Help! DVCPro, DVCPro 50, DVCPro HD! What's the difference?

DVCPro, DVCPro 50*, and DVCPro HD recording formats all use the same tape. The difference is the amount of tape used to record the data. All DVCPro cassette tapes can be recorded in the three modes: standard DVCPro, DVCPro 50, and DVCPro HD. A higher quality recording mode creates more data and consequently uses a greater amount of tape.

DVCPro records at 25Mb/s. DVCPro 50, a higher quality mode, records at 50Mb/s and uses twice as much tape. So, the running time is half of what it would be in standard DVCPro (25Mb/s). The same holds true for DVCPro HD. It requires a whopping 100Mb/s, four times more data and thus 1/4 the recording time. For example, a standard 126 minute labeled DVCPro tape would run 63 minutes when recorded in DVCPro 50 mode and 32 minutes in DVCPro HD mode.

To help users differentiate the format used to record a DVCPro tape, manufacturers provide tapes that are color coded. Standard DVCPro tapes are yellow. DVCPro HD tapes are red. Red or yellow, however, the tape is the same. It's just the labeling and naming that's different. *Note: There used to be a blue tape made specifically for DVCPro 50, but it's been discontinued.

Now, prepare to be confused. For tapes marketed as DVCPro HD, manufacturers name and label their tapes in what is known as LP mode. LP mode records the data so that it takes up half the amount of space at the expense of some quality. The Panasonic AJ-HP64EL is a 64 minute HD tape, but that's in LP mode. In the normal, higher quality HD mode, it runs 32 minutes. In fairness, the tape shell does indicate the 32 minute running time, but it's printed in a much smaller type face than the 64 minute wording. Recording the AJ-HP64EL in standard DVCPro mode would yield 128 minutes of recording time and 64 minutes in DVCPro 50.

Are Panasonic DVCPro tapes compatible and interchangeable with one another, and what are the recording and playback times associated with each model?

Panasonic DVCPro Compatibility & Interchangeability Recording & Playback Times/Application

MODEL Recording & Playback Times/Application (meters)
AJ-P12M 12 min. 6 min. 3 min.** 6 min.* 27 m
AJ-P24M 24 min. 12 min. 6 min.** 12 min.* 51 m
AJ-P33M 33 min. 16 min. 8 min.** 16 min.* 70 m
AJ-P46M 46 min. 23 min. 11 min.** 23 min.* 96 m
AJ-P66M 66 min. 33 min. 16 min.** 33 min.* 137 m
AJ-P34L 34 min. 17 min. 8 min.** 17 min.* 72 m
AJ-P66L 66 min. 33 min. 16 min.** 33 min.* 137 m
AJ-P94L 94 min. 47 min. 23 min.** 47 min.* 194 m
AJ-P126L 126 min. 63 min. 31 min.** 63 min.* 259 m
AJ-5P126XG (a) 252 min. 126 min. 63 min.** 126 min.* 513 m
AJ-HP64EL 128 min. 64 min. 32 min.** 64 min.* 263 m
AJ-HP126EX (a) 252 min. 126 min. 63 min.** 126 min.* 513 m
AJ-CL12M (Medium Cleaning Tape) (12 min.) (27 m)
AJ-CL12L (Large Cleaning Tape) (12 min.) (27 m)

All DVCPRO tape models will record & playback in 4:1:1 DVCPRO (25Mbps), 4:2:2 DVCPRO50 (50Mbps), and DVCPROHD(100Mbps) applications; actual recording & playback time is application dependent.

Please note: 50Mbps (DVCPRO50) recordings consume twice as much tape as 25Mbps DVCPRO, and 100Mbps (DVCPROHD) recordings use four times as much tape.

(a) AJ-5P126XG & AJ-HP126EX Extra Large Cassette models may only be used in the AJ-SD965 & AJ-HD1700 and AJ-HD1800 VTRs.

**Recording Time at Standard 18-Micron Recording / *Recording Time at 9-Micron DVCPROHD-LP Recording.

9-Micron Record Heads (1/2 the recording track width) providing 2x the record time of standard 18-Micron Heads are found in the DVCPROHD AJ-HD1200A, AJ-HD1700, and HD1400 VTRs and AJ-HDX400 & HDX900 Camcorders.

Blue Lid & Red Lid DVCPRO Cassettes contain the same metal particle tape formulation as Yellow Lid cassettes; All Yellow Lid, Blue Lid & Red Lid Cassettes are standard thickness DVCPRO tapes, with 6.5µm base film, and a total tape thickness of 8.5µm.

The lid color is to help users of the different recording applications identify & separate them for editing and archival storage.

Recording & Playback Times/Application
DATA RATE 25 Mbps 50 Mbps 100 Mbps
SPEED x 2x 4x

Do you carry AJ-HP46LP DVCPROHD tapes anymore…the kind that work with a Varicam?

While the AJ-HP46LP has been discontinued for some time, you can still get Varicam compatible tape.

There are two alternatives that are compatible with Varicam and are just as good as the old HP46LP.

The Panasonic 126L runs 63 minutes in HD LP mode or 31 minutes in pure HD mode, and the Fuji 64EL runs 126 minutes in HD LP and 63 minutes in HD mode.

Manufacturers have made this all very confusing over the years with numerous model number changes. The tape is the same, only the names have been changed to "befuddle the innocent".