Hitachi DZ-HS300E Review

Hitachi takes a multi-format approach to data storage with the DZ-HS300E. Nestled in the durable metal and plastic casing is an 8GB hard drive that’s good for six hours of shooting in standard quality mode. And for yet more capacity, the device accepts single-sided, recordable mini DVDs.

You can record direct to optical media, or quickly transfer footage from the hard drive to a disc via a Dubbing button. Naturally, disc content can be auditioned either via the 16:9, widescreen flip-out LCD, or by finalising the recordable DVD, flicking Eject and placing the disc in the Mac’s drive tray. Also, for stills work, there’s a slot for an SD memory card.

The HS300E’s design follows familiar lines, with storage-media selection controls, the Record button and zoom rocker located within easy reach of right-hand fingers and thumb. Transport controls are to the left of the diopter-adjustable electronic viewfinder and are fiddly to use. A tiny Pause/Play button sits inside a D-pad type ring for forwarding and rewinding footage and it’s a faff to navigate what’s been shot.

There are a host of camera-management controls accessible by flipping out the LCD. Such items as Finalize and Auto-focus on/off can be set with a prod on the appropriate button. Their action is not that positive, but it beats having to dig through on-screen menus in order to access regularly used functions.

While recording to hard disk is speedy, performance is hobbled when using recordable DVDs. They take time to spin up, have to be formatted before use and are only good for 30 minutes of shooting at highest capture quality. And then there’s the tedious process of finalising, for which you have to use the mains adaptor.

In mitigation, Hitachi has incorporated a sleep mode. It’s effectively a standby setting and you can wake up the device in about a second should you need to shoot in a hurry.

Sadly, there’s no socket for an external mic. Also, Hitachi reports compatibility problems with the latest version of iMovie. DVD authoring suite ImageMixer 3 (www.imagemixer.com) is bundled, so all is not lost, and you can use OS X’s DVD Player to review footage.

OUR VERDICT

The DZ-HS300E is inexpensive and offers the convenience of HD storage. It’s easy enough to use, but the recording format is not one that iMovie can import. But if you don’t mind having to convert footage before editing, this is a low-cost route into amateur video.

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