There are two popular forms of 8mm film. The first is simply called “8mm film” or sometimes “standard 8mm”, while the second is called “Super 8”. When choosing an 8mm projector, it is important to choose the correct type of film projector. This page deals with projectors for traditional 8mm film, though there is an additional subpage that discusses Super 8 projectors.
8mm cameras were originally developed during the Depression. The goal was to provide movie cameras that would be less expensive than the standard 16mm cameras. The cameras were highly compact, and therefore became a favorite for use by journalists and early home movie makers. The film could be a little awkward to use.
The film was actually 16mm wide. One would thread the film through in one direction, then stop and put the film through in the other direction, filming on the other side. The film would then be combined into a single 8mm strip. This format was highly popular, and as a result, there is a great deal of vintage footage in the 8mm format. Though 8mm cameras are no longer produced, the film is still available, so there are some 8mm films being made to this day. Their popularity in the past means that you should be able to find a used projector with little difficulty.
Bell and Howell were one of the leading producers of 8mm projectors. One of the advantages of this company is that, because their projectors were usually produced for commercial purposes, the projectors are of very high quality. They also conveniently numbered their models, starting from a 100-series, and leading ultimately to a 400-series. The higher the number of the model, the higher the quality of projector. For one thing, the projector will be newer. For another, the projector will have had more time invested in tweaking the various features.
Another company that produced high-quality projectors was one called “Revere”. Their models used to be more expensive than the Bell and Howell models, though now that everything is second-hand, the prices will vary. They tend to be a bit sturdier than the Bell and Howell models, and they are very heavy (be warned, as this may increase shipping costs). Like the Bell and Howell projectors, they are numbered in series, but the numbers are harder to see, so sellers may not mention the model number, so be sure to ask. They go from the “80” series to the “90” series.
Elmo projectors are another popular type. They produced Super 8 projectors, but a number of their models are “dual format”, meaning that they can play 8mm films as well. Their cameras work well for telecine, the process of converting 8mm film to a digital format. Because they are a Japanese company, you may end up needing to purchase or download a pdf of the manual separately (they were also popular in Europe, so Japanese may not be the only foreign language).
Because 8mm projectors are available only used, the best way to purchase them is to look at online auction sites like eBay. On our site, we provide information about all types of projectors, film and parts that can help you in knowing what to look for.
Enjoy your search for an 8mm projector! There is a lot of great archived footage that simply doesn’t exist in any other format, and 8mm opens up a world of cinematic history.