Still pictures can also be stored on SD card, which means you cannot take a still picture while filming. Video cannot be written to SD.
Menus are clear and logical. A full auto button sets the camera up for instant shooting, while a quick menu button accesses a slimmed-down menu. Other features include the handy sleep mode and an impressive 30x zoom.
The HS500 is quite slow in several areas: in startup and format switching, in the slight lag when navigating menus and in the zoom control. The slower zoom makes a refreshing change from zooms that whip in and out, leaving you hunting for the right zoom length, but it still could be more responsive. At least the continuous autofocus wasn't slow, managing to keep focus locked onto all but the most extreme movement.
Dolby digital ensures that audio sounds good. Stereo microphones in the front manage not to overwhelm sound near the camera, such as a person speaking, with ambient noise.
Image quality is reasonable, but noticeably soft. This is probably down to the 25mm, 800,000-pixel CCD. Extra and fine quality footage is acceptable, while only standard quality video is unwatchable.
At standard setting, moving subjects are jerky while stationary subjects are blocky and fine detail smeared, but at higher settings the only problems are occasional jaggies in lines on screen. As on most consumer camcorders and cameras, low light caused problems, with video becoming disconcertingly grainy and causing some discrepancy in colour vibrancy.
The Hitachi DZ-HS500 is a capable and user-friendly camcorder that cuts through the confusion of different memory formats for the inexperienced consumer, and sidesteps the problems of picking one storage method over another.
If only the imaging side of things matched the storage, the HS500 would be an excellent camcorder. Still, at this £290 price point, many will be prepared to overlook uninspired perfomance for a slice of hybrid action.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Addition editing by Shannon Doubleday