So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Hitachi Australia DZ-GX5060SW
- Low price tag, 30x optical zoom
- Soft images, Poor still pictures, Sluggish menu
A relatively competitive model, Hitachi's DZ-GX5060SW won't wow you with image quality, but as a squarely entry level model with a rock bottom price it will suit many consumers looking to purchase their first camera.
Price$ 609.00 (AUD)
The budget end of the digital camcorder market is a competitive area. There are a slew of products vying for a spot in your household and Hitachi has added another product to this list with the DZ-GX5060SW. While its price tag is definitely appealing, it does leave a little to be desired with regards to image quality and has slightly sluggish operation that can become frustrating.
The big issue with this model is its 800k CCD which is at the low end of modern digital video cameras. Of course, considering the extremely low price tag this isn't unexpected and overall the DZ-GX5060SW is still a decent purchase for first time buyers.
As a DVD-based, entry level camcorder, image quality was not this model's strong suit. There was a lot of noise and the picture looked grainy. Prominent haloing was visible around many edges in our outdoors shots and the white balance seemed quite inaccurate at times, giving everything a blue tinge. Those after crisp, sharp pictures had better look elsewhere, but for basic home movies this model will suffice.
In our low light tests, it did a little better than other comparable units. However, it was still far from outstanding. We use coloured blocks in a darkened room for this particular trial and although the DZ-GX5060SW produced some vague semblance of a picture, it was far from usable in our opinion. We activated the 'Low Light' shooting mode beforehand and were surprised to see all the different colours clearly represented on the screen. There was no definition and an absolute sea of noise, but most budget models don't show any image at all so in that regard it was somewhat impressive.
Obviously, with such a low resolution sensor, the still images are also going to suffer. As expected, our tests showed that they were really not worth bothering with. Roughly comparable to early mobile phone cameras, the pictures produced here are only suitable for the most rudimentary uses.
Another nifty feature, considering the unit's price, is the 30x optical zoom. In our testing, this operated very smoothly and should prove popular with most consumers for the added flexibility it brings. There is also 1500x digital zoom, although by now most people realise how useless this really is.
The features list is a little barren, although again it adequately reflects the unit's price tag. There are a few broad presets for white balance including indoor, outdoor, automatic and custom and some scene modes. However there is nothing that would inspire the more advanced photographer. We did like the inclusion of on-camera editing, which throws in a little something extra for novice users who don't want to invest in editing software.
Supporting the standard formats (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM), the DZ-GX5060SW offers plenty of flexibility in terms of recording. The one thing DVD camcorders offer over other formats is ease of use. Convenience is a key selling point of these units as you record directly to an 8cm DVD, finalise the disc, and then take it directly from the unit and play it back in your DVD player. If you use DVD-RAM discs like we did, you don't even need to finalise.
The controls are laid out reasonably well, although they are a little fiddly. The main shooting functions, including record and zoom, are in the usual places and easily accessible with the thumb and first finger of the right hand. The other buttons provide more of a challenge as there are several groups; one seated on the left hand side of the unit next to the viewfinder, and the other hidden behind the screen. They aren't overly difficult to use, but for an entry level camera with relatively few features we felt this unit could have been more intuitive.
Our other complaint with the unit is the menu system. While it is nicely broken up and fairly easy to navigate, it can often take in excess of half a second to register a command, which makes the whole process quite time consuming.
Aesthetically, the Hitachi DZ-GX5060SW is fairly standard for a DVD camcorder. The brushed silver plastic casing won't stand out from the crowd but it's a popular design because it works and we have no complaints.
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