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DZ-MV380 addresses many criticisms of previous-generation DVD-based
camcorders. It's a far smaller model, with better controls, and comes
with software in-pack. But does it offer a faster or better route to
making watchable DVDs than a MiniDV camcorder?
DVD camcorder, was a far more attractive proposition than its predecessor,
the MV100, with better picture quality, more features and the ability
to record to DVD-R, not just DVD-RAM. With the introduction of Hitachi's
latest DVD camcorder range, led by the MV380 reviewed here, things have
moved on a further step. The 380 has much the same specs and functionality
as the 270 but is far smaller - about the size of many current-generation
MiniDV camcorders. Some other shortcomings of the 270 have also been
sorted out with the 380, which, despite costing considerably less, comes
with DVD authoring software - a £100 optional extra with the 270.
As with all consumer DVD models, the 380 records to 8cm discs of 1.4MByte
unformatted capacity per side, rather than to full-size 12cm discs.
It uses double-sided DVD-RAM discs or single-sided DVD-Rs. Each must
be mounted in a reversible caddy, but this is smaller than the previous
design - helping Hitachi shrink the disc-drive mechanism and the camcorder.
The caddy is a clever, cheap-to-make clamshell design. It flips open
about 100 degrees to expose the naked disc and stays open when put down.
Disc-swapping is far simpler than with the previous design used for
DVD-RAM, and reduces the likelihood of putting finger marks on the disc
surface. But, even in their simpler caddies, 8cm discs remain much more
expensive than full-size discs and are stocked in only a few outlets.
Demand is limited, since only a few DVD camcorders are available. Panasonic
has the VDR-M30, a clone of the Hitachi 350 - the 380's cheaper sister
- and Sony sells the DCR-DVD100 and DCR-DVD200, which write to naked
8cm DVD-RW and DVD-R discs.
The 380 is not only a smaller and more convenient camcorder than the
270, but also a better one. We welcome the inclusion by Hitachi of DVD
editing and authoring software at no extra cost, but have major reservations
about the programs provided.
If they're not to be thought of as just a gimmick, disc-based camcorders
need to provide some real benefits. The most attractive one, in our
view, is to offer users a way of conveniently producing good-looking
DVDs that play in set-top machines - and one that allows discs to be
created in substantially less time than it would take using a tape-based
camcorder as the video source.
In all three regards, Panasonic's DVD-MovieAlbumSE and Sonic Solutions'
MyDVD fall flat. They're not able to produce DVD Videos with menus that
look particularly good, they're not convenient and they're not fast.
We're also concerned at the continuing high price of 8cm DVDs, even
while believing that most people who use the Hitachi are likely to end
up recording to just a few rewritable DVD-RAMs and putting their final
projects onto cheaper, larger-capacity 12cm write-once discs. And why
does the camcorder come with a single DVD-R, rather than one or more
As we concluded with the MV270, we think that ambitious camcorder users
who intend to heavily edit their footage would do better to buy a MiniDV
model instead, since Hitachi-produced MPEG video can't be edited to
frame-accuracy. Hitachi, though, is targeting users who only want to
do basic editing, something for which the 380 is well suited - or would
be if supplied with half decent software.
Read the full review
in March 2004's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in this issue:
Pinnacle Instant VideoAlbum
In March's news:
8x speed DVD burning
Pinnacle upgrades Studio
Edius gets OHCI support
Sony PD170 recall?
Apple updates budget video apps
Toast with Jam 6
The missing link?
DVD Video get interactive
Video Forum 2004
TDK CD/DVD printer
DV<>SDI video converter
Cut-price Xpress DV
Smart mains panel