* Prices may differ from that shown
Being the proud owner of a DVD recorder with a hard drive, I felt that I would benefit from having a camcorder that recorded straight onto DVDs. Why, you might ask, would I want this? Well by recording straight onto a DVD I would be able to cut out a conversion in making my final DVDs.
With my last camcorder I had to play it into the recorder at real time, and the recording would go through a digital-analogue-digital conversion that would result in loss of quality. However, with a camcorder that records direct to DVD, I would be able to load it straight into the recorder, and "high speed dub", that is make a direct digital copy without any conversion, this should result in no loss of quality.
As this was my only real requirement, I checked out several price comparison sites and found the Hitachi DZ MV550E at Dixons for the very reasonable price of £375 including delivery.
~~~In the Box~~~
Within the rather over sized box came:
* The Camcorder itself
* The re-chargeable battery
* An AC adapter/charger
* DC power cord
* Power cable
* Remote control and lithium battery
* AV/S output cable
* Shoulder Strap
* Lens Cap and string
* Single-sided 8ch DVD-RAM disc in holder
* PC connection cable
* 2 spare lens covers
* Software CD-ROM
* Instruction manuals in various languages.
I actually felt the the DVD-RAM disc was a nice touch as when I have previously bought camcorders the only thing preventing me from recording straight away is the lack of a tape.
As I had to wait for the battery to charge, I felt the only sensible thing to do was to check out the CD-ROM which featured the following :
*DVDCAM USB Driver*
This will allow your camera to be recognised by the computer when you plug it in via a spare USB port.
*UDF Driver (DVD-RAM Driver)*
This will allow your computer to recognise the camcorder as a DVD-RAM drive.
This program allows you to edit the video directly on the DVD-RAM disc. Please note: any changes you make will be permanent. You can also create nice little intros for your scenes here, although there is only a limited choice.
A DVD authoring program, that will help you create a final DVD. This is a great, easy to use authoring program that will not only produce nice menus and the files required to create a DVD, but also burn it if you have a DVD writer. However I still prefer using Nero to actually burn the final DVD.
All of these programs installed quickly and effortlessly on my computer that has the following specifications:
1 Gig RAM
160 Gig Hard drive
The camcorder itself weighs in at a very reasonable 500g (without battery) which is almost half the weight of my previous camcorder.
And at 64mm x 89mm x 146mm, is pretty small and compact, without looking silly. It has a nice silver finish, and to make things even better you can change the lens casing to one of three colours, silver, matte silver or metallic blue.
So I will give it 10/10 for styling.
There are three recording qualities available:
Extra Fine - This allows 18mins per side of DVD-RAM (not available for DVD-R)
*This is brillant quality, maybe best for those extra special occasions.
Fine - This allows 30mins per side of DVD-RAM or DVD-R
*I personally could'nt see very much difference between this and standard (well maybe very slight)
Standard - This allows 60mins per side DVD-RAM or DVD-R
*A very acceptable quality for everyday recordings.
You are also able to store upto 999 photos on a DVD, I forgot to say this camera also takes low resolution photos.
The suppiled battery lasts for upto 145mins after a full 90 minute charge, which is a very reasonable amount of time if you ask me.
~~~Ease of use~~~
All menus on the camcorder are accessed through a very nice joystick (much the same as you find on many phones). The layouts are very logical.
The LCD screen is a nice size and very clear, so you can easily see what you are recording.
Once you have set your recording quality use is as easy as point and your away.
Although you can start recording without playing with the settings, there are plenty of advanced option to choose from, including white balance, colour saturation, contrast etc. By playing about with some of these settings, I've greatly improved the final recording.
~~~Editing your recordings~~~
There is a facility to delete unwanted recordings using the camcorder, and unlike a camcorder using a tape, you can delete from any part of the recording and re-gain the space. This however is only true when you are using a DVD-RAM disc as it records in a special non-linear format known as DVD-VR. You can also create playlists, where you can chose the order in which different scenes are played.
~~~Transfering your recordings~~~
As well as the standard methods of transferring through A/V cables you can turn the camcorder in a virtual DVD-RAM drive for your PC, how cool is that.
After installing the software, you connect the camcorder via USB, and suddenly you have a new drive. The DVDMovieAlbum makes editing and transferring your film a breeze, and then with MYDVD you can create a stylish finshed DVD without even breaking a sweat.
~~~Memory Card Slot~~~
The camcorder also features a SD memory card slot, so that you can store photos separately to your video. However, as the photo quality is not particularly fantastic (my 4 megapixel camera is far better), I've not actually bothered with this feature.
~~~The price of Discs~~~
This is the real down point, not only are the DVD-RAM discs very hard to get hold of, they're also very expensive, coming in at £34.99 for 5 on the Hitachi website.
You can find more information including the complete specification from the Hitachi website at :
(remove the space after :84)
I bought this camcorder from Dixons at the extremely low price of £375 including delivery, other on-line stores are selling it for anything upto £600.
I would say this camcorder is aimed towards the computer user, who is perhaps already creating their own DVD's. As I fall into this category I am thrilled with this camcorder, which has made my life much easier.
Although originally bought to use with a DVD-recorder, computer use is so simple that I think I'll stick with that route.
If you're a computer user, that wants to make home videoing easier then this is the product for you.