Sony's tiny home video camera
By EDITOR Joel Dreyfuss REPORTER Michael Rogers

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Without claiming that it's better than Beta, Sony Corp. introduced a new line of 8-mm video cameras and recorders aimed at the home market. The new Sony product is the smallest and lightest sound-equipped video camera-recorder to hit the market. It weighs around three pounds, is about the size of an average-length novel, and uses a small tape that resembles a standard audiocassette -- making it incompatible with Sony's Beta system and the rival VHS videocassette recording format. The new line includes the Mini-8 camera and portable playback unit ($1,800) and a new home VCR that can digitally record four hours of television or 24 hours of music on a single 8-mm cassette. Sony is hoping the handy, easy-to-use products will boost the company's fortunes in the home video market. ''A decade ago people were using Instamatic cameras,'' says Sony President Norio Ohga. ''Now we believe they'll be using Mini-8.'' Launching a third video format is Sony's way of hedging its commitment to Beta, the 1/2-inch videotape format it introduced in 1975. According to Television Digest, an industry newsletter, Sony's share of the VCR market has shrunk from 14.2% in 1981 to less than 7% last year. The rival VHS system now holds 75% of the VCR market. But the company insists it is not abandoning Beta. Sony has already unveiled an enhanced version, with higher picture resolution and stereo sound, called SuperBeta Hi-Fi. Several companies already sell 8-mm video cameras in the U.S., including Kodak, Polaroid, General Electric, and Canon. Over 100 manufacturers have agreed on a single 8-mm standard, and analysts say it could become the dominant force in home video within five years. Old-fashioned home movie cameras that use film rather than tape are practically extinct. According to Peter Enderlin, a video and photo industry analyst with Smith Barney Harris Upham, sales of film cameras declined from one million in 1972 to just 100,000 last year, while sales of video cameras exploded.