Recording Limits FAQ
- Why do digital cameras sometimes have video recording time limits?
Video recording time limits in digital cameras can vary in length and are determined by a number of different factors.
The most common limit is 30 minutes. Once a single continuous video recording reaches 29 minutes, 59 seconds the camera will stop recording. This limit was determined by the World Trade Organization’s Information Technology Agreement (ITA) that entered into force on July 1, 1997. The agreement specified for a product to be classified as a digital camera, it “must not be able to record at least 30 minutes of a single sequence of video in a quality of 800 x 600 pixels or higher at 23 frames per second or higher.” If a product could record video longer than 30 minutes in a single sequence then it must be classified as a “video camera” and, therefore, taxed at a higher 5.4% duty. So, to avoid the extra tariffs on their stills cameras, manufacturers chose to artificially and automatically limit any continuous video recording sequence to 29 minutes, 59 seconds to avoid the higher tax rates.
However, the WTO began a phased update to the ITA beginning July 1, 2016 that would end no later than July 1, 2019. That update eliminated the extra tariffs placed on video cameras, thus ending the requirement for manufacturers to place an artificial 29 minute, 59 second recording limit on their digital still cameras.
The second most common limit is one determined by the camera manufacturer to prevent the camera’s internals and/or sensor from overheating. These limits are pre-programmed, often cannot be changed, are a product-specific limitation, and can vary from only a few minutes to multiple hours. The limits can also vary within the same camera from one recording format/quality to another. So be sure to check the details, specifications, and manual(s) for each camera to determine how these limitations are handled (if the limitations exist).
The last common limit is one determined by file sizes and file system formats used by memory cards and other types of storage media. These specific limits are detailed in the questions and answers below...
- Why do digital cameras sometimes have 4GB file size limits?
4GB is the maximum file size possible for a single file in the popular FAT32 file system. It was a common file system found in earlier digital cameras, but can still be found in many cameras and recording formats still today. The FAT32 file system may also be a requirement for SDHC memory cards or other storage media between 2GB and 32GB in size.
However, just because the 4GB file size limit exists does not necessarily mean the camera will stop recording once that limit is reached. Camera manufacturers will either choose to stop video recording completely when the 4GB file size limit is reached or they will choose to continue video recording uninterrupted by creating multiple files no larger than 4GB. So be sure to check the details, specifications, and manual(s) for each camera to determine how these limitations are handled (if the limitation exists).
- Why do digital cameras sometimes have 2GB file size limits?
2GB is the maximum file size possible for a single file in the FAT16 file system. While this is an older file system that is rarely used today, it can be common in older cameras and may be a requirement for any SD memory cards or storage media 2GB or smaller.