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My Video Camera Collection - Videotape Recorders

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The most common form of standalone videotape recorder that most people know is the basic VCR. I don't own a lot of those (well, I have one or two standout examples,) rather, the ones I have are for the production of original video.

There are some important points you should know up front.

The kind of recorders I collect are generally the ones intended for use with the type of cameras described above - consumer and pro models without their own recording mechanism. Consequently they pretty much all have special capabilities intended for serious field recording which are nonexistent on consumer VCRs - at a minimum, batteries, and at most, custom connectors, high quality audio connections, audio meters, etc.

Sony AV-3400 - 1969

Sony AV-3400 VTR


This is a legendary device, virtually the birth of practical portable video. One of the first VTRs sold to the public that had the ability to record and play back on the run, this piece of kit enjoyed significant uptake by the video art community in the 70s.

At 51 years old as of 2020, mine is still working... well, one is. I own two, and the first one was working until I reversed the DC input, reverse biased god knows how many semiconductors in the power circuitry and fried them. Now it's dead as a doornail, but I lucked into another one for a good price and after very carefully checking my polarity, that one is working great for record and play.

JVC HR-C3U - 1982?


HR-C3U open HR-C3U ports HR-C3U bottom

This was, I suspect, JVCs last portable VCR. It uses VHS-C and is, I suspect again, the smallest unit of its sort. It's extremely diminutive, I don't know if the picture really represents it well. It's a tiny little thing and would be barely noticeable on a shoulder strap. This is pretty much the last gasp of portable video miniaturization before the camcorder roared into existence and obliterated the market.

I don't think mine is quite working right, but I haven't thoroughly tested it. It has an EIAJ input on the front and accepts a battery on the back which I don't have. This goes with the  GZ-S5 which you can read about on the cameras page, and the SF-P3 which you can read about over on the camcorders page.

Sony VO-8800 - 1989?

Sony VO-8800 VCR

VO-8800 side ports

My only U-matic deck. A really nice piece of gear but not in the best shape - about 1/3 of the time when you put in a tape it gets jammed and I have to disassemble half the device and run the mechanism back out using dental picks and curses. Other than that, works perfectly.

Has a CCU connector on the side that hooks up to my Sony DXC-M7 and M3 which both work fully, so together I actually have a complete early 90s ENG setup. If only I had some functioning batteries and an anchor to record, I could shoot some news.


Panasonic AG-7400

Panasonic AG-7400 VCR

AG-7400 side ports

This is the smallest VHS recorder I've personally ever seen, and it does SVHS on top of that. I got it in perfect condition. I suspect it was some kind of backup unit, kept in a gear lockup in a TV news studio just in case someone needed to run out for a location shot and every other piece of gear was busted. Works like a dream. It could run off batteries but I don't have any handy. Instead it takes 12V on an obnoxiously large coaxial DC plug, or the same 4-pin XLR that everything else in the pro video industry runs on.

It has a CCU connector on the side for a camera umbilical which actually fits the same cable as the VO-8800 but doesn't operate the camera.


I have 3 or 4 more which I'll add when I have a chance.

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