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My Video Camera Collection - Consumer Cameras

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Prior to 1983, all video cameras sold to the public were standalone devices that connected to separate videotape recorders, usually with the de-facto standard "EIAJ" ten-pin connector (made by Hirose,) like this:

EIAJ 10-pin plug

I have a Youtube video about this subject if you want more info. Unless otherwise specified, all of these use this connection.

Some of these have VTR/VCR controls such as rewind, play, review, etc. EIAJ has no signal standard for those, so I have to assume that each model pulses out a proprietary control signal, either on the record trigger pin, or one of the H/V sync pins that aren't used in anything after the 60s, which the matching VCR knows to listen for.

Unless otherwise specified, these are all videotube based.

The following list will be roughly sorted by manufacturer, since I had to pick something and I don't think sorting by year is necessarily the best option.

Sony AVC-3400 - B&W - 1969

Sony AV-3400 camera

AV-3400 bottom AV-3400 viewfinder AV-3400 lens AV-3400 sensor

This is the third or fourth camera Sony ever sold to the public, and in general one of the earliest models ever widely purchased. It came with the AV-3400, essentially the first EIAJ-standard recorder sold to the public, and has perhaps the earliest EIAJ-compatible 10-pin connection. Unfortunately some rat bastard cut the cord off mine, so I have no idea if it works yet until I have the courage to try to fix it.

It's a beautiful piece of equipment. 1969 of course means it's all metal, but it also has a very pleasant color scheme and for what little there is to it (just a viewfinder eyepiece and a lens mount) it looks like it enjoyed attention to detail. At this point I think Sony was betting a lot on these and cared about putting in effort.

No controls, naturally, except a start/stop switch which is obscenely overbuilt. It's a machined aluminum plunger which toggles in and out with a very satisfying click, and upon opening the unit I found that this is not an off the shelf switch, but a bespoke latching mechanism Sony had made just for it. Bizarre, frankly, but I guess they found none of the available switches satisfying.

I do not have the pistol grip / bipod that originally came with it, and would very much like one.

Hitachi VK-C800 - Color - 1981

Hitachi VK-C800 camera

This was the first videotube camera I ever bought. I have no viewfinder or mic for it, and it's pretty middling - no special features, no fade button or anything. It's also enormous compared to my others, and I think that's because it's very early as these things go - '81 makes it the second-oldest color camera I have, beat only by the JVC CV-001 which is even bigger and much heavier.

Adjustable white balance and an "outdoor" switch constitute the only real adjustments, and both are pretty much mandatory on color cameras. Also has power zoom.

Hitachi VK-C600 - Color - 1982

Hitachi VK-C600 camera

AKA Everex GP-41D - for some reason mine is labeled Hitachi GP-41D even though this seems to not be Hitachi's model number by all other reports? Not sure what that's about.

Contemporary with, and just as barebones as, the VK-C800. Nothing to write home about. Power zoom. Extending mic.

Hitachi VK-C840 - Color - 1984

Hitachi VK-C840 camera

VK-C840 controls VK-C840 viewfinder VK-C840 controls 12 VK-C840 bottom

The form factor is bizarre, I think because I'm missing a pistol grip it's really supposed to have. Without the pistol grip the shape is very strange to look at. Basically the same, otherwise, as the C800, though mine is in better condition vis a vis the tube itself, with much better color rendering. I believe it is supposed to have a shoulder rig attachment, which I am missing.

Hitachi VK-C3400 - Color - 1983

VK-C3400 camera


I believe this was also sold as an RCA CC030, as seen in the second picture above. Photos of these are rare - the VK-C3400 and CC030 appear to have been uncommon.

'83 was pretty modern as this stuff goes, so this unit is packed with features, not the least of which is a solid state sensor. I think this is the oldest CCD camera I have, and in fact only when researching it for this page did I discover it was from 83, which pushed back my notion of the beginning of the CCD era by a year. This is fascinating because in '84 the JVC Videomovie, the first modern camcorder, still utilized a videotube. Offhand I am not sure why such an advanced design would have stuck with a tube; perhaps power consumption was high in early CCDs?

The image quality is outstanding compared to the tube units, with color rendering that, while not perfect, is still much better than the usual for my collection. This isn't surprising, since any solid state sensor should have "decayed" much less than an equivalent tube unit; they're just "less analog."


The autofocus has a lot going on. It has switches for "focus out" and "focus lock," and I haven't yet fully plumbed the depths of what those do, because the way autofocus is implemented is very, very strange, completely unique among my cameras. In a typical autofocus design, even now, the autofocus is simply a servo geared to the same focus mechanism that you, the user, rotate by hand. In this unit, to engage autofocus you must rack the focus all the way out, then lock it in place with a switch on the lens barrel, at which point it begins focusing without rotating the lens.

I haven't yet opened the unit (I am somewhat afraid to) in order to confirm this, but I suspect that the autofocus works by moving the sensor, or an independent element inside the lens, along a linear track. This is perhaps how it achieves its other remarkable feature, which is macro autofocus. By flipping the "MACRO" switch to ON, the AF will gain the ability to focus down to zero inches - it will focus on dirt on the lens' front element if you let it. This is, again, distinct from the manual macro focus which you achieve (as with virtually all camcorders) by pressing the zoom lever past minimum focal length. Indeed, you can engage both macro features at once, and things get very weird. Also, the manual macro focus is incapable of focusing to the front element, so although I haven't tested how far in it will go, this makes it clear that the method the AF is using to focus is just superior across the board from the manual focus mechanism. It's a very, very strange device.

I also am not sure what AF method it's using. I need to get the unit back out of storage and check, but I don't think it's an infrared time-of-flight sensor like almost all other cameras of this era. I suspect it's using contrast detection like a modern camera - maybe CCD makes that easier than on a tube?

As regards the two focus switches, I suspect that "focus out" basically tells the camera "quick, go to infinity," though it doesn't work on my unit. The other switch, "focus lock" initially seemed puzzling to me. All it does is make the AF stop AFing. Why not just switch off the AF control on the lens barrel? Well, I suspect this is because you can set the focus lock, then disengage autofocus, focus manually for a time, then when you reengage autofocus on the lens barrel it will snap back to the remembered location. I need to test this the next time I have the unit out of storage, but it makes a lot of sense as a feature - you could get some cool cinematic effects that way.


In addition to all of that, this camera also debuted the most bizarre and remarkable feature in the entire market segment, a color viewfinder. Why is that so remarkable? Well, I'm Glad You Asked.

1980s camera viewfinders are cathode ray tubes, just like little televisions inside the eyepiece. They are invariably about .75-1.25" on the diagonal. You cannot really make a color tube that small, there's no room for a shadow mask or aperture grille, or three cathodes - I'm sure this isn't strictly true, but it's true enough that hardly anyone ever did it. This is nonetheless a color CRT, and that was accomplished through the use of a technology called beam index color, sometimes called Indextron after one company's trademark name. Basically, the colored phosphor stripes on the front of the tube are interspersed with ultraviolet emitting phosphor, and every time the electron beam hits one it produces a pulse of UV light that a photocell in front of the display can detect, telling it where the beam is and when to switch to the next color value

The specimen that came on my VK-C3400 does not work (no vertical retrace - anyone who wishes to try to repair it, email me) but I bought another rebranded RCA, a CKC021, that came with one that does work. I'll be doing a Youtube video covering its functionality and the concept of beam-index color very soon. For pictures, scroll down to the CKC021 on this page.


After all that it almost seems silly to mention the other features. It has a very limited built in title generator, an on-screen stopwatch (actually quite handy a feature), date/time imprinter, and a color invert switch (never understood what these were for.)

On top of the handle it has VTR controls. They're mostly normal play/pause/rewind/review controls, but there's a button on the side for Time Lapse that, I'm guessing, just tells the VCR to pause and unpause periodically. Must be hell on the mechanism.

RCA BW003 - B&W - 1978

RCA BW003 camera

BW003 connector BW003 converter unit BW003 viewfinder BW003 viewfinder frames BW003 front BW003 videotube front

The oldest crappy camera I currently have, as in, it's a plastic piece of outdated junk with every possible corner cut. Remember that in 1978 virtually everyone had a color TV and a color videocassette recorder - B&W was probably starting to feel pretty dated.

The pistol grip is permanently attached, which means if you want to put it on a tripod you're forced to screw the tripod into the bottom of the grip, which looks maximally silly and also places the pivot point at a very unfortunate position 6ish inches below the image path. I haven't tested with it but I assume this produces an unfortunate "swooping" sensation when you tilt the tripod head, and makes it unbearably shaky since the camera is being held in place by a big stalk of '70s plastic.

No built in live viewfinder, just one of those godforsaken "action finders" on top that flips up and gives you a rough impression of what the framing will look like with the stock lens (yes, this has a c-mount interchangeable lens) - though this one actually has a non-refractive lens in it with etched framelines, which is better than some. However, this utterly fails to solve the problem that you cannot hope to focus correctly without a live image. I guess you could measure and pull focus with the scale on the lens barrel but that sounds like a real waste of time.

No picture controls, but that's not surprising; I don't think I've seen a B&W camera with controls, even the original Sony 60s ones. There's not much to adjust. You could change the iris but that's a lens feature; exposure is adjusted electronically by auto level control; obviously there's no white balance to adjust; and so on. So the camera itself is bare of any controls except a start/stop trigger. This is particularly intriguing because I'm not sure how this set is supposed to be used.

Instead of an EIAJ plug (which IS present, curiously, on every other rebrand of this model that I've seen) this camera has a different style of circular 8 pin plug which connects to a separate RCA branded breakout box, which has a composite out jack (SO-239), audio out (RCA), and "remote pause" out (3.5mm phone plug.) So instead of using the EIAJ plug which had been a universal standard for nearly a decade, they did this. Maybe it has something to do with the rise of VCRs? They figured people would want to plug straight into the composite and audio jacks of a VCR instead of using EIAJ? But why not use the EIAJ style Hirose 10-pin as the intermediary connection anyway, since they still needed a multipin plug in the middle? And what was the "remote pause" output for? Were there VCRs that supported a "switch closure" type pause control? I should pay close attention to photos of older VCRs and see if I can find one.

RCA CC010 - Color - 1981

RCA CC010 camera

CC010 controls CC010 front controls CC010 mic CC010 bottom CC010 videotube CC010 daylight filter CC010 WB diffuser

A big, weird, spindly animal, but frankly a much more pleasing design than the Hitachi I have from the same era. In general it's a nice looking device, with all the controls rendered in psuedo-chrome so they stand out from the chassis. Adjustable-angle grip, nice big metal lens - removable (c-mount) I should note, although I'm not sure you'd be able to replace it with anything else that would support the zoom and iris servo signals.

The viewfinder is an interesting component. It sticks waaaay out from the camera and part of this, I think, is because it can be swapped from left to right by rotating it over the top of the camera, then flipping a switch to mirror the picture. In order to enable this, I guess, they put the viewfinder tube directly inside the eyepiece rather than in the center with a mirror reflecting into the eyepiece like most later designs, making the eyepiece extremely deep. It's awkward.

Mind you, since this is 81, maybe they were just still in transition. In the 60s and 70s viewfinders were typically fully inside the camera, fixed in place, with an eyepiece mounted on the back in the style of film movie cameras. The design I describe that utilizes the mirror shows up in mid-80s units, but I'm not sure I actually have an early-80s unit that uses that approach. I know this trick for making a compact side-eyepiece viewfinder had been discovered by now (it's used in the 1980 JVC CV-001 for instance) but maybe it cost money or, or... something to think about, anyway. This is, at least, less awkward than the ones that used ball-and-socket mounts for the viewfinder eyepiece, allowing it to rotate in all dimensions. Those just look weird.

The other interesting thing about the viewfinder is that it has a light meter in it. It works like a match-needle meter in a film camera, with a white bar that moves up and down in the viewfinder picture, but there's no scale, so I guess you're just supposed to learn where it should be through trial and error. A peculiar item.

Mine is in good physical shape but the viewfinder absolutely needs a complete recap, the geometry is trashed and it doesn't hold H sync reliably.

RCA CC017 - Color - 1984

RCA CC017 camera

I suspect in reality this is a Hitachi as well (I think all the RCA cameras are Hitachis) since it has an extremely similar chassis to the VK-C3400, virtually identical controls, and will plug in to the same viewfinder. RCA also made a CKC021 that appears to be exactly the same unit, except it came with the same color viewfinder as the Hitachi. This is a little newer than the 3400, but uses a videotube and is short the entire advanced autofocus mechanism, although it retains the titler.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, this specimen has a graticule visible in the output image. I can explain it no better than that - there is a scale with tickmarks and numbers ranging from about 9 to 16, I think, running along the bottom of the image. My only guess is that this is a calibration scale etched into the face of the videotube which is meant to be used during manufacturing, then pushed out of the viable image area with a trim pot before the unit is shipped out, but in mine the capacitors have deteriorated to the point where the image has badly slid down vertically. That would fit, since the image is definitely badly distorted in other ways both geometric and colorimetric, and the camera is currently unusable.

RCA CKC021 - Color - 1984


CKC021 alt view CKC021 handgrip CKC021 controls CKC021 viewfinder face CKC021 rear controls CKC021 color viewfinder


I think this one's identical to the CC017 but sold under a different model number just to denote its most standout feature - it came with the same color viewfinder that came on the Hitachi VK-C3400 (I'm pretty sure this is, again, a rebranded Hitachi.)

Unlike my CC017, this one's in pretty much perfect shape and produces a more than reasonable image. Pretty decent color rendering, though not very sharp, as is typical for videotube cameras in my experience.

The viewfinder is really the rockstar, and you can see a couple pictures of it operating above.

JVC CV-001 - Color - 1980

JVC CV-001 camera

CV-001 second angle 

Made a Youtube video about this one.

This is my oldest color unit (I suspect JVCs first color camera,) and it's a big, heavy, dumb beast. The only feature it has is a switch for auto gain control which, if you think about it, is kind of an odd thing to even have. Why would you want to turn that off? There's no direct gain control knob so I'm not sure where it settles if you turn it off. Unity gain?

There is a battery pack available for it. I'm not sure why, because normal EIAJ cameras are just powered off the EIAJ plug and, while this does not use a normal EIAJ 10-pin plug (some other hirose plug with more pins, description to come eventually) I would think whatever it plugs into would provide the power it needs. Instead, there's a conventional DC barrel jack on the back for power. I don't know what the rest of the kit for this looked like - maybe JVC provided an adapter box that produced composite video and audio but for some reason didn't supply power? How would you operate the camera without that? What would the camera plug into that wouldn't provide 12V? It's all very baffling.

The lens is a removable (c-mount, I think) unit, big and heavy and metal. The connector from the lens to the camera body is a very peculiar design I've never seen before. I guess mini-DIN et al didn't exist yet and JVC was strapped for ideas? It's like a mini DIN, but with no outer shroud, alignment is achieved by a clear acrylic post with a key notch on it, and the pins are much smaller than those in mini DIN. It looks incredibly fragile and indeed, there is an attached rubber cap to protect the pins when it's unplugged. I really can't explain this connector, it's a lot to take in.

The grip on this unit (not pictured above) is a strange object. Many cameras have detachable grips but this one runs the entire length of the camera's chassis and has a fixed-angle handle at the front with a microphone in the end of it. I guess that makes sense? It's real weird to look at though.

JVC GX-N8U - Color

JVC GX-N8U camera

I think this might be the slimmest tube camera ever made. I'm not sure where they put all the electronics, it is truly tiny to behold. Tiny attached viewfinder. Weird plug, because I guess they didn't want to permanently attach the cable but it's too small for an off the shelf connector, so they use a proprietary two row pin socket which adapts out to an EIAJ plug; don't lose this and don't buy one without the cable. Otherwise not a remarkable unit.

JVC GZ-S5 - Color - 1983

JVC GZ-S5 camera

GZ-S5 controls GZ-S5 right side GZ-S5 mic

I suspect this was JVCs last standalone camera before the camcorder era began. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen a newer one, and it came out really late, so late that JVC actually tried to make a camcorder out of it with the SF-P3, a device you can read about over on the camcorders page.

It's very small. Have I mentioned that it's small? JVC was pleased that it was small. I think it is one of the smallest standalone cameras ever sold. It's basically the size of the lens and somewhere to put your hand. I believe I've seen one camera shorter than this but I don't have it in my hands yet so I can't say for sure.

The microphone unplugs as a unit. On the back is a stereo/mono switch, plus a jack into which you can plug an external mic.

Sharp QC-54 - Color

Sharp QC54 camera

Also sold as the Konica CV-601.

The most obvious thing is that the tube is in the handgrip. You hold the camera by the vertical grip, and the tube is inside the grip, pointing up, with a mirror reflecting the image from the lens into its face. I haven't had it open yet to confirm any of this but there's really no other way it could work, particularly because of the viewfinder design.

The viewfinder is of the "TTL" sort seen on the original Betamovie and a small number of very bad still cameras, in which you see an image through the taking lens that feeds the videotube, but without the benefit of a focusing screen, so you're just getting a roughly framed image of the picture that doesn't quite represent how it will look when recorded - nor does it allow focusing of any kind. There's not really space here for a real CRT viewfinder though, so I guess this or an "action finder" were the only options, and this beats an action finder.

You can zoom with a lever on the side, focus by turning the lens and adjust white balance with a switch. That's it, other than a record trigger.

Mine used to work, although it had horrible color rendering and a burnt out spot in the center, but after sitting in storage for two years it has quit almost entirely. It creates an image but has no H hold, so I suspect it needs a total recap. That said, I have precious little desire to use it; it is a terrible camera in pretty much all respects.

Panasonic PK-958 - Color - 1984

Panasonic PK958 camera

PK958 keyboard

This one's fun. It has some typical mid-80s high end features - a fade-out button, a white-balance adjust that inserts a diffuser in front of the sensor to average the incoming light, and a switch that physically swings a daylight color filter in front of the videotube. In addition, however, it has a built in titler with a complete swing-out keyboard - although it's alphabetical, not QWERTY, which is fairly cursed. You can set the title text color and I think size. Mine is a little fiddly probably due to a dead CMOS battery and old caps so I haven't thoroughly tested it yet.

Panasonic 5100HS - Color - 1995?

Panasonic 5100HS

5100HS side 5100HS control console 5100HS pan/tilt rig The whole family ebay 5100HS with shoulder rig 5000 shoulder rig


This is a weird animal. I received it without the shoulder rig in one of the pictures above, but I wouldn't call that "incomplete." That's sort of it's natural place in the world - to be an implaceable entity.

It looks like an industrial camera at first glance - something that would be perched on a hard mount looking at a factory construction line, maybe, being monitored from a control room. The core unit is basically a cube; it isn't "camera" shaped at all. But then it gets weird.

There's quick-release style mounts on top, bottom and back. The rear mount takes a power supply, which I've found in two varieties which expose interfaces that look like they're intended for different CCUs. There's no recorder, so no battery of course.

The top one, I've learned from eBay, can accept a carrying handle and a viewfinder. See the weird periscope sticking out of the top? That's independant of the handle and viewfinder - it appears to be a light sensor (it has a milky plastic lens) but I have no idea what for. Removing or blocking it seems to have no effect on the cameras functionality.

The bottom one is for... a shoulder rig, because yes, this can be shouldered, and that is why you see a cheek pad on the side. It's a peculiar kind of shoulder rig however - it has a flip-out grip in the style of early-mid 80s cameras, a thing that had *completely* died out by this time. Perhaps that's because all shoulder mountable cameras in this era had a handgrip mounted directly on the lens, whereas this one has a separable grip.

All this is a little weird - a lot of 80s cameras could be broken down like a rifle for storage. But what's weird about this one is that that is clearly not why those items come off; they come off because you are expected to use this camera without them. It is clearly prepared to accept the mantle of industrial camera. It has switches to tune the color cast and gain, extreme high shutter speeds (up to 1/1000th) for freezing motion, and you can manually select which of the several CCU jacks the power will be fed from. My specimen even came with a motorized pan-tilt rig that plugs in to the camera. That is to say, there is a dedicated port on the camera labeled "pan/tilt" and the pan/tilt unit is Panasonic branded. There is no reason to have a pan/tilt unit unless the camera is meant to be used unattended.

There is also a control pendant which plugs into the camera or into the pan/tilt unit, and lets you control the motors as well as focus, zoom, color temperature, etc. But the pendant isn't like any other CCU I've ever seen - it's not rack mount, and has no computer interface. It does have a cable length compensator up to 100m, so this thing is prepared for use very far away from the camera, and has a local viewfinder output to enable that use case.

And then after all that there's a title generator input. That cheesy feature, plus the plasticky transport controls on the shoulder rig place this thing squarely in the consumer segment. It all doesn't add up, and I think that's because it isn't supposed to. I found an ad for the little cousin of this unit, the WV-5000, and it's sold as a do-all unit, a camera that can be turned towards any number of different applications. It seems like Panasonic sold various kits containing all the parts needed to turn it into a given type of camera (pictured above.) It's an absolutely bizarre initiative, especially since it was sold by Panasonic's Professional/Industrial division.

Olympus VX-303-U - Color


Almost certainly a rebranded Panasonic (very similar to the PK-958) but the titler is of the more cut-rate variety where you just have a couple arrow keys to navigate between positions and select characters.

Oki SST-7420

Oki SST-7420

SST-7420 back

It hardly counts towards a "collection" but I use this as a guaranteed source of extremely clean NTSC. It's from somewhere in the 2000s and produces an inarguably flawless image. It makes all the effort put into professional cameras in the 90s look like a waste of time.

Mystery Orb

look away do not gaze into its eye

ḓ̸̗̿̃ǒ̶͕͓ ̷̮̔͆n̵̨͈̂o̸͚̔̓t̸̖̐͌ ̷̲͑͝l̷̦͙̎̍ô̵͖ŏ̸͍̇k̸̘̊ ̵̛̱͌ḯ̷͔̰n̴̙̄͜ţ̸̆o̴͖͕̽ ̵̻͐́t̷̥̑̕ḫ̶̝̈̐e̸̯͐ ̴̗̗̾ǫ̷̖̀̍r̷̳͇͌̊b̵̩̖̋̀

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