The 8mm or Video8 format was a very popular video format in the 1980s and 90s. The small video cassette size allowed Sony produced a number of affordable and palm-sized camcorders that were very affordable.
But 8mm camcorders haven’t been manufactured in decades since they are an old analog video format that is far surpassed by today’s cell phones. This leaves many people wondering how to play 8mm tapes if they no longer own their camcorder or if it no longer works.
You can play 8mm tapes with an 8mm, Hi8, and Digital8 camcorder, as well as 8mm and Hi8 VCRs, all of which can be found on used marketplaces like eBay. There are also dozens of video transfer services that can convert 8mm video tapes to a digital format for computers and DVDs. There are no 8mm to VHS tape converters.
There are pros and cons to each method way of watching and playing 8mm tapes, this article will explain in detail so you can make the right choice for yourself as every situation is different.
- 3 Ways to Play 8mm Tapes
- How To Play 8mm Tapes: FAQ
3 Ways to Play 8mm Tapes
There are 3 ways to watch or play 8mm tapes, we’ll discuss each in further detail.
- With an 8mm or compatible camcorder: you can play back 8mm tapes in camcorders that are 8mm (Video 8), Hi8, and most but not all Digital8 camcorders
- With an 8mm, Hi8, or Digital8 VCR: there are VCRs that are built specifically for the 8mm format all of which should play back an 8mm tape. Do not confuse 8mm VCRs with a VHS VCR, which is what most households had back in the 80s and 90s
- Use a Video Transfer Service: this method means not playing the tapes yourself, but instead using a video transfer service that converts them to a digital format that you can keep on your computer or on DVDs, and makes them far easier to share.
NOTE: the are no 8mm to VHS tape adapters. It’s a bummer, but it’s not possible due to many reasons.
Here are the 3 ways to play your 8mm tapes without a camcorder, from easiest to hardest:
Play 8mm Tapes Using a Video Transfer Service
WHO THIS IS BEST FOR:
- Non-tech-savy people – if you are not a DIY person then this is your best option
- People with either few tapes to play and convert to digital, or people that don’t mind spending the money to let someone do it professionally for them
If you want to play 8mm tapes or convert them to DVD or digital without the hassle of finding a used camcorder and doing it yourself, then using a video transfer service like LegacyBox or others is the most hands-off way to watch your old videotapes.
There’s nothing easier than letting someone else take care of your problem for you!
There are many pros to using a video transfer service to convert your videotapes to digital format for playback:
- no equipment to purchase – since you are searching for a way to play your 8mm tapes without a camcorder then chances are you no longer have a working camcorder, nor are you looking to purchase one. Since there are no tape adapters for 8mm tapes that would allow you to playback the tape on a VCR due to tape compatibility issues, your only other option is to purchase something that will play your tapes. 8mm camcorders are no longer manufactured, nor are 8mm tape deck VCRs so you need to look for used marketplaces like eBay for used equipment that is at least a decade old.
- professional quality video transfer – most video transfer services use professional-grade equipment to convert your videos resulting in the best playback
- online sharing – most video transfer services offer a way to store your videos on their secure servers so you can send links to friends and family for sharing and playback.
- no equipment to maintain – if you do buy a camcorder or tape player, or even if you did find your old camcorder chances are it could use a good cleaning and may or may not play your tapes back correctly without eating them.
There are some cons to using a video transfer service to convert 8mm tapes to digital without a camcorder
- price – if you have several tapes to transfer, or aren’t even sure what is on the tapes then you may be paying for transfers for video footage that you don’t care about. This cost can add up quickly, generally anywhere from $10 to $20 a tape. If you compare this cost to buying a used camcorder, playing and/or transferring the tapes to digital yourself, then selling the camcorder when you are done you may find the camcorder is worth more after you are done with it due to the scarcity of these devices.
- privacy – if you have any personal footage on a tape that you don’t want someone else to see then this can be a valid concern
- lost tapes – handing your tapes off to a video transfer service or shipping them introduces the possibility of the tapes and your precious memories being lost forever. Some transfer services claim they have never lost an order, but any shipping service is certain to have a certain % that is lost.
Play 8mm Tapes With a Camcorder
WHO THIS IS BEST FOR:
- Tech Savy people that want to watch and convert the video tapes themselves – the DIY people
- Anyone with several 8mm tapes to play and transfer as paying $10-$20 per tape can far outweigh the cost of a used 8mm camcorder
This may seem obvious, but the best way to play 8mm tapes is with the camcorder that you used to record them.
Don’t have a camcorder? No problem!
8mm camcorders are no longer manufactured or sold at electronics retailers, but there are plenty of good places to find a working 8mm camcorder.
See our article 11+ Places To Buy an 8mm Camcorder (Video8/Hi8/Digital8)
8mm was the first videotape format in the 8mm family, followed by Hi8 then Digital8. The good news is all Hi8 and most Digital8 camcorders are backward compatible and can play 8mm/Video8 tapes.
|Camcorder Type||Can Play 8mm Tapes|
|8mm / Video 8||YES|
|Digital8||MOST – but not all. Read here for a full list|
Chances are if you reach out on social media to friends or family you’ll find that someone has either an 8mm, Hi8, or Digital8 camcorder in their attic that hopefully works. Since most Digital8 camcorders have 8mm and Hi8 playback this type of camcorder would work as well. Click here for a full list of Digital8 camcorders with Hi8 playback capability.
If you can’t borrow a camcorder then there are plenty of used ones for sale online.
- easy to find: Since 8mm and Hi8 were very popular camcorders in their glory days as the smaller tape size meant smaller camcorders, which was very appealing to most consumers. This means they may be easier to borrow or find on a used marketplace like eBay or Amazon.
- cheaper: because tons of 8mm camcorders were produced in the US they are easier to find on used marketplaces, are their price will generally be cheaper than purchasing an 8mm tape deck. And chances are if you buy one it may be worth more when you are done with it and go to sell it as they are in limited supply and no longer manufactured.
- privacy: This is also the best option if you have anything personal on your tapes that you do not want anyone else to see (i.e. employee at the video transfer service).
- no lost tapes – if you find a camcorder you can play your tapes on your own without shipping them to a service where they could get lost or destroyed in the shipping process, or possibly lost during the conversion process.
- overall cost: This option is also best if you have several tapes to play or transfer, as it’s far cheaper to transfer them to digital yourself once you have a working camcorder. A transfer service may charge $10 to $20 to convert each tape, so this can get expensive quickly if you have several tapes. Especially if you have tapes that you have no idea what is on them and if they are worth converting.
- Quality: buying used equipment can be tricky, look for a reputable seller that takes returns if the item is DOA. Also, if you only have a few tapes to watch it would be easier to just pay for a video transfer service to convert your tapes to digital.
- Time: if you play and transfer your videos yourself then that’s time out of your day vs letting someone else do it.
Play 8mm Tapes Using an 8mm VCR or Hi8 Tape Deck
WHO THIS IS BEST FOR:
- Video Geeks: since 8mm and Hi8 VCRs are far less in numbers than camcorders it takes a bit of a video geek like me to search and find an 8mm or Hi8 VCR. Check out eBay for a Hi8 VCR like the Sony EV-C100, Sony EV-S5000, Sony EV-PR2 (this one I owned and loved – wish I never sold it), and even Amazon has some Hi8 VCRs for sale.
8mm and Hi8 VCRs were never popular with regular consumers, they were generally used by people that wanted a way to play their 8mm tapes without using or putting wear on their camcorder as those were generally more expensive.
There’s far less supply of used 8mm VCRs but there are still some out there.
While there were plenty of 8mm tape decks manufactured in the past, there were far more camcorders produced. I myself owned 2 different 8mm tape decks, one was actually a Hi8 deck.
- Ease of Use: working with a tape deck when you are processing many tapes is far easier than the inserting and ejecting process with camcorders. Plus many decks come with remote controls.
- Scarcity: Hi8 and 8mm decks are harder to find than camcorders, which generally makes them more expensive than camcorders.
- Compatibility: Some decks only play video8 / 8mm tapes and not Hi8. The Hi8 decks will play both. There are even some rare Digital8 decks out there that can play them all. Depending on the tapes you have to play you need to find the right tape deck.
If you are serious in finding an 8mm VCR / Tape Deck check the same locations we recommended for camcorders: 11+ Places To Buy an 8mm Camcorder (Video8/Hi8/Digital8)
How To Play 8mm Tapes: FAQ
How To Convert 8mm Tapes To Digital or DVD
Using the advice above to find a working camcorder or VCR that can play 8mm tapes, the next thing you need is a simple USB capture device that will connect your camcorder to your computer to capture the video footage.
These USB capture devices can range from under $10 to over $100, keep in mind you usually get what you paid for but the process of converting 8mm tapes to digital is really that simple.
See the Elgato USB Video Capture Device:
Can I Convert or Play 8mm Tapes Without A Camcorder?
If you are not looking to purchase or borrow video equipment in order to play or convert your video tapes to digital, then there is only 1 option: Use a Video Transfer Service to play and convert your tapes.
This is a hands-free approach for the non-DIY people in the crowd.
Is there an 8mm to VHS adapter?
While 8mm and VHS both recorded analog video, there are no 8mm to VHS adapters for several reasons:
- The tape width is different, 8mm being about 1/2 as wide as a VHS tape. This means the video heads in a VHS player would not know how to read a tape too small
- 8mm and VHS audio was recorded on different portions of the tape, VHS would record it on a narrow strip on the bottom of the tape while 8mm mixed the video and audio signals together
- Video was formatted differently on the tapes
If you are still interested then read our article on why there are no 8mm to VHS tape adapters.
Are there 8mm/VHS Combo players?
There are 8mm / VHS combo players. These are players with a 2 tape slots: 1 for 8mm/Video8 tapes and the other for VHS tapes. The ones available in the US are Goldstar GVR-DD1 8mm combo player. Goldstar is now known as LG.
These players did not handle Hi8, so if you are looking to playback Hi8 tapes these may not be for you. Since they were not many manufactured they are tough to find but a few can still be found working or for parts on eBay.
Can a Hi8 Camcorder Play 8mm Tapes
Hi8 Camcorders are backwards compatible and are capable of playing back tapes that were originally recorded on an 8mm or Video8 camcorder.
When Sony introduced the Hi8 format they wanted existing 8mm / Video8 camcorder owners to be able to upgrade their camcorders and still be able to play back their old tapes.
Can a Digital8 Camcorder Play 8mm Tapes
Most Digital8 Camcorders are backwards compatible and are capable of playing back tapes that were originally recorded on an either Hi8 8mm or Video8 camcorder.
When Sony introduced the Digital8 format they wanted existing 8mm / Video8 camcorder owners to be able to upgrade their camcorders to Digital8 and still be able to play back their old tapes.
I’ve created a full list of all Sony camcorders that can play video tapes originally recorded in 8mm and Hi8 format, as well as the camcorders that cannot.