Hitachi DZ-MV100A

As with many other first efforts, this DVD videocamera is not perfect yet.

The chief problems are to do with it being a little ahead of its time in some areas, and behind in others. The DVD-RAM format on which it records can only be read by DVD drives conforming to the Book 2.1 standard, and these have only been on the market for a few months - so you will probably need a new DVD-ROM drive to be able to read its files. On the other hand, unlike most digital video cameras which have standardised on FireWire to connect (see the feature beginning on page 82), the DZ-MV100A inexplicably uses the much slower USB. Although I think leaving out FireWire is a mistake, the DVD incompatibility problem should go away as more new drives enter the market.

Aside from these teething troubles, the camera is a high-quality piece of work with a 1.1 megapixel CCD that can take still photos at 1280x960 resolution. Video quality is excellent, as it is with most digital cameras, but the use of DVD-RAM offers certain advantages. It's less susceptible to wear and damage than tape, and because it's a random-access storage medium, Hitachi has been able to implement a very convenient menu for both finding and editing video clips. The downside is that the 8cm discs, which can hold one or two hours of video depending on recording mode, will probably cost about $50 each. This is not a disaster, since the discs are re-useable and the video can be stored permanently on other media, so you really only need one - but still, the ability to buy many of them without blowing the budget would be convenient.

Our test unit was an NTSC model, though a PAL version will be available later in the year at the same price. This camera is a pretty convincing demonstration that recordable DVD will be the video media choice of the future, but it may be just a little ahead of its time.

Hitachi DZ-MV100A

Price: Camera $3999, "discs $TBA

Supplier: Hitachi

Phone: 1800 032 689

URL: www.hitachi.com.au

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