Hitachi's DZ-GX3300A won't blow you away with its middle-of-the-road image quality, but a quick start-up time and the ability to edit video in the camera might appeal to less persnickety amateur videographers. Similarly, the camera's 10X optical zoom, 3-megapixel CCD, and fairly standard feature set will neither wow nor disappoint. If you want a decent DVD camcorder at an attractive price, the Hitachi DZ-GX3300A might be for you. Sporting essentially the same design as last year's DZ-GX20A, Hitachi's DZ-GX3300A isn't large, but at 1.9 by 3.6 by 5.2 inches, it doesn't really qualify as compact compared to the current competition. The dark-gray-and-gunmetal-colored plastic case feels solid and fits comfortably in the hand. The zoom rocker is positioned perfectly for your forefinger, just in front of the photo-capture button, while the mode dial and the record button rest exactly where your thumb should fall.
The rest of the controls find their home on the left side of the body. A handful, including a five-way rocker for menu navigation and playback controls and four other buttons for disc navigation and menu access as well as stop/exit and select are just above the cavity in which the LCD screen tucks away. Another five touch-sensitive buttons live behind the LCD and let you access commonly used functions such as manual focus and backlight mode without digging into the menus. Unfortunately, even though three of the buttons are marked with small raised dots, it's not easy to use them during recording, something we complained about last year as well. On the plus side, the menus are easy to navigate using the rocker and can be abbreviated to a shorter quick menu if you find the regular menu too cumbersome during recording. The Hitachi DZ-GX3300A accepts four varieties of 3-inch DVDs: write-once DVD-R and rewriteable DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM. It records video in MPEG-2 compression to allow 18 to 60 minutes of footage per side, depending on what quality level you choose. The camcorder packs a 1/3-inch 3.3-megapixel CCD sensor. Though it uses 3 megapixels to capture stills, it uses only 2.1 megapixels for video in 4:3 mode and 1.6 megapixels for video in 16:9 mode.
Top among features is the 10X optical zoom lens, which is joined by automatic and manual white-balance and exposure options, as well as five preprogrammed autoexposure modes and three preset white-balance settings. Accessories can be mounted to the shoe atop the camera or to the threads in the lens barrel. Among the available accessories are a video light, as well as wide and telephoto lens adapters.
Speaking of lights, when shooting in low-light mode, the LCD screen can be used as a low-power illuminating device. The screen can be set to display a blank white field, which helps only if you are very close to your subject.