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Hardware Review: Hitachi's MPEG Cam: MP-EG1A

By Scott Clark

Hitachi's MP-EG1A Isn't it great when two things come together perfectly in some random manner? That's what happened with this MPEG camera review. Hitachi was kind enough to send me their latest and greatest MPEG camera, and I was fortunate enough to be going to Internet World in New York City about the same time I was going to be doing the review. The two events combined to make a great review with excellent pictures of the trip and the show.

Hitachi Home Electronics
http://www.mpegcam.net
Product: The MP-EG1A MPEG Camera
Price: $2500
Supported Platforms: Microsoft Windows 95/NT, Macintosh

firstlook
Welcome to Times Square!

The Hitachi MP-EG1A is 3.3" X 5.6" X 2.2" and weighs a little over a pound. Before you start worrying about the weight, realize that this little jewel will take either 3000 standard 704 X 480 JPEG images, 1000 JPEG images with 10 seconds of audio, 20 minutes of full-motion MPEG1 video (352 X 240) at 30 frames per second (take a look at a 2MB MPEG which I took at Macy's in NYC), or 4 hours of audio! These formats may be mixed, with the only limitation being the space available on the internal 260MB PCMCIA hard drive.

"If you buy one of these, don't let your friends hold it or you'll have a hard time getting it back."

The MP-EG1A comes with a remote control, stand, wrist strap, sunshade for the LCD screen, 2 batteries, a battery charger, all the cables you'll need, an ISA interface card, cable and software, the camera itself and a bundle of MPEG/JPEG software which includes:

  • PureVI - Hitachi's own software which allows you to access and transfer the images and movies on the camera itself to your hard drive.
  • MediaChef/CLIPPING - I couldn't get this to work, but it's supposed to be editing software for MPEG movies.
  • EasyCut - Again, I couldn't get the software to work, and it kept hanging up my system, but it's supposed to be editing software for MPEGs which enables you to extract clips form your MPEGs.
  • PhotoSuiteSE - JPEG image editing software.
  • Authoring Master - Enables you to use MPEGS and JPEGS in presentations and reports.
  • MediaChef/PRINT - Enables you to print selected images.

The 260MB hard drive may be removed and inserted into your PCMCIA slot on your laptop, and if you're running Windows95,it will be recognized as another drive on your system. Then you can simply move the MPEG and JPEG files to your other drives as you would any other files on your system. If you're using the camera with your PC, you simply connect the cable from the ISA card in your computer to the camera. The included software lets you view, copy, move and delete the files from the camera just as you would on your own system.

In the day: wow!
A View to Kill For!

The camera has a 6X zoom, which is accomplished using a 3X optical zoom with a 2X digital zoom. It's great for getting shots of a large area, but not so great for taking close up shots (closer than 2 feet). It's also great in areas of low light, seemingly lightening the area on its own, but it does not have a flash, nor is there a flash option if you wanted to buy one. Perhaps in the next release this will be addressed. I also don't know the shutter speed, but if you're taking a still picture and your subject moves at all, you'll get a blurry image.

moving cab
Take a look at the rest of the picture

Okay, so it's a little expensive at $2500, but take another look at this wonderful gadget. It doesn't use film, so that's one large expense you won't be dealing with. It will let you take 3000 pictures before it is out of space. The battery is a snap to change, and it takes forever to wear out...at least a few hours of picture taking. And then all you have to do is pop the other battery in. You can instantly view the pictures/movies you've taken, and can delete them on the spot if you so desire. You can instantly download the pictures into your comptuter to be edited and or used on your Web page. You can save the movies in AVI format so they can be view on the Internet. You can even transfer your video directly to a VCR to save all your clips on a regular videocassette. You can even use the MP-EG1A as a video camera, directly connected to your portable recorder or home VCR.

before the show
Before

during the show
During

Conclusion
This is a top notch product. Everyone I showed it to agreed, and wanted one for themselves. Although you are not likely to produce any academy award winners with the MP-EG1A, you may just win the interest of your Web site's visitors, gain the attention of those viewing your new presentation, and get the admiration of your peers. Like I said, just don't let them hold it or you may not get it back.

This article first appeared in December, 1997.


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