A video clip captured with the Sanyo HD700. Note: This clip has been optimized for web viewing and is not presented at full resolution.
But let's focus on where the HD700 really shines, as a high-definition digital video camcorder. With the sinking costs and increasing storage of SDHC cards, manufacturers have begun creating camcorders that support solid-state media rather than much larger yet lower capacity mini-DV tapes, resulting in smaller, more powerful, and less expensive digital video cameras. When viewing video captured with the Sanyo Xacti on a computer monitor, friends seldom believed me when I showed them what I had used to capture it.
The camcorder can capture video at three different resolutions. A 30fps, 720p, 1280x720-pixel recording mode is the default. This mode captures video at a 16:9 HD aspect ratio at a frame rate of 9Mbps or 6Mbps (similar to compression settings with still images--but for video formats). The camcorder stores video clips as individual H.264 MPEG4 files, which are date and time stamped just like still image files, making organization a breeze. Expect to be able to capture 1 hr, 53 min of video on an 8GB SDHC card at the higher quality setting, or 2 hrs, 46 min at the lower quality setting. With a 4GB card, you should be able to capture about 56 min or 1 hr, 22 min at higher or lower quality settings, respectively. Video captured at both settings look good, and it was difficult to find any meaningful difference between the two in our field test videos. A VGA (640x480px) 4:3 ratio (standard TV format) video mode and a 320x240 pixel web recording mode are also available. Video captured at the highest resolution in daylight was smooth, virtually noise free, and incredibly sharp.
I brought the HD700 on a recent trip to France and Italy and was able to capture incredible footage throughout the trip. The crisp, clear stereo audio was amazing--compared to the bare-bones mono so many 'dedicated' still cameras capture in video mode. Because of its light weight, it's easy to bring the camcorder with you wherever you go. Even though it was exposed to both very cold environments while walking in Paris and warm environments in museums and shops, I never had any problems with operation or with the front element of the internal zoom lens fogging up.
While video quality is nearly flawless when captured outside, noise is visible, though not overbearing, when captured indoors, even in bright, airy spaces. The camcorder focuses easily when at its widest focal length, but spends a couple seconds searching for a focal point at longer focal lengths. Also worth noting, the HD700's optical zoom is responsive and smooth, but operates at only one speed; fast, so while you are able to zoom while recording a clip, use it sparingly.
While mini-DV camcorders can only upload video to a computer in real time, downloading from a SDHC card to a computer is a snap. Moving an hour of HD video should take about five minutes when using an external USB 2.0 card reader and a class 4 SDHC card. While the HD700 includes a USB cable for use with the included dock, downloading video using a dedicated SDHC card reader will be faster and won't run down the camcorder's battery. I used SanDisk's 8GB Ultra II Class 4 SDHC card, which includes a SanDisk MicroMate SDHC reader in the box.
Sanyo includes everything you'll need to get the most out of your camcorder. A docking station with HDMI, AV, mini-USB and power ports is included, as are USB, component video, composite video, S-video and RCA audio cables. Sanyo also includes an AC adapter for charging the 1200 mAh battery, an infrared remote control, wrist strap, lens cap and soft carrying case. Also in the box are Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 for editing video and creating DVD's on a PC running Windows XP or Vista and Photoshop Album SE for organizing still photos. While no software is included for Mac users, the MPEG4 files from the HD700 are compatible with Apple's iMovie.
720p video playback is possible on a high-definition television using the included component video cable. An HDMI port is also available on the dock, but unfortunately no HDMI cable is included in the box. Video playback looks and sounds great on both a computer and high-definition TV, and the included remote provides complete control, including the ability to remotely capture video and stills.
Despite Sanyo's marketing claims that the VPC-HD700 is simply a "camera" in both the still and video sense, as photographers, we cannot help but think of the VPC-HD700 as a great pocket 720p HD video camcorder that can grab the occasional still snap in a pinch. If hi-def video is your thing, the VPC-HD700 has a lot going for it--great video image quality, crisp stereo sound and an easy to use interface. But most hardcore photo enthusiasts will be disappointed by the VPC-HD700's still images.
The HD700 is available now in brown, red and silver with a street price of approx. $429.