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Sony Mavica (1981), the first still video camera in history
Sony Digital Mavica MVC-FD5 (1997), the first digital camera of the Mavica series

Mavica (Magnetic Video Camera) is a discontinued brand of Sony cameras which use removable disks as the main recording medium. On August 25, 1981, Sony unveiled a prototype of the Sony Mavica as the world's first electronic still video camera.[1]

As with all Mavica cameras until the early 1990s (including later models sold commercially) this first model was not digital. Its CCD sensor produced an analog video signal in the NTSC format at a resolution of 570 × 490 pixels. Mavipak 2.0" disks (later adopted industry-wide as the Video Floppy and labelled "VF") were used to write 50 still frames onto tracks on disk. The pictures could be shown on a television screen,[1] using a "special playback viewer unit" plugged into the television set.[2]

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sony reused the Mavica name for a number of digital (rather than analog) cameras that used standard 3.5" floppy disk or 8 cm CD-R media for storage.

Original analog Mavica models

The initial prototype demonstrated in 1981 supported video capture at ten pictures per second, and hopes were expressed that this could be increased to sixty pictures per second before the product was launched. Despite the lower image quality compared to traditional film, Japanese news professionals had reportedly been "plaguing the firm with requests for the camera" according to Sony, anticipating the potential convenience of handling pictures in a form that would be readily compatible with computing and telecommunications devices.[2] Sony also demonstrated a thermal transfer printer called the Mavigraph, employing cyan, magenta, yellow and black dye-transfer sheets and capable of producing prints of up to 120mm x 160mm on A5 paper, made up of the 480 lines from the captured images, in a five-minute process.[3]

The unreleased original MAVICA as well as the later ProMavica MVC-5000 and MVC-7000 were designed as single-lens reflex systems with interchangeable lenses.[1][4] At least the ProMavica MVC-7000 also featured lens mount adapters for Nikon and Canon lenses.[5][6] The VF format soon evolved into the backward-compatible Hi-VF format, supported by the ProMavica MVC-7000 and the Hi-Band Mavica models.

Digital Mavica line

Inside the Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 Digital camera from 1997
Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 x10 Lens Assembly. The 0.3M pixel sensor is on the right hand PCB. From 1997
The 0.3 M pixel 640x480 sensor used in the Sony Mavica MVC-FD7 digital camera from 1997

From the late 1990s on, Sony released a number of cameras based on digital (rather than analog) technology under the "Digital Mavica", "FD Mavica" and "CD Mavica" brands.

The earliest of these digital models recorded onto 3.5" 1.4 MiB 2HD floppy disks in computer-readable DOS FAT12 format, a feature that made them very popular in the North American market. With the evolution of consumer digital camera resolution (megapixels), the advent of the USB interface and the rise of high-capacity storage media, Mavicas started to offer other alternatives for recording images: the floppy-disk (FD) Mavicas began to be Memory Stick compatible (initially through a Memory Stick Floppy Disk adapter, but ultimately through a dedicated Memory Stick slot), and a new CD Mavica series—which used 8 cm (3") CD-R/CD-RW media—was released in 2000.

The first CD-based Mavica (MVC-CD1000), notable also for its 10× optical zoom, could only write to CD-R discs, but it was able to use its USB interface to read images from CDs not finalized (CDs with incomplete sessions). Subsequent models are more compact, with a reduced optical zoom, and are able to write to CD-RW discs.[7]

A couple of the models were formed with a single lens reflex component combined with an interchangeable lens. And to give them flexibility, one or two versions also had lens mount adapters.

Later Sony digital cameras

The Mavica line has been discontinued. Sony continues to produce digital cameras in the Cyber-shot and Alpha series, which use Memory Stick and other flash card technologies for storage.

Mavica models

Still video cameras with storage on 2.0" video floppy

Mavica MVC 2000, an analog model from the late-1980s[8]

Digital still cameras with storage on 3.5" floppy disk

Sony Mavica MVC-FD75 with floppy disks

Digital still cameras with storage on 8 cm compact disc

Sony Mavica CD400, front view
Sony Mavica CD400, rear view

MaviCap digital still image capture adaptors

Cameras of similar concept

There were other digital cameras that used disk storage as memory media:

See also


  1. ^ a b c "1980-83 (subsection: SONY MAVICA ELECTRONIC CAMERA - 1981)". Archived from the original on 2014-12-05. Retrieved 2018-12-11. On August 25, 1981 [..] Sony unveiled a prototype of the company's first still video camera, the Mavica (Magnetic Video Camera) [which] was not a digital camera, but a TV camera capable of writing TV quality stills onto magnetic disks [..] The Mavica was a single lens reflex with interchangeable lenses. The original Mavica was provided with three bayonet-mounted lenses: a 25mm f/2, a 50mm f/1.4, and 16-65mm f/1.4 zoom.
  2. ^ a b Popham, Peter (November 1981). "Sony's video snap-shooter". Design. p. 19. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  3. ^ "Colour prints from video signals". Design. June 1982. p. 13. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  4. ^ Brooke Clarke's PSC-6 web site showing a ProMavica MVC-5000 and mentioning an assortment of compatible lenses: 400mm, 60-300mm zoom, night vision lens, "Wide Lens 5mm 1:1.8 Sony" (MCL-05H), "Zoom Lens 9.5 - 123.5mm 1:1.8 Made by Canon" (MCL-913T)
  5. ^ Sony Product Flyer of ProMavica MVC-7000 listing camera features and mentions accessories including Sony-bayonet-mount lenses: "wide lens" (MCL-06T), "zoom lens" (MCL-903T), "zoom lens" (MCL-806H), "wide lens" (MCL-05H) and "zoom lens" (MCL-710H) as well as two lens adapters for Nikon (MCL-200N) and Canon (MCL-300C)
  6. ^ Forum thread showing a photo of the ProMavica MVL-7000 SLR with MCL-200N lens adapter
  7. ^ "Facts About Mavica Cameras". The Vintage Mavica.
  8. ^ "1986". The MVC-2000PF was a pre-production, hand-built camera sent to specific photographers for testing. The production model went on sale in 1989.
  9. ^ Sony ProMavica MVC-2010 (1990) on The Digital Camera Museum
  10. ^ "Sony Mavica FD97 Review - Steve's Digicams". Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  11. ^ "Sony Mavica FD97 Review - Steve's Digicams". Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  12. ^ "Sony Mavica FD100 - Steve's Digicams". Retrieved 10 August 2022.