MacBook Pro FireWire 400 / 800 Conversion

Getting the latest greatest piece of personal electronics is mostly a happy occasion, but there can be "moments". I recently replaced my circa 2003 MacBook Pro with the current MacBook hotness, which included a switch-up from FireWire 400 to FireWire 800. But wait, my mini-DV camera is FireWire 400; will my old camera talk to my new MacBook? The joy of playing with iMovie 2009 was tempered by the thought I might not have any footage to edit.

Information on connecting FireWire 400 devices to Apple MacBook Pros with FireWire 800 is promising but not definitive (this may change for the better by the time you read this post). A number of forum posts indicated that all that was required is the appropriate adaptor or cable. Having been burned by assumptions I proceeded with the expectation it would probably, but not necessarily, work. Fortunately, it worked!

FireWire Connector

For those of you in a similar situation I can vouch from personal experience that a Canon ZR800 mini-DV video camera with FireWire works fine with a MacBook Pro FireWire 800 connection. I found two possible solutions: a $14 connector that allowed my existing cable to connect to my MacBook, and a $35 cable that would connect my camera directly to my MacBook. Since I already had a FireWire 400 cable I opted for the connector. At the time of writing I've taken around 15 hours of taped video off my camera without any problems. I've also successfully live streamed via UStream.

Exactly what kind of connector did I buy? It was a 1 x 6-pin FireWire Female IEEE 1394a/1 x 9-pin FireWire Male IEEE 1394b connector. The cable solution I didn't pick (because I already had a 4-pin/6-pin camera cable) was simply called "4-pin to 9-pin FireWire cable". Wikipedia has a good write-up on FireWire and the connectors it uses: For reasons I don't know the article uses the term "circuit" while manufacturer specifications (any that I read) use the term "pin".

Although I can't generalize this experience to say what else may or may not work, I hope this bit of information might prove useful to others.


Very encouraged by your success, thanks.

found you page after pulling my old zr850 out to hook up to my i5 imac... after much scratching of the head i found your site first and was like oh yea duh. Thanks for the write up!