Camera History 

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While JVC’s VHS and Sony’s Betamax were fighting it out for the crown of the home video tape market, 8mm video​ cameras burst upon the scene to steal the show from the two formats in the mid-1980s.

The 8mm video format was first endorsed by the 8-mm Video Standardization Conference where a group of 122 (later 127) manufacturers decided on the standard in 1982.

The Conference, among others, decided on the cassette size standard and also how the video signal is to be recorded.

Among others, the Conference approved the creation of a cassette tape 8mm wide, just a little larger than the audio cassette.

This led to the reduction of the drum diameter and the writing speed. The area of tape devoted to each second of video was reduced.

A solution had to be worked out to compensate the quality loss.

8mm’s New Tape Technology

The solution was superior tape quality in the form of metal tapes, otherwise known as Metal Powdered (MP) and Metal Evaporated (ME).

The quality of these tapes surpassed that of the normal oxide tapes used with VCR players before the advent of 8mm video.

These new breed of tapes allowed for improvement in signal-to-noise ratio which means you get less snowy or grainy pictures.

When 8mm  video cameras were first introduced in the mid 1980s, they caught the attention of video enthusiasts  because of the format’s ability to store video through a mini video cassette, about the size of an audio cassette, which is just one twelfth the unwieldy size of VHS.

Earliest 8mm Video Cameras

FUJI’s Fujix-8

You may venture a guess that Sony launched the first 8mm . Fuji actually stole a march on Sony in January 1985 with a model called Fujix-8 carrying a price tag of around $1250.

Interestingly, the camcorder, which weighed four and a half pounds was built by Sony, which would go on to release its own 8mm camcorder later in that year.

Fujix 8’s Main Features

The standout features of Fujix 8, 8mm camcorder were an electronic viewfinder and the ability of the camcorder to produce acceptable video quality when shooting in light conditions as low as 20 lux.

Fujix-8 boasted a 510 x 490 pixel CCD, a 2/3inch image sensor chip with a 11.5 – 70mm f/1.4 zoom capability.

The electronic viewfinder allowed the user to check the recordings after shooting and the it could also be viewed over television without extra accessories.

Fujix-8 also came with an computer-type editing facility. Users could key in the start and end points of a maximum of nine video sequences and copy them in random order to a video tape with a VCR.

What happens here is the editor will run the camera back and forth in the order you have set the sequences to be recorded.

Sony’s CCD-V8

The first Video camera manufactured by Sony was CCD-V8 in 1985. The image sensor was a 250,000 pixel CCD and it came with a 6x motorised zoom.

It weighed 1.97kg and fetched a price of $1175 in Japan.

The CCD-V8 carried three focus settings before another model with auto focus was introduced.

The camcorder could only record video but not play it back. Sony ceased producing the model when it introduced the AF (Auto-Focus) models.

Polaroid’s 8mm Video Venture

Polaroid came up with its own version of 8mm video camera and were excited about the 8mm video popularity growth because of its audio capabilities. The 8mm video cassette could record mono audio, hi fi FM audio and , in the future, digital stereo sound.

Polaroid offered four versions of its 8mm video tape, all coming packaged in a Black/Blue box:

8mm P6-30MP with a record time of 30 minutes.
8mm P6-60MP with a record time of 60 minutes.
8mm P6-90MP with a record time of 90 minutes.
8mm P6-120MP with a record time of 120 minutes.

TDK’s Optimism

TDK also jumped into the 8mm video fray, optimistic that the format would be the preference of the home video consumer and expected it to capture at least 20% of the market share of the home movie market in the next two years.Competition from VHS-C.

The VHS camp countered the growing popularity of 8mm video by issuing the VHS-C (compact) format. This tape is essentially smaller than the VHS format, and the main advantage of the format over the 8mm video format was the ability to play it back through an adapter tape the size of VHS.

There was no need to buy an expensive new video player to view your video recording on television. You could just pop in the VHS-adapter tape and hit the play button.

Despite playback ease, VHS-C camcorders did not hit the stride in the market and 8mm video dominated the camcorder market.

Sony’s 8mm

Although other manufacturers tried to cash in on the 8mm video market, it was Sony which led the market share, by constantly improving the quality of its 8mm video.

Check out an list of Sony 8mm Camcorder Models with Demo Videos

8mm Analog Camcorders

Video8

The video8 format has horizontal  resolution of 240 lines, similar to that of the VHS format. Sound was only FM quality.

Later, when Sony introduced the Hi-8 and Digital8 camcorders, they came with the ability to play Video8 tapes.

Hi-8

The Hi-8 was an improvement over the Video 8 format. It’s quality was that of S-VHS  and laserdisc  with a resolution of 420 lines. In the PAL format, it could record at a resolution of  560 x 480.

The Hi-8 format  found favour among journalists in news agencies and low-budget moviemakers.

BBC, Reuters and CNN journalists found it more convenient to carry a Hi-8 camera to shoot footage compared to the cumbersome Beta broadcast cameras.

Among the full-length movies shot on Hi-8 are Access Denied, The Uninvited and Outbreak by moviemaker Glenn Kau, now available for viewing on Vimeo.

8mm Digital Camcorder

Digital8

The Digital8 format was Sony’s answer to the mini-DV format. It allowed users to record in a digital format on an 8, or Hi-8 tape.

It also had versatile abilities. What this means is if you have a defective Video 8 camcorder, you could still play your video tape  back and capture it for editing through Digital8 camcorder Firewire port.

Among the full-length movies shot on Hi-8 are Access Denied, The Uninvited and Outbreak by moviemaker Glenn Kau, now available for viewing on Vimeo..

 8mm Video Camera Accessories

Here are among the common 8mm that aided the consumer in videomaking and video playback.

8mm Video Tape

In 1985 Kodak announced the release of an 8mm video tape that could record video for two hours. The tape which was of the metal particle type, was to have its base thickness reduced to 10 microns from its original 13 to extend its recording duration by one third.

Polaroid announced the release of a metal particle tape which with a recording time of 90 minutes. The tape called MP-90 was to be followed with the 30 and 60-minute versions.

Agfa aso announced the offering of a 60 minute 8mm tape in Germany. The m5-60 will be a metal particle tape and the E5-60 will be a metal-evaporated tape.

Despite these releases, it was Sony’s 8mm video tapes which found favour among camcorder users. Understandably so, as Sony dominated the camcorder market before mini-DV made its presence felt.

Video Head Cleaning Cassette

If playback from your 8mm video camera is not up to the mark, it could be that the video head is dirty.  Recording quality may also suffer. Experts advise that the camcorder heads be cleaned after 20 hours of recording.

Always use the video head cleaning tape recommended by the manufacturer of your 8mm camcorder.

8mm Video Player- Recorder

If for some reason you have a stack of old video 8 and Hi-8 tapes and wish to play them back or digitise them, ad don’t have access to a Digital8 camcorder,  you could try getting an 8mm video player recorder.

These player-recorders come built-in with a Firewire port, which allows you to digitise your old tapes easily by importing them into a computer video editing program.

They are no longer in production, however, but you could find used models over at eBay or Amazon.

GV-S50 8mm Video Walkman

The GV-S50 8mm video walkman has the capability of recording video and also play it back on its 4-inch LCD screen (with TFT Active Matrix System).

GV_5_50_Sony_Video_Walkman
GVS 5o Sony Video Walkman

You can also connect the video walkman to a camcorder or VCR for editing, not to mention connecting it to your TV for playing back 8mm video.

The video walkman, popular in the mid-1990s, also has tuner capabilities with a 6-event/1-month programmable timer.

On the audio side, there’s the AFM Hi-Fi stereo recording.

Audio output is of Mega Bass sound with a ‘deep, powerful bass response’.

The walkman also plays back Hi-8 tapes in Video8 quality.

8mm Tape Converter to Digital 

Unless you don’t mind rewinding your tapes and playing them back over your television from your camcorder or 8mm video player time and again, you would want to convert your 8mm video casette to digital.

You have two ways to do this. First, you connect your camcorder to your computer via a video capture card and import video into it through a video editing program.

The second route is if you have a Digital8 camcorder, you could could import video into your computer through a Firewire connection –  via a Firewire cable, provided your computer or your laptop has a Firewire port.

Once you’ve edited your footage, you could burn your video to VCD or DVD, or simply export it as a digital video file to be played back on your computer or mobile devices.

End of the Road

8mm video lost its popularity when the mini-DV format made its entry into the camcorder market. While 8mm video is often associated with Sony, the mini-DV is a universal format which opened up the camcorder market to other manufacturers. The easily availability of mini-DV tapes also encouraged camcorder users to switch from 8mm to mini-DV.

With the advent of DSLR cameras and 4k smartphone video cameras, the 8mm video format could be considered ‘extinct’ but here and there folks with functioning 8mm camcorders are still shooting and producing videos.

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Also Asked

How do I play 8mm video tapes?

You can play 8mm tapes through an 8mm camcorder or a 8mm VCR (Video Cassette Recorder). You can play a Video8 tape with a Video8, Hi-8 and Digital8 camcorder/VCR. You can play a Hi-8 tape with a Hi-8 or Digital8 camcorder/VCR. You can only play a Digital8 tape with a Digital8 camcorder/VCR.

How Do I Transfer 8mm Video to Computer?

You have to connect your 8mm camcorder/VCR /player through an A/V or S-Video cable to the A/V or S-Video ports of the video capture device connected to a computer. In the computer, you would need a video capture software or a video editing software to capture and save the video footage digitized by the video capture device.

How Can I Watch My 8mm Videos Without the Video Camera?

There’s only one way to watch your 8mm videos without a video camera – through a 8mm VCR deck. This deck can only play 8mm tapes. You can’t play a VHS tape over it. Similarly, you can’t play an 8mm tape on a VHS VCR. There’s no adapter to play an 8mm tape on a VHS player.