EU regulations changed recently that (at least in part) caused still cameras to have limitations on video recording length. Administrative obstacles are gone now. It is up to only the manufacturers whether their cameras will have video recording limits or not.
It is an ages-old story I wanted to write at least as long ago on my blog, but I couldn’t get to it until now. Not too long ago a reader called Zsolt brought it up in a conversation and I went after his story to discover the details. Now it is more timely than ever I decided to write about it finally.
So the EU regulation is gone, it is only a question when the manufacturers decide to use the possibility they got. It is an even bigger question if they will include the longer recording capability only in their newly released upcoming cameras or they will add into older cameras as well with a firmware update.
It is history now
The older part of this story is the previous EU customs regulation that appoints a higher duty tax to video camcorders than to the still cameras. At least in part, this is the reason why manufacturing companies cripple still cameras with limited video recording capabilities (usually in 30 minutes).
Regulation change from July 1, 2019
Local representation of the European Union in my country Hungaryhelped me to discover the regulation and the story behind its change.
As we discovered from 2019. July 1. EU changed common customs tariffs under the support of the „Information Technology Agreement” (ITA) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This international agreement aimed to reduce the taxes on information technology import to zero. during a longer period of years. The next step in the agreement comes into legal effect on the 1st of July every year.
- “Digital sill cameras” under ID: 8525 80 30 capable of recording a video no longer than 30 minutes were duty-free before 2019. July 1. and remain stayed so after the deadline too.
- “Video camera-recorders” under ID 8525 80 91 had a duty tax of 2-5% that changed to 1.6% from 1st July.
- “Camcorders” under ID 8525 80 99 had a 3.5% duty tax that is now reduced to zero.
Not only legal restrictions exist
It is fake naivety to hope for such a retrospective feature addition with a firmware update. In part, because manufacturers have to sell their newer machines as well – that gets harder and harder for them every day as smartphones still keep conquering larger parts from the camera market. None of the manufacturers can afford to develop cameras in a too large scale for free as it would undermine saleability of their next products. It is more profitable for them to introduce new features only in the next models instead of just giving it away for free.
Of course, video recording has a technological barrier as well. Large data density of videos can put a big strain on most of the camera’s electronics – 4K videos in particular. The image sensor, processor, internal buffer memory, writing the card and all parts of the camera are running on a maximum performance that generates heat. The more data density generates more heat. Often the entire camera gets baking hot during a longer video recording. Many cameras can even overheat and stop recording or simply freeze. Some times even the write speed of the camera can stop video recording. In certain cases, camera manufacturers cutting their cost on the cheaper card sockets can also cripple the writing speed of a camera. This also means the probability of firmware updated removal of recording limit is diminished by the need for additional hardware development to support longer recordings.
However legal restrictions are gone, and I am curious what the future will bring.
What category definitions mean?
Here is an explanation from the official EU sources:
8525 80 30 Digital cameras
Digital cameras of this subheading are always capable of still-image recording, whether on an internal storage medium or on interchangeable media. Most of them have the design of a traditional photographic camera.
Digital cameras that are only capable of recording still images remain classified in this subheading.
Cameras of this subheading may also have video-capture capability to record continuous periods of video.
However, when such apparatus are capable, using the maximum storage capacity, of capturing video in a quality of 800 x 600 pixels (or higher) at 23 frames per second (or higher) for a continuous period of at least 30 minutes (regardless of the fact that the captured video images may be recorded in separate files of a duration of less than 30 minutes) they are always to be classified in subheadings 8525 80 91 or 8525 80 99 .
If one or more of the above criteria is not fulfilled, the apparatus is to be classified by application of note 3 to Section XVI (see also Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 458/2014).
Compared to the video camera recorders of subheadings 8525 80 91 and 8525 80 99 , many digital cameras (when functioning as video cameras) do not offer a zoom function during video recording. Unaffected by the storage capacity, some cameras automatically terminate the recording of video after a certain period of time.
8525 80 91 és 8525 80 99 Video camera recorders
Video camera recorders of these subheadings are always capable of recording continuous periods of video, whether on an internal storage medium or on interchangeable media.
In general, the digital video camera recorders of these subheadings have a design which differs from digital cameras of subheading 8525 80 30 . They often have a foldable viewfinder and are frequently presented together with a remote control. Most video camera recorders offer a zoom function during video recording. However, the fact that video cameras integrated, for example, into sports goggles have no optical zoom function does not prevent the classification of such products under subheadings 8525 80 91 and 8525 80 99 (see Case C-178/14, Vario Tek, ECLI:EU:C:2015:152, para 17 – 29).
Digital video camera recorders that are only capable of recording video are always classified in these subheadings.
Apparatus with both video recording and still image recording capability are to be classified by reference to the explanatory note to subheading 8525 80 30.
These subheadings include remotely controlled apparatus for capturing and recording video and still images which are specifically designed to be used with multi-rotor helicopters (so-called drones), for example, through dedicated contact elements. These apparatus are used for capturing video and aerial still images of the environment and allow the user to visually control the flight of the drone. Such apparatus are always classified under these subheadings regardless of the length of the video recording as the video recording is the principal function. See also the HS classification opinion 8525 80/3.
8525 80 11 – 8525 80 99 Television cameras, digital cameras and video camera recorders
See the HS Explanatory Note to heading 8525 , (B).
These subheadings do not cover electronic reading devices for the visually handicapped (see the explanatory note to subheading 8543 70 90 ).