Reviewer: Byer Gair
This lower-priced camcorder follows Hitachi’s two launch models, offering highly desirable dual recording modes: direct to an internal 30 GB hard drive or an 8 cm mini DVD burner.
The offer is almost un-refusable: shoot your footage on the camcorder, record to an internal hard drive, preview it, do some editing, then record the final video to an 8 cm DVD disc loaded in the camcorder, which can be replayed on home DVD players. No tape. No computer in the loop.
Unfortunately, lowering the price means some features are missing: the lens is one f stop slower than the previous models; the CCD is smaller and resolution lower; the inbuilt flash has been deleted; there is no external microphone input.
The optical zoom offers a 30x range, enough to service almost all needs. The lens is electronically stabilised, a cheaper and lesser quality option than an optical stabiliser.
Exposure and white balance can be modified and there are five scene modes to deal with snow/beach scenes, sports etc – there’s even a low light mode, using the light from the LCD screen for illumination!
30 gigabytes is a lot of space: it will store, depending on which of the three image qualities selected, between 7 and 23 hours of video.
The HS500 will also shoot stills, stored on an SD card, that size up to a disappointing 640×480 pixels – although some may be happy with a 7×5 cm print. An alternative is to retrieve individual frames from video shooting and save them to the SD card as still images.
Viewing your shooting is easy, thanks to a turret viewfinder and a fold out, swing around 6.9 cm LCD screen that allows self-shooting; choose from a shooting ratio of 4:3 or wide screen 16:9 – but the latter is not full resolution high definition.
The editing function has great appeal: unwanted scenes can be edited out on the recording before dubbing to DVD; individual scenes can be split or their running order changed; you can create a playlist, letting you dub a sequence of shots onto a DVD. A One Touch Dubbing button enables either the entire contents of the hard drive or individually selected movie scenes to be burnt to DVD.
When dubbing your edited video to DVD you need to move to the finalising mode; this can take some time. It’s not a bad idea to practise with a DVD-RW disc and re-use the re-writeable media.
If you really must, you can copy your raw shooting to a computer and edit with the supplied (Windows and Macintosh) software; this allows you to burn a full size 12 cm DVD.
A useful feature is a dubbing path from, say a VCR to the camcorder – this way you can make DVDs from your old home movies.
Tons of features are packed in to the Hitachi. The quality captured by this equipment is so close to Mini DV that few will notice the difference.