Is that a camcorder in your pocket, Mr. Vice President?
No, you haven't accidentally stumbled on to Gizmodo. But I'm mightily excited by the prospect of the new palm-sized Sanyo Xacti C4 digital camcorder, successor to the cool-but-overpriced-and-underfeatured Fisher FVDC1. Like a growing number of new digital camcorder designs, this one is tapeless, relying on an SD memory card for storage. Since the maximum capacity of these little postage-stamp-size cards is now two gigabytes, it's theoretically possible to record more than an hour and 20 minutes of high-quality digital video in a single outing (though the lithium-ion battery only has a capacity of an hour in record mode, so don't get your hopes up too much). Like a digital still camera, the C4 connects to your computer via USB 2.0, transferring MP4 files quickly and easily into video editing software. In fact, the C4 doubles as a digital still camera, with a 4-megapixel CCD for clear, crisp detail. Besides numerous small tweaks, the C4 also offers one significant improvement over its Fisher-branded predecessor: image stabilization. Given its six-ounce weight, this feature strikes me as an essential one.
For the moment, Sanyo is only marketing the C4 in Japan. But you can buy a gray-market one in the U.S. from Semsons, a well-respected West Coast etailer. And here's the best news: It's selling for $550, which is fully $250 less than you can currently buy its Fisher predecessor for. Unlike the Fisher FVDC1, the C4 doesn't come with a memory card—though this may be a hidden advantage, since the Fisher ships with a paltry 512 MB memory card (20 minutes of high-quality recording capacity), instead of a one- or two-gigabyte one. So, even adding a $90 one-gig memory card, you still end up money ahead, and with a solid 40-plus minutes of recording time into the bargain. Of course, you may want to wait until Sanyo brings the C4 officially to the U.S., though there's no guarantee they'll sell it for any less than the Fisher. You will have the assurance, of course, of local warranty support and a manual that comes in English, not Japanese. (Sanyo has voluminous information about the C4 in English on their web site, so I have to think the rollout to U.S. consumers isn't far off.)
As for this consumer, well, I happen to be one of those who believes real men don't read manuals. And besides, I can't resist the idea of an orange (or blue or champagne) camcorder that I can slip in my pants pocket without being mistaken for Dick Cheney.