Hitachi DZ-GX20A DVD Digital Camcorder Review

DVD Digital Camcorder Ace

Geared towards the shooter looking for an all-around solution, the Hitachi DZ-GX20A has powerful optics and intriguing in-camera editing features. This camcorder has a lot to offer beginner and intermediate shooters with its versatility and stunning image.

Looking Good

The DZ-GX20A has some features that make it a very useful tool. Hitachi has continued to refine their DVD digital camcorders and this particular model shows off a slim and hassle-free design.

The camcorder fits nicely in your hand and is easy to operate. Its slim profile contributes to the relatively small size and lightweight properties. The most convenient part of the exterior design, however, would be the easily-accessible controls.

Some conveniently placed controls are on the same side of the camcorder as the 2.5-inch color LCD. You can override the auto exposure and auto focus with their relative buttons. There is also a Quick Menu, back light and display button. It’s useful to have these controls right at your fingertips, especially when shooting in locations that have tricky lighting conditions. Additionally, there are the disc/menu navigation and playback controls just above those buttons.

The opposite side of the camcorder, of course, is home to your right hand and the fundamental record start/stop button and zoom rocker. The Electronic Image Stabilizer performs well. However, in rare circumstances, the EIS over compensates during pans. The EIS did more good than harm overall, and we are quite pleased with its ability at telephoto ranges.

Quick Disc Fast for a DVD Digital Camcorder

A big negative to DVD digital camcorders is load up time. Hitachi has improved the time it takes to load up and start recording and this is one of the quickest we’ve seen to date. This will definitely benefit people who are recording live events and family moments that can’t be re-staged.

The DZ-GX20A digital camcorder captures on DVD-R, DVD-RAM and memory cards. You can also capture stills 1600 by 1200 pixels and movies to the SD card (not included.) Three quality setting are available, and at the best resolution, you can save approximately 29 stills on a 32 MB SD card and 750 stills on a DVD-R/RAM. Hitachi has added an on-board flash to make most of the 2.12 Megapixel still imager. The flash automatically detects for under exposed scenes and enables itself.

Recording on DVD-RAM offers more features, such as in-camera editing. You can save your recorded video clips and organize them into a playlist that plays only the clips you choose and save these playlists on the disc, too. This way you can put together a sequence of clips for viewing, rather than having to fast-forward and skip through an entire disc and you can combine and divide clips as well.
The real beauty of recording on DVD-RAM, of course, is that you can reuse the disc over and over again unlike DVD-R discs. Additionally, you can delete scenes you don’t want to save. This is especially handy at the highest recording mode, since you’re limited to 20 minutes a disc. If your primary concern is having a disc that is compatible on DVD players, consider using DVD-R discs. All in all, having both formats to choose from makes this camcorder a handy, dandy tool.

Pumped Up Audio

You might accidentally cover up the on-board mic that’s located just below the lens in the front of the camcorder, but if you’re careful and don’t fidget with the hand strap, there should be no serious problems.

The sound performance itself from the mic is fairly rich and full in tone. It performs very well at picking up sound from distances, too. Overall, the audio is par for the course, but if you want more from your audio you should consider using the mic jack and/or accessory shoe.

These two features will enable you to use microphones more easily and give additional control over the sound you capture, however, you should note that there’s no headphone jack to accurately monitor your signals. Audio on this camcorder records Dolby Digital stereo, MPEG Audio layer 2–standard DVD audio. Unfortunately, there is not any control over the audio settings other than turning on a wind filter to reduce wind noise on the on-board microphone.


Top Gun Image

The DZ-GX20’s image sensor is the biggest of Hitachi’s DVD camcorders and the results are especially pleasing. The highest recording quality yields a crisp, natural looking image. It’s remarkable that it looks as good as it does, considering that there’s a significant amount of compression used for recording to DVD.

The color reproduction is notably excellent as well. In outdoor settings, where there’s plenty of light, colors are rich and bright. In scenes that are too dark the color production obviously doesn’t perform as desired, but what’s interesting is that there is very little noise and the image looks remarkably smooth.

Final Word

While DVD camcorders have their problems with its relative compression schemes, this camcorder seems to break the DVD frustration mold. Its excellent image quality and decent sound make it a great tool for casual shooters looking to capture family memories or the vacation of a life time. With the wireless remote, a two-hour battery, and the DVDCAM software for making movies, now you’re looking at a complete camcorder solution that you can continue to use for a long time.

TECH SPECS

Format: DVD-RAM/-R

Number of CCDs: 1

Size of CCDs: 1 / 3.6"

Pixels on CCD: (k) 2,120

Video Effective Pixels (k): 1,230

Focus: auto/manual

Shutter Speed: auto/manual

Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/4000

Minimum Shutter Speed: 1/4

Lens f Stop: f1.8-f2.3

Program Exposure Modes: 6

Optical Zoom: 10x

Focal Length: 4.5-45mm

Image Stabilization: Electronic

Manual White Balance: yes

Viewfinder: 0.2" color

LCD Monitor: 2.5" color TFT 120k

Progressive Scan: no

HD Modes: no

Video In: S-Video, Composite

Video Out: S-Video, Composite, USB

Mono/Stereo Recording: Stereo

Microphone In: Yes

VU Meters: no

Manual Audio Level Controls: no

Headphone Jack: no

Speaker: yes

Still Shot Media: SD memory card

Memory Card Included: no

Flash: Yes

Wireless Remote: Yes

External Battery Charger Provided: Yes

Battery Type: Lithium Ion

Tape Loading Configuration: Side Tray

Onboard Video Light: no

Accessory Shoe: Yes, Hot

STRENGTHS

  • Great image quality
  • Mic input
  • USB connector

WEAKNESSES

  • EIS jerks during pans
  • Blocky DVD compression at Low Quality Settings
  • Mediocre low light performance

SUMMARY

Overall, the DZ-GX20A has one of the prettiest pictures from a DVD camcorder. It also has some nice in-camera editing options.

Mark Montgomery is Videomaker’s Editorial Assistant and has worked on nationally televised productions.

$1,000

Hitachi

1855 Dornoch Ct.

San Diego, CA 92154

(800) HITACHI

www.hitachi.com

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