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Hitachi DZ-GX20E review: Hitachi DZ-GX20E

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The Good 16x9 widescreen. Quicker operation. Good playback and controls. Clever support light for night shooting. Good automatic settings. Attractive design.

The Bad Hard to get DVD-RAM. Can experience image noise. Limited Manual Focus control.

The Bottom Line For those who want the instant satisfaction of recording and playing on a DVD player with minimum editing or desire for advanced controls.

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Imagine being able to playback, rewind or transfer footage instantly, instead of waiting on your camera to roll tape. Now, how about being able to play your handiwork in a DVD player immediately? This is the kind of convenience offered by cameras with direct DVD recording.

In the latest series of three DVD camcorders released by Hitachi, the DZGX20E is the most feature-packed model - offering a 2.1 megapixel compact camera with a 16x9 widescreen aspect ratio, on-board editing and built-in support lighting for night-time shooting.

Giving up the tapes, whether for DVDs or for hard disk recording, takes some getting used to. The advantage of DVD is that you can pop a disc into a player without any of the rigmarole of connecting the camera to your computer, capturing footage and burning (yawn).

On the downside, DVD camcorders may not be for everyone. For example, users are more likely to skip editing or dabble only with a camera's on-board editing features, rather than computer editing programs.

Hitachi has, however, addressed some important issues. For example, the DZGX20E offers faster operation than previous models, promising to get started within 7.5 seconds.

It's important to note that some challenges remain beyond the camera. The DZGX20E requires 8cm DVD-R discs or DVD-RAM, neither of which proved easy to obtain during the review period. This reviewer went to six mid-to-large consumer electronics, computers and even an office supplies store in Sydney and found mini DVD-Rs were rare and DVD-RAM discs were not in stock at all.

Fortunately, the DXGX20E comes with a DVD-RAM in the box to get started and this is the best option to get used to the camera, as it is can be used repeatedly and it can also store still images. The DZGX20E also accepts an SD storage card for still images, which is necessary if using DVD-R, which can only record movies. In addition, with DVD-R, users must initialise the disc (and this must be done in the camera, not in a computer) and finalise the disc.

The camera itself offers a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio and the pixels to ensure that sufficient image data is obtained. It is important to work out whether you want widescreen or standard 4x3 at the outset, especially when recording to DVD-R as you can't swap mid disc.

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