Though its model number might indicate that Hitachi's UltraVision DZMV750MA is a lower-end model, it actually has a few features that its siblings, the DZMV780A and the DZGX20A, lack, such as a 16X optical zoom and support for DVD-RW format discs. Unfortunately, the DZMV750MA's mediocre image quality makes it a poor alternative to more expensive models such as the DZGX20A and the Sony DCR-DVD403.
The Hitachi UltraVision DZMV750MA is very compact, similar to the DZMV780A, whose control layout it shares. Weighing just 1 pound, 2 ounces, it has a solid, sturdy feel, though its gray-and-silver plastic case lacks flair.
The DZMV750MA's menus are easy to navigate using the left-mounted directional pad, which doubles as a playback control. A Quick Menu button simplifies operation, thought it offers so few settings that it's rarely useful. The zoom rocker and power/mode switch are well placed for one-handed operation. An assortment of buttons both above and behind the LCD screen offers easy access to the most common functions without having to dive into the menus. You adjust manual focus and exposure controls with touch-sensitive plus and minus buttons, which we find far less convenient than a dial or a ring. The DVD hatch sits on the right side of the camera, so a tripod won't interfere with disc swapping.
The Hitachi DZMV750MA bests the DZMV780A and the DZGX20A in the zoom department, where it offers 16X, vs. 10X on the other models. The DZMV750MA can also write to three-inch DVD-RW discs, in addition to the DVD-R and DVD-RAM discs supported by the others. DVD-RW offers the ability to edit and erase video found on DVD-RAM discs and is much more compatible with set-top DVD players than is DVD-RAM. However, the DZMV750MA sports only a 680,000-pixel CCD, limiting stills to VGA resolution; the other models include higher-resolution CCDs.
Configurable settings include automatic and manual white balance and exposure, as well as five programmed autoexposure modes. The camera features an accessory shoe that can accommodate an external flash, and wide and telephoto lens adapters are available as well. You can set the LCD to act as a video light, albeit a very weak one, when shooting in Low Light mode.
You can transfer footage using a USB 2.0 connection or by dropping the disc into a PC's DVD drive. There's no FireWire port, and the simple editing software that's included supports only Windows. The camera sports S-Video as well as composite inputs and outputs that allow you to use the DZMV750MA to convert your old analog videos to DVD format.
The Hitachi UltraVision DZMV750MA offers satisfactory performance across the board. The zoom is smooth and easy to control. Its autofocus is responsive and quick, as is the camera's ability to adjust to changing lighting conditions. Image stabilization was effective throughout the first 70 percent or so of the zoom range. Sound quality is very good, and though sensitive, the microphone doesn't pick up any drive motor noises. The 2.5-inch LCD is sharp and viewable in a variety of lighting conditions, but it's too small to discern enough detail to get a precise manual focus.
Like the DZMV780A, this camera includes a wimpy 680mAh battery. Though it's rated at as much as 60 minutes when using the best recording quality, figure on less than half of that with typical start/stop recording and occasional replays. We started seeing low-battery warnings after only 15 minutes of usage, and the battery was discharged in less than 25 minutes.
Furthermore, the video and still-photo quality is simply poor. Even when shooting at the best available quality, visible MPEG-2 compression artifacts appear, as does edge crawl, which makes straight edges look shimmery. We also saw vertical line artifacts around some curved objects. In bright light conditions, color hues were accurate, though slightly oversaturated at times. In dim light, video starts to take on a grainy, noisy appearance, typical of consumer camcorders.
In extremely dim conditions, you can use the Low Light program autoexposure mode to brighten the scene somewhat, but this lowers the frame rate, making for blurry, jerky motion from pans and moving objects. The gimmicky option to turn the LCD screen into a light does little to help here.
Though DVD camcorders are starting to come into their own as viable video-recording options, the Hitachi UltraVision DZMV750MA's video quality keeps it from making the cut; you'll still have to spend a little more for a decent DVD recordable model.