Unlike the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD1000 and HD2000, the CA9 doesn’t offer much for the enthusiast, although the underwater format precludes this anyway. There are no mini-jacks for headphones or an external microphone, nor an accessory shoe, and the tripod mount is a single screw thread, with no extra hole to stop rotation. So the CA9 is focused primarily on its moisture-related functions, and if you want a more flexible, non-waterproof option the HD2000 would be the better choice.
There are some manual settings available, but they’re so buried within the menu you probably won’t want to use them that often. The first section contains the scene modes, including the all-important Under Water option. But Sanyo has chosen to put the digital effects here, and left the more useful manual options for the second and third pages.
Manual focusing is available in the second page, but uses the D-pad controller so isn’t very finely graded, offering only 16 steps. At least the Super Macro mode keeps objects as little as 1cm away sharp. The second menu page also includes photography-oriented options such as ISO settings from 50 to 1,600 plus focus and exposure metering mode configuration.
Shutter and aperture priority modes can be found in the third menu page, alongside a fully manual alternative which lets you configure both individually. Again, the D-pad is used to select values. Shutter speeds range from 4 seconds to 1/1,500th, while aperture ranges from F3.5 to F8. However, shutter speeds below 1/30th are only relevant when shooting photos.
You can select these options in video mode, but they don’t change anything. In the same part of the menu are white balance settings, plus the face chaser and high sensitivity options. The former picks up human faces and sets exposure accordingly, whilst the latter is essentially a single-step boost in video gain, and pretty useful in low light.
We also found the controls a little small and fiddly to use. There are two buttons for triggering video and taking pictures, but both are very close together. Likewise the rocker D-pad, which doubles for zooming and menu navigation, is rather small so anyone with a larger than average-sized thumb will have trouble operating it. At least the record buttons have ridges to help you detect which one you’re pressing without looking. It’s quite easy to switch the camera into playback mode accidentally, too, as the button for this sits precisely where your thumb falls when holding the pistol grip.