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Hitachi DZ-BD10HA review: Hitachi DZ-BD10HA

Hitachi DZ-BD10HA

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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5 min read

Few things work better than convenience for getting consumers to adopt a new technology, and in the case of camcorders, convenience means supporting your preferred format. By that definition, Hitachi's DZ-BD10HA Blu-ray camcorder is certainly convenient. It records full HD video (1,920x1,080) to 3-inch BD-R/RE discs, to a built-in 30GB hard drive, or to SD/SDHC cards. You can record to 3-inch DVD-R/RW discs, too. The camcorder's recording flexibility may seem like a novelty, but it allows users with a lust for everything HD who also want to share video with people still living in a standard-definition world to bypass the PC. Then again, maybe it's just overkill.

OVR
6.4

Hitachi DZ-BD10HA

The Good

Decent video quality; above average photo quality; multiple recording formats; simple operation.

The Bad

Slow performance; generic-looking design; low on other features.

The Bottom Line

The Hitachi DZ-BD10HA is the most hybrid of hybrid camcorders and still manages good video and photo quality. But it's also slow and expensive.

Thanks to the assemblage of physical drives it requires, the DZ-BD10HA looks remarkably dated. As with most DVD-based camcorders, the Blu-ray drive is inelegantly stuck to the side of the main body. Hitachi does get points for fitting everything in a relatively compact package, though, weighing a little more than a pound and measuring 3.1 inches wide by 3.4 inches high by 5.5 inches deep. The drive is a handful nonetheless, and smaller hands may have trouble controlling the camcorder comfortably. (It fit well in my larger hands.)

A majority of the controls are on the back of the optical drive, falling under your right thumb. Up top is the zoom rocker for the 10x zoom lens and a shutter release for taking 6-megapixel still photos. Slipping over the back edge is a switch for going between shooting video and stills, a series of three activity lights (one for each storage mode), the on/off/mode toggle, and an eject switch for the BD/DVD drive (which can only be used in BD/DVD mode).

A dub button on the body initiates file transfers from the hard drive to an SD card or a BD/DVD disc, or from a card to a BD/DVD disc. On top you'll find buttons for playback and activating face detection, as well as the SD card slot. The camcorder lacks an accessory shoe, video light, and jacks for an external mic or headphones, though it does have a photo flash. Output can be done through its USB, miniHDMI, component, or composite AV jacks.

Opening the 2.7-inch LCD reveals five membrane buttons: Guide (an onscreen user guide to basic features that seems like something that could've been a menu option instead of a full button); Full Auto for going, um, fully automatic; backlight compensation; LCD information display; and an LCD brightness control. On the screen's bezel sit a five-way joystick, a Menu button, and a couple of playback buttons.

Operating the DZ-BD10HA is very simple. This could have more to do with a lack of features than actual ease of use, but either way it's a camcorder that just about anyone can use successfully. Menus are low on options, but you will find four scene modes, three white balance presets, and activation for the optical image stabilization and wind filter. There are manual controls for focus, exposure, and white balance, too. You can record AVCHD files at three quality levels: a 1,920x1,080 HX mode, and two 1,440x1,080 modes (one fine, one standard).

As mentioned earlier, one of the finer features of the DZ-BD10HA is being able to transfer the HD video between the hard drive, BD/DVD drive, and SD-card slot. Doing this is straightforward, requiring little more than selecting what you want transferred to where. When dubbing from either the hard drive or the card slot, the camcorder will report the number of discs it will take to dub all the scenes that have been selected. Each 3-inch BD disc can hold 7.5GB, or 1 hour of best-quality HD video, which means it would take four to five discs to transfer a full hard disk. (At roughly $20 for a BD-R and $30 for a rewritable BD-RE, it's not something you'll probably want to do regularly.) The dubbing speed is rated at 4x, so a full hour of HD video will take 15 minutes to transfer to a BD-R disc. Finalizing the disc for playback takes a minute, too. There's also the option to transcode HD to standard def for use on DVDs.

The main advantage of recording to Blu-ray instead of a standard DVD is the higher capacity of the discs; Blu-ray uses the same compression and encoding algorithms as AVCHD, which competitors like Sony, Canon, and Panasonic use to record to standard DVDs (as well as other formats). And AVCHD discs will play in your Blu-ray player.

Everything about this camcorder seems slow. It's slow to access drives. It's slow to store photos and prepare for the next shot. It's occasionally slow to focus. It's slow to switch between storage modes; for instance, toggling from recording to BD/DVD to the hard drive takes about 10 seconds, which can seem like an eternity depending on what you're trying to capture. Also, since you can only store photos on a card, there's no chance you'll catch a quick snapshot if you have to switch from the optical or hard drives. Thankfully, the menu system is fairly generic or else I'm sure it would be slow to navigate as well. Battery life isn't great, either; it's rated at 80 minutes, though I averaged less than an hour as I frequently switched between the storage modes.

On the other hand, the video produced by the 7-megapixel 1/2.7-inch CMOS sensor looks very good. In bright conditions, white balance and colors are accurate and video has the detail and sharpness you expect from HD. Played on a 52-inch 1080p LCD HDTV, we saw few artifacts and little noise, and had no issues playing back the BD-RE disc in a current set-top Blu-ray player. Low-light performance isn't as good, but still decent; video seems to soften and pick up a noticeable graininess. The results remain enjoyable, however. The high- to standard-def transcoded video turned out better than expected, all things considered, and the built-in mic works well.

Still photos in well-lit conditions are above average for a camcorder. Much like the standard-definition JVC MG730's 7-megapixel stills, they have some artifacts and the colors are a bit off, but they're high enough resolution to be useful. But indoors quality degrades, increasing noise and losing detail, relegating your results to Web use at small sizes. Using the flash also seemed to do more harm than good.

Many models transfer HD video to and from removable flash media to an internal hard drive, internal flash memory, or removable DVD-R/RW, though none in a single model. Hitachi's the only company that does. But keep in mind that optical discs are a poor choice for recording; they're more prone to critical data errors that can ruin the entire disc than other formats, and the discs are lower capacity than the alternatives. So unless you really like the convenience of the all-in-one design and don't mind paying a premium for it, you might be better off with a flash- or hard-disk-based camcorder that docks to a DVD recorder if you really want PC-free DVD copies; that way you don't have to carry the optical drive around with you. While the Hitachi DZ-BD10HA is a decent HD camcorder, in exchange for the limited attractions of Blu-ray recording you'll be stuck with a clunky design, slow performance, and limited feature set.

OVR
6.4

Hitachi DZ-BD10HA

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 6Image quality 7
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