Compared with the sylph-like AVCHD camcorders on the market, the Blu-ray recording Hitachi DZ-BD70E is something of a monster.

Given the current popularity of DVD camcorders and the demise of HD DVD, you could be forgiven for thinking that the world would be beating a path to Blu-ray's door. That's patently not the case.

There are just two Blu-ray Disc toting camcorders available in the UK, of which the Hitachi DZ-BD70E is one (the DZ-BD7HE, also from Hitachi, is the other).

It's not hard to see why. Compared with the sylph-like AVCHD camcorders on the market, the Hitachi DZ-BD70E is something of a monster. Its considerable bulk is slightly softened by the stylish silver colour scheme that at least makes it look sophisticated and hi-tech.

However, the idea of recording to disc seems like a throwback to an earlier era. The clunking, whirring and whizzing the Hitachi DZ-BD70E makes as you start it up reminded us of the old Sony MVC-FD85 Mavica, which recorded video to 3.5in floppy disks. At least floppies were popular. Tracking down additional 8cm BD-RE discs for recording can be particularly frustrating. Your best bet is to buy a job lot online, although at £25 a pop, flash memory alternatives start to look a lot more enticing.

So what's to love? Like other HD camcorders, the Hitachi DZ-BD70E enables you to shoot 1,920x1,080i footage. The big plus, supposedly, is that you should be able to take a movie you've recorded on a 8cm Blu-ray Disc, drop it into your Blu-ray player and then watch it on your HDTV with no cable connections required.

Another plus is that the Hitachi DZ-BD70E comes with a standard accessory shoe - unlike the Canon HF100E. This means you can hook up independently powered accessories including zoom microphones and video lights.

We also liked the fact that the Hitachi DZ-BD70E saves photos straight to the almost universally recognised SD Card format and has a full-size HDMI port so it can be directly connected to an HDTV (or a laptop with an HDMI port) for playback.

Unfortunately, the Hitachi can't compete with the big names on picture quality. Although the Hitachi DZ-BD70E serves up decent enough results in well-lit scenes, the auto settings have a tendency to over-compensate, blowing bright scenes out to white. It also copes badly with low light levels, serving up a lot of picture noise with your video.

Unfortunately, the limited manual controls do little to help solve either problem. Sound was an issue too: the Hitachi DZ-BD70E's top-mounted microphone picks up noticeable motor whine and disc clunks from within the camera body.

Hitachi provides a white label video editor, ImageMixer 3 HD Edition for BD, which is optimised for use with Windows Vista.

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Hitachi DZ-BD70E [PC]: Specs

  • Blu-ray HDV recording
  • CMOS image sensor
  • 1,920x1,080i recording
  • SD memory card slot
  • HDMI port
  • 10x optical zoom
  • optical image stabiliser
  • ,080/50p output
  • 2.7in widescreen LCD
  • 77x87x166mm
  • 575g (without battery)
  • AC adaptor, battery pack, shoulder strap, AV cable, USB cable, remote control, 8cm BD-RE disc
  • Blu-ray HDV recording
  • CMOS image sensor
  • 1,920x1,080i recording
  • SD memory card slot
  • HDMI port
  • 10x optical zoom
  • optical image stabiliser
  • ,080/50p output
  • 2.7in widescreen LCD
  • 77x87x166mm
  • 575g (without battery)
  • AC adaptor, battery pack, shoulder strap, AV cable, USB cable, remote control, 8cm BD-RE disc

OUR VERDICT

The sheer bulk of the Hitachi DZ-BD70E will deter some buyers, while the fact that you need to feed it expensive Blu-ray Discs makes it pretty expensive to use. While this adds the convenience of being able to play your video straight away, the poor image quality and sluggish startup.

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