Sanyo made a literal and metaphorical 'splash' with its Xacti VPC-CA6, which it claimed could resist threatening torrents of water, coffee, saliva etc.
Emboldened by this stand against the elements, the company has now taken on the very might of the ocean with what it claims is the world's first waterproof digital movie camera. To do this it's taken the innards of the well-received VPC-CG65 and enclosed it in a watertight casing.
This waterproofed model can thus claim to capture video and stills from every part of the world's surface - not just the wimpish 29 per cent achieved by 'dry' camcorders. There is a depth limit of around 5ft and a time constraint of an hour, but that should adequately cover most underwater social situations.
But has Sanyo truly removed the boundaries of the hitherto earthbound video world? Or is this camcorder the embodiment of the hubris of a cabal of power-crazed madmen? Well thankfully, Digital Video is here to help answer just that kind of question.
Underwater fashion being what it is, white is the predominant colour here with splashes of grey and chrome. The need for aquatic simplicity has resulted in similar functionality from fewer controls.
From the front, the lens of the CA65 is housed within a squarer frame than the landlubbing equivalent and sports a flatter top. Other minor changes are the placing of the USB 2.0 socket inside the battery and SD card slot, a reduction from four to two slots for the stereo sound on the LCD exterior and a handle on the underside around which you can loop a handstrap while rearming your harpoon gun. Currents allowing, you can balance the Xacti on this unlikely looking pivot.
The CA65's main features are generally a good mix for the price. Most importantly, it can record video at 30fps at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels with a lowest quality 320 x 240 at 15fps sandwiching two others in between.
Video is compressed using the cutting-edge H.264 codec that enables more video and stills to be crammed onto the memory card - that the company has not kindly included. A 6MP CCD promises sharp still pictures with seven resolution and quality settings, which can be snapped during video recording.
A good selection of manual modes will suit those with independent inclinations, while extras include various options for tinkering with your pictures. Among the worthier features are red-eye correction and a space-saving option for scaling down still pictures.
Above water, video performance was comparable with the VPC-CG65, which is how it should be. Detail was reasonable for video and pretty sharp for stills, while colours were full-blooded if sometimes a few degrees off the reality.
Overall, pictures are more than satisfactory for the price so long as you're recording family events rather than arty home movies. Operations were carried out with the minimum of fuss, whether downloading to your computer or using the manual options.
For our underwater testing we ideally needed a Caribbean beach location, but budget constraints led us to a bucket of salty water in Elephant and Castle. Beyond the distortions of light refraction (and we can't take Sanyo to task for the laws of physics), it passed the test, shooting respectable video and stills while underwater.
The VPC-CA65 was built on solid foundations with the proven performance of the non-waterproofed version. Our first task was to check whether the modifications had compromised its performance, the second to establish whether it sank or swam in the underwater department. It passed both tests. So if you want a budget camcorder that works well above or below the water line, audition this one, and no others.