Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


For some of us one of Sony’s glory periods was the introduction of Hi8mm, a break from SVHS, now we had a high band recording format that came with a far smaller tape.

I got a phone call today from a chap who simply wants to convert all his 8mm and Hi8mm tapes to DVD but no longer has a player or camcorder in which to do so. I told him to phone round a few of the video boys who might just have a Hi8mm tape deck collecting dust.

It brought out my own demons with Hi8mm, sadly I have some tapes up in my attic with some lovely original footage of my children now imprisoned to a format that went out of fashion when mini DV came along.

None of us thought for one minute that it might be better to keep one of these Hi8mm tape decks or camcorders in case the future wanted to view the past. This chap was in the same boat as myself looking through EBAY for a small ounce of gold dust in the shape of a Hi8mm camcorder…with outputs.

95% of camcorders in those days had YC and analogue video outputs so it was easy to dub footage from one tape format to another.

If anyone out there has a Sony Hi8mm PAL tape deck or a camcorder they fancy getting rid of give me an email and I will give you an offer for your machine. Email

I had this very camcorder with twin VU meters, manual everything a good old headphone socket, Sony like most manufacturers have forgotten in recent times that we like to be in control of our camcorders, yet they will insist in not giving us mic inputs or headphone outputs till fairly recently.

The Sony VG10 was a classic example of Sony forgetting the “feature rich” past with no control over the sound nor the ability to switch the gain to 0dB or the ability to mount the camcorder on your shoulder…sometimes the future does not always bring the best from the past !


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

6 thoughts on “Nostalgia tinged with sadness

  1. Ahhh, the good old days… My first camera was the trusty ‘ol VX5000. Nearly Aus$5000 from memory(!)

    I also had boxes of Hi8 tapes I wanted to convert so I snared a Digital8 camcorder from Ebay – even had firewire out which made capturing much easier. Be careful through – not all Sony Digital8 cameras playback Hi8/8mm… do some research online before buying.

    I copied my tapes and then resold it on Ebay for a $25 profit!

    Another tip: Some of my tapes had mold growing on them (poor storage) so give them a quick check before popping them into the machine.

    Have fun reliving the glory days. Next project – my vinyl collection…

  2. Perhaps I’ve misread this article, or misunderstood something. As far as I remember in addition to shooting digital, Digital 8 camcorders could play Hi8 tapes/recordings, and some had firewire sockets for easy capture on computer. Digital 8 cameras are quite easy to find on Ebay, and often are inexpensive.

  3. Yes I do remember the incompatibility problems especially with Sony Hi8mm tape, I think it was something to do with the vertical alignment of the heads (the azimuth).

  4. Hi (love your blog) – I know a Hi8 camera might solve your friend’s problem. But it might be easier to find a working Digital 8 camera to do the job, no?

  5. I’d agree, it’s why I still have my trusty D8 camcorder. I had the firmware updated to remove the recording restriction and this enables the rather handy feature that whatever appears on the DV socket appears on the S/Video|Composite sockets and vice versa.

    It can do this trick as it can both play and record in D8, Hi8 and 8mm (if you’re desperate) so has a transcoder in the hardware.

    Only the earlier models had this ability for folks switching over, the later D8 models were just bargain basement machines.

    Several times I’ve “rescued” friends ageing 8mm/Hi8 collections when their camcorder broke, including 99% of an NTSC collection.

    Any 8mm format and any Composite/SVideo source to DV – I fear the day when my old workhorse breaks down. Thankfully in it’s day it was the pro-sumer model built on a top end existing Hi8 deck and, touch wood, it seems robust.

    If it’s a few tapes I’d be happy to help out as a thank you for a great blog, but I’m afraid I’m not selling 😉

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