The Sony CCD-V8 AF was the first 8mm Video camera with an integrated camera. Compared to its predecessors: the JVC and Philips Video 2000 portable recorders with external cameras, this was a lightweight revolution. This beautiful camera was introduced to the market in 1985.
The built-in recorder had an 8mm video recorder that could capture the analog video signal to tape. The CCD image sensor had a resolution of 250,000 pixels with a light sensitivity of 22 lux at f/1.4. This PAL camera could capture 625 lines of analog, it weighed 2.3 Kilo with a battery and video tape inside, had a handle on the top with a rotating monochrome viewfinder in front of it. Built into this viewfinder was very small television tube with electronics which provided excellent image quality to manually set the focus.
The camera was a direct hit. The tapes were not as long as the Video 2000 recorders, but with 60, 90 and 120 minute tapes more than long enough for most recordings. It is to this day my most used analog video camera, having captured hundreds of hours of recordings on Video 8 tapes. I have kept almost all of those tapes. With the VHS and especially the Video 2000 tapes, that didn’t work out as well; the recordings or a copy of them went straight to the customer. The Video 8 tapes were all labeled and stored in a huge dustproof IKEA box. Recently I made some more tapes digital (more on that later as we approach the year 2000). Storage could be even better by also putting them in a dark trash bag and then in the box. Stored cool and light-proof.
Like its predecessors, the Sony CCD V8 was used for events, parties, parades and lots of other shooting. With three batteries, the camera could run extra long. The batteries later came on the market in an “H” version, which allowed you to run 1.5 times longer.
For longer events when the batteries couldn’t provide enough power, the power supply itself was used, which was the same size as one of the batteries. You slid the thing into the camera’s battery compartment, plug into a wall outlet and you could shoot for two hours (depending on the tape used). The Sony CCD-V8 could also be used as a shoulder camera. Back against the right shoulder, viewfinder unfolded, and use the right thumb to start and stop recording. Professional cameras still have this construction to this day. It works very stable and the weight is very manageable.
This Sony video camera was of course intended for consumers and therefore also included an Audio/Video/HF box that could be connected to the camera. That way you could watch the signal from the camera on a monitor via a special SCART cable and if the camera did not have AV connections you could connect it via a coax cable and still watch the image.
The CCD chip in this camera was a huge improvement over its predecessors. No more problems with image burn-in and streaks during shooting. The CCD chip was also much more light sensitive so that even in dark conditions a good image could still be captured. The biggest development in this camera was in the drive itself of the recorder.
A “flying erase head” which was built into the rotating video head of the recorder. In all older video recorders, this head was placed at right angles (upright in the drive) to the tape in all drives. A big difference, because all VCRs wrote the image at an angle to the video tape. That principle was used, with minor differences, in all VCRs.
A brief explanation of this: video image contains a lot of information. If one wanted to make a VCR on the same basis as an audio cassette recorder, it was never going to work. You would have to transport meters of tape per second along the head, which would eventually cause far too much friction and wear. For that reason, rotating head drums were used in every VCR. Inside that rapidly rotating disk were multiple heads that wrote the image signal onto the tape at an oblique angle. This way, much more information was captured on a small piece of tape, and with a flying erase head rotating along the same tape, the signal on the tape could also be erased very precisely. This way the lines also stayed on the tape one after the other and were not half erased by a vertical erase head. You could start editing for the first time with this small camera.
The built-in autofocus on the CCD-V8 worked via an Infrared LED on the camera. If that light source was blocked too much, the autofocus could be turned off and set manually. The autofocus had a range of over 10 meters.
I did not have to use many accessories with this camera. One very irritating one that I did bring with me was a very bright video lamp that I could place on a tripod in a corner of a room with the lamp facing the ceiling. That lamp was literally the sunshine in the house and was not appreciated by everyone. But filming people with squinted eyes doesn’t look good either, so often only the reflection light was used.
The camera came in a custom case where everything fit. The camera, its external power supply, several batteries, tapes and some filters was no problem at all. Everything well protected and still very compact to carry around. Hundreds of hours of shooting later, this camera was again replaced by an even smaller, lighter camera. But that story is for another year.
Until the next one!