I have a Canon H680 Hi8 camcorder that fell off a shelf many years ago and hasn't been used since. Now I want to use its optics in a low-budget live video system for my church. Basically, I'm impressed with its ability to zoom way in, focus manually, then zoom out to frame the shot without losing focus. I don't need to record with it.

I asked some local shops in Kansas City (USA), and I got a unanimous, "Sorry, we don't work on those anymore".

What still works:

  • It still powers on, using the original AC adapter.
  • The viewfinder displays the text overlay clearly.
  • All the buttons that I tried change the overlay as expected.
  • The autofocus hunts around smoothly when enabled. No gear grinding or other suspicious noises.
  • The last time I could get a testable image (see below), the optics seemed to be okay, which is how I know their capabilities.

What doesn't work:

  • I can't get a decent picture in the viewfinder. The closest I can get is a set of very garbled dots that change when I move the camera, but are not clear enough to recognize. Sometimes I can't even get that, only solid black with some faint analog noise. At one time, I could get a badly distorted but recognizable image, but not this time.
  • The video output seems to be completely dead. While I saw in the viewfinder that it was trying, the VCR that I had it hooked up to never showed anything. This could be operator error.
  • I suspect that the autofocus range sensor may also be damaged because its almost-opaque cover is broken off from the fall and it never settles down when enabled. This isn't a deal-breaker though; I'd rather use manual focus anyway.

Anyone know how I can get this working?

  • Edit: The lens is indeed good, determined by taking it out and looking through it from the sensor end while wiggling the controls. I still can't make the sensor work.
  • This probably isn't even worth getting working. Even a minimally cheap camera using a digital zoom will far outperform a Hi8 relic. – AJ Henderson Sep 3 '14 at 16:44
  • Maybe so, but I already have it, versus buying something, and I've always been skeptical about digital zoom. All they really do is crop the image and expand that to the original size, so focus is guaranteed but resolution is not. I've disabled that feature on my still camera because I can crop it later and even re-frame it, which I can't do with a digital zoomed original. 'Course I've been out of the market for a while, so maybe they've gotten good enough to not be overly sensitive or jerky while moving and the arbitrary-with-digital zoom limit is still unnoticeably clear on a projector. – AaronD Sep 4 '14 at 0:24
  • No digital zoom is still bad, but a cheap modern sensor is still far better quality cropped than a hi 8 Camera Un cropped – AJ Henderson Sep 4 '14 at 1:07
  • Yeah, that's probably be true. 1.21gigapixels (or whatever they're up to by now) versus 480 TV lines: I think I have some room to crop that. But then there's the question of smoothness and controllability. I'd like the camera operator to be able to make changes live without being a distraction - slow push or pull, for example - and it's pretty hard to beat a direct, analog, tactile interface like this one. Besides feeling unnecessary, my experience using digital zoom has been with a three-position switch - (in)/hold/(out) - that moved a bit faster than was useful to me. – AaronD Sep 4 '14 at 6:58
  • ah, yeah, the variable speed analog zoom is hard to replicate on a cheap device. I would still question the frugality of spending time and resources on such an old device versus investing in a new one unless it turns out to be an easy (and very cheap) fix. I wouldn't spend more than $30 or 5 hours on it for sure. Modern equipment is really miles and miles better now, even for devices as cheap as a couple hundred dollars (that would include variable speed optical zoom even). – AJ Henderson Sep 4 '14 at 13:40

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