How to Convert Camcorder Tapes to Digital!

Posted by Ian Stewart on

We understand! You don't want to lose your precious memories from your old camcorder tapes. So how do you go about transferring them to digital copies such as on DVD or USB?

Sony created one of the most successful camcorder brands in history. The Sony Handycam! Many families owned this camcorder, capturing home videos of vacations, concerts and more. Sony Handycams were extremely successful because they were easy to use, small and take great videos. The quick and seamless development of the Handycam enabled Sony to become a leader in the camcorder industry. Sony's camcorder market share increased dramatically by the mid-nineties, with as much as 60% of the market. By the end of the 90s, Sony was the market leader in camcorders. 

The Sony 8mm analogue and later digital tapes all look the same, having the same size and shaped cartridge and 8mm film strips. But did you know they come in 3 different generations of 8mm, Digital8 and Hi8? The later generations have better recording time and quality than the earlier ones. A SONY Digital8 tape only has a recording time of 40 or 90 minutes, but Hi8 and 8mm can be up to 5 hours long if you use the extended capacity media. And recording time varies depending on how you record the video and how much video information you store on the tape.

Why should you convert camcorder tapes to digital?

When sony released the Handycam, home movies and tapes very quickly became wildly popular. The Handycam made it possible to capture video almost anywhere, which was much easier than VHS or Betacam; however, these tape formats were not built to withstand the test of time.

8mm camcorder tapes have a limited lifespan, even when stored in the most optimal conditions. A cool and dry environment is the recommended area to keep one of these tapes; however, unfortunately, they do degrade over time, causing issues such as:

  • Video signal loss
  • Tape wear 
  • Tape mould (which can damage the tape, reduce quality and spread to other tapes stored in the same location.)
  • Tape shedding 
  • Quality distortion and reduction

If you wait to convert your camcorder tapes to digital, you could potentially put your tapes at risk of excessive damage and render them unusable. 

Older camcorder equipment is hard to find.

Just like the tapes themselves, camcorders will also degrade over time. The last camcorders supporting Hi8 and Digital8 video formats were discontinued in 2007, making them rare and hard to find. You could get lucky, finding one second-hand; however, you are most likely to find that the old camcorders are not in working order or are being sold for parts. 

Digital files are far more versatile than their older counterpart

One issue with having a collection of camcorder tapes is that they can only be played on supporting hardware such as the old Sony Handycams. If your camcorder breaks, you no longer have a method of watching your old tapes and potentially precious memories. When converting them to a more up-to-date file such as MP4, it can be played on a multitude of devices, making viewing and sharing very simple. 

Converting your camcorder tapes to digital also offers you other benefits, such as the ability to edit your videos, perhaps fixing and updating the colour grading, and making your old video look as though it was shot last week. 

How to convert camcorder tapes to digital

For those of us that are tech savvy, converting old camcorder tapes may be a simple task, making at-home conversions a viable option. But, for most, you won't have the needed equipment, cables or the know-how to convert camcorder tapes to digital. 

When looking to convert your tapes at home, there are a few things to consider:

  • Cost - Before converting your tapes, you must consider the equipment needed (Camcorder, cables, software and analogue-to-digital converting system). 
  • Time - A few tapes may not take you all that long to convert; however, if you have a large collection of camcorder tapes and home videos, it could take you quite a while to convert them all. The time to convert just one video will take as long as the footage you are converting. 
  • Risk - In an attempt to digitise your tapes yourself, you could potentially damage them and render them unusable. As mentioned previously, tapes deteriorate over time and can be very delicate to work with. 

If you would like to have a go at digitising your tapes at home, there are a couple of different ways you can go. 

  • You could use the RCA output of the camera and feed it to a digital to analogue converter through your computer.
  • You could use a FireWire connection to capture the film.

Alternatively, you could send them to us, the professionals. By letting us convert your camcorder tapes, you save time, money and potentially the tapes themselves. We here at Your Video 2 DVD have the necessary experience to efficiently and safely transfer your tapes and preserve those precious family memories. 

To learn more about converting your old camcorder tapes to digital, contact us today or visit our shop here.


Last Updated: September 2022

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