The DVD-based camcorder has become a consumer favourite. For those who don't want to mess with editing video or even transferring it to another medium, there's great appeal in simply pulling the disc out of the camcorder and popping it straight into your DVD player to watch.
But in the move to high definition, the same can't be said of DVD-based camcorders recording in the AVCHD format. There are some Blu-ray players which will read DVDs with AVCHD recorded onto them, but that doesn't address the other problem - capacity. A 1.4GB 8cm DVD will store 20 minutes or less of HD footage.
This is where Hitachi's DZ-BD70E comes in. Instead of 8cm DVDs, it records to 8cm Blu-ray, which has a 7.5GB capacity. That's enough for over an hour of footage, even using its top quality setting and shooting at the Full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.
The BD70E is equipped with a large 1/2.8in CMOS sensor sporting 5.3-megapixels, but only 2.07-megapixels are actually used when shooting video. The remainder only come into play for still images, which can be captured at 2,400 x 1,800 pixels. There are five different video recording modes available; three high definition and two standard definition. Only the top HX mode uses the Full HD resolution, with a 15Mbits/sec data rate. The other two use 1,440 x 1,080, with 11Mbits/sec or 7.5Mbits/sec data rates. You can choose between 9Mbits/sec and 6Mbits/sec for standard definition.
Although 8cm Blu-ray discs are the main recording medium, DVD-RAM, -RW or +RW are required to record standard definition. There is an SDHC slot on the bottom, too, for still images. If you fancy covering all bases, Hitachi also makes the BZ-BD7HE, which has a 30GB hard disk as well.
Hitachi has sensibly given the BD70E a few features to please the more serious videomaker, although it's hardly a full complement. Lurking beneath a plastic flap on the top is a standard accessory shoe, and even more carefully hidden to one side of the lens is a microphone minijack. But curiously there is no headphone socket.
Discrete buttons found inside the LCD panel area toggle manual settings, with the joystick on the panel itself used for configuration. However, there are only a few options available. There's a button for enabling manual focusing, and manual exposure control with 12 steps. But this bears no direct relationship to F-stops, and with no shutter control you won't be able to tell how much iris, shutter, or video gain is involved in each step. The only other manual control button is for back-light compensation, although we found it to be rather ineffective.