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That filming in dark or light would not make a camera go wrong, worse thing he could have done with it is put the lens towards a very bright tungsten light messing about ( if he has ) the Iris would burn out, if this has happened you are looking at a few bob to repair.
I would beg, borrow, rent a hi8 camcorder or player and try a second cam to see if it's the tape or the camera. If it's the camera then you'lll still be able to off load your movies, but if your tapes don't play on the second machine, you're probably out of luck. Try a second camera!
I borrowed my friend's video camera and this message came up on the third day of our vacation. I started freaking out. I came here for solutions. I tried gently smacking it, but the error code still came up. We fixed it though. All you have to do is open the door to where the tape goes in, and blow in it. When you do this, the error code goes away and a new message comes up. Something about moisture in it. Take the battery out now. Put it back in afetr half an hour and the thing will work perfectly.