The camcorder combined a camera and videotape player into one handheld unit. It made moviemaking exponentially easier and less expensive, opening the field to countless new auteurs.
The first video making system offered for the home was by Ampex. Advertised in the 1963 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog it cost $30,000 ($247,201 adjusted to 2018) and included a large television camera, TV monitor, and 100-pound Ampex VR-1500 video recorder. The price included a visit from an Ampex engineer who would set the system up.
In 1982 or 1983, depending on the sources, Sony or JVC released the first portable video recorder with a VCR built-in, a camcorder. Before then, video equipment would require a separate VCR making the equipment difficult or impossible to operate without two people and far less portable. There is no obvious record related to the actual innovator of the camcorder. Furthermore, citations are credited to companies, not to individuals working in a company which is usually the case.
We seldom quote on InnoWiki because we’re looking for overviews and patterns, not in-depth bios. However, Mark Shapiro’s epic blog post on the history of camcorders is entertaining and educational.
Mark sums it up:
“According to the Consumer Electronics Association, in 1982, both JVC and Sony announced the “CAMera/recorder”, or camcorder, combinations. On June 1, 1982, JVC’s camcorder used its new mini-VHS format, VHS-C. In Japan five months later, Sony announced its Betamovie Beta camcorder, which was promoted with the slogan “Inside This Camera Is A VCR.” The first Betamovie camcorder hit stores in May 1983. It was a record only machine without an electronic viewfinder.
“In February 1984, photo giant Kodak introduced a new camcorder format, 8mm, in its first 8mm camcorder, the KodaVision 2000. In 1985, Sony introduced the first chip-based camcorders. Called Video 8, it was also Sony’s first 8mm camcorder. The same year, JVC introduced VHS-C, a compact version of VHS cassettes. The next year, 1989, JVC introduced S-VHS. Still analog video, it provided it separated the video signal into two distinct channels. This provided better color and higher resolution, about 400 lines compared to VHS at 220 lines. This higher resolution enables users to actually edit and copy their videos without worrying that their second and third generation tapes would be fuzzy. About the same time, Sony also joined the s-video movement and introduced their first Hi8 camcorder, the venerable CCD-V99 camcorder.
“In 1992, Sharp became the first company to build in a color LCD screen to replace the conventional viewfinder. In fact, their LCD screen was basically the entire camera with the lens assembly hanging off of it. No longer did users have to squint through a tiny eyepiece. This has become a standard feature of almost every consumer camcorder. Finally, today’s digital video technology first arrived in late 1995. Panasonic and Sony brought out the first Digital Video camcorders, soon followed by Sharp and JVC.”Mark Shapiro