Hitachi DZ-HS500

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Hitachi DZ-HS500
  • Hitachi DZ-HS500
  • Hitachi DZ-HS500
  • Hitachi DZ-HS500

Pros

  • Hybrid recording, Good image quality, 30x optical zoom

Cons

  • A little chunky

Bottom Line

A great digital video camera from Hitachi, the HS500SW combines two recording formats for added convenience and offers great quality video footage to boot.

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The latest iteration in its hybrid hard disk and DVD camcorder range, the Hitachi DZ-HS500SW is a great digital video camera. The combination of two technologies gives users more convenience than with a regular video camera, and while the feature set isn't all that robust it is serviceable and is paired with excellent quality video.

As most cameras sport a single recording technology, the hybrid nature of the HS500SW is what really sets it apart from the competition. Like some previous Hitachi units, such as the DZ-HS303, this model has both a hard disk and a DVD writer, and can switch between the two at the touch of a button. This time round the hard disk has been beefed up significantly to 30GB, which is a big increase over the 8GB of the previous model. It allows for 23 hours of footage to be stored at the standard compression level, 11 hours at Fine compression, and seven hours at Extra Fine.

The other nifty thing to note about having a combination product is the dubbing system. This allows you to copy the footage off the hard drive on to a DVD, which is ideal for archiving old footage. Ordinarily with a HDD based camera you have to store your videos on your PC once the drive fills up, but the HS500SW gives you an alternative to that. Dubbing can be done in a number of ways. You can dub everything on the drive, everything from a certain date or even pick out specific files to copy.

As with the previous model, this unit offers great quality video to go with the innovative hybrid system. Our test footage was clear and sharp with strongly defined edges and minimal graininess. Colours were bright and vibrant without being oversaturated, and noise wasn't an issue at all. Overall the HS500SW produced some of the best standard definition video footage we've seen under regular lighting conditions.

When we moved to low light, the picture degraded quite a bit. We used the camera's 'low light' setting, but it didn't seem to change much. We got a vague semblance of an image when shooting in a darkened room, but it was extremely noisy and none of the edges had any definition. Colours were distinguishable but poorly rendered. While this performance was quite poor, most camcorders struggle in low light, so it is hard to deduct too many marks for it.

We also tested the still images, however with just an 800K CCD capturing 640 x 480 resolution pictures we weren't expecting big things. The shots quickly proved us right. As with most camcorders, the still image function is merely an added bonus, as they are far too blurry and grainy to be used for regular sized prints. Images can either be written to an SD card or to the DVD, and if written to disc they can be bounced to the flash memory at any time.

The camera's features list is about as fleshed out as you'd expect from a mid-range model like this. There are a number of pre-set scene modes as well as manual, indoor, outdoor and automatic white balance options. Exposure can be adjusted and both automatic and manual focus modes are included. Also present are in-camera editing options. These include the standard array of cropping, moving and combining but anyone who wants to do any sort of serious editing at all is better using some sort of basic computer software.

Hitachi is pushing the one-second quick start time of this unit, and with good reason. It is a very speedy camera. If you regularly find yourself in situations where you need to be up and recording in a hurry, the snappy operating speeds of this model should please you.

Aesthetically the HS500SW is a little on the chunky side, but that is to be expected with two different recording technologies on board. It also houses a 30x optical zoom, which is a little above average for a consumer model, and should please many users. The chrome and silver colour scheme looks good but isn't particularly noteworthy. Meanwhile the control layout is quite standard, with a menu button and five-way directional pad doing the brunt of the work. There is also a series of shortcut keys in the panel behind the 2.7in LCD which allow you to change things like exposure and focus on the fly without sifting through the menu.

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