Hitachi DZ-BD7 review

Hitachi brought the UK its first DVD and ‘hybrid’ cams. But it’s still innovating...

TechRadar Verdict

The BD7 has some great ideas but, as it’s the first of its kind on the market, there are still problems that need ironing out. A great first attempt, though!


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    30GB Hard drive

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    Easy to use


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    Discs weren't recognised by Blu-Ray player

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    Quite large and heavy

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The DZ-BD7 is the most revolutionary consumer HDcam to date, being the first to support 8cm Blu-ray discs. And if that wasn't enough, it also boasts a 30GB HDD; record initially to this, and then dub the desired footage to BD-R (recordable) or BD-RE (rewritable) media - these discs should be compatible with Blu-ray players.

The BD7 also has a standard-def MPEG2 mode, for recording onto DVD media, and a SD card slot for still photography. The 5-megapixel image sensor allows not only full-res (1920x1080i) high-def video, but also still 4:3 images with a (fixed) resolution of 2400x1800.

Big features mean a big cam; the BD7 is both larger and, at 600g, heavier than most DVD-only models. When using the hand-strap the zoom-lever, record-trigger and photo 'shutter' are all comfortably-accessible. Around the bodywork, you'll find various connectors including USB 2.0 (for PC-based editing), standard-definition video and a HDMI port for HD-Ready TVs.

Range of features

The lens itself has a 10x optical zoom, electronic image-stabiliser and a stills-flash. There's also an accessory shoe, but it's 'cold'. Setting up the cam involves jogging through menus on the 2.7in. flip-out LCD screen with a joystick device. Far from HD in resolution terms the screen may be, but it's nevertheless superior to the viewfinder. Controls on the rear switch between video and still mode - the on/off lever also switches between HDD and DVD/BD modes.

Full-auto operation makes basic operation a doddle - also included are four program-AE modes preset: Portraiture, Low-light, Spotlight and Sand/snow. The autofocus is alas not infallible, and has a tendency to 'hunt'. Those who want to do more than point-and-shoot will appreciate the manual controls. White balance, exposure and focus override are all permitted, while BLC can be turned on or off.

The controls could have been better thought-out. Because their operation involves the joystick, they can only be operated when the LCD panel is open.

Our main gripe, though, is that you cannot capture standard-definition to the HDD (although 'direct' DVD-recording is possible). Instead, you have to 'downconvert' when dubbing to DVDs. This wastes time. Another disadvantage is the potential quality resulting from recompression. The lack of HDD standard-def recording is ironic, because it would be far more economical than high-def when disk space is running low and no removable media is available.

One-touch dubbing makes it easy to copy one or more clips from HDD to removable media. Playlist-editing means that you can sequence clips stored on the HDD in any order and transfer the result.

Readable discs?

And the much-vaunted compatibility with Blu-ray players? We tried playing BD7-recorded BD-RE and BD-R discs on a Samsung BD-P1000, but both were rejected immediately.

For its part, Hitachi claims that, at the very least, such discs will play on a PS3 console. We were thus forced to assess the BD7HE's performance via the HDMI output on a Sony LCD TV. Recording quality surpassed expectations, especially in the top recording mode. With daylight shooting, artefacting is kept to a minimum. Colours are pleasingly rendered. too.

Fine detail can, however, be 'masked' by movement. In addition, shadow-detailing could be better. We also noted a strange artefact during night-time shoots - prominent light sources were accompanied by dark 'shadows'. Observable detail drops dramatically as light levels fall, and so always ensure adequate illumination.

As a DVD camcorder, the BD7 fares just as well as 'ordinary' mid-range models. Sound is fair, if a little treble-dominant. Shooting to the HDD, the supplied battery yielded around an hour of operation (with the LCD panel) before giving up.

The BD7HE is undoubtedly an exciting development - Hitachi at least deserves congratulations for beating fellow Blu-ray supporters Panasonic and Sony - but there are frustrating flaws and idiosyncracies that deny it Best Buy status. Hopefully, they will be addressed by the company's next generation of Blu-ray cams and then we'll have something to recommend wholeheartedly.

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