$2,000

Hitachi

2000 Sierra Point Parkway

Brisbane, CA 94005-1835

(800) HITACHI

www.hitachi.com

Hitachi made a name for itself in the consumer electronics industry as a company that’s not afraid to explore the cutting-edge of product development. Some might even call it the bleeding edge, considering the failure of Hitachi’s innovative MPEG Camera. It hit the market several years ago as the first-ever, hard disk-based consumer camcorder at $2,400. It is now available through mail order for under $200.

Undaunted and still willing to produce products that dazzle consumers with their innovative features, Hitachi now offers the DZ-MV100A DVD-RAM camcorder, which instead of tape, utilizes a two-sided, floppy disc-sized DVD-RAM disc for recording video, sound and still images. The DZ-MV100A truly represents a breakthrough in digital video recording, storage and even editing within the camera. With random-access to recorded material, this camera allows users to instantly play any clip on the side of the disc that’s currently being been recorded to. No fast-forwarding or rewinding is necessary to locate specific clips. Furthermore, users can trim, split, join and rearrange clips right there in the camera. This offers a whole new perspective on the term in-camera editing. The DZ-MV100A gives 60 minutes of recording at full resolution and 120 minutes at standard. Imagine shooting a wedding video and then selecting, sequencing and trimming the best shots, adding titles, wipes and fades, then viewing the finished video at the reception, without ever needing another piece of equipment outside the camera.

It’s a pretty amazing concept, to be sure. But nonetheless, Hitachi’s DZ-MV100A is not without its flaws. The lack of a headphone jack to monitor audio while you shoot is one of the unit’s key problems more on that later. To put the camera through its paces, we took the Hitachi DZ-MV100A on a typical vacation-style journey, then cut a finished video while sitting in an airline seat on the return journey.


Solid in the Hand

The overall design of the DZ-MV100A digital video camera is stylish and ergonomic. The unit has a solid feel, and all controls are easily accessible. The joystick-style disc navigation controls located under the flip-out, 3.5-inch LCD monitor were especially user-friendly and responsive, and made it easy to locate and edit our clips within the camera.

The autofocus system was a bit sluggish to respond, but it did succeed in resolving a sharp focus, and movement in the frame did not fool it.


The Test Drive

We accessed the manual focus control via a small wheel located at the rear of the camera. Pushing the Focus button and manipulating the wheel allowed us to attain crisp focus. It’s not the best system for focusing during shooting, but it did work very well for a focus system of its type.

The exposure system worked the same way as the focus system. For manual exposure, pressing the button and dialing the wheel adjusted the aperture. The autoexposure, like the autofocus, was accurate but a little sluggish.

The unit’s 720,000-pixel CCD has enough resolution power to support the 48:1 digital zoom range without introducing noticeable pixellation when zoomed all the way in. It’s also sufficient to provide excellent loss-free image stabilization. (Note: for still pictures, the pixel count of the CCD jumps up to 1,100,000, hence the megapixel designation, as well as the unit’s ability to capture truly stunning still images.)

For capturing audio, the DZ-MV100A has a well-placed stereo microphone, plus a mini-jack for an external microphone. We wonder why Hitachi didn’t choose to include a headphone jack to go with the mike jack.

Another disappointment was the DZ-MV100A’s agonizingly slow power-up to record times. While some camcorders are capable of going from "off" to "record" in just a couple of seconds, the DZ-MV100A took nearly half-a-minute to perform this function. For most users, this is not a problem; however, those who need to capture an event quickly, (such as news gatherers and nature videographers), this is a major drawback.


On Playback

In general, the quality of the DZ-MV100A’s images and sound was excellent. Colors came through richly saturated, and the Dolby AC3 audio was superb. The MPEG-2 codec, however, which the camera uses to record video and audio, is susceptible to digital artifacts (distortion), especially when panning or performing other camera movements.

The editing features of the video camera were very intuitive and easy to work with, but exhibited limitations. There’s no way to replace or insert audio, for example.

All in all, the DZ-MV100A is an excellent digital video camera with a few key flaws. It points the way to an entirely new way of envisioning how video is shot and edited. We look forward to seeing how these brand-new, cutting edge ideas will be implemented in future products of its type.

TECH SPECS

Format: DVD-RAM

Lens: 12:1 optical 48:1 digital zoom, f/2.0, 37mm filter diameter

Image Sensor: 1/4-inch Progressive Scan CCD (720,000 pixels)

Viewfinder: 3.5-inch color LCD monitor, .44-inch color LCD viewfinder

Focus: auto, manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/4000 sec

Exposure: auto, manual, program autoexposure (sports, surf and snow, portrait, spotlight)

White Balance: auto, manual

Digital Effects: fade, wipe, black and white

Audio: MPEG, Dolby AC3

Inputs: FireWire, S-video, AV, mini-mike

Outputs: FireWire, S-video, AV

Edit Interface: FireWire

Other Features: in-camera editing, digital stills, instant random access to recorded clips

Dimensions: 2 9/16 (w) x 1 15/16 (h) x 4 1/8 (d) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery): 1.83 pounds

STRENGTHS

  • Good picture quality
  • Digital still features, including flash
  • Random-access in-camera editing

    WEAKNESSES

  • Expensive
  • DVD-RAM media not widely available
  • No headphone jack

    Performance Times

  • Pause to Record: 1/2 second
  • Power-up to Record: 25 seconds

    SUMMARY
    A nice digital video camera for the early adopter with some very innovative features.

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