With its much larger sensor, the CA9 provides noticeably better image quality than the WX1. In bright conditions, colours are not as saturated as with some consumer camcorders, particularly Sony’s, but still relatively faithful. Overall, the dynamic range is good, although as the resolution is 720p you don’t get as much detail as with Full HD.
However, shooting in less benevolent conditions is what the CA9 is intended for, and fortunately its low light abilities are distinctly beyond those of the WH1. The image is slightly brighter under the same level of poor illumination. However, the High Sensitivity mode boosts colour and brightness more effectively. There is quite a bit of extra grain added, but the improved visibility will be a major boon in murky underwater conditions.
The still image performance is also quite decent in the top quality modes. The lens doesn’t have a particularly wide angle, so you need to stand back to capture a nearby scene. But colour and detail are more than adequate for a dual-function device, particularly considering the CA9’s price.
Although the VPC-CA9 is still not a premium HD camcorder in a waterproof body, it does offer the best low-light performance of any underwater-oriented model we’ve tested so far. It’s also priced under £300, making it cheap enough even to be a second camcorder. So although Panasonic’s SDR-SW21 is more robust, and Sanyo’s own VPC-WH1 will go deeper, the VPC-CA9 is most likely to shoot presentable footage. And that makes it our favourite underwater camcorder of the moment.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8