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What are the formats of video camera?

Video cameras or “camcorders” come in all shapes and sizes. They
are categorized by the type of tape they use, and by the standard on
which they operate (PAL or NTSC). Most cameras are now digital,
though some older cameras are an analog format.

There are two different video standards: NTSC or PAL. In general
NTSC is used in the Americas and a few African and Asian countries,
while PAL is used elsewhere. Brazil uses a PAL variant known as
PAL-M. SECAM is an older standard that has generally been replaced
by PAL. You will want to buy a camera that will be convenient for
use where you plan to live or work, and one with which you will be
able to easily share footage or screen footage to collaborators. You
can take an NTSC camera and fi lm in a PAL standard location but
124 Video for Change

you will find that it is harder to playback the images or share them
with people using the PAL standard unless you are using a specialized
playback machine and television that can play both standards. Some
filmmakers choose to shoot in PAL even in NTSC countries as the
quality of the image is generally better.

If you are buying a camera we strongly advise you to buy a digital
format like MiniDV.

Higher-quality digital and analog formats

• MiniDV cameras: In the last few years, digital cameras have
become more and more popular. They provide higher-resolution
images than older formats. MiniDV tapes are small and record
in a digital format.

• DVD cameras: These cameras use DVD technology with the
capability of recording onto a disc or memory card. This new
format is still not in widespread use.

• DVCAM cameras: These cameras provide better quality and
steadier images than a MiniDV. This format is used more and
more by broadcasters. MiniDV tapes can usually be used in this
lightweight camera.

• HD cameras and 24P cameras: New cameras that shoot in formats
suited for high-defi nition television, and a format that is closer
to analog fi lm in shutter speed, and thus better suited for
transfer to fi lm. Both are high-quality formats, increasingly
being used by documentary fi lmmakers.

• BetaCam SP or DigiBeta: BetaCam cameras are generally used by
broadcasters, and provide a superior image quality. However,
they tend to be very heavy, cumbersome, and expensive. Digital
BetaCam or ‘DigiBeta’ is a high quality broadcast and editing

The tape formats most commonly used by broadcasters are DVCAM,
BetaCam SP, and DigiBeta.

Older analog formats

• VHS: These cameras use the same tapes as a VHS machine. They
are large and heavy to operate and the images filmed are not
as good quality as more modern formats.

• VHS-C: These are more compact video cameras than VHS but
the image quality is similar. S-VHS and S-VHS-C cameras also
exist. They provide superior images and sound to the VHS and

• Hi8: The Hi8 camera uses 8 mm tapes, smaller in size, but
superior in quality to VHS


Lisa's picture

Camcorders demystified!

Thanks for explaining camcorder formats. This is very helpful!



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