Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sony Handycam Camcorder Repair: Re-Capping

Few months back I picked up a Sony Handycam Video 8 camera (CCD-TR333 circa 1993) cheaply off ebay. I brought it to transfer a load of family videos to the computer, for archiving to DVD. The camera was working but only in playback mode. It was very temperamental and would only play tapes ok after a few minutes of power on. The camera side was working but it would not record very well, only a wobbly picture with varying amount of static. Thankfully I was able to capture all our tapes ok with out the camera dying completely.

A common fault with these 1990's era camcorders are that the electrolytic capacitors fail. Causing a multitude of problems, from bad record and playback to the camera not powering up at all. The miniature surface mount type capacitors used are not as reliable as the big brothers used in desktop equipment. And are only usually rated for about 8-10 years of use before they start to fail. You've probably heard about same fault that happens to Sega Game Gears, they also use the same miniature capacitors most nineties camcorders do.  

So I though I’d take a look inside the camera see if I could repair it...

After carefully opening up the case of the camera, I noticed there was a strange smell on the DC-DC power board. Looking carefully at all of the caps on the board, I could see that all of them where leaking their electrolyte. (Its not that evident from this picture but trust me they were!) 

This DC-DC board regulates the 6V DC from the battery pack to all the required voltages, and is crucial that the capacitors are functional. This board also drives the head drum motor, so faulty caps would cause it to spin a the wrong speeds in turn causing the problems I was getting. So I decided I would replace all the electrolytic caps on the board. I marked out the bad caps with red marker and de-soldered them from the board. I cleaned up the spilled electrolyte with a cotton swap and video head cleaning fluid. Did the job nicely, though in some cases the electrolyte can eat way at PCB tracks causing damage to board. 


Rather than using replacement SMT parts I just used new caps that I had in my spares box. You should always use the same (uF) value but it doesn't matter if you use a slightly higher voltage replacement cap. For example to replace the 10v 33uF caps I used 16v 33uF. With some thoughtful positioning I was able replace all the faulty capacitors.

With all the caps replaced on the power board, I re-fitted it back to the camera:

I thought while I had the camera open, I'd may aswell replace all the capacitors on the main board:

I also replaced a few caps on the CCD board of the camera. There was a cap value on there that I did not have in my spares so I had to leave it.

I then re-assembled the camera boards then the sides of case. At the front of the camera is the audio board. All the caps on this board appeared to be ok. No smell or leakage, so I left them for now. Though its likely I will replace them in future, if I get audio issues. 

The audio board:

With all the of the camera reassembled, I was ready to do an initial test:

The camera powered up fine. Everything works much better now, It records and plays flawlessly!

So my capacitor replacement went well, and the camera is now back in to a usable condition again. 

I've got lots of spare video 8 tapes that can be erased so I can take this camera out for a test.


  1. Great work with the camera. I have one of these which has been in the family since 1993. Recently when I dug it out to do some work with it (I want to make a music video with that 1990s quality) I found that the camera has developed some faults. It appears to record properly, however the image in the view finder is distorted and then the playback is very glitchy, like a VHS player with very bad tracking, and the image is in black and white and very hard to make out.

    I found your blog page, and decided to open the camera, however I can't find any visual signs of cap leakage and there is no bad smell inside the camera. It appears to be in perfect condition. Then, when I tried to re-assemble the camera, I accidentally pulled the ribbon cable which connects the viewfinder side of the camera to the main board, pulling it away from the viewfinder side. It wasn't in a socket, it appeared to be glued to the board.

    Do you have any advice as to what could be causing the playback problem if it is not bad caps? Do you have any advice as to how I could re-attach the ribbon to the viewfinder board. I really love this camera but I have a feeling that any replacement I buy on eBay is just going to go the same way eventually. Would you perhaps consider selling me your modified camera if you have gotten your intended use out of it?

    Thanks for your time,

    1. Hey,
      Thanks for the comment! The fault symptoms of your camera sound like bad caps to me. I was getting about the same faults with my camera. The first capacitors I replaced were on the DC regulator board. The head drum motor driver is located on this board. With bad caps the motor drive can't spin the drum accurately so this results in playback issues. Sometimes the caps look fine and don't leak but can still be bad.

      The ribbon cables in these cameras are very fragile. The solder joints to the PCB are quite week as well. It might be possible to re-solder it back with a low wattage iron and a fine tip being super careful. I have attempted this before with varying degrees of success.

      I still have the camera I repaired but its not in a reliable condition to sell it on. Its working but Its on life support so to speak.

      The camera I re-capped did work but was acting strange like it was about to die completely as I mentioned. That prompted me to attempt the capacitor replacement. I didn't really care at the time if I ended up ruining the camera has I already had our tapes transferred. It was just a side project for the fun of it and to see if I could do it.

      There was about 20 caps I replaced. It was quite difficult for me because I used though-hole caps rather than smt. I also did the audio board later in the year that was another 12 caps.

      If your into 90's looking videos i'd say use a more modern analog camera from the early 2000's. I have a 2001 sharp viewcam and a 2002 JVC compact vhs and they use a much simpler design with full solid capacitors mush more reliable than older models. The old cameras from the early nineties are awesome but most are worn out and on their last legs and are generally not worth the hassle of repair in my opinion.

      Hope this helps

    2. Thanks for the reply!

      Yeah, I think you're right, its a lot of hassle for something that may not even work once done. I'm going to re-assemble the camera and put it up on the shelf, I guess it still looks pretty cool as a little "museum piece" haha.

      I will follow your advice and try to pick up a VHS-C camera, they seem to be more abundant in working condition than Video-8 which is a shame because the old bulky Handycams are such cool cameras. I love the substantial feel they have, most modern cameras feel as though they'd break if you breathed on them!! Such a shame the old Sonys are not as electronically robust as they are physically.

      Thanks again for your advice!

  2. Have a 1993 Rioch camcorder. Still works well in playback & it will record to tape but in the viewfinder there is only a straight line. Can play back recorded tape on TV. Only problem is you can view what you're recording! Any ideas?

    1. *CAN'T* view what you're recording...sorry about the error. Also, it should be *RICOH* ;-)

  3. i have a faulty monoscope viewfinder on a sony tr75e, is there an easy way to test 4 tiny electrolytic caps (220, 330, 2.2, 82 mf) on a spare viewfinder board i bought?

  4. Hi Sam,
    I have a 1993 Sony ccd-tr33.
    It plays back very well but records distorted and the picture is scrambled in the view finder, it needs new capacitors
    Do you know exactly which type and which voltage ones I need ?
    Also in order to fix it I would have to open it obviously and re solider new ones but how can I prevent ripping a cable or something ?

  5. hi, please can you fix my two camcorders (both hi8), i will pay you!!!!

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  7. Well, to replace capacitors it needs a really precise equpiment, could you show what the proper soldering tip should look like and its dimensions at the end ?
    Best regards, Bart

  8. Please,I have the Sony Handycam CCD-TR55 but when I turn it on I only see a white screen in the view finder. how do I go about it. Please.