With the format war now over and Blu-ray victorious, Hitachi should be on to a winner as the first to bring a Blu-ray camcorder to market. Available for around £569, the DZ-BD70E camcorder, which records video footage on to Blu-ray discs, is a high definition shooter that records 'Full HD', 1,920x1,080-pixel video.
The BD70E is decked out in silver and grey, with nifty flecks of blue. One of the downsides of disc-based camcorders is the bulk of the frame, because of the physical dimensions of the disc. It's chunkier than tiny hard drive-based camcorders, but it's nicely balanced and not too heavy. Controls are well spaced and the zoom rocker is pleasingly responsive.
The fold-out 16:9 screen measures 69mm (2.7 inches), which is a perfectly respectable size but feels small next to the bulbous midsection. You can choose to use a retractable electronic viewfinder instead, but like many EVFs, motion blur can be hard on the eyes.
The essential HDMI and USB connections are included, although they take some finding. The box also contains a remote control and 8cm Blu-ray disc to get you started, which is handy as recordable BD-R and rewritable BD-RE discs aren't cheap. An unpowered accessory cold shoe is also available for attaching extra kit.
The disc compartment is powered, so when the camcorder is off you can't retrieve your disc: annoying if the battery dies.
The BD70E packs a creditable 5.3 megapixels on a CMOS sensor. This means that decent stills are possible, but sadly not while the camera is recording video. You also get a 10x zoom.
The interactive guide function is an excellent idea. It leads you through options clearing up the tricky question for new users of which cable is required to connect to their televisions. Cleverly, this includes illustrations, such as different socket types. Unfortunately, the only other options addressed are what kind of disc you need, and how to set the mode switch. Illustrated guides to all the shooting functions would have made this feature truly impressive.
A 7.5GB disk will hold 1 hour of Full HD footage, or two hours of lower resolution HD. The 7.5GB Maxell single-sided rewritable Blu-ray mini-disc provided costs between £35-40 if bought separately. Discs don't have the fastest reactions: even the shortest 5-second piece of footage took 20-30 seconds to write. A 'disc access' message remains onscreen and new footage could not be recorded, or functions accessed, in this time.