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Introduction Links Formats Features
Video Glossary    Media Models

• How to choose a camcorder
• Sony Beta format 
• Historical videotape formats 
• Professional formats

Camcorder Formats

When deciding which camcorder to buy, the format is an important factor. The format determines what media you will use. The following table summarizes the basic formats for the consumer camcorder market. VHS camcorders are not sold anymore and 8mm has been replaced by Hi8 and Digital8 which are now out of date. MiniDV was the most popular until newer formats came along. The newer formats include mini DVD, although this format has faded recently, hard disk drive models (HDD up to 120GB) and High-Definition models, both disk-based and flash-memory card based. Memory card capacity goes from 1GB to 16GB and more.

Format Resolution Media Year
VHS 250 12.7 mm tape 1976
VHS-C 250 12.7 mm tape 1983
S-VHS 400 12.7 mm tape 1987
SVHS-C 400 12.7 mm tape 1987
8MM 270 8 mm tape 1984
Hi8 400 8 mm tape 1989
Digital8 500 8 mm tape 1999
MiniDV 500 6.35 mm tape 1995
MicroMV 500 3.80 mm tape 2001
DVD 500 8 cm disc 2002
HDD 500 Disk 2005
HDV 1080 6.35 mm tape 2004
Card up to 1080 Flash memory 2009

color key:





Video Media
Format Record time Cost ea.  $
VHS 480 min. EP 1.00
VHS-C 90 min EP 2.25
8MM 240 min. LP 2.50
Hi8 240 min. LP 4.25
Digital8 90 min. LP 4.25
MiniDV 90 min. LP 5.00
MicroMV 120 min. LP 12.00
HDV 63 min.  17.00
8cm DVD 30, 60, 120 min. 4.00 - 18.00
HDD 60GB up to 40 hrs N/A
Flash card up to 5.5hrs 8GB 10.00 - 80.00

color key:







See Camcorder Media for more.




Video Formats

In the last few decades, videotape has progressed through no less than 20 different (and incompatible) formats. Although this may be one of the prices we have to pay for progress, it has also added confusion to the video recording process.

For camcorder use, the VHS format is obsolete as the size and bulk of the camera is cumbersome for most people. VHS-C is smaller but still records at 250 lines of resolution. Sony's analog 8mm and Hi-8mm camcorders are still popular but the newer digital camcorders, using even smaller videocassettes (MiniDV or DVC) and recording at almost 500 lines resolution, have become more popular. 

The DVD based camcorder has also become popular in recent years. They have the same 500 line resolution and record on 8cm DVD. Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi have been the main producers of DVD camcorders for consumers. With the advent of HDTV with 1080 lines of resolution, several camcorders with High-Definition recording capability have been released. Called HDV and using a MiniDV videotape cassette, these camcorders are at the very top of consumer video quality. The newest formats include the disk-based (up to 120GB) and the flash card based camcorders. These can record in standard definition or even high definition. The flash memory card camcorders have no moving parts to wear out like tape or disk and can record hours of video on a thumb-sized chip.

What's available today:

The following is a list of the basic consumer camcorder formats and their features. Keep in mind, these video formats are for the most part (except Sony 8mm) physically and technologically incompatible, meaning you cannot record or play one format on another type camera.

(The professional formats are discussed here.) 

1.) VHS - half inch wide tape in full size cassette, today, virtually obsolete in consumer camcorders but still used in home VCRs.

VHS camcorders make it possible for you to immediately watch the tape on your home VCR, not worrying about adapters or wires, you just pop the tape from the camcorder and into the VCR. 

A standard T-120 VHS tape has a recording time of 2 hrs (8 hrs. is possible today), and the resolution is about 250 lines. VHS is an analog format and therefore does not have any of the features that you get with a digital format.

2.) S-VHS - tapes can only be played by attaching the camcorder to your VCR or by using an S-VHS VCR, as they are not compatible with standard VCRs. The camcorder has a maximum recording time of 2 hours. The S stands for super, as the resolution jumps from the VHS standard of 250 lines to around 400 lines.

3.) VHS-C - smaller version of VHS, camcorders are still available but fading in favor of digital models. This camcorder uses VHS tapes that are smaller than the standard VHS size, and can be played in your home VCR by putting it in an adaptor. The maximum recording time is 90 minutes in EP mode, and the resolution is the same as regular size VHS tapes at 250 lines. 

Camcorder VHS-C format by Panasonic

To compete with the smaller tape size of 8mm, VHS-C was created. The "C" stands for "Compact" and, although the tape width and the hub of the tape spool is the same size as VHS, the rest of the tape case is smaller. Adaptors are available which allow you to use a VHS-C tape in a standard, full-size VHS videotape machine.

4.) S-VHS-C - JVC improved their system when they created "S-VHS-C." The "S" stands for "Super" and indeed it is a massive improvement over VHS. Although S-VHS-C is the exact same size as VHS-C tape, S-VHS-C delivers about 400 lines of resolution. Almost double the quality of standard VHS-C tape. S-VHS-C is also "backwards compatible" with VHS-C, meaning that any S-VHS-C videotape player can also play back standard VHS-C tapes. However, VHS-C can NOT record or play back S-VHS-C.

5.) 8mm - 8mm camcorders are more compact than VHS.  The tapes are incompatible with home VCRs and you have to wire the camcorder to your television to watch them. 8mm can record for up to 2 hours in SP mode or 4 hours in LP mode, and they have a resolution of 270 lines. Sony Corp. released 8mm - not to be confused with 8mm film. 8mm videotape has slightly better resolution than VHS, however, the tape itself is only about the size of a standard audio cassette. The convenience of such a small physical size made the format very appealing.

Camcorder 8mm format by Sony

6.) Hi8 - Hi-8 camcorders use 8mm tapes, and have to be played back by hooking up the camcorder to the television. The tapes have a maximum recording time of 2 hours. Hi-8 is about the same resolution as S-VHS,  around 400 lines. Sony bettered their 8mm format by creating Hi8 or High-Band 8mm which has 400 lines of resolution on a tape which looks physically identical to 8mm. Again, Hi8 is backwards compatible with 8mm and any Hi8 machine can play 8mm tapes. However, 8mm can NOT play or record Hi8. Hi8 became a very popular format and Hitachi, Canon, Sony and Sharp all had Hi8 cameras available. Sony was still producing Hi8mm camcorders up to 2005 and they worked well.

Camcorder Hi-8 format by Sony

7.) Digital8 - The digital8 format records images digitally, and use regular 8MM (Hi8) cassettes. These tapes are incompatible with the standard VHS VCR and require you to play them through the camcorder onto your TV. The camcorder can record up to 1 hour of digital information, and has a resolution of up to 500 lines. 

In March of 1999, Sony released the Digital8 format, which is basically an 8mm camera with digital capabilities. The advantage to it is that you can record digitally and even play back your old analog 8mm or Hi8 tapes. 

SONY dcr-trv460

8.) MiniDV - The MiniDV format has a wide selection for retail camcorder sale and is very popular due to the small size and digital capabilities. These camcorders record images digitally, and use much smaller tapes compared to VHS or 8mm. The tapes must be played back through the camcorder or to your TV. Their maximum recording time is up to 2 hours. These digital camcorders have higher resolution, starting at 500 lines which is excellent resolution giving you sharp, clear video. These camcorders are loaded with extra new features, like stereo audio, which are not available on older model formats.

Originally, DV was called DVC (Digital Video Cassette) and uses a 1/4 inch (6.35mm) metal evaporate tape. The video is the same quality as D-1, D-5, or Digital Betacam video -- 720 pixels per scanline. In late 1995, Sony released two DV cameras and Panasonic released one. DV tapes are about one tenth the size of standard VHS tapes and deliver over twice the resolution - 500 lines. DV is also purely digital, not analog like VHS.

Although DV uses tape, it is digitally recorded, providing the sort of improvement you have when you compare a CD or DVD over a VHS tape or a vinyl record album. DV records its audio digitally as well, in 16-bit digital - the same as a CD. When you copy a DV tape, it is an exact clone of the original too.

Using the i.Link (IEEE 1394) cable, you can transfer your digital video from your MiniDV camcorder tape to a DVD. Many MiniDV camcorders have removable solid-state memory chips to record still photos. Get prints of your photos just like a digital camera.

SONY dcr-trv22
MiniDV Camcorder

9.) MicroMV - Sony's super small video tape format, see MicroMV for more on this format.

MicroMV technology is unique. Be careful of incompatibilities. Previous digital formats, MiniDV and Digital8, used a compression scheme that operated on each frame of video independently, essentially treating each frame as a separate still image. The MicroMV MPEG-2 video on the other hand, is not necessarily compatible across any previous format or even different MPEG-2 systems. MPEG-2 works across 15 frames, retaining and compressing only the changed video information on frames 2 through 15. This video standard won't work with all i.Link ports. The audio recording technology is also unique. The small size makes for physical portability like no other camcorder but the cost was relatively high. (The MicroMV format is not being marketed by Sony anymore.)

--Manufacturers: only Sony


10.) DVD - which includes DVD-RAM, DVD-R, and DVD-RW, first introduced in 1997 by Hitachi, using 8cm optical disc media.
Uses 1.47GB single side and 2.9GB dual side mini discs as opposed to the 4.7GB standard full size DVD disc.

About the same camera size as MiniDV camcorders with similar technology. Ability to play DVD-R media in most DVD video players. Has recording quality settings for HQ, SP and LP giving 20 min. to 60 min. recording time per side. Hitachi, Panasonic and Sony have several DVD models.

See more on DVD, also DVD media.

SONY dcr-dvd201

11.) HDV - has 1080i high definition video recording and playback. Uses HD DVC videocassette. 

Sony HDR-FX1

Record all your memories in true high-definition video. The HDR-FX1 is capable of recording and playing back both High Definition and Standard Definition video recorded on standard MiniDV cassettes. In 2006, Sony introduced a much smaller HDV camcorder, the HDR-HC3, which gives you 1080 resolution in a palm-sized camera.

12.) HDD - has hard disk drive built-in. Records video to hard disk. Download to DVD.

13.) Flash Memory card - can have both internal and removable memory. 8GB capacity is common.

Formats are based on the type of tape or disc that the camcorder uses, and the method of recording the information. The key distinctions among them are their compatibility with a VCR, maximum recording time, and picture resolution (measured in horizontal lines) as well as other features.

Both Hi8 and Digital8 use the same Hi8 tape but since Digital8 records twice as fast, only 90 min. can be recorded on each tape. Low-band formats have less impressive picture and sound quality, which also does not stand up well to multiple-generation duplication (making a high-band model essential if editing and copying is an important factor for you). Low-band picture resolution varies from around 240 to 250 horizontal lines of resolution compared to the 500 lines offered by many digital models. 

Battery life is another factor. Your recording time could be limited to the battery charge (say on a long outing). It does not do any good to be able to record for 2 hours per tape if your battery is only good for 1 hour (unless you have extra batteries).



The most successful of all the home videotape formats has been VHS (Video Home Service). Although the VHS format has lasted more than 20 years and spawned hundreds of thousands of video rental stores around the world, things quickly started to change with the development of DVD.

VHS and VHS-C (or compact which uses the same tape, but in a smaller cassette) cassettes are compatible with most domestic VCRs and so can be played in any VHS VCR. This might sound the ideal format to use because of this fact, but when you consider that to edit your footage, it must be transferred to the VCR via a set of connecting A/V leads, the convenience of being able to put the tape into the VCR becomes somewhat negligible.

Because of the large size of VHS cassettes, VHS and VHS-C camcorders are the biggest. Both formats offer mono soundtracks with a maximum recording time of one hour in short play and two hours in long play (VHS-C) or eight hours (VHS). Unsurprisingly, VHS has become pretty much obsolete as a format over the last few years and, although a few manufacturers do still produce VHS-C cameras, it would seem that this format is following a similar route to its older brother.

Full-Size VHS: (Video Home System)

Uses Regular VHS tapes, just like a VHS VCR. One half inch tape width. The recorded tape can be played in a regular VHS VCR just like any other VHS tape. Video Resolution is 250 lines just like VHS VCR. Tape Speeds of 2hrs (SP) and 6hrs (EP/LP) just like VHS VCR. Due to the size of VHS Tape, these camcorders must be shoulder mounted during shooting. Sound quality is poor, audio is recorded in the same fashion as a non-HIFI VCR.

Manufacturers: Primarily Hitachi and RCA (note: Panasonic has discontinued their line of Full-Size VHS camcorders for the consumer market).

Compact VHS (VHS-C)
  • Combines the playback convenience of full-size VHS camcorders with the bonus of more compact size.
  • One tape typically holds about 40 minutes at SP speed.
  • Using an adapter, VHS-C cassettes can be played in a full-size VHS VCR.
  • Records in mono sound.
  • Resolution is about 250 lines.

Compact VHS (VHS-C)

Camcorder users who prefer to insert their video tapes directly into their VCR may want to consider using the VHS/C compact format. VHS/C is regular VHS video tape wound into a smaller cartridge.

Since the cartridge is smaller, the length of VHS/C tape is limited to a maximum of 45 minutes - though longer times can be achieved using a long play mode, the quality usually is poor compared to the faster (sp) speed. The compact tapes are inserted into your VCR using a cassette adapter which comes with each VHS/C camera. Once inserted, the tape plays just like any other VHS tape you?ve ever used.

VHS-C uses a much smaller physical version of the VHS tape but still one half inch tape width. Although  compatible with the VHS tape format, tapes must be placed into an adapter in order to be played back in a home VCR. The Camcorder can also be connected to a VCR or TV via A/V cables and the tapes can then be copied onto a regular VHS Tape if desired.

Video resolution is the same as regular VHS VCR, 250 lines. Tape speeds are SP(30min) and EP/SLP(90min). Since the cassette is much smaller than a regular VHS cassette tape, the amount of tape available in the cassette is much less, necessitating shorter recording times.

With smaller tapes, these camcorders can be much smaller, thus are easily handheld, rather than shoulder mounted. The sound quality is the same as a Full Size VHS camcorder or non-HiFi VCR.

Manufacturers include, Panasonic, JVC, RCA


This format is the same as VHS-C except that the resolution is higher at 400 lines (which is 60% higher than VHS or VHS-C). This necessitates the tape being played back by the camcorder or in a S-VHS VCR (using the supplied adapter). These camcorders can both play and record in standard VHS-C as well. However, a regular VHS-C camcorder cannot play recorded SVHS-C tapes.

Manufacturers: primarily JVC

VHS took a step forward in quality when S-VHS (super VHS) was introduced. Some news operations started using it as an acquisition format that could be brought back to the production facility and immediately dubbed (copied) to a higher quality format for editing. This minimized any subsequent loss in quality due to editing.

To reduce the size of camcorders a smaller version of the VHS and S-VHS cassette is also available. VHS-C and S-VHS-C ("C" for compact) are a fraction of the size of the standard VHS cassette.  They were designed to compete with the small 8mm format (discussed below) that found favor with a large number of consumers.

Using S-VHS equipment in news has some major advantages; specifically, the equipment is easier to operate than professional equipment, it's lighter in weight, and it's far less expensive.

A quality S-VHS camcorder costs one tenth as much as professional equipment. This is significant in covering news in third-world countries where some regimes have a habit of confiscating reporters' tapes and equipment in an attempt to censor things they don't want the rest of the world to know about.

Like all of the videotape formats, VHS tapes have a record lockout provision. Once you break off the small plastic tab, machines will no longer record on the tape.  This makes it possible to keep important material from being accidentally erased.
You can restore the record option on a VHS tape by wrapping a strong piece of tape over the tab area, or otherwise filling in the hole created when the original tab was removed. (This is a procedure that works, although not recommended by manufacturers.)


S-VHS (or Super VHS to give it its proper name) was developed as a superior format to VHS. Using advanced picture processing techniques and advances in tape technology, S-VHS offers considerably better picture quality than VHS and VHS-C but, along with S-VHS-C suffers from the same fundamental frailties as VHS, offering the same running times and necessity for large camcorders. One other drawback is that S-VHS cannot be played on a VHS VCR, you will need to buy an S-VHS deck to watch your footage.

Like VHS-C, S-VHS-C takes the high concept behind S-VHS and shrinks the format to a more manageable size. Improved recording capabilities have produced a more highly specified generation of camcorders. The choice is limited, though and the amount of S-VHS-C camcorders is becoming less and less every year. S-VHS is more commonly seen in the S-VHS-ET format these days. The ET stands for expansion technology and refers to JVC's technological advance which produces high-quality images equivalent to S-VHS onto a regular VHS cassette.

Compact VHS (SVHS-C)

  • Over 400 lines of resolution on specially formulated VHS-C tape. (SVHS-C camcorder can also record with reduced resolution using standard VHS-C tapes.)
  • Using an adapter, SVHS-C cassettes can be played in a full size SVHS VCR. With a couple of exceptions, however, SVHS-C recordings cannot be played back in standard VHS VCRs.
  • One tape typically holds about 40 minutes at SP speed.
  • To obtain optimal picture playback, you should connect the camcorder to the S-video input on your TV or SVHS VCR.

Super VHS, a full-size format with resolution similar to that of HI-8, is virtually out of the consumer camcorder market. The format still is a strong player in the industrial market, but its future may be bleak with the release of newer and better digital formats. This format is used for videographers mostly for shooting and editing. The S stands for super, as the resolution jumps from the VHS standard of 250 lines to around 400 lines. Unfortunately, most VCR's will not play a super VHS tape and has to be transferred to a regular VHS format in order for it to be viewed on non-S-VHS machines.


8mm uses a completely different tape system than the 0.5 inch VHS format. As the name suggests 8mm uses tape that is 8mm wide, making the cassettes (and so the camcorders) smaller and lighter. Maximum running time is two hours in standard play and four hours in long play. It is the superior FM audio system (mono and stereo) that sets 8mm apart.

All 8mm cameras record sound using the hi-fi multiplexing technique so even if they are equipped with mono sound, there is no obvious deterioration of audio quality when recording in the long play mode. Audio dubbing can also be employed on a VHS copy of 8mm material if you have a suitable VCR with audio dub mode. Although this format is still going strong, it looks like manufacturers may stop making 8mm camcorders in the near future. Sony for one stopped at the beginning of 2001.

When Betamax (not to be confused with Betacam) didn't survive, 8mm video was introduced. The format in part tried to cash in on the "8mm" designation that had long been a household name in home movies. In fact, Eastman Kodak was one of the originators of 8mm video.

The reduced size of the 8mm cassette meant that camcorders could be made even smaller than VHS camcorders, a feature that attracted people who had grown weary of dragging around their bulky, full-sized VHS camcorders .

At about the time that S-VHS was introduced Sony introduced Hi8, a higher quality version of 8mm. This is also used as an acquisition format, and under optimum conditions can produce high quality video.

In mid-1999, Sony introduced Digital-8 for the consumer market. This format not only represented a major improvement in quality, but the digital approach made new camcorder features possible.


  • Hi-fi mono or hi-fi stereo recording provides improved audio over VHS-C.
  • Tapes cannot play back directly into a VHS VCR, even with an adapter.
  • One tape holds up to 2 hours at SP speed.
  • Connect the camcorder to a TV or VCR for playback.
  • Connect the camcorder to your VCR to edit or copy tapes.
  • Horizontal resolution is about 250 lines.

Uses tape that is smaller than that of VHS or VHS-C. Tape width is about one third inch. Tape can be played back by connecting the camcorder via A/V cables to a VCR or TV. Tapes can be transferred (copied) to a regular VHS tape.
Note: An 8mm tape cannot be placed in a regular VHS VCR for playback, there is no 8mm adapter!
Video resolution is 250 lines, about the same as VHS or VHS-C (although the color consistency on 8mm is slightly better).
Tape speed is typically 2hrs (SP) although Sony supports a 4hr (LP) tape speed in their  camcorders. Since the tapes are small (about the size of an audio cassette), 8mm camcorders are small units that are easily handheld.
Sound quality is good. Sound is recorded in the same fashion as on a HiFi VCR.

8MM  camcorders often have many of the best features found in higher priced HI-8 units, including image stabilization, strong optical and digital zooms and innovative special effects. Regular 8mm tapes are the exact size and shape as their HI8 counterparts, but record video at a lower resolution level, and therefore, are less expensive than camcorders which product better image quality. 8mm can record for up to 2 hours and has a resolution of 270 lines.

HI-8 and regular 8MM tapes cannot be put into a standard VHS video recorder, a common misconception. There are no adapters to achieve this. They must be transferred to VHS in order to be viewed on a regular VCR.

VHS-C and full size VHS record at a slightly lower resolution than 8MM. A standard T-120 VHS tape has a recording time of 2 hrs, and the resolution is 250 lines. Their appeal, or course, is the convenience of easy playback. The large VHS camcorders are almost a thing of the past at this point. There are still a few models available, but their substantial size and weight make them a difficult sell against smaller camcorders. VHS/C compact models, on the other hand, remain a popular choice, offering many of the same key features as 8MM camcorders, at an equally affordable price.

Manufacturers include; Canon, Sony, Sharp, Samsung, and Hitachi



Entering the camcorder market from the same high resolution angle as Super VHS, the Hi8 format uses the latest in metal evaporated technology to offer better pictures than 8mm, making it by far the most impressive analog format available.

The low weight of both the camcorder and cassettes is important as is the availability of long playing time. As with 8mm cassettes, Hi8 tapes cannot be used in VHS VCRs (although composite leads can be used to link up the camcorder to the VCR for copying onto a VHS tape). The price of Hi8 machines has fallen considerably recently, thanks to the ever growing popularity and drop in prices of DV camcorders, and Hi8 looks to be a very affordable format. This trend looks increasingly likely to continue, but exactly how long the format will stay around is very much in the manufacturer's hands.

Hi8mm (High-band 8mm)

  • It can reproduce images significantly sharper than standard 8mm and VHS-C camcorders ? about 400 lines of resolution (up to 440 with Sony's XR extended resolution scheme).
  • Your TV should have an S-video input to take advantage of Hi8's improved resolution.
  • Hi8 (evaporated metal particle) videotape is required to take advantage of Hi8's higher picture resolution, but all Hi8 camcorders can record in the lower-quality 8mm format.
  • Hi8 is not compatible with a VHS VCR.
  • One tape holds up to 2 hours at SP speed.

This format is the same as 8mm except that the resolution is about 60% higher at 400 lines. Once again, there is no adapter to play these tapes in a regular VCR, however, all HI-8 camcorders can play and record in the regular 8mm format. Regular 8mm camcorders cannot play recorded HI8 tapes. 

HI-8  camcorders record their signal at about 400 lines of resolution, slightly less than Mini DV, but substantially higher than 8mm or regular VHS formats. Most often, HI-8 camcorders record sound in hi-fi stereo. Slight quality loss is suffered when copying or editing from HI-8, but a better than average image is maintained.

Tapes from HI-8 camcorders generally must be played using the camera as the source, which means the user often must connect cables to their television or VCR.   HI-8 tapes can be bought in 30, 60, and 120-minute lengths.

Manufacturers are Canon, Sony, Sharp, Samsung, Hitachi.


Introduced by Sony, Digital8 promises the same image and audio quality as DV, but records the signal directly onto a Hi8 analog cassette.

Digital8 camcorders feature a dual-speed head which also allows the camcorder to play back analog recordings made on Hi8 or 8mm camcorders (making this a perfect option for those that have a lot of analog footage archived, but also want to get into digital video). A 90 minute Hi8 cassette will give 60 minutes of recording in Digital8 (there is no long play mode). Picture resolution is claimed at around 500 horizontal lines and audio is recorded in 16-bit PCM stereo (meaning no audio dub). Because of the larger size of Hi8 cassettes compared to DV tapes, Digital 8 camcorders are generally bigger than their DV counterparts.

Digital8 (Sony exclusive format)
  • You'll get studio-quality video with 500 lines of resolution ? 2x the resolution of 8mm and VHS-C.
  • Makes perfect copies from one camcorder to another with no loss in picture quality.
  • Digital8 uses any 8mm or Hi8 videotape, although Hi8 is recommended, and records up to 1 hour at SP speed.
  • Plays back 8mm and Hi8 tapes recorded in older, analog camcorders

This camcorder format takes advantage of existing HI8 format and pushes it into the Digital realm. Uses either 8mm or HI8 tape. As of now the only way to play the tape back is through the camcorder connected to a VCR or TV or by Digitally playing the tape back by connecting the Camcorder to a computer via its IEEE-1394 (Firewire) port (special hardware and software required, not included with camcorder). These camcorders can also play back previously recorded analog 8mm and HI8 tapes using the regular A/V connections, but at present cannot convert the analog 8mm and HI8 recording for direct pass through to a computer via the IEEE-1394 port. Video resolution approaches 500 lines, which is 20% higher than HI8 or SVHS-C.

Tape speed of one hour is currently available, when using a 2hr length HI8 or 8mm tape. Camcorders are the same physical size of 8mm and HI8 camcorders, thus are easily handheld. Sound quality is excellent. The sound is recorded in either 12bit or 16bit PCM Audio for almost CD quality sound. The Digital8 format also allows for still frame capture. DIGITAL8 is a format that is far superior to HI-8 or 8MM. Sony was the first to introduce this format. It is backwardly compatible, meaning that the Digital8 camcorders and VCR's will also play your 8MM and HI-8 tapes. You do not have to buy special tapes to record in Digital8. A regular 8MM or HI-8 tape will record up to 60 minutes of digital video and audio. Because of the design, using regular tapes is not a problem, but it uses twice as much tape. A 2 hour HI-8 or 8MM tape will record 60 minutes when done in the Digital mode and records up to 500 lines of resolution.
Manufacturers: Currently only Sony.



Digital Video, or Mini DV as it is often referred to, delivers the very best picture quality (as many as 500 lines of horizontal resolution) and has CD-quality PCM stereo sound with the ability to perform audio dubbing.

Most camcorders use mini DV cassettes (about the same size as a box of matches), which means that DV camcorders are among the smallest camcorders in the world, shrinking in size as technology advances.

Footage can be transferred from DV camcorders in three different ways. Firstly, as a composite analog signal via the composite A/V leads (like any other analog camcorder). Secondly, as an S-video analog signal and lastly as a DV signal. This method involves the i.Link digital interface often referred to as Firewire. When transferring footage from the cam to a DV VCR or PC using this connection, there's no loss of quality of sound or audio, one of the main reasons why DV is so popular.

All DV camcorders have i.Link out (or DV out), but if you wish to use a PC-based edit system then you'll need i.Link in (DV in) as well.

Mini DV
  • These camcorders are popular with professionals and serious hobbyists as well as consumers.
  • Most Mini DV models use superior-quality optics.
  • The camcorder itself can be quite small, literally pocket-sized.
  • Blank Mini DV tapes cost more than analog tapes.
  • Records up to 2 hours at SP speed.
  • Resolution is about 500 lines.


Uses extremely small 6.35mm tapes (one fourth inch, similar is size to DAT Audio Tapes). Tapes are played back through the camcorder via A/V connectors to a VCR or TV or to a computer, using the IEEE-1394 port (extra hardware and software required).
Video resolution is 500 lines, which is 20% better than HI8 or SVHS-C. There are typically two recording speeds SP and LP, which allow 60min or 90min recording times.
Since the tape is so small, camcorders of extremely small size can be manufactured, some are not much larger than a pack of cigarettes.
Sound quality is excellent. Audio can be recorded in either the 12bit or 16bit PCM format, which can produce almost CD quality results. In the 12bit mode there is provision for in-camera audio dubbing.

The MiniDV format also provides for still frame capture, with some camcorders using Progressive Scan technology for more accuracy in this mode of operation.
The MiniDV technology should take and maintain crystal clear images because of the nature of a digital format. Editing enthusiasts benefit from Mini DV as well, since copying between two units is done with no quality loss. That means edited or copied video looks and sounds every bit as good as the original footage. Mini DV tapes are available in 30, 60, 63 and 80 minute lengths.  Digital camcorders have the highest resolution of all the camcorders, starting at 500 lines.
For more information on Mini DV

Manufacturers: Sony, Canon, Sharp, JVC, Panasonic, and Samsung.



DVD-R has 1.47GB single sided optical disc for 30 min. of recording time. DVD-RAM has 2.9GB dual sided optical disc for a total of 60 min. recording time in fine quality mode (2 hrs standard mode). Up to 2,000 still photos on DVD-RAM. No more tape rewinding or fast forwarding as you can go directly to each scene. Digital stereo sound. Cutting edge technology in the year 2000. (DVD-RAM does not play on all DVD players)

--Manufacturers: Sony, Hitachi, Panasonic

Hard Disk Drive

Camcorder has built-in hard disk drive for recording. 60GB or 120GB is common. One disadvantage of hard disk is once the disk is full, you cannot record any more video without sacrificing existing video. You must download to a DVD or computer drive or online site. With tape, DVD or flash card based camcorder, you can insert another media and continue recording. Very popular 2008-2009.

Flash Memory Card

Camcorder can have built-in memory for recording and removable memory cards. 4GB, 8GB or 16GB is common. Costs for memory cards are coming down. Small size of cards allows storage of video without taking up space. Can easily download to DVD or online site. High Definition is available but be careful of incompatibilities. Becoming more and more popular 2009.


There are a wide variety of choices in camcorder formats. If you are looking for the most convenience, VHS-C, with its compactness and ability for its tapes to be adapted for play in a regular VCR might be your best choice if you are not looking for the latest technology.

If you travel a lot and length of recording on each tape is important to you, then 8mm or HI8 may be good choices. In addition, these camcorders are also compact and are easily carried.

If you are upgrading from HI8 or 8mm and don't have a way to continue to playback your library of old HI8 or 8mm tapes, you might be a good candidate for Digital8. This format provides a means of playing back your older tapes, while enabling you to enter the world of Digital Video.

Finally, if you need something that is extremely compact, are into video editing, still photo capture, have a high-powered computer, or just want the latest and greatest, then jump to MiniDV.

DVD camcorders are popular because they are small and many allow you to play your disc in a DVD player. Scene access is much better than tape since it is direct. See this for more details.


There is NO 8mm/VHS adapter! 8mm tapes cannot, under any circumstances, be played in a VHS VCR.

There are several reasons that 8mm (or Hi8 and miniDV tapes) cannot be physically played in a VHS VCR:

1. 8mm (Hi8, miniDV) is a different format with different technical characteristics than VHS. These formats were never developed with the intention to be mechanically compatible with VHS technology.

2. 8mm/Hi8 tapes are 8mm wide (miniDV is 6mm wide), while VHS tape is 1/2" wide, making it impossible for a VHS video head to read the taped information correctly.

3. 8mm/Hi8/miniDV tapes are recorded and played at different speeds than VHS, so even if the tapes could physically fit into a standard VHS VCR, the VCR still couldn't play back the tapes at their correct speeds.

4. 8mm/Hi8/miniDV audio is recorded differently than VHS. 8mm/Hi8 audio is recorded in AFM HiFi mode, while miniDV audio is recording in 12-Bit or 16-Bit PCM digital audio format. So, even if the video could be played back in a VHS VCR, the audio could not be read properly.

5. 8mm/Hi8 video is of higher resolution than VHS and is recorded in a different bandwidth length (miniDV video is recorded digitally), so once again, a standard VCR still could not read the information correctly, even if the tape could fit into a VCR.

The lack of mechanical compatibility with VHS VCRs is actually the strength of the aforementioned camcorder formats.

First: 8mm/Hi8/miniDV tape has a longer recording length than the VHS-C compatible VHS tape: In its standard SP speed, the longest VHS-C tape is 40min, while miniDV is 1 hour, and 8mm/Hi8 is 2 hrs.

Second: Not being mechanically compatible with VHS gives the 8mm/Hi/miniDV formats the ability to achieve higher technical standards in terms of video resolution and sound quality.

For the slight inconvenience of having to connect your 8mm/Hi8/miniDV camcorder to your TV or VCR with cables to watch your video, you have the advantage of newer technology that outpaces the abilities of your VCR or a VHS-C camcorder.

However, even though 8mm/Hi8/miniDV tape is not physically compatible with your VHS VCR, you still have the ability to transfer and edit your camcorder videos to VHS or DVD.

To transfer your 8mm/Hi8/miniDV tape to a VCR, just plug the Audio/Video cables supplied with the camcorder to the AV outputs of the Camcorder and then to the AV inputs on either front or back of the VCR, switch the VCR to AV-in, Line-in, or Aux in (depends on brand), put the tape to be copied in the Camcorder, put a blank tape in the VCR, press play on the Camcorder, press record on the VCR and you will be able to copy your tape. You can transfer your MiniDV video to DVD if you have a DVD recorder. Using a IEEE-1394 (4-pin Sony iLink) cable from the camcorder to the DVD recorder, you can transfer from tape to a standard DVD Video.

Also, check the owner's manual of either your Camcorder or VCR; there should be a page on copying your tapes or copying from one VCR to another (which is the same procedure). You can also watch your tape at the same time it is being copied. In addition, if you own a standalone DVD recorder, you can also copy your tapes to DVD using the above process as you would with a VCR.

Copying your camcorder tapes gives you the opportunity to cut out those boring parts and mistakes. You can send the polished copy to a friend or relative or just keep it for your own viewing. In fact, since 8mm/Hi8/miniDV are higher resolution formats than VHS, you will make better tape copies onto VHS. Every time you copy a tape you lose quality, the better quality the source material, the better the copy.

Use this analogy: When you buy a movie at your local video store and play it on your VCR it looks much better than if you had taped that same movie off of TV. 

The reason: the source of the tape is a direct copy of a studio master, whereas that same master broadcast over cable or the airwaves is degraded from TV transmission artifacts, then by the time you copy the movie, you not only copy the movie but any transmission defects along with it. Think of a tape recorded in 8mm/Hi8/miniDV as similar to a copy from a studio master and the tape copied from another VHS master as being copied from lower resolution source material.

Now, if you are still craving a way to play your 8mm/Hi8/miniDV tapes in some kind of player, there are solutions, but they are not cheap. There are 8mm/Hi8/miniDV VCRs made by Sony and Panasonic. In addition, JVC makes miniDV/S-VHS/VHS VCR Combos. See this for more.

High Definition - Video recorded in HD may use a proprietary method such as AVCHD which is used by Sony. As such certain techniques may prove incompatible when trying to copy video to another media. Often a lower-resolution copy can be transfered that may be more compatible with other devices. Camcorders using AVCHD may prove more compatible if used with other Sony devices such as Sony Blu-ray players or Sony DVD burners. Always check before you buy and think about how you'll transfer video.

Columbia ISA

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Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.


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