The Video8 system first was marketed by Sony in 1986. It was supposed to compete with the tradtional 8mm movie film camera as well as the heavy carry along VHS recorders attached to a tube camera. With the invention of the CCD technology, this new breakthrough was made possible and Sony established together with other licensees (like Canon, Pentax, Fuji, Ricoh, etc.) an 8mm wide video tape wrapped in a cassette almost the same size as the audio cassette, invented about 20years earlier. That new video cassette, however, was able to store up to 3hours of video with HiFi Stereo sound. Such a small system with such a brillant color-video and sound quality before that was unmatched. Moreover, from the very beginning the system was also ready for almost professional video editing and audio dubbing. Because of this, a parallel series of professional cameras and VCR's were also developed around 1986. As several tradtional photographic camera companies were engaged, this was the decisive step towards the ongoing miniaturizing of home videosystems, which was consequently continued by the end of the 1990's with the Mini DV system an even smaller tape and a cassette about 1/3 the size of a Video8 cassette. In the late 80ies and the beginning 90ies a major percentage of consumers hopped onto this system and the competing VHS-C system, paying on average about 1000€ for a camera or "camcorder" as they were named, which would be in use 2 to 4 times per year and which would hold not much longer than 10years! After one mechanical shock some of these high sophisticated deviced were ruined or the repair of them could not be afforded as new models were entering the market every 6 months. The same thing actually happens in these years (2008) with mini DV and digital cameras, as some models seem to have half life times of only 3months. The industry in most cases does not repair these devices, but simply exchanges them with the left over overproduces models.
The Hi8 system was introduced to the PAL market by 1990. For this is was necessary to have camcorders as well as stationary recorders that would be ready for the analog cut with cutting machines or computers. Also they should be ready for dubbing in HiFi Stereo. In 1990 Sony opened that market with the EV-S1000, a very expensive but beloved VCR, a very solid construction. For many years this model set the new standard for the best VCR. Only by 1994 it was replaced by the even more expensive and luxury thriven S9000. The difference between Hi8 and Video8 results from a better resolution and better playback of the color signal.
In Hi8 as well as in S-VHS the signals for color and for brightness are processed separately. This results in a much better reproduction of the original with 625 lines. When Hi8 and S-VHS were introduced to the market around 1990, several tests in video magazines compared the two systems, resulting in a slightly better performance of the Hi8 system. Even today, the Hi8 standard is an excellent video system, sometimes even better than digital video systems, depending on their ratio of compression.
Hi8 cassettes should only be used with Hi8 machines! Trying to playback a Hi8 recording with a video8 machine, results in totally disturbed and scrambled pictures. The sound in most cases will be ok. By the way, just the same happens, when a S-VHS recording is played back on a normal VHS recorder. The following models in the tables are Hi8 compatible: S880 to S9000, C400 to C2000 as well as P300 and all Twin models.
Digital-8 / D8
At the end of the 90ths, when methods of recording digitized video signals were developed, Sony decided to start with two digital systems Digital8 and Mini DV, the D8 being the less expensive one with more options for the video camera enthusiast ad the MiniDV being the smaller and more expensive one for yuppies and money makers, who did not know how to set the shutter speed, relying mostly on fully automatic fuzzy electronics. Certainly another reason for Digital 8 is the fact, that production facilities for the mechanics could be utilized several more years, as the drives for all 8mm videosystems are fully exchangeable. However, the recording and playback electronics are completely different from Hi8, as this is comparable to computer storing systems.
In the early years of Video8 and Hi8 some of the high priced VCR's were decorated with the logo "DAV" for Digital Audio Video (S600; S700; S650; S850). Later in the 90ies phrases like "Digital Stereo"(S550; S1000; S9000) and "Digital Picture" (S1000) were used with reference to the digital PCM sound and PIP function of the S1000, enabling two different video signals to be produced on one screen by digital storage of two pictures. Although the following model S9000 utilizes many more of those digital picture effects, the phrase "Digital Picture" was not used on the label of this VCR, envisioning that this would lead to a misunderstanding. Around 1995 this probably had confused some consumers, especially those of the following years when these VCR's would still be on the market, as digital video was already entering the market.