Camcorders come in a wide range of different formats, each format being drastically different from each other. Here's a breakdown of the different formats and what makes them unique:
VHS/VHS-C The lowest quality camcorder. These camcorders record directly onto a VHS tape, which you can take out of your camcorder and put directly into your VCR. VHS-C is a compact form of VHS. Smaller in cassette size, the VHS-C format is more convenient since you can use an adapter to play a VHS-C tape in your VCR. S-VHS Not as widely used as it used to be.
The S-VHS or Super VHS format holds more lines of resolution and will give you a better image quality. However, an S-VHS tape will not play in a normal VHS VCR. You need an S-VHS VCR to play an S-VHS tape.
8mm/Hi8/Digital 8 More inexpensive than DV camcorders, 8mm camcorders record at a high resolution and can usually record up to 2 hours of quality recording on each tape. Sony introduced the Digital 8 series of camcorders which records data digitally onto Hi8tapes.
MiniDV/DV (or digital video) DV is the highest level of consumer camcorders. These record at 500+ lines of resolution and can be used with the ultra compact DV-Mini tapes.
Beta/DVCAM These are the highest formats and are considered television broadcast quality. Generally, these are the formats used by major television stations.