In The 1990s, There Was A Run On Sony Camcorders When Consumers Believed They Could?
Answer: See Through Clothing
In the late 1990s, there was a sudden and intense interest in a particular line of Sony Handycam camcorders. Was it because they were the first products on the market with digital recording, or the first camcorders with a consumer price tag, but pro-level class? Those are the kinds of things that generate some interest in a niche community that cares, but what Sony had on their hands was a whole different animal: camcorders that could allegedly see through clothing. As you can imagine, the level of interest was astronomical and the Handycam models that had the “feature” flew off the shelves.
Could the camcorders actually see through clothing though? Yes and no. While the camcorders didn’t offer the Superman-like ability to x-ray through any fabric (they wouldn’t allow you to see someone’s underwear through a leather jacket, for example), under the right conditions they did, in fact, offer x-ray like powers. If the person you were filming was wearing an outfit made of thin fabric such as a really light cotton T-shirt, the camera did often reveal the outlines (silhouette) of their undergarments as if the outer layer of clothing was just a ghostly overlay.
So how did it work? The particular Handycam models that consumers coveted for this “peeping Tom” feature had Sony’s “Nightshot” night vision mode. That particular mode was nothing new, and both before and after, Sony’s Handycams and digital cameras had it, but what made the particular models in question so effective was that the Nightshot mode worked under full daylight conditions. When the camera was trained on someone wearing lightweight clothing, the NightShot feature basically enhanced the available light, making it capable of “seeing through” the clothing when used with an inexpensive infrared black filter. Later models were altered so that the Nightshot mode would function at night, but not during the daytime or under super bright lighting conditions, thus rendering the peek-through-clothes function disabled.
Image courtesy of Sony.