Hitachi DZ-GX3300A Camcorder Review
**Video Performance ***(5.5)*
The Hitachi DZ-GX3300 uses a 1/3" CCD with 3.31 gross MP (2.18 effective MP in 4:3 aspect ratio, 1.64 effective MP in 16:9). At 3000 lux, the GX3300 presented an image with very strong colors. Heavy saturation is apparent, even heavier than that in images from the Panasonic VDR-D300 and Sony DVD405. But while the Panasonic and Sony appeared reasonably even in their tones, the Hitachi is practically neon, much like last year’s Sony DVD403 (now replaced by the DVD405).
Also like the DVD403, the GX3300 has overly-bright whites, which seem on the verge of blowing out. And, as with this year’s Sony DVD camcorders, compression artifacts abound in its images. The Hitachi is not quite as bad as the Sonys, but it’s worse than anything else in the upper-end DVD market.
The Sony DCR-DVD405 had a much subtler, truer color balance, though (as stated above) compression artifacting was very bad in curved lines. The Panasonic VDR-D300 had the most apparent sharpness. Its color balance leaned rather heavily on the greens and blues, while the GX3300 had stronger reds, but it was generally the best of the bunch.
Canon’s DC40 had a very similar image to the Hitachi’s in terms of sharpness and artifacting. Its colors appeared better, though, due to less saturation and a better balance. The Canon did not (nor did any other camcorder mentioned here) come anywhere near blowing out whites like the Hitachi did. Finally, the JVC GZ-MG37, a similarly priced hard disk drive camcorder that also compresses video into MPEG2 files, produced a washed out image with a poor color balance. If the Hitachi performed better than anyone in its class, it would be this camcorder. The JVC was also excessively noisy—and one good point about the Hitachi is that it was relatively noise free, probably due to the large imager.
We tested the Hitachi DZ-GX3300 for video resolution by shooting a standard ISO 12233 resolution chart and running the resulting stills through Imatest imaging software. In 4:3 aspect ratio, the camcorder produced a horizontal resolution of 589.6 (with an average 1.63% clipping) and a vertical resolution of 354.7 (with an average 1.12% clipping), yielding an approximate total resolution of 209131.12. In 16:9 aspect ratio, the camcorder produced 547.7 lines of horizontal resolution (with an average 0.92% clipping) and 335.0 lines of vertical resolution (with an average 1.9% clipping), yielding an approximate resolution of 183479.5.
Clipping occurs when Imatest cannot read a portion of the image, in this case because some of the black pixels along the edge bottomed out (red, green, and blue channels all registered as zero). This is likely a result of in-camera sharpening. It does have a small impact on the accuracy of the test.
The chart below shows how the Hitachi fared against its competition. The score is high, and it might seem difficult to rectify this with the mediocre video performance. The clipping errors, which proved unavoidable during testing, may have skewed the results somewhat, but in our experience, it's generally a small shift. But an Imatest resolution score only tells part of the story of image quality. It does not factor in color, or compression, or aethetics (which can never be numerized).
**Low Light Performance ***(4.25)*
At 60 lux, the Hitachi DZ-GX3300 lost a good deal of color information, and overall brightness was surprisingly low – surprising because the camcorder uses a 1/3" CCD, large enough to capture a relatively large amount of light. But the image speaks for itself. Perhaps it is some deficiency of the auto gain function, but the 60 lux performance is not very good, all things considered. Noise, which was virtually absent at 3000 lux, shot through the roof here. The colors, which were over saturated, are now very dull, except for the yellows and light greens, which stay strong. The blacks lost nearly all of their detail, and were very close to dropping off.
The Sony DVD405, which has the same size imager, produced a much brighter picture, with better colors and less noise. The Canon DC40, which has an even larger 1/2.8" CCD, produced a picture that was only slightly brighter. There was far less noise in the DC40, however. The Panasonic VDR-D300, with its smaller 1/6" CCDs, was expected to have a mediocre low light performance, and in that regard it did not fail. And, while it was noisy, the noise was of a very fine grain, and not quite as bad as the Hitachi’s. The Panasonic did have a rather soft look, which might be a focusing issue, something from which the Hitachi did not suffer. Finally, the JVC GZ-MG37 had colors just as washed out at 60 lux as it had at 3000 lux. Noise was much worse, and there were many instances of blue noise, which is a more distracting problem than simple black noise because it really distorts the colors of the picture.
At 15 lux, the GX3300 lost nearly all of its color information. While there is still a modicum of sharpness (you can make out borders and shapes without too much trouble), the overall brightness dropped off considerably. Black areas have completely bottomed out, and the lower ends of the gray scale suffer for it.
The Canon DC40, on the other hand, managed to maintain a brighter picture, which provided more detail in dark areas. The color performance was just as bad as the Hitachi – virtually grayscale. JVC’s MG37 was overwrought with noise, which effectively destroyed the boundaries between subjects. The Sony DVD405 held on at 15 lux, however, with a strong saturation that, while a detriment in stronger light, becomes a boon here. Nearly all of the colors manage to shine through the darkness, though, of course, color differentiation is not at its peak. Finally, the Panasonic D300 maintained a little color, but hardly any more than the Hitachi. Noise levels were about the same, as well.
All in all, the Hitachi GX3300 was a surprisingly poor performer in low light. It has the chip size to collect the incoming light, but must fail somewhere in the processing, since it produces these dark, noisy images.
|**Low Light Performance**|
Wide Angle* (7.4)*
We took wide angle measurements of the Hitachi DZ-GX3300 at both its standard 4:3 and widescreen mode. In standard aspect ratio, the camcorder had a wide angle measurement of 37 degrees. The 16:9 widescreen aspect also measured 37 degrees. The camcorder employs what is sometimes referred to as cropping, which crops the top and bottom of the 4:3 image in order to create a 16:9 frame. In this process, the picture actually has less information in widescreen mode than it does in 4:3. Unfortunately, this is common in DVD camcorders.
Before you buy the Hitachi DZ-GX3300, take a look at these other camcorders.
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