The six-megapixel Sanyo Xacti E1 is a fun hybrid camera-camcorder that can get wet and keep coming back for more. Unlike previous Xacti models, the Xacti E1 is waterproof instead of just water-resistant, which means you can fully submerge it. Even the microphone is capable of capturing sound underwater. For a reasonable $499, the E1's compact design and solid performance make it perfect for using by the pool or for any occasion.
The Sanyo Xacti E1 is available in blue, yellow, and white, and it has a larger, easier-to-grip handle than older Xacti models like the CG6. At 8.3 ounces, the E1 is slightly heavier than some other flash-based camcorders, but it still feels light enough to carry around all day. Plus, you don't have to carry a bulky waterproof case. The lithium-ion battery and SD/SDHC slot are housed in the handle and protected by a locking waterproof door.
The E1 sports a flip-out, adjustable 2.5-inch LCD panel. We noticed a slight bit of washout under extremely bright sunlight, but you'll be able to take pics and navigate the menu easily on a moderately bright day. The Camera, Camcorder, and Zoom buttons occupy the same spot as on other Xactis, above the handle, so you can manipulate these controls with your thumb. They were slightly rubbery and less responsive than the buttons on non-waterproof Xactis, which we attribute to the internal waterproof casing. The microphone occupies the left side of the camera above the LCD panel.
We were very impressed by the E1's image and video capability. Stills were surprisingly good in 6-MP mode, and we were able to snap detailed, virtually noiseless shots in a variety of lighting conditions, including Central Park at dusk, an outdoor concert, a sunny day at the pool, and around the office. Even when relying on the auto ISO setting, the E1 delivered good, detailed results when taking pictures of a concert crowd outdoors, with lots of pockets of shadows. More advanced users will be happy to find manual ISO settings as well (50/100/200/400/800/1600). We recommend skipping the 10-MP mode, which uses digital interpolation and produced noisier images.
Video was also very good. We shot some concert footage and transferred it to our Vista notebook. Video was sharp in a decent-sized (640 x 480-pixel resolution) Windows Media Player window, and the audio was clear as a bell. We even took video underwater, and the audio was surprisingly clear despite the sound of rushing currents when we moved the camera around. The E1 will record only standard-definition footage, but thanks to H.264 compression you can fit about ten hours of video on an 8GB card. Also of note, we were able to easily import MPEG-4 files directly into iTunes.
We dunked the E1 into about five feet of water in a pool, and it suffered no ill effects. Unfortunately, the camera won't float and isn't recommended for depths of more than five feet, which does limit the E1 to the pool and less ambitious adventures like snorkeling. However, letting the E1 sink to the bottom and clunk to the floor didn't dent or scratch the case, though our aqua-blue camera was a bit difficult to locate. We recommend getting the yellow model if you'll be tossing this camera around in the water. Or just attach the included wristband so your E1 doesn't sink or get washed away.
For $499, the Sanyo Xacti E1 is more than just the perfect companion for the pool or water park; it's a quality camcorder and camera that's easy to use and carry, even if it never sees a drop of water.
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