions to capture distant subjects, you will need some sort of tripod. I suggest the Optex I listed in the Tweaks and Tricks post. It's as small as a pen and would do the trick. I'd actually suggest this tripod regardless, for the camera cannot stand on its exceptionally narrow base without assistance.

In camera editing is possible, but it certainly isn't a strong point of this camera. Functions you can use are: Capture still from video, delete first part, delete 2nd part, and join. It takes a significant amount of time to edit in camera, and will descimate your batteries. Plan to do your edits when attached to a computer. You cannot pause or cancel a clip edit once you have started it, though you can save an unaltered original. Note that the deletion of scenes is fast and easy, so if you are trying to record an event that doesn't materialize, this space can be recaptured in seconds.

On your long - several week - hiking trips, what do you plan to do for power? It sounds like longevity of the charge, as well as time to fully charge, will be major factors for you. I'd say I get about an hour out of the stock battery; I havn't checked charge times, but they seem pretty quick.
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Old March 15th, 2006, 09:53 AM   #6
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I appreciate the feedback. I would probably buy a bunch of extra batteries (apparently they aren't too expensive and are less than an ounce each). Then there's always the solar chargers, some which are less than a pound. I was especially curious about in-camera editing because as a one-man band, it means I would have to sometimes set up a shot and then walk off into the distance to execute the shot. There would be lots of "dead air" (even minutes' worth) on either end of the shot taking up valuable SD space. But then again, even if such shots were "trimmed," would that translate into freed-up space or not? Who knows?
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Old March 15th, 2006, 01:21 PM   #7
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It would free space, but from a practical standpoint, I don't think you'd want to do it. The process is inaccurate and takes a couple minutes per cut... literally.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 10:52 PM   #8
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It DOES come with a remote so FACE the screen front (using external mics) and use the remote. I am not dressed so I am not going to dig it up tommorrow I will test the remotes range indoors and outdoors.

Chris Taylor
http://www.nerys.com/
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