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DVCAM Format Explained: Learn More About Sony’s Pro DV Format

DVCAM format

Last updated on May 2nd, 2024 at 01:28 pm

DVCAM stands for Digital Video Camera.

It is a variant of the DV format developed by Sony. Introduced in 1996, many regard it as the pro version of DV.

DVCAM was meant as a competitor to DVCPRO, introduced by Panasonic a year before in 1995.

The format proved popular. By 1999, 100,000 units were sold. Also, from 1996 to 2001, 230,000 DVCAM camcorders and VTRs were sold globally.

Betacam, on the other hand, could manage only 440,000 units from 1984 to 2001, covering a period of 17 years.

DVCAM’s popularity could be attributed to the availability of low-cost Non-Linear Editing (NLE) systems that it is compatible with.

Sony built the iLINK/IEEE1394 into DVCAM camcorders and Video Tape Recorders (VTRs) to work with computer-based NLE systems.

Before the emergence of DVCAM, U-matic and Betacam SP ruled the professional video market.


DVCAm tapes come in two sizes – standard and mini. Both have a tape width of 1/4 inch or 6.35 mm. This is the standard width for all other types of DV tapes.

With the standard DVCAM tape, you can record up to 184 minutes.

With the mini tape (the size of mini-DV), up to 40 minutes of video can be recorded. A longer recording time is available as explained below.

Tape speed and Track Pitch

Tape speed and track pitch are increased, however, to provide better quality video.

Standard DV tape speed is 17mm per second. DVCAM moves at 28mm per second. DVCPRO tape speed is 34mm per second.

Drum speed, however, is constant for all DV formats.

Track pitch for DVCAM is at 15 microns compared to 10 microns for other DV tapes.

Tape Material

DVCAM uses the same type of tape as mini-DV. In other words, it uses an ‘advanced’ Metal Evaporated (ME) tape.

This tape uses Sony’s cobalt advanced evaporated coating, The result is high video output quality, not to mention a high C/N (Carrier-to-Noise) ratio. Picture quality is enhanced and error rates are minimized.

DVCAM Tape Durability

Tape durability is also enhanced through the use of the Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) layer. This provides additional protection to the tape surface. It makes the tape fit for long editing sessions.

DVCAM tapes also promise low dropout frequency and enhanced thermal stability.

DVCAM Tape Types

There are IC Cassette Memory and Master Tapes, each suited for different applications.

A 16-kbit Cassette Memory provides storage for ClipLink™ Log Data,
Index Pictures, Photo mode, and other shooting data, useful during editing.

Sony’s Sony Hyper Evaticle II Magnetic Particle technology is used on Master Tapes. This provides higher video output quality with minimum noise. These tapes are useful when it comes to making master recordings and high-speed data transfer applications.

Also, DVCAM tapes come with the ‘audio-locking’ feature. This prevents the audio from falling out of sync with the recorded video.

DVCAM tapes can be played not only on DVCAM players but also on DVCPRO players.

DVCAM Resolution and Compression

DVCAM resolution is set at 720×576 for PAL and 720×480 for NTSC.

DVCAM employs 8-bit digital component recording. It uses a 5:1 compression ratio.

The DVCAM sampling rate for NTSC is set at 4:1:1 and 4:2:0 for PAL.

This sampling rate effectively reduces generation loss.

DVCAM Audio Quality

Its excellent signal-to-noise ratio provides audio quality that comes close to CD quality.

You can also select the 2-channel 48 kHz/16-bit recording mode or the 4-channel 32 kHz/12-bit recording mode.

DVCAM Video Tape Recorders

DVCAM VTRs supports playback of DV25 (data rate of 25 Mb/s) tapes.

This would include DVCAM and generally DV tapes in SP mode. DV tapes don’t need an adapter for DVCAM VTR playback. Also, no menu adjustment is needed.

DV tapes can be used as a source for editing material.

Longer Recording Time

The DVCAM camcorder and VTR are also capable of recording up to 276 minutes via its standard size tape. 60 minutes is possible on a mini-size tape.

This would be done on a DV25 tape.

Sony DVCAM for Sale

DVCAM may have fallen out of popularity owing to the arrival of HD video formats.

Still, DVCAM camcorders and DVCAM video tape recorders are available for sale online.

DVCAM Video Tape Recorders

If you have DVCAM tapes and wish to play them back, you may want to get hold of a DVCAM player. You may also need a unit to convert DVCAM tapes to digital.

The following models are available for purchase online.

Sony DSR-20 DVCAM / DV / MiniDV VTR Player/Recorder

Sony DSR45 DVCAM Video Tape Recorder.

SONY DSR-11 DVCAM Digital Videocassette Recorder

If you’re looking for a portable DVCAM playback unit, you may want to look at the Sony DSR-V10 DVCAM Video Cassette Recorder (VCR).

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