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Myth Buster: All Digital8 Camcorders are Compatible with all 8mm Tapes

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By Dillon Wallace

If you or your parents were cranking out home movies in the 80s and 90s, there’s a strong chance a pile of 8mm videotapes is laying around somewhere being neglected … slowly but surely fading from existence.


Sorry for the drab thought, but it’s the cold, hard truth. Those old 8mm videotapes, which include the full lineup of Video8, Hi8 and Digital8 tapes, are degrading and so are the memories they dearly hold. Good news is, your memories can be saved by digitizing them, and we can help!

So while you’re picking out your preferred Legacybox option to send in your stash of tapes, it’s the perfect time to break a little myth about these beloved vintage tapes.

Myth: Are all Digital 8 camcorders compatible with all 8mm tapes?

 

The simple answer, no. But … there’s more to it than a simple answer. To give you context, we have to understand the technology behind the camcorders and tapes and how it all works together.


Let’s start with the Video8 tape. Back in 1985 when camcorders were in their infancy, Video8 tapes were released for the Sony Handycam. These totally analog tapes enjoyed a solid run as one of the go-to tape formats of the mid 80s until the release of their successor, the Hi8 tape in 1989. Hi8 had all the features of Video8 but with improved resolution, and they provided both analog video and audio but with the provision for digital audio (PCM sound) as well. This was significant because it was a consumer first. Fast forward another decade and Sony would fully move their next 8mm tape release into the impending digital millennium with Digital 8 tapes. These tapes could record in full analog like their predecessors but they were also fully digitally encoded, offering identical digital audio and video specifications as DV.


Cool, but what does this all mean about busting the myth? Here’s what …


With each 8mm iteration, the successor had near backward compatibility. That meant that Hi8 camcorders could play Video8 tapes and Digital 8 camcorders could play Video8 and Hi8 tapes. And while it’s true that MOST Digital 8 camcorders were backwards compatible and could play back existing 8mm tapes (Video8 and Hi8), there were some models released that didn’t offer this feature. So while the myth is ALMOST true, you can blame the following camcorders for not making it 100% fact.


Here are the guilty culprits:

  • DCR-TRV130
  • DCR-TRV140
  • DCR-TRV250
  • DCR-TRV260
  • DCR-TRV265
  • DCR-TRV280

 

So while your scouring your bedroom closet, basement storage or attic overflow for your box full of old 8mm tapes, you may realize that your old camcorder (if you even still have it) is one of those few models that wasn’t backward compatible. The good news is it doesn’t matter because what’s important is getting those memories preserved. And with their new digital makeover, you won’t have to worry about backwards compatibility or what camcorder you had. With digital copies, they’re ready to share, send, post and more at the press of a button.
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