Hitachi's DZ-GX3300 sits atop the company's new range of DVD camcorders. It's a decent little video camera but we felt it didn't quite match up to the high-end competition, primarily in terms of image quality and control layout.
- Easy to use, wide range of discs supported, decent video quality
- Poor button layout, poor colour reproduction, still images disappointing
For the price this is a decent DVD camcorder, but the DZ-GX3300 still has some failings.
Price$ 1,549.00 (AUD)
DVD camcorders frequently suffer from horrendous picture quality as a result of the restrictive compression algorithms they employ. Thankfully the DZ-GX3300 has steered clear of this pitfall and we found its images to be of decent quality for a DVD camcorder. Though it's certainly not the best we have seen, it's good enough for the price, with a 3.3 megapixel CCD sensor. At highest quality settings, which gives 20 minutes recording on a 1.4GB disc, there was no sign of compression blocks, and none of the misty haze that accompanies many DVD video cameras' footage. The camera also records in native widescreen mode, which is a must for any modern camcorder. However, we did notice that sharp edges were perhaps a little soft, and slightly more so when using the camera's image stabiliser.
Our main complaint with recorded footage was the camera's tendency to leave colours too pale. This was especially noticeable in low light, and was not made better even with the introduction of low light mode. The camera does not have an infrared night shot mode and instead employs an alternate feature which is becoming more popular with some manufacturers. This is to turn the 2.7 inch widescreen LCD screen through 180 degrees to act as a light. This works to some extent, but is only really useful for extreme close-ups and is no substitute for an actual light.
The DZ-GX3300 also offers three megapixel still image recording to a built-in SD card slot or the DVD disc. Three megapixels is usually the point at which pictures begin to become suitable for printing but we found that both inside and outside, they were disappointing with indistinct detail and washed out colour. The camera includes a flash, which is always useful, and some limited manual modes including focus, exposure and white balance. As the DZ-GX3300 is billed as a high-end consumer camera we would really be looking for manual shutter and aperture controls also, and perhaps a focus ring. Accessing the manual controls is made more difficult than necessary as half are stored in the on-screen menu and the other half tucked behind the LCD screen.
The layout of the camera's controls was one of the biggest letdowns with the DZ-GX3300. The placement of the five-way directional toggle on the side of the camera is an unusual move. To access any of the options from the menu it is then necessary to use two hands, which isn't ideal when shooting video. It also means it's necessary to peer round the side of the camera to see what buttons to press. Actually navigating the on-screen menu is intuitive, however, and the camera is comfortable to use and hold.
Hitachi has spurned the standard choice of silver for the colour scheme and instead opted for an attractive glossy charcoal finish. Build quality is solid while still leaving the camera light enough to carry around for long periods of time. Battery life was fairly standard, at a little under an hour. Budding directors will appreciate the inclusion of a microphone jack, and Hitachi's choice of disc formats is also better than most with DVD-RAM supported in addition to +/-RW and DVD-R. Optical zoom is fairly standard at 10x. Hitachi also include a USB kit and PC editing software, but we found it much easier to drag files off the DVD rather than copying via USB.
Overall the DZ-GX3300 is a decent camcorder. It does pretty much everything we would expect, but doesn't quite do enough to make it stand out from the crowd.
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