You know you’re going to burn your video to disc sooner or later. Why not do it the moment you record it? With DVD camcorders, you can browse, edit, and rearrange the order of scenes right on the camera. And once you’re done shooting, transferring videos to your computer or DVD player is as simple as popping in a disc.

Unfortunately, the Hitachi DZ-MV550A, like the other DVD camcorders we tested, doesn’t live up to the promise. Videos recorded by the Hitachi are filled with artifacts, with blocky areas of pixelation along the edges of moving objects and in the middle of subtly shaded fields of color, such as the sky.

The Hitachi has a respectable 18x optical zoom, the most powerful optics in this roundup, and excellent macro capabilities, letting you get within an inch of your subject. But its annoyances outweigh its niceties. After inserting a new disc, it can take as long as 20 seconds before the camcorder is ready to record. And when you’re done recording, finalizing a DVD can take up to half an hour. Plus, you have to remove the battery from the camcorder to recharge it, and you can’t charge the battery and power the camcorder simultaneously.

Some day, we hope that DVD camcorders will have the same quality as their tape-based brethren. But that day may still be a long way off. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: Powerful 18x optical zoom lens
Worst Feature: Poor video quality

Hitachi DZ-MV550A
Weight: 1.3 pounds
Size: 6.3 x 3.5 x 2.6 inches
Specs: DVD-R or DVD-RAM recording; 18x optical zoom; SD slot; video flash hot shoe; USB 2.0; combination AV and S-video port; external microphone port; 1.2-megapixel still images

* * 1/2

Link: Hitachi DZ-MV550A

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