For those of us that shot hours and hours of 8mm video and then moved to a Sony Digital8 camcorder to preserve our images, I have never seen a good explanation about why Sony esentially abandoned the Digital8, backward compatible, format camcorder. (I think they still make an old clunky Digital8 that isn't backward compatible, but you can tell this isn't where the company's heart is.) Was it size of the camcorders, being able to charge more $'s for a new type of tape format, new is better, following industry direction, or what?
I'm sure size wasn't the issue. If Sony did away with half the stuff on the Digital8 camcorders, most of which nobody used anyway, redesigned the body and tape loading system, and made other modifications, they could have brought the size of the Digital8 down to something approximating the current DV camcorders. The 8mm media is very durable, more so than the DVD media that they now use for a lot of their camcorders. True, 8mm tapes (and also DV tapes) are susceptible to most problems that DVD's are except that DVD's scratch. This is a serious problem, particularly for travelers or those prone to accidental dropping, etc. How many DVD's have been rendered useless by simple scratch? You can smear toothpaste on a DVD to get it to run, but the data under the scratch is lost.
I have 8mm cassettes that have survived since the 80's in a box in my garage. That's 20 years!!! They've been viewed several times, thrown in boxes, recorded and rerecorded several times, slammed around, gone through 3 moves and stored at high temperatures and low temperatures. I have yet to find a tape with degraded images!!! A couple of cassette's had problems replaying, but if the tapes don't work, you can take the cassette's apart, rewind the tape, or place the spools in another cassette and you can usually get them to work.
All the predictions for DVD life are much lower, some predictions of a decade or less. DVD's are fine if you immediately move to a harddisk and are diligent about doing backups and moving to other media. Are most family, point-and-shoot type photographers that diligent? I don't think so and I'm a prime, point-and-shoot, "honey, I'll do it next week" example.
If you want to know the demand for backward compatible Digital8 camcorders, look at their sales on eBay. Dozens of Digital8's are sold on eBay every few days at prices that are high for used DV equipment. Thousands of people have old 8mm tapes that want to transfer their images to digital media.
Sony has missed the boat on continuing to further develop backward compatible Digital8 camcorders and Hi8 media, just like they have on a number of other electronic products that they have offered thru the years. Digital media reporters and guru's have also missed the boat. These folks only want to praise the latest gimmick, without asking questions about longevity and usefulness to the average Joe Blow user. Why haven't the most powerful media folks railed against formats that are iffy as far as durability and best for the average consumer? Why aren't they herding the average consumer away from a media (DVD) that is marginal unless protected in cases and family room storage boxes; that must be kept away from kids that want to use them as frisbees; and that experts warn about degredation within a decade?
My vote is for Digital8-based camcorders simply because I haven't seen anything else that's any better. I think any tape format is better than DVD's or harddrives, simply because of the durability aspect. Tape is more like photos for the average family use; you can throw them in a box for 20 years and still view them when your kids are grown.
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