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In still picture mode the HD1 offers 5.1 megapixel resolution, with an image size of 2,592 x 1,944, which is the standard 4:3 aspect ratio. It also offers an interpolated 10-megapixel option, but I’d generally recommend avoiding things like that, just as I advise against using digital zoom, which the HD1 also has (10x).
Sanyo’s original hybrid camera, the VPC-C4, suffered from terrible still picture quality, so this was my main concern about the HD1. Thankfully it is much improved, although it is still not without its problems. Focusing is quick and accurate, and the multi-zone exposure meter produces good results even in very high contrast situations. The zoom is not stepped, and has a proportional speed control, so accurate framing is possible.
The only real weakness is in the image processing engine. It over-sharpens pictures to the point where they look like interpolated images from a much smaller CCD. While edges are sharp, a lot of fine detail is lost to the sharpening process. It also over-saturates all red tones, making them look gaudy and surreal. I was less than impressed by the image noise present in 400 ISO shots. In short, it still isn’t as good as a dedicated 5-megapixel super-zoom still camera such as the Canon S2 IS or Sony DSC-H1.
The real downside to the HD1 however is the price. It is a whopping £699.89 on the high street, and even from discounted online retailers it is still a wince-inducing £539.59. That’s a lot of money for a 5MP camera, even one with a 10x zoom lens, and is well above average for a digital camcorder. However it’s not too bad a price for an HD camcorder, since the award winning Sony HC3E, is closer to £800.
Still, if you are a dedicated (and wealthy) gadget freak, and you have a real need for a compact HD camcorder and a decent digital camera in one, then it really is the only show in town.
The Sanyo VPC-HD1 is very expensive, and has lower photographic quality than a dedicated 5-megapixel still camera, however it is a unique product that offers features that can’t be found elsewhere. Build quality, handling and performance are good, and it is the closest thing yet to a successful hybrid still/video camera.
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