Compared with the sylph-like AVCHD camcorders on the market, the Blu-ray recording Hitachi DZ-BD70E is something of a monster.
Given the current popularity of DVD camcorders and the demise of HD DVD, you could be forgiven for thinking that the world would be beating a path to Blu-ray's door. That's patently not the case.
There are just two Blu-ray Disc toting camcorders available in the UK, of which the Hitachi DZ-BD70E is one (the DZ-BD7HE, also from Hitachi, is the other).
It's not hard to see why. Compared with the sylph-like AVCHD camcorders on the market, the Hitachi DZ-BD70E is something of a monster. Its considerable bulk is slightly softened by the stylish silver colour scheme that at least makes it look sophisticated and hi-tech.
However, the idea of recording to disc seems like a throwback to an earlier era. The clunking, whirring and whizzing the Hitachi DZ-BD70E makes as you start it up reminded us of the old Sony MVC-FD85 Mavica, which recorded video to 3.5in floppy disks. At least floppies were popular. Tracking down additional 8cm BD-RE discs for recording can be particularly frustrating. Your best bet is to buy a job lot online, although at £25 a pop, flash memory alternatives start to look a lot more enticing.
So what's to love? Like other HD camcorders, the Hitachi DZ-BD70E enables you to shoot 1,920x1,080i footage. The big plus, supposedly, is that you should be able to take a movie you've recorded on a 8cm Blu-ray Disc, drop it into your Blu-ray player and then watch it on your HDTV with no cable connections required.
Another plus is that the Hitachi DZ-BD70E comes with a standard accessory shoe - unlike the Canon HF100E. This means you can hook up independently powered accessories including zoom microphones and video lights.
We also liked the fact that the Hitachi DZ-BD70E saves photos straight to the almost universally recognised SD Card format and has a full-size HDMI port so it can be directly connected to an HDTV (or a laptop with an HDMI port) for playback.
Unfortunately, the Hitachi can't compete with the big names on picture quality. Although the Hitachi DZ-BD70E serves up decent enough results in well-lit scenes, the auto settings have a tendency to over-compensate, blowing bright scenes out to white. It also copes badly with low light levels, serving up a lot of picture noise with your video.
Unfortunately, the limited manual controls do little to help solve either problem. Sound was an issue too: the Hitachi DZ-BD70E's top-mounted microphone picks up noticeable motor whine and disc clunks from within the camera body.
Hitachi provides a white label video editor, ImageMixer 3 HD Edition for BD, which is optimised for use with Windows Vista.
The sheer bulk of the Hitachi DZ-BD70E will deter some buyers, while the fact that you need to feed it expensive Blu-ray Discs makes it pretty expensive to use. While this adds the convenience of being able to play your video straight away, the poor image quality and sluggish startup.