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The camcorder market used to be a four-horse race, with the Japanese quartet of Sony, Panasonic, Canon and JVC taking the lion's share of attention. But the slow convergence with digital cameras, and digital technology in general, has given other brands the chance to muscle in on the action. Samsung has shown it can match the big names for image quality with its VP-HMX20, and now it's Sanyo's turn in the limelight. The new Xacti VPC-HD2000 is the first consumer Full HD camcorder to offer 60 progressive frames per second shooting.
In the past, Sanyo has distinguished itself by taking a fairly unorthodox approach to the design of its camcorders. Instead of using the traditional handycam or palmcorder formats, its Xactis seemed to owe as much to Philishave, with a pistol handgrip and protruding lens. The VPC-HD2000 continues in this vein, and doesn't look physically that different to the VPC-HD1000 (it records to SD/SDHC memory cards too). But what's inside has been significantly upgraded, and there's a similarly featured handycam-style model called the VPC-FH1 due in a few months, too.
The imaging sensor is still a healthily large 1/2.5in CMOS, but this now has a native 8.1-megapixel resolution, twice that of the previous generation. This doesn't have a benefit for video shooting, as 2.08-megapixels are all you need for Full HD, and the HD1000 already shot at 1,920 x 1,080.
The biggest upside to this high-res sensor is that you can now take digital photos natively at 3,264 x 2,448, and Sanyo throws in interpolation as well to provide the option for 12-megapixel stills at 4,000 x 3,000. To draw attention to these compact-busting digital photography capabilities, Sanyo is calling the HD2000 a Dual Camera, implying that this model is as comfortable in either camp.
Sanyo also claims the HD2000 has a 16x Advanced Zoom, where the HD1000 only offered 10x optical zoom. However, Advanced Zoom isn't quite the same as Optical Zoom. When shooting video, the camcorder is using more pixels on its CMOS than it needs for 1,920 x 1,080, so it can safely zoom in on a portion of the sensor without losing resolution.
This is not a unique feature - Canon also uses the technique to provide its Advanced Zoom in the FS11. The only potential downside is that, as you will be using a smaller physical area of the chip when zoomed in to the maximum, low light performance will be slightly worse.