How to Play Hi8 Tapes Without a Camcorder

If you want to play Hi8 tapes but don’t have a working camcorder then you’re probably wondering if there’s a way to play your Hi8 tapes without a camcorder.

Perhaps you just want to watch your Hi8 tapes to see what’s on them, or you’re trying to convert them to a digital format.

The only way to play a Hi8 tape is with a Hi8 or Digital8 camcorder, or a Hi8 or Digital8 VCR. There are no Hi8 to VHS adapters to allow you to play your tapes using a VHS player. If you do not want to buy equipment to play your tapes then the best option is to use a video transfer service to convert your tapes to a digital format like DVD or video file.

There are pros and cons to each option for each method of playing back your Hi8 tapes such as equipment cost and availability, we will explain each in detail to help determine what option is best for you.

The 3 Best Ways to Play Hi8 Tapes Without A Camcorder

While it may be disappointing to find out that there are no Hi8 to VHS tape adapters to play your tapes on a VHS player, there are still good options to get your tapes played.

Here are the 3 ways to play your Hi8 tapes without a camcorder, from easiest to hardest:

1. Converting Hi8 Tapes using a Video Transfer Service

DIFFICULTY: Easiest

If you have Hi8 tapes that you’d like to play or convert to a digital format so they can be played on your computer, then using a video transfer service like LegacyBox or others is the most hands-off way to watch your old videotapes.

iMemories Video Transfer Service

There’s nothing easier than letting someone else take care of your problem for you!

PROS

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 Hi8 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 Hi8 to VHS 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. Hi8 camcorders are no longer manufactured, nor are Hi8 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.

CONS

There are some cons to using a video transfer service to playback your Hi8 tapes 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.

Who This is Best For: This option is best for anyone that doesn’t have many tapes to play or transfer, or doesn’t mind spending the money to have someone transfer the tapes to digital.

2. Borrowing or Buying a Hi8, or Digital8 camcorder

DIFFICULTY: Medium

Funny to think that one of the best answers for playing Hi8 tapes without a camcorder is to go find another camcorder.

But it’s true.

Chances are if you reach out on social media to friends or family you’ll find that someone has either an Hi8, or Digital 8 camcorder in their attic that hopefully works. Since most Digital8 camcorders have Hi8 playback this type of camcorder would work as well. Click here for a full list of Digital8 camcorders with Hi8 playback capability.

Camcorder TypeCan Play Hi Tapes
8mm / Video 8NO
Hi8YES
Digital8MOST – but not all. Read here for a full list

If you can’t borrow a camcorder then there are plenty of used ones for sale online.

PROS

  • easy to find: Since Hi8 and Digital8 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 Hi8 and Digital8 camcorders were produced in the US they are easier to find on used marketplaces, are their price will generally be cheaper than purchasing a Hi8 VCR. 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.

CONS

  • 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.

Who This is Best For: This option is best for anyone that has experience playing their own tapes and also has several tapes to playback or transfer. It’s far cheaper to transfer them to digital yourself once you have a working camcorder. A video transfer service will charge anywhere from $10 to $20 to convert your videos, so playing them yourself is definitely the cheaper option if you have several tapes.

3. Buying a Hi8 or Digital8 VCR or Tape Deck

DIFFICULTY: Most

Another option for playing back Hi8 tapes without a camcorder is with a Hi8 or Digital8 VCR. These look like a normal VHS tape player except the tape slot is small and fits Hi8 or Digital8 tapes

While there were plenty of Hi8 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.

The reason these were popular items with video producers is because of the linear process of editing a video prior to non-linear editing becoming affordable for the end consumer. These decks were used to rewind, forward, and play tapes during the editing process so as to not wear out your camcorder.

PROS

  • 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.

CONS

  • Scarcity: Hi8 and Digital8 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.

Who This is Best For: anyone with plenty of tapes to play or convert (and a bit of a video geek like me) should 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.

FAQ: Playing Hi8 Tapes Without A Camcorder

Is there an Hi8 to VHS adapter?

While Hi8 and VHS both recorded analog video, there are no Hi8 to VHS adapters for several reasons:

  • The tape width is different, Hi8 is 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
  • Hi8 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 Hi8 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 Hi8 to VHS tape adapters.