Hitachi DZ-HS300A Camcorder Review
Video Performance* (2.0)*
The Hitachi DZ-HS300A comes equipped with a 1/6" CCD with a 680,000 gross pixel count. This is the most common imager size for low-end camcorders, and it's surprising that a model close to $600 would settle for something so low quality. In video mode, the effective pixel count is reduced to approximately 340,000.
The result of this disappointing CCD choice is, you guessed it, a disappointing picture. In fact, this was the worst image we’ve seen from a camcorder in this price range for some time. Sharpness was the biggest problem. Areas of fine detail (even areas of non-so-fine detail) were difficult to make out. The resolution, as you’ll read in the next section, was quite low.
The color performance is highly saturated, more so than most consumer camcorders. Consumers generally prefer a saturated image, where strong colors equal good colors. Unlike the Sony DCR-DVD205, which produced strong blues and weak reds, or the Panasonic VDR-D200, which produced strong reds but weak greens, the Hitachi hit them all hard. This may have been an attempt to mask the low resolution. Whether it was or not, the result is a conspicuous color bleed.
Overall, this is a very difficult camcorder to recommend based on performance.
Video Resolution* (3.25)*
Video resolution is tested by shooting a DSC Labs resolution chart and reading the footage from an HD monitor. The Hitachi performed worse than any camcorder this year (though we are still early in the year). The horizontal resolution measured approximately 325 line widths per picture height (lw/ph), a respectable showing. But the vertical resolution, 200 lw/ph, was very low.
Low Light Performance* (3.58)*
The Hitachi DZ-HS300A did very poorly in low light. At 60 lux, the color information was reduced considerably compared to 3000 lux. The colors were heavily saturated and continued to bleed profusely into each other. It still managed to produce some strong white, however, which salvaged a reasonable score in our sensitivity test. The noise has increased exponentially. Blue and purple specks dance across the screen like spiteful little pixies.
Comparatively, the Sony DCR-DVD205 had a much sharper image. If anything, sharpness is the clearest distinction between the Hitachi and the other camcorders in this class. It simply did a terrible job revealing fine detail. The colors are not significantly different at 60 lux. The Panasonic VDR-D200 told the same story.
At 15 lux, the image had lost most usable information. However, the camcorder struggled valiantly to boost overall luminance. The result is a noisy mess with brighter whites than it really deserves. At this light level, the DZ-HS300 also had a hard time focusing.
The Hitachi was able to achieve 50 IRE (the level at which we determine sensitivity) at 16 lux. The color error, according to Imatest, was 16. The noise registered at 1.22%, with a saturation level of 54.7%.
The DZ-HS300A is equipped with electronic image stabilization (EIS) to reduce the effects of camcorder shake. EIS systems stabilize the recorded image by digitally buffering the image. Because the buffering process monopolized part of the imager, the recorded resolution is slightly reduced when EIS is set to on. Optical image stabilization (OIS) is typically found on higher-end camcorders, and it achieves the same steadying effect by physically isolating the lens element from the camcorder body. Because OIS does not reduce the effective pixels used to capture video, it does not reduce resolution and is considered the superior method.
We tested the DZ-HS300A's EIS using our camcorder shake emulator, custom built for Camcorderinfo.com. The shake emulator can be adjusted to produce movements at differing intensities and frequencies. At Speed 1, equivalent to the shake produced while holding a camcorder and standing still, the camcorder reduced shake by approximately 63%. At Speed 2, equivalent to the more intense shake of a moving vehicle, the shake reduction was a more modest 50%. We devised these calculations by measuring the motion difference between footage shot with EIS off, and EIS on, and then adjust the score to account for the resolution reduction of EIS.
Wide Angle* (9.8)*
We tested the Hitachi DZ-HS300A wide angle capabilities in 16:9 mode, and its field of view measured 49 degrees.
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