Hybrid digital camera/video recorders have historically let us down. They tend to be slow performers that fulfill neither role well. We did, however, think that Sanyo was on to something with its original C1 hybrid, released in the U.S. by Fisher as the FVD-C1. The second-generation Xacti C5 proves our hunch was right.
The C1’s video suffered from severe grain in anything approaching even moderate lighting, and overexposure was a problem in bright sunlight. The C5’s video, however, captured at the same VGA resolution (640x480, 30fps), is dramatically improved in both conditions. (While better, noise is still an issue in low-light scenarios.) The C5 also sports wind-noise-reduction and image-stabilization technology, which help deliver a better video-viewing experience. A 1GB SD card holds 60 minutes of video shot at the highest resolution, which conveniently is about the length of one battery charge.
The boost in video performance comes courtesy of a new 5x optical zoom lens and 5.1-megapixel CCD. This combo also produces crisp, well-saturated stills—particularly outdoors. (Plus, the zoom is much quieter than with the C1, so you can use it freely when shooting video.)
The C5 shouldn’t be confused with a full-featured point-and-shoot camera, however: It doesn’t offer a burst mode, for example, and shot-to-shot performance is a bit slow at two seconds (without flash). Plus, its flash range is extremely limited. The C5 boasts the ability to capture stills while shooting video, but using this “feature” results in noticeable pauses in your video when stills are shot at the highest resolution.
The Xacti sports a slimmer formfactor that makes the C1 look antiquated, and the bright, 2-inch LCD displays sharp video playback and is serviceable for composition—even in direct sunlight. Like the C1, this camera talks to you, which is a little creepy, but the C5 is the best compact hybrid digital camera/video recorder we’ve tested yet.