THE PROFESSIONAL BETAMAX
Professional broadcasting has always been a natural for Sony. Their first reel-to-reel units were made to be portable and were use primarily by institutions, studios and television stations. This gave Sony an inroad to the news media. The U-matic was the first cartridge recorder and it made recording simpler and quicker. So naturally when the Beta format was introduced the professional recording industry embraced it.


There was never any real contest. The very things that many consumers loved proved to be the deciding factor for the serious media experts. If your going to edit your programming you can't stand to have the tape threading in and out all the time like VHS was forced to do. You want to wait, you want to be able to find things quickly and easily. VHS never had a chance. Beta dominated the professional recording industry. What you see in the brochure cover illustrated in the photo is the first professional Beta, The SLO-260. You think the first consumer Beta was expensive, the pro Betas were out of site. It was nothing to see $2000 to 3000 for the babies. Why? Because the market was smaller and the technical standards had to be so exacting. For public consumption Beta units the circuit capacitors may be rated at a tolerance of 20%, which is typical. Capacitors of this rating are cheap to make, relatively speaking. Not so inexpensive are ones rated 10% or less. The price difference when multiplied times the number of caps in a unit times the number of units gets you a big number. Since they were being sold to work in a professional environment where the tolerances were tighter meant that these pro Beta units would get the higher rated components. You paid dearly for them but you got them. This was the case much of the time. Pro Betas also benefited because there usually were no components dedicated a tuner, timer or RF unit (many had RF out however). The absence of these circuits allows more dedication to the ones remaining. Extra line stability can be engineered in. Accurate color filtering can be enhanced. These are the things that justified the added cost of the pro Beta units. Click on the photo and here we see the first generation of pro Betas. A portable for news gathering, a high end camera and two studio units. All used BI since recording quality, rather than recording time, was their prime directive. Click on the photo and you will see that Sony went on to make a wide assortment of models to fill the needs of schools, studios, dealerships, institutions, broadcasters and government. Click again and here are two units made specifically for the demanding job of tape duplication. Many of these were set up in racks or arrays of fifty or more. Click again and we see two units, the GCS-50 and GCS-1, that were aimed primarily at archiving and editing. Special consoles (not shown) were manufactured that allowed scenes to be programmed and assembled from multiple tape sources. Click again and here we see that last of the pro units, the ED Beta sports package. One thing you've noticed is that there weren't as many models of the pro units as there were for the consumer betas. This was because their designs covered a narrower range of specialties and they were aimed at a more demanding consumer. Also professional Beta wasn't without it's competitors. Sony had other formats that were competing for those professional dollars. There was still U-matic. And there was also Betacam and BetacamSP. They were even more exacting, the tape ran at a much high speed and they used a different recording scheme. But they did use the exact same Beta cassette. Betacam would overtake the pro Betas and eventually become the professional standard. But they were all primarily Sony units. Still used today you can still see them wherever news is being made. But they too are on the decline now that digital is making inroads into the professional market. The one thing you can't stop is change. To open the brochure panel click here. To open the SL-7200 brochure panel for a side-by-side comparison click here. To got to the next panel "Understanding Betamax" click here.