Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG9 Review

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$299
Editors' rating:
The Pros

High-quality and Web-optimized video modes available; Records to SD Cards or internal flash memory; Excellent menu system with helpful prompts

The Cons

Poor image stabilization; Long lag time between still photos; Difficult to access memory card slot

Verdict

Ultracompact form takes video on the go to a new level, but there are some compromises.

The latest entry into Sanyo's Xacti line, the VPC-CG9, aims to hit the sweet spot of compactness, features and affordability. Unfortunately, the CG9 is not as strong a contender as its siblings.

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Design

The Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG9, like the other digital camcorders in the Xacti line, takes the old adage of shooting a movie to heart. With a pistol-grip form factor, the CG9 literally puts all of the controls under your thumb. It's easy to switch between the 9.1-megapixel camera trigger button on the left and the video trigger on the right, ensuring that you'll capture the moment in the ideal media format. Nestled between those buttons is the 5X optical zoom. The CG9 also has a 60X digital zoom that can be turned on or off.

At 3.9 x 2.9 x 1.5 inches and 6.4 ounces, the CG9 is only slightly larger than a point-and-shoot digital camera. Its light weight makes it easy to slip into a pocket or small purse, but that can hamper steady shooting. It may be tempting to shoot with one hand, but two hands will give you greater control. The CG9 has image stabilization, but videos still seemed shaky when compared with stabilized video taken on higher-end models such as the Xacti HD1000.

Video and Still Performance

The CG9 supports SD/SDHC cards and has 40MB of internal memory. It has two video-recording modes: a high-quality TV mode for viewing on a bigger screen and a Blog mode, which captures clips that are optimized for the Web. It also has a 9.1-megapixel digital camera. Video quality in both TV mode and Blog mode was adequate, but not great. Aside from the differences in file and image size, it was difficult to detect a significant difference in picture quality between the modes. The camcorder's small profile makes it susceptible to jitters and hand-shakes, which clearly show up in videos. In anticipation of problems, the image stabilization overcompensates for shakiness, resulting in videos that almost seem to vibrate. We had a better experience with the image stabilization turned off and our hands held steady.

Still photos taken with the CG9 looked excellent. The pressure-sensitive trigger button, however, can be difficult to use. Press it halfway and it will focus, all the way and it will take a photo--though it's not always easy to gauge the correct amount of pressure. Press too hard at the beginning and you end up with an out-of-focus snapshot; remove your finger too slowly at the end and the camera will snap back into shooting mode before you can preview your last shot. Rated battery life is 70 minutes.

Verdict

The CG9 hedges its bets, trying to compete both with high-quality MiniDV camcorders like the ZR950 as well as simple camcorders like theFlip Video Ultra. While it's easy to use and takes excellent pictures, the video image stabilization shortcomings mar the camcorder overall. The CG9 could learn a lot from its more-expensive Xacti siblings like theXacti E1and theXacti HD1000, which both offer excellent image stabilization and a trigger button that's easy to use.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Size 3.9 x 2.9 x 1.5 inches
Weight 6.4 ounces
Company Website http://www.sanyodigital.com