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Caelum Oct 19, 2007 10:06 AM

Following is my overview / first impressions / mini-review of the Sanyo Xacti HD700. You can find links to sample videos (movies) and photos (stills) I took at the end of this post.

[align=center] About the HD700[/align]
[align=center][/align]With all of the excitementover the HD1000, we haven't discussed much its little brother, the HD700. The Sanyo Xacti HD700 is a true hybrid pocketable compact camera combining a 7MP digicam and 720p HD video recorder. Its 7 megapixel digicam functionality is on par with other digicams in its class offering everything from full-auto to full manual control over stills shooting. I qualify the HD700 a true hybrid because it is also an HD and SD video recorder capable of shooting high quality movies for extended periods of time, on par with HD camcorders, unlike most digicams which can typically only record short video clips. The HD700's extended high quality video recording is possible due to its use of highly efficient video and audio codecs. Video shot with the HD700 is encoded using the new MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (advanced video coding) along with AAC (advanced audio coding) in an MP4 container. If you want to read more about MPEG-4 AVC / H.264, find a brief overviewand FAQ over on Apple's web site. AVC/AAC and the MP4 container are relatively new, however as the premier ISO video format they are poised to become the future standard for video just like JPEG is for photos today. (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 is also the premier video codec adopted by both HD-DVD and Blu-ray for HD content.)

For the HD700's features, product details and specifications I'll refer you to Sanyo's web sites: Sanyo North America's HD700 page; Sanyo Europe HD700 page; Sanyo Japan (corporate) HD700 page. Also available for download are the Sanyo Xacti HD700 PDF format manuals for reference.

[align=center]What's included in the box[/align]
[align=center][/align]Only thing missing (not surprising, really) is an HDMI cable if you have an HDTV with support for it (the docking station features a standard HDMI output port). The included software pack on DVD-ROM includes: Adobe Photoshop Album SE, Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0, Quicktime+iTunes and the Xacti screen capture utility.

[align=center][/align]According to Sanyo, with a volume of 171cc and weight of 189g, the HD700 is the world's smallest and lightest 720p HD camera; 16% smaller and 10% lighter than its previous HD2 model. I believe it, it's exceptionally small for an HD video recorder. In the realm of digicams, I would qualify it as a compact, not ultra-compact like Sanyo's Cx models. It does fit in a shirt pocket, but may be a tad too bulky and heavy for that shirt pocket; it will fit nicely in pant and jacket pockets. Actually, most of the HD700's size is consumed by its widescreen 2.7" LCD display and its 1200 mAh battery, it couldn't be much smaller without sacrificing those… and it feels just right in hand so you probably wouldn't want it smaller. Above is an HD700 with a credit card as a size reference; you could hold a thick stack of cards to get an idea of what it's like to hold an HD700, except the HD700 has more comfortable rounded edges.

[align=center]Ergonomics[/align]I'm in love. I was already a big fan of Sanyo's line of Xacti "pistol grip" hybrids and now they've managed to improve the ergonomics. According to Sanyo they did a study on several different camera grip models in cooperation with Chiba University (Department of Design Science in the Graduate School of Engineering) to find the most comfortable and useable model. The result, more of a "pistol grip" format than ever, works very well, and I'm surprised it's not a more widespread format, it seems so obvious. Think about shooting video with a typical square digicam: you have to hold it high up with both hands, in front of your face. For a typical camcorder: you also have to hold up your arm high up as well. With both the typical digicam and camcorder ergonomics, with your upper arm extended out parallel to the floor, it's difficult to hold a shot steady and outright tiresome for extended periods of time. Here's how you shoot casually with the HD700/HD1000: hold your upper arm parallel to your body, anchor your elbow to your side, tilt the LCD up, this will allow you to hold a steady shot for long periods of time without fatigue. For frantic action shooting, you could even try the double-handed modern pistol grip, as seen performed by police / SWAT teams and on TV / in films. All controls are easily accessed and managed with your thumb. I don't know if it will suit everyone, I'd qualify my hands as medium/average and the controls feel very good. I can't say enough about how I like the ergonomics; it just feels naturally comfortable for shooting video.

[align=center]Performance[/align]The HD700 is very fast and responsive. Sanyo writes about a new high-speed processing engine (apparently the same originally developed for the HD1000), and high-speed it is. From standby mode you can shoot in an instant, literally. Shot to shot times appear to be limited by the speed of your SD card, not the camera's processor. Many program modes are available as well as full manual control. Full auto has performed well for me so far, I'm pleased with what it does by default and that's the way it should be. The auto-focus is quick and seamless; so far it has been on-target for most of my shots. Only thing I noticed is that if I take the camera out of standby mode and start shooting video right away (fast), the initial second might be out of focus. Cure: just wait a second for the camera to focus before starting to shoot.

I haven't done any measured tests with the battery. I managed to just fill a 2G SD card with HD-SHQ video (~25 min.) and 7MP stills (~100) before getting a low battery warning on my first day of shooting (includes use of review/playback mode; camera was kept in standby mode throughout the day).

Here is a quick video of the HD700coming out of standby mode, a run throught of all the record menus on the HD700, the new "Full Auto" fallback button at the top of the controls, a half-press of the photo button, a snapshot, then the playback menus:

[align=center][flash=320,267][/flash][/align]I haven't played with many of the features and options yet (software or remote control, etc.). You can choose to see all of the options in normal mode, which I think are very well presented in an easy to navigate menu. Or you can choose simple mode for a simplified list of options. I don't see myself using simple mode, I'll have to give it a try, but I like detail and precision. As with the other recent Xacti models, you can assign shortcuts to yourfavorite functions to the different cardinal directions of the thumbstick control, a feature I use and really like.

[align=center]Video[/align]What can I say? I was floored when I watched the HD video on my PC for the first time. It truly is high definition video, clean clear and detailed. I didn't expect it, probably because the camera is so small you don't expect video so big. The HD700 makes good use of MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 video encoding. I've only played with HD-SHQ mode so far and it's great. I hope to test it on a much larger screen soon, and I'm confident both the XBOX 360 and PS3 will also be able to play HD700's MP4 files directly in their full glory; I'll report on that soon.

I still have to try out the Xacti Library feature, which I think is a smart feature from Sanyo. You can connect an external hard drive directly to the HD700's docking station without the need for a computer. This will enable the camera to store all of your HD recordings in an expandable library on external hard drives for future playback; and with it's built in video editing, no need for a PC. And playback via HDMI will always be pure digital goodness. BTW the docking station looks nice and works well.

[align=center]Audio[/align]The audio tracks are recorded with 48000Hz in stereo at 128Kbps in AAC format and do sound good. I've noticed a lot more of a stereo effect than I have with past cameras, perhaps it's due to the greater distance between the microphones. I don't hear any auto-focus noise at all, period (I'm very impressed by how the auto-focus is seamless). For the zoom, I do not hear a motor noise, but I do hear a faint electric hum during playback when zoom is used in quiet environments (I haven't yet determined if the zoom is multi-speed or constant). Oh, and the built-in speaker, while it has no bass, is loud and clear (unlike the CG65) when you increase the playback volume. An earphone plug is provided to properly experience audio directly from the camera.

[align=center]Stills[/align]It can take great 7MP shots. Pixel detail is not super clean (small 7MP CCD sensor), but overall image quality / colors is very good. I'm impressed by the amount of manual control this compact camera provides, ND filter, shutter / aperture priority, full manual control with support for long exposures of up to 4 seconds. A 7MP burst mode is also available for action shots, up to 5 7MP shots per burst.

[align=center]Low light[/align]Like I said before I'm pleased with what the default full-auto mode does. In low light you will get some sensor noise, but when shooting HD video the noise really isn't as distracting during playback because it's so fine (at pixel level). By default you get fairly clean video under normal indoor lighting conditions, with a tendency towards black where there is not enough light. Don't expect to shoot under candlelight; this is an average low light performer. You can optionally turn on High-Sensitivity mode, which will turn up low light sensitivity at the cost of more sensor noise. Also you can activate Lamp program mode which will dynamically slow down the frame rate to allow longer exposures, thus also increasing low light sensitivity. For stills, at full 7MP you will get sensor noise with less than good lighting conditions, but again, the pixels are so small at that resolution that viewed as a whole, stills are acceptable under low light and a simple pass through Neat Image will generally make it all good. Under good lighting conditions both video and stills look great, with the HD video looking stunning. The flash is stronger than on previous Xacti models, it helps, but it won't make low light scenes sensor noise free.

[align=center]Niggling issues[/align]While the build quality of the HD700 is very good overall, with a solid metal LCD rotating hinge and panel, solid overall body and sturdy controls and lens, there are a few plastic pieces I'm not a fan of. There are four "doors" on the HD700: the battery, SD card, DC in, and earphones connector doors. The battery door requires two hands to open, one to press down at the top and another to pull it open. The very first time you open the battery door and you lift it open with its flexible hinge you get a feeling that it's flimsy. The SD card, DC in and earphones doors are pried open with a fingernail, and then pulled; again the first times it feels flimsy. After just a few times I'm getting used to them, and it probably helps keep the weight down, but let's just hope they endure the test of time. The lens cap is a little plastic snap on cap, it works, secures on tight but it took me a day to get used to it and how to position the string so it doesn't interfere.

The other thing I haven't quite gotten used to yet is shooting 4:3 7MP stills with a 16:9 widescreen LCD viewfinder. This has to be a general problem with all widescreen cameras, not specifically the HD700. When you look at your scene in the viewfinder, it's widescreen, half press on the photo button, then it takes the sides of the frame and pushes them in to show you a 4:3 frame, but in doing so the vertical frame expands. It certainly takes some getting used to. Of course, if you shoot widescreen stills, this will not be an issue at all.

[align=center]Conclusion[/align]Like with most luxuries, you don't need HD video… until you've tried HD video that is, then it will be very difficult to go back. Seeing the detail captured by the HD700 makes a world of a difference when it comes to recording a scene; you don't just get an idea of what it was like, you really see what it was like. If you are looking for a do-it-all-in-one camera to capture all of life's moments in high definition, you can't go wrong with the Sanyo Xacti HD700. Also I strongly believe you can't beat those little SD cards as a video recording medium. The incredible efficiency and quality of MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 and AAC used by the HD700 enable the practicality of flash memory HD movie recording. Solid state video recording is significantly more robust and convenient than tapes or discs, and with the price of SD and SDHC cards dropping, capacities ever growing (16GB and 32GB coming soon), now the time is ripe to dump mechanical storage formats.

[align=center]Samples[/align]Theuntouched / unedited samples below were all taken handheld with the HD700 in its default, out of the box, mode; full auto program mode without any filters or enhancements active (so EIS is OFF). Video mode: HD-SHQ (1280x720p 30fps); stills: 7MP (7M-S). All of the videos playback smoothly at 30fps, so if you experience playback issues try a different media player or PC.

The Cats of Parliament Hill: close-ups, full scene detail, zoom.
Squirrels Seagulls Ducks: Nature, overfed squirrels, seagulls and ducks in local park; camera motion in first clip.
Parliament Hill: full telephoto to wide, grass torture test, full range auto-focus test.
People & places: hard edges, movement, stereo effect.
Ladybug: macro focus (my very first test)
Indoor test similar to one I had posted for the CG65: dark room with spotlight on statue.

Four misc. still (7MP photo)untouched / unedited samples (thumbnails only below)

While I was waiting for the camera I made a Steve's Digicams Forum compatible animated avatar of the HD700 (if you want it, right-click it, save as...upload asavatar):

[align=left](last edited to update broken links to images)[/align]

reprazent Oct 19, 2007 2:30 PM

Thanks for this early review caelum!

looks like Sanyo's is continuing setting new standards with these hybrids.
can't wait to see these on sale over here in Europe.

herbs Oct 19, 2007 6:37 PM

Very impressive, and there are a few places in the UK quoting £335 for one.

subc Oct 19, 2007 9:17 PM

Hey Caelum, many thanks for posting those samples. I am impressed.

I was actually waiting to see a few examples of vide/audio and still images from the HD700 before ordering mine, and now I am anxious for not pre-ordering one :lol:

Have you tried editing the H.264 video files in programs other than the one included with the camera? (if any).. say, Vegas, Premiere, FCP, PureMotion EditStudio or maybe even Magix Movie Edit?

Any issues importing, applying effects, rendering out?
Is the video Interlaced or progressive? (when recording HD-SHQ @ 1280 x 720 <30fps, 9Mbps> )

Thanks! oh, and hi guys.. I am new here :P

Caelum Oct 20, 2007 12:18 AM

Hi subc, welcome to the forum.

All of the HD700's video modesrecord progressive video only. :G

Yes, I tried editing theHD700's AVC/H.264 MP4 footage in Sony Vegas 6.0d ( latest version is8 )and it works very well. No problems at all with trimming, applying effects, blends, etc. or rendering out, it all works fine. During editing the preview is not completely real-time,some complex effects bog down, but rendered outthey look great.

In fact, even when downsampling the HD video to DVD resolution, the resulting DVD will look really good. Using full DVD resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a high bit-rate you can actually create a "Superbit" type DVD from the edited source HD video that looks fantastic. :O

Oh, BTW guys, I just noticed Sanyo has posted an online Digital Movie Camera Usage Guide:
:arrow:Let's shoot more movies... with the Xacti HD700.

subc Oct 20, 2007 1:10 AM

Thanks a lot for the information. I was able to watch all the videos without a problem by using VideoLan player (windows).

Also, I was able to join them all together (following the numbering sequence) into a larger MP4 file with no recompression by using the latest version of Avidemux.

If you don't mind (and after giving you credit for the files), I plan to upload the long video (3min 20sec) to vimeo HD for others to see.
Granted, it won't be the original quality, but a close aproximation with a simple click to play all the videos.

Let me know if this is ok.


Caelum Oct 20, 2007 8:17 AM

subc, feel free to do anything with what I posted; if anyone else wants to host the samples anywhere else, go ahead. I personally think judging a camera from converted / re-compressed video can be misleading, which is why I like to see samples takendirectlyfrom the camera. Perhaps as a favor to others, if you upload to a flash format, which would undoubtedly be encoded at asignificantly lower bit-rate, you could make a clear point of this. Cheers.

subc Oct 20, 2007 12:56 PM

Awesome, and thanks.

Vimeo claims that it keeps all the specs of 720p HD video, but I am pretty sure the videos are re-compressed to a lower bitrate (5MBps, from the original 9MBps of the video files).

Anyway, here is the HD sample with a simple click.

Make sure to hit the fullscreen button (by default, HD videos are displayed at half pixel resolution to fit them on the webpage)

Enjoy! :G

Caelum Oct 20, 2007 3:27 PM

Thanks subc, Ilooked at itbut it plays backvery herky-jerky on Vimeo, not smooth at all, something seriously wrong with the frame rate / conversionthere.Given thatthe source wasaround 220MB, Vimeoonly sent downaround40MB forthe fuill"HD" feed, that'saround 1.6Mbps, no where near the 9Mbps of the original. You qualify it as "raw footage from a the HD700" on Vimeo...likeIwroteearlier I think this is misleading. Sorry I don't mean to be critical, the intention is very good, but I think it needs to be made clear as to not deceive others.

psphoto Oct 20, 2007 5:27 PM

Caelum, thanks for the very helpful post. I have tried them all, HD1, HD2, Canon TX1 and HD1000. All have their virtues and limitations. The HD1 and Canon have served me very well. The HD1000 had some great features - f1.8, much improved program, terrific screen. But having acclimated to the smaller cameras, it was just too big for me. I also found that 1080i was hard to deal with, even on powerful computers, and not that much better than 720P, even on a big HDTV.

I've ordered the HD700, which has the same screen and program in a smaller package. I'm disappointed to hear from you that they haven't done away with lens caps. It will be interesting to see if I can figure out a way to attach a wide angle adapter. Are there filter threads?? Is the lens set well behind the square opening?

If I've learned anything in 60 years of photography, it's that you can't have everything in one package. The hybrids are getting close, though.

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