Updated for 2024: How to View 8mm Film Without a Projector So You Can Watch Home Movies

18 March 2024 by
Anna Lam

8mm film reels were a popular way to capture precious memories, home movies, and unforgettable moments in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. While the use of videotape formats largely replaced 8mm and Super 8 film, the film reels still contain those memories.

Unfortunately, many families do not own a projector to view those memories. That’s why we used our 20 years of experience to compile the best ways to view your old film reels even if you don’t have a projector.

Keep reading to learn how to view 8mm film without a projector using options including:

  • Film Transfer Services
  • High-Powered Magnifier
  • Film Scanners
  • Light Boxes
  • Vintage Film Editor
  • Use a Phone for DIY Transfer
  • Flatbed Scanner
  • Get a Projector

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Top 8 Ways to View 8mm Film Without a Projector

1. Film Transfer Services

A film transfer service will use professional processes to turn your 8mm film, Super 8 mm film, and even other film types into high-quality digital files. That way you can save them on your computer, smartphone, or on the cloud and share them via social media or email. This preserves the film, makes it easy to view, and allows you to organise those precious memories with VHS home movies, photos, and more.

Film Transfer Services

There are many different film transfer options available including popular choices. Each offers a unique set of pros and cons that you will want to compare. While we may be biased, we believe professional digitisation services offer the best value and the highest possible quality for your film reels including original audio, cleaning, splicing, enhanced colours, and scratch reduction as needed.

  • Professional digital video results
  • Don’t need to buy a film projector, light box, or any other device
  • Digital files are easy to share with loved ones
  • Many also transfer camcorder memories, videotapes, photos, and other analogue formats
  • Won’t risk damaging your old film reels and precious memories
  • Some film transfer companies are expensive
  • Won’t offer instant viewing capabilities
High Powered Magnifier

2. High Powered Magnifier

One of the most affordable and easy options is to simply use a high-powered magnifier to view your 8mm film reels. You can even use a magnifying glass or a loupe, which is a small magnifier, to view the film. Some magnifying glasses also come with a light on the end to illuminate your film while you enjoy the home movies. While this is an effective way to view your 8mm film without a projector because it’s convenient and cheap, there are some downsides as well.

First, it’s limited to one viewer at a time. Second, it’s slow and methodical. Those reasons mean that you will still need to transfer the film to digital format, buy a projector, or use another option to share your precious memories with friends and family. Plus, it is slow, hard on the eyes, and offers the least quality of any option on this list.

Regardless, this is a fantastic way to identify what is on each film reel so that you can decide what to do with it. If the film contains memories you want to cherish forever, then you can proceed with a professional film transfer or DIY digitisation.

  • Highly affordable at as little as HK$40 for a 10x magnifying glass
  • Easy to use because you simply use the magnifying glass in a well-lit room
  • Instant viewing

  • Time-consuming to view more than a few frames
  • Cannot share the memories with others
  • No high-quality results
  • Can be uncomfortable or hard on the eyes

3. Film Scanners

Film scanners are DIY devices that transfer your old film reels into digital format. This generally creates good quality results for your 8mm movie film without an 8mm film projector. They will connect to your computer and digitise the film quickly and effectively. However, they can also get a little expensive.

Film Scanners

For example, the Kodak Reels Film Digitiser works with both 8mm and Super 8 films and a variety of film reel sizes from 3 to 9 inches but costs $3100 on Amazon. Still, it’s a good device that’s fairly easy to use with a digital format viewing screen and the option to transfer home movies onto an SD card.

You can find cheaper options, but they may be complicated and designed for tech-savvy users. Additionally, the quality may not be as good as popular brands. Finally, not all types of film scanners work with 8 mm or Super 8mm film, and some are designed for 16mm and other types of negatives.

  • Good quality results
  • Many options are available for transfer to a computer, digital camera, memory card, thumb drive, or another device
  • Preserves memories as high-quality digital files

  • Very time-consuming because film scanners only digitise frame-by-frame at normal playback speed
  • Requires some technical knowledge
  • Hard to find machines that accommodate all reel and sprocket sizes
  • Can be expensive

4. Light Boxes

Light boxes and backlit viewing tables solve one of the main issues people face when they want to view 8mm film without projectors. A light box will simply light up your film so that you can easily view it frame by frame. They are generally affordable and are just about as easy to use as anything.

Light Boxes

While you cannot share the film with others if you solely use a light box, it does light the film so you can take a picture with your smartphone or another digital camera. You can also use this option with a magnifying glass to improve the results since the image will be small and hard to see otherwise.

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • No way to share with others (unless you combine with other methods)
  • Shows up the same size as the film, which can be hard on the eyes
  • Many options aren’t designed specifically for film, so might be too bright or dim
Vintage Film Editor

5. Vintage Film Editor

A vintage film editor is used for cuts and splices on film, but can also be used to view your 8mm film without a projector. There are many different options. For example, some are basically mini projectors that make small viewing easy while others involve hand cranking with a screen that illuminates the film as it passes through.

Since these are a little outdated, you will have to buy one second-hand, which can get pricey and may not be in the best shape. Still, there are some cheaper options available on eBay for as little as HK$240 or less while others in better shape can cost HK$800+. While it’s a cool way to view your film and also offers the ability to splice, some people may rather just get a projector.

  • Can be used for splicing
  • Vintage and collectible
  • Different options are available depending on what you want for your old film reels
  • Only available pre-owned and may not be in great condition
  • Often heavy and inconvenient
  • Can greatly vary in price

6. Use a Phone for DIY Transfer

For convenience at the risk of low-quality results, you can simply use your phone camera to take pictures of the 8mm and Super 8mm film yourself. The results will depend on the quality of your camera and you will still need to light up the film first, but there are some good benefits to this method.

digital camera

It’s cheap if you already have a smartphone with a digital camera and will create digital files that you can then edit, share, view, and more. Unfortunately, it’s not great when it comes to quality and the results will be images of images, therefore causing lower resolution. This method will also show glares, scratches, and other imperfections.

  • Convenient if you already have a phone with a digital camera
  • Easy to do yourself
  • Creates digital files
  • Low-quality results
  • Still need a light source for film
  • Will show glares, scratches, dust, and more
Flatbed Scanner

7. Flatbed Scanner

A flatbed scanner can be a good way to digitize your film and create high-resolution images of the Super 8 and 8mm home videos. This is an especially good option because it will also work for slides, negatives, and photographs, which means the money you spend isn’t as one-dimensional as it is with specific 8mm film scanners.

However, the results will not be vividly coloured or of great quality, and this will only create still images. Still, it’s a good option for saving old film reels before they degrade and allows you to share them over email, on the cloud, or using social media.

  • Works for virtually any film or photo type
  • Options available for almost any computer type
  • Creates digital files
  • Only creates still images
  • Some are expensive
  • May be complicated, even for tech-savvy users
  • Time-consuming because it creates one digital image at a time

8. Get a Projector

The last way to view 8mm without projector machines is to simply buy a projector to use! While you will probably end up spending over $15000 to get a good projector, it can be a great choice and a fun way to view old home movies with your family.


A simple projector won’t preserve your old film in high-quality digital format, if you are simply looking to view your home videos, then it’s a good choice. However, you have to know how to use a projector correctly to avoid scratches or otherwise damaging your precious memories.

  • Can be a lot of fun for family gatherings
  • Will show the film as it was intended to be viewed
  • Will not preserve film in digital format
  • Can scratch or damage film, especially old film that’s become brittle
  • Can be expensive if you buy a new option because they are not common as they used to be

Digitise Your Memories

If you want to view 8mm without projector machines, then you have plenty of options. You can simply view it with a light box, magnifying glass, or a combination of both or you can preserve your 8mm film with a film scanner device.

If your videotapes have issues such as mold or spilicng issues, Capture will proceed with cleaning and repairing work after obtaining permission to ensure the best quality. There may be an additional charge of HK$100 for the cleaning and repairing process.

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*This article is brought to you by Capture HK.

Capture HK is the premier analogue media digitisation company in Hong Kong.

Capture HK's business covers photographs, photo album, slide digitisation, videotapes digitisation, including VHS, S-VHS, VHS-C, S-VHS-C Hi-8, Video8, Digital8, DV, DVCAM, MiniDV, DVC and digital media digitisation, including Secure Digital (SD), Smart Media (SM), MultiMediaCard (MMC) Compact Flash (CF), xD-Picture Card, Memory Stick, USB Drive, CDROM, DVD.

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