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FAQ - Camcorders

General frequently asked questions about camcorders.

1. Do SECAM camcorders exist?   

Not anymore. SECAM camcorders were produced several years ago but are no longer in production. This is not a problem, though. All SECAM countries are compatible with PAL. SECAM-only TVs and VCRs are no longer in production, either.

2. What are the inputs/outputs on camcorders for?   

VHS camcorders are the only camcorders where you can take the tape out of your camcorder and stick it directly into your VCR to watch.

All the other formats require that the video be outputted from the camcorder. For example, if you had a DV camcorder and wanted to watch it on your television, you'd use the RCA outputs. You could also connect these outputs directly to your VCR and a make VHS copy.

Some digital camcorders include what is called digital out or firewire out. This is a method by which a camcorder outputs its video signal digitally. When hooked up to a computer, you can download an entire day's recording onto your computer. The DV IN that some camcorders have also allow you to output from your computer digitally and record digitally onto the camcorder.

3. What is the difference between a PAL and NTSC camcorder?

In North America, the video system used is called NTSC. Overseas, the video system s typically PAL. These systems are incompatible with each other.

4:What is the difference between the many video formats? 

Camcorders come in a wide range of different formats, each format being drastically different from each other. Here's a breakdown of the different formats and what makes them unique:

VHS/VHS-C

The lowest quality camcorder. These camcorders record directly onto a VHS tape, which you can take out of your camcorder and put directly into your VCR. VHS-C is a compact form of VHS. Smaller in cassette size, the VHS-C format is more convenient since you can use an adapter to play a VHS-C tape in your VCR.

S-VHS

Not as widely used as it used to be. The S-VHS or Super VHS format holds more lines of resolution and will give you a better image quality. However, an S-VHS tape will not play in a normal VHS VCR. You need an S-VHS VCR to play an S-VHS tape.

8mm/Hi8/Digital 8

More inexpensive than DV camcorders, 8mm camcorders record at a high resolution and can usually record up to 2 hours of quality recording on each tape. Sony introduced the Digital 8 series of camcorders which records data digitally onto Hi8 tapes.

MiniDV/DV (or digital video)

DV is the highest level of consumer camcorders. These record at 500+ lines of resolution and can be used with the ultra compact DV-Mini tapes.

Beta/DVCAM

These are the highest formats and are considered television broadcast quality. Generally, these are the formats used by major television stations.

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