The Good: Super picture, highly portable, self-explanatory, inexpensive
The Bad: Doesn't come with a webcam-like mount for the computer screen
The Bottom Line: A dream device for the blogger who wants to go video
I'm no Paris Hilton, so it's unlikely anyone would watch videos about my simple life. That's a shame because I was able to shoot some great footage with a digital video camera from Sanyo called the Xacti VPC-CG65.
As Hilton would say, this camera is "hot." At less than 4 inches long, about an inch deep, and just over 2 inches wide, the Xacti is sufficiently slim to fit in a pocket or purse, or even hang from a neck strap. The camera weighs less than 6 ounces, or just a couple ounces more than many camera-equipped cell phones, thanks in part to its tiny 3.7-volt lithium battery.
Light and Easy
Such portability is a real boon, particularly if you have an anything-can-happen existence that demands documentation at any given moment. In that sense, it's a perfect tool to create a video Weblog, or a "vlog." And at $360, the Xacti comes in at a fraction of the price of full-fledged camcorders.
And easy carrying extends to ease of use. To get started, just flip open the bright 2.5-inch color screen, rotate it to a comfortable viewing angle, and press the record button to start shooting in MPEG-4 format at 30 frames per second. The camera captures video at VGA quality and shoots still photos at 6 megapixels.
The buttons are intuitive. There's one with a still camera icon for taking pictures and another with a movie camera icon for filming. A playback button with the same play icon as on a VCR is located right under that. The optical zoom is similarly easy to find. A toggle button, located right where the thumb rests when filming, allows the videographer to magnify an image up to five times its size. The Xacti also has a digital zoom that magnifies images up to 60 times.
Getting It Online
The on-screen menus are self-explanatory. Even setting the time and date—often a patience-testing endeavor—was simple. There's a toggle switch that navigates between three menus. A recording menu lets users set the flash and a timer, in case you want to jump in the shot. The camera also has settings to optimize action shots, night scenes, and portraits, as well as modes for lighting-challenged conditions such as fireworks, bright snowy landscapes, and candle-lit rooms.
Sanyo also has packed the Xacti with plenty of other tools for would-be vloggers. There's an image stabilizer to combat shaky hands or nerves. For those who don't need hand-holding, there's a manual focus setting to choose what to zero in on and what should be intentionally, artistically blurred.
Uploading the video to the computer is straightforward and fast. And because the files are MPEG-4, about half the size of those shot in the more common MPEG-2 video format, they take up less space on the hard drive. The Xacti also helps reduce upload time by enabling you to view still image slide shows of your video on the camera, then delete what you don't want before bothering to upload it.
The editing software that comes with the camera is good for beginners. Those with ambitions of making slick, highly edited short films will want to invest in a more feature-rich camera. The basic vlogger who just wants to shoot and share some video won't find it lacking.