The VHS Camcorder was very popular for years, and many people still own a VHS camcorder and VCR. These camcorders are no longer available new and have become an expensive piece of vintage electronics (see www.VHSequipment.com for prices of vintage VHS camcorders). This format can play in any VHS VCR, can record up to 2 hours in standard play (SP) mode, and has a video resolution of 270 lines (compared to DVD which has 480 lines). The main advantage of the VHS camcorder was the ability to record to the tape, and then pop it right into a VHS VCR for viewing, very convenient!
TheVHS-C camcorder, primarily made by JVC and Panasonic, is a VHS quality camcorder that uses compact (hence the -C) tapes, only giving users 30 minutes of recording time in SP mode. VHS-C allowed manufacturers to create much smaller camcorders, at the cost of recording time. VHS-C will play in any VHS VCR as long as it is placed in a special adapter which fits into a regular VCR. VHS-C camcorders are still available, usually for under $200.
The S-VHS-C camcorder is the compact version of a professional analog format called S-VHS (Super-VHS). S-VHS was used by prosumers and professionals in the days before Digital and was a higher resolution format than VHS (400 lines of video resolution compared to VHS's 270 lines). JVC is the only manufacturer of S-VHS-C, and is still available to this day. S-VHS-C also allows for 30 minutes of recording time, but at the higher resolution. S-VHS-C will not play in a regular VHS VCR, it can only be viewed through the playback mode on the camera. S-VHS-C is available for just over $200.
Sony's 8mm and Hi-8 formats
Sony, not to be outdone by rival JVC, introduced its own alternative to the VHS camcorder, the 8mm Handycam, back in the mid-1980's. 8mm was similar to VHS in quality, but came in a much smaller tape size. 8mm became very popular, mainly because you could record a full 2 hours in SP mode (as opposed to 30 minutes from VHS-C) from a much smaller camcorder. The main drawback to 8mm was its incompatability with VHS, if you wanted to watch your videos on your TV you had to hook up the camera to the TV via analog RCA cables. 8mm enjoyed many years of prosperity and was only discontinued a few years ago.
Sony also released a higher quality format, dubbed Hi-8. Like S-VHS-C, Hi-8 has 400 lines of resolution for better picture quality. Hi-8 was the best and most readily available consumer format available before MiniDV (Digital format). Hi-8 uses Hi-8 tapes, which can record up to 2 hours in SP mode, and is backwards compatible with 8mm. To view Hi-8 tapes on your TV, it is best to use an S-Video cable from the camcorder to your TV. You can use RCA video, but you won't enjoy the higher quality picture. Hi-8 camcorders are still available today for around $200.
The Future of Analog Camcorders
Analog camcorders will die out eventually, it's just a matter of when. However, there are still many uses for the analog camcorder. As I stated earlier, many people used these camcorders for years (and are still using them) and have built up a large collection of tapes. For VHS and VHS-C owners it's not a problem to copy these tapes to DVD, just put them in a VHS VCR to copy them over to DVD. Hi-8 and 8mm owners need a fully functioning Hi-8 camcorder to record theirs to DVD. So while analog camcorders will eventually go the way of the dinosaur as camcorder manufacturers stop making them, I'm sure they will continue to be sought after on places like Ebay from people who have analog tapes and need a way of converting them to DVD.
One final note on analog camcorders. If you are in the market for a new camcorder, I would strongly advise against purchasing an analog camcorder over a digital camcorder. The only new analog camcorders still made are Hi-8, VHS-C and S-VHS-C (though only by a few manufacturers), and they are inferior to digital camcorders. Digital tape will not degrade over time like analog tape, and digital camcorders are almost as cheap as analog camcorders at this point. The only reason to purchase an analog camcorder at this time would be for recording your old analog tapes to DVD.