Mini DV tapes are the smallest of the video formats. They take and maintain crystal clear images because of the nature of a digital format. Editing enthusiasts benefit from Mini DV as well, since copying between two units is done with no quality loss. That means edited or copied video looks and sounds every bit as good as the original footage. Mini DV tapes are available in 30, 60,63 and 80 minute lengths. You can also have Mini DV tapes transferred to VHS so you can watch them on a normal VHS VCR. Digital camcorders have the highest resolution of all the camcorders, starting at 500 lines.
For more information on Mini DV.
DIGITAL8 is a format that is far superior to HI-8 or 8MM. Sony was the first to introduce this format and has done a great job. It is backwardly compatible, meaning that the new Digital8 camcorders and VCR's will also play your 8MM and HI-8 tapes. You do not have to buy special tapes to record in Digital8. A regular 8MM or HI-8 tape will record up to 60 minutes of digital video and audio. Because of the design, using regular tapes is not a problem, but it uses twice as much tape. A 2 hour HI-8 or 8MM tape will record 60 minutes when done in the Digital mode and records up to 500 lines of resolution.
HI-8 camcorders record their signal at about 400 lines of resolution, slightly less than Mini DV, but substantially higher than 8mm or regular VHS formats. Most often, HI-8 camcorders record sound in hi-fi stereo. Slight quality loss is suffered when copying or editing from HI-8, but a better than average image is maintained.
Tapes from HI-8 camcorders generally must be played using the camera as the source, which means the user often must connect cables to their television or VCR.
8MM camcorders often have many of the best features found in higher priced HI-8 units, including image stabilization, strong optical and digital zooms and innovative special effects. Regular 8mm tapes are the exact size and shape as their HI8 counterparts, but record video at a lower resolution level, and therefore, are less expensive than camcorders which product better image quality.
HI-8 and regular 8MM tapes cannot be put into a standard VHS video recorder, a common misconception. There are no adapters to achieve this. They must be transferred to VHS in order to be viewed on a regular VCR.
Super VHS, a full-size format with resolution similar to that of HI-8, is virtually out of the consumer camcorder market. The format still is a strong player in the industrial market, but its future may be bleak with the release of newer and better digital formats. This format is used for videographers mostly for shooting and editing. The S stands for super, as the resolution jumps from the VHS standard of 250 lines to around 400 lines. Unfortunately, most VCR's will not play a super VHS tape and has to be transferred to a regular VHS format in order for it to be viewed on non-S-VHS machines.
Betamax tapes were a format originally introduced by Sony in the 80's. It was thought to be a better format at the time. However, the Beta vs VHS wars took place and VHS was the victor. There are still a few Beta fans out there though and you can still get a Betamax machine if you look around.
BetaCam was first introduced in 1982. It is currently geared for broadcast use, although there have been some less expensive models destined more for industrial use. Pictures you will get using a BetaCam system (or other component format) will generally be markedly superior to those you would get using any of the preceding formats. Colors in particular come out looking much more vibrant and objects appear three-dimensional. The superiority of BetaCam shots comes partly from the technical aspects of the tape format but also in large part because of the use of superior optics and other camcorder and VTR components