A waterproof camcorder that's great for fooling about with on holiday, but most beach fans will be better off with a video-capable waterproof camera.
1/6in CMOS sensor, 1,280×720, 640×480, 30.0x zoom, 364.0kg
While summer’s here, you’re hopefully going to be off to sunny climes to lounge around the pool or on the beach.
Sand and surf may be attractive for us, but delicate electronics can suffer in these conditions. Last month we reviewed a range of waterproof digital cameras, and this month we thought we’d take a look at Sanyo’s VPC-WH1 waterproof camcorder.
It certainly looks the part, eschewing the usual black and silver camcorder colour scheme for something a bit more fun. The white-and-blue body and porthole-like lens cover make it look right at home next to your flip-flops and sun cream. It’s fully waterproof to a depth of 3m (10 feet), making it fine for swimming pools and snorkelling, but not suitable for the rigours of scuba diving.
As well as the usual record button on the rear, there’s a second button on the right-hand side towards the front. This is useful when you’re holding the camcorder in two hands in front of you. However, instead of a wrist strap there’s only the usual grip band. We’d advise getting a strap to prevent you dropping it. It’s not drop-proof, like many cameras in last month’s Labs, but if it survives the fall then any muck should be easy to rinse off.
As a result of all the waterproofing, the controls feel a bit spongy and lack feedback. They are clearly marked, though, and many of the buttons have textured surfaces for easier grip. The toggle on top controls the 30x optical zoom. There’s only electronic stabilisation, however, and we found it hard to keep shots steady at maximum magnification.
The VPC-WH1 is an HD camcorder but it’s limited to shooting video with a resolution of 1,280×720 (720p) at 30fps. This is the same specification as many budget camcorders, such as Kodak’s Zi6. The video was disappointing, even compared with that of budget models. In bright conditions, there was a lack of fine detail and reds looked pinkish. In more challenging lighting, there was plenty of noise. Underwater this noise was compounded by video compression artefacts arising from the constant ripples in the water. Its 2-megapixel stills can’t compete with those of a modern digital camera.
Video is recorded in H.264 at 9Mbit/s with AAC stereo audio. It’s stored on SDHC cards and you’ll get almost two hours of footage on an 8GB card. Alongside the card slot is a USB interface plus AV and HDMI outputs. The bottom opens up to reveal the battery, which lasted for an amazing three hours and 20 minutes of continuous recording.
The VPC-WH1’s image quality is bettered by camcorders that are a fraction of its price, but those devices aren’t waterproof. However, many waterproof digital cameras have HD video modes, and they take far better stills. We’d recommend Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FT1 for both video and stills, which costs just £250 inc VAT.
|LCD screen size
|Video recording format
|Video recording media
|AAC 48KHz stereo
|Maximum image resolution
|AV out, HDMI out
|Battery charging position
|one year RTB