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If you were to pick a type of device which has most closely mimicked the increase in technology of all consumer products since the 1990s, I think it would have to be the Camcorder invention. A revolutionary product at its time of arrival, this video-recording device allowed every-day folk to capture important family events in good quality, from a small (relative to the time) user-friendly piece of kit. Nothing had ever come before it which performed a service similar in any way to this, and that made it a very special purchase which leaving friends and family hopelessly jealous. Today, the camcorder is as advanced and as small as ever, but this 'Hitachi VM-D865LA Digital8' is a good example of a recorder from about 10-years back - the big change from then to now is the fact that this kind of technology now fits inside devices as small as phones and MP3 players.
Sony introduced their Digital8 format back in 1999, and that was the trigger for other companies to product their own individual models of camcorder based on this platform. It was a new age of inexpensive digital video for the consumer, and consumers of all societal classes.
Hitachi's model has a 2.5 inch flip-out screen (as was the preferred style of camcorder screen at the end of the 20th century) which is a decent size for both playing back recorded footage and looking through when actually recording. Having a digital screen was such a big advantage over having to bend and look through the original site of the device (still included in this model). The only disadvantage of this is the fact that strong sources of light can glare from the screen making it difficult to see.
The camcorder fits nicely into one hand and the weight of the Hitachi is lesser enough for the strength of one hand to support it well. You could potentially record over an hour of footage and not feel the strain on your right hand. However, if you are left-handed you have a problem because the whole operation and ergonomics of the contraption are suited to right-handed people. There is even a strap to support the back of your right hand, gluing it to the recorder is a secure fashion which promotes use of the device in more interesting ways. By that I mean more inventive angles. Perhaps this is a largely un-explored use of the recorder, but my main use of the Hitachi as a kid was to create short films with it with my mates - and that required a durable hand-held which could cope with the fast paces action scenes of our underrated movies! It is my belief that we gave the camcorder the best crash-test possible - I lost count how many times we dropped the thing, and it never died on us.
The main negative outcome experienced when using the camera for hours on end was the rapidly decreasing battery life it had. The more you use and recharge, the more time you lose - and this time begins to fall quickly once the device reaches a certain age. The explanation? ...batteries were no where near as advanced as they are now back then.
By far the most fun and greatest addition to this model is respect to over digital8 alternatives, is the excellent editing software it has pre-loaded. FireWire allows you to chop and change pre-recorded footage, add some ridiculous (useless) effects which are just funny, and relay audio over the content at different points. Using the software is a little harder than equivalent software today, but once you get to know it it becomes a quick and easy process. And it's a process that can be continued on the computer if the required disk is installed prior to this.
- Some Technical Spec -
Lens: 22:1 optical, 500:1 digital
Audio: 16-bit or 12-bit
Digital effects: 5
Inputs: FireWire, S-video, composite, stereo audio, microphone
Outputs: FireWire, S-video, composite, stereo audio
Overall, I think this is a great little camcorder which represents a milestone is consumer recording advancement. The technology may have surpassed this by some distance now, but the Digital8 format, and Hitachi branded camera still holds a place in many of our hearts.