The Quest for the 8mm/VHS Adapter

Can you play your 8mm/Hi8 video tapes?

You want to watch an 8mm/Hi8 or miniDV tape, but you don't want to hook up cables from your camcorder to your TV, so you go to a local electronics store to buy an "8mm/VHS adapter".

You pick something up that says it is a VHS adapter. However, to your dismay, the 8mm tape doesn't fit. Frustrated, you demand the salesperson get you a VHS adapter for 8mm tapes.

The salesperson responds that there is no adapter for playing 8mm tapes. You respond, "But my cousin in Jersey has one, he just pops in his camcorder tape in the adapter and puts it in his VCR". However, the salesperson is right.


8mm/Hi8/miniDV tapes can't be played in a VHS VCR. The Jersey cousin has a VHS-C camcorder that uses a different type of small tape that can use the adapter that can be inserted into a VCR.

Illustration of a confused person looking for a spot to put an 8mm tape into a modern home theater system
Lifewire / Julie Bang

Why There Is No 8mm/VHS Adapter

The 8mm, Hi8, miniDV videotape formats have different technical characteristics than VHS. These formats were never developed to be compatible with VHS technology.

  • 8mm/Hi8 tapes are 8mm wide (about 1/4 inch), and miniDV tape is 6mm wide, while VHS tape is a 1/2-inch wide. This means that a VHS VCR's video heads can't read the taped information correctly since a VHS VCR requires a 1/2-inch wide tape to playback.
  • Along with the recorded video and audio signals, there is a control track. The control track tells the VCR what speed the tape is recorded in and helps the VCR keep the tape lined up with rotating head drum on the VCR properly. Since the control track information is different on an 8mm/Hi8/miniDV tape than on a VHS tape, a VHS VCR cannot recognize the 8mm/Hi8/miniDV control track info. This means that VCR would not be able to keep the tape lined up properly with VHS tape heads.
  • Since 8mm/Hi8 tapes are recorded and played at different speeds than VHS, even if the tapes could into a VHS VCR, the VCR still can't play back the tapes at their correct speeds since these speeds to don't match VHS tape recording and playback speeds.
  • 8mm and Hi8 audio are recorded differently than VHS. 8mm/Hi8 audio is recorded in AFM HiFi mode, while the audio on a miniDV tape is recorded at either a 12-bit or 16-bit digital format. This audio recording is done via the same heads that do the video recording.
  • The audio in the VHS format is recorded and played back by either the tape moving across a stationary head, away from the video heads, or, in the case of HiFi Stereo VHS VCRs, by a process called Depth Multiplexing, in which separate heads on the rotating VCR head drum record the audio under the video recording layer, instead of on the same layer as the video signal, as 8mm and HI8 do.
  • Due to how VHS VCRs record and read audio, they are not equipped to read the AFM (Audio Frequency Modulation - similar to audio for FM radio) audio recorded on an 8mm or Hi8 tape.
  • 8mm/Hi8/miniDV video is of higher resolution than VHS and is recorded in a wider bandwidth, that is different from VHS. A VHS VCR cannot read the video information correctly, even if the tape could fit into a VCR.
8mm/VHS Video Cassette Size Comparison

The VHS-C Factor

Let us get back to the "Jersey Cousin" who places his tape in an adapter and plays it in a VCR. He owns a VHS-C camcorder, not an 8mm camcorder. The VHS-C tapes used in his camcorder are smaller (and shorter) VHS tapes (VHS-C stands for VHS Compact) but are still the same 1/2" width of a standard VHS tape. The video and audio signals are recorded in the same format and employ the same record/playback speeds as regular VHS. As a result, there are adapters available to play VHS-C tapes in a VHS VCR.

However, since VHS-C tapes are smaller than standard size VHS tapes, many users confused them with 8mm tapes. Many people just refer to any small videotape as an 8mm tape, without regard that it may be a VHS-C or miniDV tape. In their mind, if it is smaller than a VHS tape, it must be an 8mm tape.

VHS-C Adapter by Hama

How to Verify What Tape Format You Have

To verify what format tape you have, take a close look at your tape cassette. Does it have the 8mm/Hi8/miniDV logo on it, or does it have a VHS-C or S-VHS-C logo on it? You will find that if you can place it a VHS adapter, it needs to have a VHS-C or S-VHS-C logo.

To further confirm this, buy an 8mm or Hi8 tape, a miniDV tape, and a VHS-C tape. Try to put each one into the VHS adapter – only the VHS-C tape will fit.

To determine what tape format your camcorder uses, consult your user guide, or look for the official logo for VHS-C, 8mm/Hi-8, or MiniDV somewhere on the camcorder. Only camcorder tapes used in an officially labeled VHS-C camcorder can be placed into a VHS adapter and played in a VCR.

8mm/VHS and VHS-C/VHS Combo VCRs

Another thing that adds to the confusion is that there was a brief period of time when some manufacturers made 8mm/VHS and VHS-C/VHS Combo VCRs. Goldstar (now LG) and Sony (PAL version only) made products that featured both an 8mm VCR and VHS VCR built into the same cabinet. Think of today's DVD Recorder/VHS combination units, but instead of having a DVD section on one side, they had an 8mm section, in addition to the separate section used for recording and playing back VHS tapes.

However, no adapter was involved as the 8mm tape was inserted directly into what was an 8mm VCR that just happened to be in the same cabinet as a VHS VCR. The 8mm tape was never insert-able into the VHS section of the combo VCR with/or without an adapter.

JVC also made a few S-VHS VCRs that had the capability to play a VHS-C tape (not 8mm tape) without the use of an adapter. The VHS-C adapter was built into the VCR's loading tray. These units weren't reliable and the products were discontinued after a short period. Also, it is important to re-emphasize that these units were never able to accept an 8mm tape.

JVC has also made MiniDV/S-VHS combo VCRs that featured both a miniDV VCR and S-VHS VCR built into the same cabinet. Once again, these are not compatible with 8mm and the miniDV tape is not inserted into the VHS slot for playback.

How an 8mm/VHS Adapter Would Work If It Did Exist

If an 8mm/VHS Adapter did exist, it would have to do the following:

  • The adapter would have to house the 8mm tape cassette correctly.
  • The cassette adapter housing would also have to contain special circuitry to convert the signal on the 8mm tape and re-record it to a VHS tape (adjusting for compatible VHS playback speed and audio/video format requirements) all within the dimensions of the VHS adapter case.
  • Even with today's miniaturization technology (and impossible with technology in use 15 or 20 years ago when 8mm/Hi8 and VHS were more widely used), no such technology has been developed, let alone made available to consumers, other than having to connect an external 8mm camcorder or 8mm VCR to a TV or VCR for tape viewing or copying.
  • Just sticking an 8mm tape into a VHS cassette shell (even if it could fit), does not address the further technical conditions listed above. In order for an 8mm/VHS Adapter to work, all of the above technical hurdles have to be solved, which is not possible.

Addressing 8mm/VHS Adapter Claims

As stated several ways above, it is impossible for a VHS (or S-VHS) VCR to play or read the information recorded on an 8mm/Hi8, or miniDV tape. As a result, no VHS adapter for 8mm/Hi8 or miniDV tape has ever been manufactured or sold.

  • Manufacturers that make VHS-C/VHS adapters (such as Maxell, Dynex, TDK, Kinyo, and Ambico) don't make 8mm/VHS adapters and never have. If they did, where are they?
  • Sony (the inventor of 8mm) and Canon (co-developer), never designed, manufactured, or sold an 8mm/VHS adapter, nor did they ever license the manufacturing or sale of such a device by others.
  • Any claims of the existence of an 8mm/VHS adapter are erroneous and must be required to be accompanied by a physical demonstration to be considered legitimate. Anyone offering such a device for sale is either mistakenly identifying a VHS-C/VHS adapter for an 8mm/VHS adapter, or they are outright scamming the consumer.

For one physical demonstration example on why there are no 8mm/VHS Adapters - View the video posted by DVD Your Memories.

How to Watch Your 8mm/Hi8 Tape Content

Even though 8mm/Hi8 tapes are not physically compatible with a VHS VCR, you still have the ability to watch your tapes using your camcorder, and even copy those camcorder videos to VHS or DVD.

To watch your tapes, plug in your Camcorder's AV output connections to the corresponding inputs on your TV. You then select the correct TV input, press play on your camcorder, and you are set to go.

What to Do If You Don't Have Your Camcorder Anymore

If you find yourself in the situation where you have a collection of 8mm and Hi8 tapes and no way to play them back or transfer them because your camcorder is no longer operational or you no longer have one, there are several options available to you:

  • Borrow a Hi8 or 8mm camcorder from a friend or relative for temporary use (Free - if you have access to one).
  • Buy a used Hi8 (or a Digital8 camcorder that has the ability to also playback analog Hi8 and 8mm) camcorder to play your tapes back.
  • Buy a Sony Digital8/Hi8 VCR (only available used from third parties at this point).

How Do You Copy 8mm/Hi8 to VHS or DVD?

Once you have a camcorder or player to play your tapes, you should transfer them to VHS or DVD for longer-term preservation and playback flexibility (DVD preferred as VHS has finally been discontinued).

To transfer video from an 8mm/Hi8 camcorder or 8mm/Hi8 VCR, you connect the ​composite (yellow) or S-Video output, and the analog stereo (red/white) outputs of your camcorder or player to the corresponding inputs on a VCR or DVD recorder.

If your camcorder and VCR or DVD recorder both have S-Video connections, that is preferred at that option provides better video quality over composite video connections.

A VCR or DVD recorder may have one or more of these inputs, which may be labeled AV-In 1, AV-In 2, or Video 1 In, or Video 2 In. Use the one that is most convenient.

  1. To "transfer" or make your copy from 8mm/Hi8, choose the right input on the recorder.

  2. Place the tape you want to copy into your camcorder and place a blank VHS tape in your VCR or blank recordable DVD into your DVD recorder.

  3. Start the VCR or DVD recorder first, then press play on your 8mm/Hi camcorder to start the tape playback. The reason for this is to make sure you don't miss the first few seconds of the video that is being played back on your Camcorder.

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