We had been used to Sanyo camcorders not putting up much of a fight when it comes to image quality. But, like Samsung, Sanyo has been gradually improving this aspect of its products, culminating in the impressive VPC-HD2000. Unfortunately, with its small CMOS sensor, the WH1 was never going to be capable of feats matching the HD2000. In good lighting, performance is decent enough, with faithful colour and enough detail to warrant the HD classification.
However, low light performance is crucial for all camcorders, particularly one intended for shooting in murky underwater conditions, and this is where the WH1 comes more unstuck. In poor illumination, a reasonable amount of colour is maintained and white balance stays relatively accurate, but there are clear signs of grain and the overall image is dull. Enabling High Sensitivity brightens things up considerably, but at the expense of seething grain, which sometimes sports a criss-cross pattern reminiscent of tartan. This translates to acceptable performance in shallow water in good light, but try diving close to the 3m limit on a dull day and you may not be so pleased with the results.
Underneath the SDHC slot is a proprietary dual-function port for USB 2.0 and A/V, with a composite and stereo RCA audio breakout cable provided for the latter, although component is an optional extra. There is also an HDMI port, although this is of the mini variety so will require an adapter for attaching to an HDTV, which isn't included. Video is recorded as MPEG-4 AVC H.264, but not in AVCHD format. Instead, MP4 files are used, which we have found aren't as universally compatible with editing software. Adobe software in particular has trouble interpreting these correctly. The WH1 actually has video and image editing capabilities built in, should you not have a computer to hand for this, although these are very modest.
On paper, Sanyo looked like it had stolen a march on Panasonic with the Xacti VPC-WH1, as the first consumer-oriented waterproof HD camcorder. But whilst its moisture-repelling capabilities are commendable, video performance in poorly lit underwater conditions isn't so outstanding. Nevertheless, you will still be able to grab many moments of aquatic pleasure, and at under £300 it's incredibly good value. So this may not be the perfect HD video water baby, but at least Sanyo's Xacti VPC-WH1 won't mean you have to dig deep to dive deep.