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“This camcorder dates from around 1995, so it's...”

Written on: 09/10/2007 by Boinng (2 reviews written)

Good Points
VERY cheap now
Surprisingly good quality video
Small and lightweight
Very easy to use
Tapes still readily available

Bad Points
Obviously not digital, so not the best picture.

General Comments
This camcorder dates from around 1995, so it's seriously old now, but if you can pick one up for a reasonable price I thoroughly recommend it.

Believe it or not I paid the princely sum of £3 for this camcorder, and its associated charger, from the local dump - but despite being 12 years old (and at the dump!) it still works absolutely perfectly. This camera was made at a time when Sony were kings of the camcorder market - they arguably still are - and it's the epitome of the classic Handycam, with a small and lightweight form, and all the controls where you need them. Although it's only Video8 (as opposed to Hi8, or the more recent digital formats) it still produces good quality video, equivalent to VHS standard if not better.

The features on this camera are relatively basic, but that in turn keeps it light, small, and easy to use. There's a very decent 10x optical zoom lens with autofocus, mono sound, date and time recording, and a four exposure modes - low light, sports, fast-shutter mode, and the generic "auto" mode that most people will leave it in. These are controlled with a four position dial that shouldn't confuse too many users. There are no menus to navigate - every function is controlled by either a switch, button, or dial, which makes this camcorder refreshingly simple to understand and use. There's no colour LCD on the side either - just the standard monochrome viewfinder, which is fully adjustable. Build quality is very good, with a sturdy hand strap and built-in lens cap that pops open when you switch it into camera mode.

The battery life of this camcorder will vary depending on what battery comes supplied - it's compatible with various Sony NP series batteries (such as the NP-55 or NP-77) which have differing capacities. I use my camera with a smallish Duracell aftermarket battery, and on a full charge this will last for probably an hour or so of filming, but a bigger battery will obviously last you longer - new replacement batteries of varying size are readily available through retailers on the web and elsewhere. This same battery standard was used for dozens of Sony models through the years, so there's a big market for them still. There's also a big market for Video8 tapes, since the same basic tapes were also used for Hi8 and later Digital8 formats, and cassettes for both of those will also work fine in this (in fact, using a Hi8 or Digital8 tape in place of standard Video8 is probably a good idea, since the tapes are slightly higher quality).

Video output on this camera is down to a single RCA/Phono lead for video, and another for sound - so no plugging it straight into your PC for editing unless you happen to have a video capture card - but in these days of cheap DVD recorders, its a good idea to just archive all your footage to DVD for posterity, and then use the DVD as your digital source in the computer if you want to edit. Of course, this won't magically transform the source material into digital quality, but it will preserve the full quality of the original, unlike in the old days of taping onto VHS.

Since it's difficult to get hold of the manual for this camera now, here are two tips that might help if you're trying to restore one of these old cameras to life -

1) If you see a circle with an X in the middle of the viewfinder and the recording is bad, you need to clean the heads - use a Sony Video8/Hi8/Digital8 head cleaning tape.

2) If the viewfinder flashes a symbol at the bottom of the screen and the camera doesn't remember the time and date when you remove the main battery, this means your backup battery is flat or missing - remove the sliding cover on the side (covering the mode switches) and you'll find a slot for a 2025 lithium battery.

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