Back when I started shooting video in the 1990s I initially shot on 8mm/Video 8 and Hi8, format, eventually moving onto Digital8. When I purchased my first Digital8 camcorder I made sure it was a model that was capable of 8mm and Hi8 playback.
Not all models of Sony Digital8 camcorders are capable of Hi8 and 8mm playback, so I compiled a list of models that had this capability, like ones that did not.
There are 28 Sony Digital8 Camcorders with 8mm and Hi8 Playback capability, meaning they can play back tapes that were recorded in Video8 or Hi8 format, as well as recorded in Digital8. There are also 7 models of Digital 8 camcorders that are not backward compatible with Hi8 or Video8 formats.
You see, not all Digital8 camcorders understand or are capable of playing back tapes that were originally recorded in an analog format like Video8 or Hi8. Not only I’ve compiled a complete list of all modes with Hi8 / Video playback, and I’ve also provided links to the user manual of each model as well as where to purchase them.
Sony Digital8 Camcorders That Play 8mm and Hi8 Tapes (NTSC/US)
Here is the full list of all NTSC/US Sony Digital8 camcorders that can play 8mm (Video8) and Hi8 tapes, which are analog video formats that are backward compatible with these camcorders.
Below are links to each model’s user manuals. Also included are links to each camcorder on eBay. Amazon does have some Digital8 Camcorders but it’s limited so best to search for Digital 8 Camcorders on Amazon.
|DCR-TR7000||DCR-TR7000 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV103||DCR0TRV103 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV110||DCR-TRV110 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV120||DCR-TRV120 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV203||DCR-TRV203 Manual||not found|
|DCR-TRV210||DCR-TRV210 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV230||DCR-TRV230 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV240||DCR-TRV240 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV310||DCR-TRV310 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV315||DCR-TRV315 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV320||DCR-TRV320 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV330||DCR-TRV330 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV340||DCR-TRV340 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV350||DCR-TRV350 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV351||DCR-TRV351 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV360||DCR-TRV360 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV361||DCR-TRV361 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV380||DCR-TRV380 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV460||DCR-TRV460 Manual||Check eBay|
|DCR-TRV480||DCR-TRV480 Manual||Check eBay|
Sony Digital 8 Camcorders that are *NOT* backward compatible with Hi8 or Video8 / 8mm analog playback
These camcorders can only playback tapes that were originally recorded in Digital8 format, they do not playback any tapes originally recorded in Hi8 or Video8 formats.
These camcorders are fine for anyone who only wants to playback Digital8 tapes, and doesn’t have old Video8 or Hi8 tapes they want to playback.
Sony Digital8 PAL Camcorders with Hi8/8mm analog playback
These camcorders are a European version that records at 24 frames per second, which is referred to as PAL, but they can also play back NTSC format 29.97 frames per second. And some of these have analog playback capabilities.
Special thanks to Frank Hirsinger from www.1ivanka.de, his website is about PAL Video8 VCRs – he informed me that all PAL Digital 8 camcorders can also play back NTSC / US. His website is in German but you can try and translate it to get some more great info on analog video8 VCRs.
These European camcorder models end with an “E”, the list below is backward compatible and can still playback Video8 and Hi8 PAL tapes originally recorded at 24 frames per second. Again if you are outside the US these are the camcorders for you, and if you can find one of these in the US they should also work for you.
There are 10 models of Sony Digital8 PAL Camcorders, some are capable of Hi8/8mm playback, some are not.
|DCR-TR7100E||user manual||YES||Check eBay|
Why Are Digital8 Camcorders So Expensive?
After looking at the prices when searching you may be wondering why are Digital8 camcorders so expensive?
Do they shoot videos better than the new camcorder? Absolutely not, your cell phone shoots better video than a Digital 8 camcorder.
So why so expensive?
One word: SCARCITY
Digital8 camcorders are no longer manufactured. So if you’re one of the people that want to transfer their old digital8 tapes – and possibly some Hi8 and Video 8 tapes to a digital format then there are only 2 ways to do this:
- Buy a used Digital8 camcorder and transfer the video yourself
- Pay a video transfer service to do it for you
Option #2 is affordable if you only have a few tapes to transfer, but if you have a bunch then think again, transfer services can get pricey very fast when it comes to multiple tapes.
The good news is if you choose option 1 to transfer the tapes yourself the Digital8 camcorder that you bought used may be worth more when you are done, so just sell it to the next person that needs to transfer some videotapes.
How Much Do Digital 8 Camcorders Cost?
Digital8 camcorders generally run cost anywhere from $100 up to $250 or more depending on the quality and where you purchase it. Popular sites like eBay and Amazon fetch a premium because that is where most people look, whereas on local used sites like Craiglist or Facebook Marketplace there is less demand so lower prices.
The 4 Best Places to Buy a Used Digital8 Camcorder
Since Digital8 Camcorders have been out of production for quite some time you are going to have to find a used camcorder in order to transfer your videotapes.
Here is a list of the best places I’ve found to search for Digital 8 Camcorders:
Since these aren’t new camcorders and may no longer be sold used your best chance of finding one of these camcorders in stock is to search for “Digital8 Camcorder” on Amazon or eBay and then cross-referencing this list, but I’ve also provided direct searches to Amazon and eBay to check inventory for each model.
And since neither your camcorder nor your videotapes are getting any younger I strongly suggest if you plan on transferring your own tapes to digital that you start the process sooner than later. As time goes on finding a working Digital8 camcorder will become more difficult and expensive.
Will Digital 8 Play Hi8 and Video 8 Tapes?
Most Sony Digital8 camcorders can playback Hi8 and Video 8 tapes, especially the earlier models of Digital 8 as this was one of the features to draw in Hi8 and Video8 users. Some later model Digital8 camcorders did not have this Hi8 playback feature so be careful when buying one.
If you have a Digital 8 Camcorder that has Hi8/8mm playback capability and inserts an old tape that was recorded in one of those formats the camcorder will detect that the tape is not recorded in Digital 8, and basically “switches gears” slowing down the playback to see if the tape was recorded in Hi8/Video8.
If the tape was then these camcorders know how to read and playback the analog video.
In fact, if you have a firewire / IEEE1394 capable computer and connect it to a Digital8 Camcorder and then playback the old Hi8/Video8 tape you can still control the camera via your editing software, and the output will be in 720×480 pixels like Digital8.
Basically, the camcorder upscales the old analog footage the best it can, which is why it’s ideal to try and find a Digital8 camcorder to play your old analog tapes back with.
What is the difference between Digital8 and Hi8 / Video8 formats?
The Digital8 format is a digital format that gets recorded on the tape (think 1s and 0s), whereas the Hi8 and Video8 formats are analog videos that record waveform information from the tapes. Digital 8 also records using the DV codec which results in 720×480 resolution, where Hi8 and Video are much lower resolution.
Both Hi8 and Video 8 are analog formats recorded onto a Hi8/Videotape and recorded at a rate that 1 tape lasts 2 hours in SP mode. Hi8 is just a higher quality video format than Video8. Digital 8 is a digital format (think 1’s and 0’s) that also gets recorded onto Video8 and Hi8 tape but is also very different from Hi8 and Video8.
The tapes themselves are simply the media that the video gets recorded onto, it’s the information that gets recorded onto the media that is vastly different between Hi8/Video8 and Digital8.
Since Sony had so many consumers out there using these 8mm tapes they decided to develop a format called Digital8 that would use the same tapes, and most of the initial camcorders were developed to be backward compatible and could also playback Hi8 and 8mm tapes.
Then additional newer (and not always better) models of Digital 8 came out that could only record and playback Digital8 tapes, and could not playback any tape originally recorded in analog format.
This is why if you are going to convert old tapes and want to find a single camcorder that can do the job it is essential to choose the correct camcorder from the list below.
Can Hi8 or Video 8 Camcorders playback Digital 8 Tapes?
Nope – Hi8 and Video8 camcorders record information in an analog format and the tape runs at 1/2 the speed of a Digital 8 camcorder.
As the name suggests “Digital 8” is a digital format (1s and 0s) not analog so an old analog camcorder will not understand the data recorded onto a tape by a Digital 8 Camcorder.
Can Digital 8 Camcorders also record in Hi8 or Video 8 format?
Nope – Digital 8 camcorders can only record in digital format.
And as the list above shows not every Digital 8 Camcorder can even playback a Hi8 or Video 8 tape.
And not that you want to use these camcorders to record any new video since your phone will do a better job and be easier to deal with.
Other Playback Options
These are far harder to find playback devices which I wouldn’t plan on finding but wanted to let you know that they exist:
Digital 8 Tape Decks
There is one more shot at playing back your old Digital 8 tapes – Digital 8 Tape Decks.
Yes – Sony actually produced a deck that played back Digital 8 tapes, sort of like a Sony Walkman but with a small video screen attached.
These are tough to come by and expensive, a camcorder is easier to find. But if you are curious look out for these Digital 8 Tape decks on eBay or other websites.
The only model I am aware of is the Sony GV-D200 – here is a link to one on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sony-GV-D200-Digital-Portable-Recorder/dp/B00006JQQ6
Hitachi Digital 8 Camcorders
For a very short while, Hitachi got into the Digital8 Camcorder race with some of their own models. I’ve never owned or tried once, chances are you haven’t either nor will you ever find one. The last time I checked eBay there were none to be found.
If I remember correctly these camcorders also promised to playback Video8 and Hi8 tapes, but even Sony recommends that you playback your tapes on Sony equipment if they were originally recorded on Sony equipment.
If you have both Digital8 and Hi8/Videotapes to transfer, or you are not sure the format they were originally recorded in, then your best bet if you no longer have your camcorder(s) is to find a Digital8 camcorder with Hi8/Video playback capability.
Not only will most Digital8 camcorders playback all of your old tapes they will “upscale” your old analog footage as well to a higher resolution. It also lets you control the camcorder with your computer (if you have firewire install – more on that later)
If you only have Hi8 and Video8 tapes to transfer then you can also buy just a Hi8 camcorder to play them back with.
In future posts, we’ll discuss the other equipment needed to properly transfer your videotapes to digital depending on your setup.
Most likely you will need either a USB capture device, or a firewire/IEEE1394 firewire card which connects directly to digital camcorders for full resolution downloads.