You might have a video camera on your smartphone, but it probably won’t shoot professional quality photos or offer the nostalgia of using a vintage video camera to capture your most precious memories like graduations, weddings, family gatherings, and more. While you can certainly get a new digital video camera, there’s something sentimental, fun, and exciting about retro camcorders.
Capture’s archival experts offer decades of experience and knowledge about the best old school video camera models, and we decided to compile the best options. Whether you are researching the history of video cameras, collecting retro video recorders, or just want to get your hands on an exceptional video camera to capture your memories, you’ll find the best options on this list.
Keep reading to learn about rare, retro, and old video recorder options and the notable features they offer that can be used for certain videography types. That way, you choose the best retro camera for your memories, videos, and other purposes.
13 Best and Rare Old Video Cameras
- Ampex VRX-1000 (Very rare)
- Norelco PCP-90 (Very rare)
- RCA TK-44 (Very rare)
- Sony CCD-V8 (Very rare)
- Panasonic PV-4300
- Canon E60
- JVC GR-C1
- Hitachi VM-C720A
- RCA CC0154
- Sharp VC-A363U
- Kodak Ektapro
- Philips VKR6840
- Minolta TC-1
1. Ampex VRX-1000 (Very rare)
This camera is old school and highly valued by collectors because it’s the first commercial video recorder released in 1956. This historical camera was developed by Bing Crosby’s audio engineer Jack Mullin and is impractical if you’re looking for a modern camera. It cost $50,000 in the 1950s and was used for professional television programs. It also utilized a rotary tape head instead of the common fixed-head approach, which propelled the video camera industry into the future.
2. Norelco PCP-90 (Very rare)
Another historical camera that’s very rare is the Norelco PCP-90. This camera was used by CBS during the early 1960s and offered a “two box” solution that made it significantly more portable than previous video camera options. While heavy and bulky compared to modern digital cameras, this analog model was much more compact than other vintage cameras of the time period. Because of their historical use and groundbreaking design as well as an impressive viewfinder for fantastic image quality, this option is a prized possession of collectors and filmmakers.
3. RCA TK-44 (Very rare)
Introduced in 1968, this three-tube Plumbicon camera is known as one of the most popular cameras that RCA ever made with over 600 produced. It was cherished for its easy repairs, maintenance, and operations as well as the bright and vivid colors captured by the camera lens. This option and the TK45 that was released a few years later are highly valuable and bought mostly by filmography collectors and television camera enthusiasts. Still, if you keep your eye out you may be lucky enough to get your hands on one.
4. Sony CCD-V8 (Very rare)
This compact Video 8 camcorder was released in 1985 and still offers great features that are useful today. This option has a clear viewfinder with a built-in jack that allows you to connect to an external viewfinder for even greater usability. It also offers power zoom and microphone and video light functionality. If you can find one of these old Sony camcorder options, you may pay somewhere between $100 and $300, but you must make sure it’s in good condition because these camcorders are not known for being the most resistant and durable.
5. Panasonic PV-4300
This camera revolutionized the industry by combining VHS-C camcorder adaptability with a compact design and digital features that rivaled the Sony Handycam DCR product line. With 26x zoom and 300x digital zoom, this camera makes it easy to get clear, detailed, up-close shots. Plus, it has a 4” LCD monitor, image stabilization, and motion sensor functionality.
Plus, it’s quite affordable, costing anywhere from $15 to $100. Not only that, but VHS tapes that work with this movie camera are easier to find, which means you can continue using this video camcorder for years. Just make sure that you digitize the footage to preserve it for future generations that may not have a VCR.
6. Canon E60
This digital SLR camera was a popular choice in the early 2000s and is still cherished by collectors and people who like using it for nostalgic reasons. However, it also has a good 1080p HD video recording quality and 5.3 fps which makes it a decent choice even today. It uses a 9-point auto-focus AF system and wireless flash control for easy use. However, since it isn’t as old as some of the other retro camera options on our list, it costs anywhere from a few hundred to $1,500 or more.
7. JVC GR-C1
This camera was released in 1984 as the first all-in-one VHS-C camcorder. It had viewfinder playback capability and was made famous in the movie Back to the Future because the cinema camera was operated by Marty McFly and owned by Doc Brown. While quite large by modern standards, it’s fun to use, nostalgic, and offers built-in audio, 300 horizontal line resolution, manual focus, and 6x optical zoom for around $100 to $200 in 2023.
8. Hitachi VM-C720A
This old camcorder uses Hi8 media format and offers 2x digital zoom, remote control use, long-lasting battery power, and a durable low-light design that means you can still get a solid working model for around $50 to $100. While it doesn’t offer some of the features of other options on our list, it works well for capturing nostalgic new memories on old tapes.
9. RCA CC0154
The RCA CC010 from 1981 has a great aesthetic that’s both nostalgic and high-tech. You can tell that this camera is one of the later models that’s still bridging the gap between Super 8 film cameras and VHS, Betamax, and MiniDV vintage camcorders. That makes it fun to use, but it’s still impractical. That being said, lots of filmmakers like using this type of camera on screen because of the old school design and you can get one for less than $100 on eBay.
10. Sharp VC-A363U
This “slim cam” model is still affordable at around $25 to $50, but it was an extremely popular option for creating VHS home movies. With 12x auto focus, preview screen, and a clear viewfinder as well as a retro design, you can’t go wrong with this option as a collector or simply someone wanting to capture memories on an old school video camera.
11. Kodak Ektapro
This 8mm camcorder from 1984 may bring back memories as soon as you take a look. It’s lightweight weighing around 5 pounds with the battery and offers easy-to-use control and playback options. The auto-focus feature, auto zoom, and automatic iris and color balance as well as the electronic viewfinder make it more practical than other cameras of the era. However, it’s pretty difficult to find in good condition.
12. Philips VKR6840
Released in 1980, this vintage VHS-C camera offers a mobile viewfinder and video customizability that may seem overcomplicated but is loved by people who want to change the focus, adjust the shutter or balance, and do other stuff to change the appearance of the video. However, it’s quite rare so you may have to pay a little more for it than other options.
13. Minolta TC-1
This Super 8 sound video camera is somewhat rare and expensive, costing as much as $600 to $1000 right now, but it’s also really cool. The 1976 handheld design and sharp camera zoom lens will capture beautiful images as well as audio. With a shooting speed of 18 fps as well as single frame mode available, it’s a fun camera for a retro experience at your next family event.
Where to Find These Old Video Cameras
Finding some of these cameras is easy, but some are super rare. Whichever camera recorder you are looking for, here are some places where you can keep an eye out to find it.
Online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy often have people trying to sell retro cameras, so it’s a good idea to keep a look. This is a great place to look for less-rare options and the really popular ones from the 80s and 90s are readily found at marketplaces. However, you are unlikely to find the very rare options here because they’ve been valued by collectors for a long time. Plus, when buying off eBay or Etsy, make sure to do your research and make sure you are buying a camera in good condition.
Keep an eye out for camera stores. While most modern camera stores will only have digital cameras and video cameras, some may have retro analog options as well. If you find one that has an old camcorder, they may also have video tape, Super VHS, VHS-C, Betamax, and other camcorder tapes.
Antique Shops and Flea Markets
A lot of vintage video cameras are or have been sitting around people’s homes, basements, and attics. Because of this, they can pop up at antique stores and flea markets often. This is a great local choice that allows you to clearly see the condition and features of a camera as well.
Online Forums and Groups
There are online forums and camera collector groups online that may have the video camera you are looking for or at least be able to point you in the right direction. The good thing about these communities is that their users are knowledgeable and can tell you everything you need to know about each camera. Plus, if you purchase from someone on these forums, there’s at least a decent chance they took good care of the old video camera.
For example, Filmshooting.com is an international forum for film and video enthusiasts with an entire section dedicated to vintage video cameras. There’s also the Analog Video Gear Buy/Sell/Trade Group on Facebook that’s dedicated to exchanging analog video equipment. Finally, check out DVinfo.net that’s focused on digital video, but also has a section for vintage video cameras that may be useful.
Camera Stores that Specialize in Old Video Cameras
There are online camera stores that specialize in selling old video cameras as well. While you may pay a little more going through one of these options, they are trustworthy and won’t involve a complicated search. One option that offers a large selection of used and vintage cameras, including old video cameras is KEH Camera.
Other stores include Adorama, which has a decent selection of used vintage video cameras, and B&H Photo Video, which is primarily focused on new camera equipment and adapters but also has old video cameras. Finally, Pacific Rim Camera is a camera store that specializes in vintage cameras, including old video cameras and they have an online store as well as a physical store in Salem, Oregon.
With so many retro and rare old video camera options, it may be hard to make a decision. However, by narrowing it down to these 13 options that include videotape, Super 8, and digital camcorder options, you are sure to find a high-quality camera whether you are collecting vintage equipment or wanting to use one to record new memories.
Whichever option you choose, it’s important to convert the footage into high-quality digital format to preserve it for future generations to enjoy and share. Capture can turn your videotapes, film reels, and even digital formats like DVDs or SD cards into digital files stored on the cloud. Click here to learn more.