The many subtly varied shades of green in the foliage combined with a couple of fast-moving kids challenged its MPEG-2 encoding prowess. And thanks to rain, which led to lots of indoor shooting, I also put its low-light performance to the test. You can select low-light exposure via a menu, but it gave a stroboscopic, low-frame-rate look to my indoor shots. Given moderate illumination, auto-exposure with full frame rate usually provided very good indoor recordings.
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When I shoot, I do a lot of in-camera "editing," but mistakes and embarrassing moments still creep in. At the end, we recorded Lenny doing his usual wrap-up and an introduction teasing the upcoming action. The whole process was easy and took only about 15 minutes. A home video that could be sent to anyone - even Grandma! What could be quicker or simpler? PERFORMANCE If not done right, digital video encoding can produce visible distortions, or artifacts, like "blocking," where parts of the image break up into a mosaic of little color squares, and "mosquito noise," like a cloud of tiny bugs along sharp edges.
But my experience with the Hitachi cam won me over. Its best-quality recording mode, Xtra, has a variable bit rate of 3 to 10 Mbps, but the picture and sound quality matched what I get from MiniDV. Very good disc navigation. Cumbersome pushbutton manual focus. No FireWire port.
To test for encoding artifacts, I recorded my son Gerry doing some quick Ninja Turtle moves and also some water splashing - both very tough challenges for a real-time encoder. In the Xtra mode 18 minutes I saw virtually no artifacts. Blocking was sometimes visible in Fine mode 30 minutes a side and became bothersome in STD mode 60 minutes , which also noticeably lacked crispness.
Comparing recordings of the same subjects in the Fine and Xtra modes, I was surprised to see subtle differences in texture, too, which convinced me that Xtra was worth the sacrifice in disc capacity. Inevitably, discs will replace tape. But for now, MiniDV is still the cheaper, if less cool, option. After a few days, I also appreciated one more advantage of disc over tape: When you power up a DVD cam, you never have to worry about where you left off last time.
Hitachi DZ-MV550A(K) Manuals
Hitachi Camcorder Manuals