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Are Hi8 and MiniDV the Same?

By Mollee Shannon

Cleaning out the attic, I discovered a box of old miniature tapes that had long since lost their camcorders. As I began to go through them, look at their labels, and guess at what family memories might be on these, I noticed I had two different formats. Some of the tapes were slightly larger than the others, and they clearly fit two different camcorders my family had owned at some point in time. After some research, I found that I had two formats: Hi8 and MiniDV, and while there are some similarities, they are definitely different formats. Here’s how to tell the difference between them. 

A Smaller Alternative 

In the late 1980s, Sony’s Hi8 technology hit the market, and it showed potential for becoming a much smaller alternative to the bulky VHS tapes required to operate a consumer’s camcorder at the time. Voila! Dad’s not going to be carrying around that suitcase of video equipment any longer! Being an amateur home movie maker just became easier and more portable. For people who had been using those giant camcorders that require full-sized VHS tapes. Hi8 tapes are still analog media, meaning that they used analog formats for both video and audio. However, what really piqued the interest of amateur videographers is that Hi8 offered a digital audio recording option in some of the higher end models. Hi8 includes a 400 line video resolution capability and could be found in various lengths at 40, 60, and 120 minutes. This made Hi8 the most format for camcorders throughout the next decade. Some VCR players were even produced with Hi8 decks for easy playback and transfer. Who can forget those old tape adapters? Placing Hi8 tapes into the VHS adapter wowed all of us! The camcorder for Hi8 wasn’t retired until 2007, even though MiniDV took the industry by storm just a decade later. 

Miniature for the New Millennium 

As we know, technology is ever changing and we are constantly presented with ways that our devices can become more efficient and cost effective. Just before the new millennium, as the nation had not yet heard of Y2K, an even smaller technology entered the market: MiniDV. This tape was about 30 mm smaller than the Hi8, and it sent videographers and parents alike to the store in droves. We always want the newest and best available, right? Never before had we seen such a tiny tape, except in our answering machines!  MiniDV, a 6mm tape also offered, better audio and video capabilities. This tiny tape offers a 500 line video resolution and a standard 90 minute recording time. Companies saw so much promise in the MiniDV that several companies picked up manufacturing, including Sharp, Panasonic, Sony, JVC, and Canon. This is probably why the MiniDV finally chased Hi8 out of the market. Sony remained the sole producer of Hi8 tapes. 

Find Your Format 

If, like my family, you’ve got tapes that haven’t seen a camcorder in a couple of decades, you might be wondering what format you have. One easy way to tell the difference? A Hi8 tape measures about 95 mm long, and MiniDV measures about 66 mm long. If you still have questions, our great customer service team is here to help, and fortunately, at Legacybox, we’ve got you taken care of whether your tapes are Hi8 or MiniDV! These formats are just two of our many format specialities. Outdated formats take up space and are hard to watch without the proper equipment, but Legacybox can digitize your video in a cinch! Sending your tapes to be digitized will update your memories to a modern, easy-to-use format. 

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