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The Difference Between 8mm and Super 8mm Film

By Christian Roemer
Even if you’re not a filmophile, you’ve probably heard about 8mm film. You might even have heard about Super 8 film. If those two terms left you scratching your head when they were mentioned, we’re here to teach you the difference. So next time a film category comes up on Jeopardy and they ask about film sizes, you’ll be ready.


8mm (or Standard 8 or Regular 8) is a type of film that’s used in video cameras. It gets its name from its width--8 millimeters. 8mm film has existed since the 1930s, and it’s been one of the most popular sizes of film ever since. Super 8 film is similar to 8mm, but it’s also different in a few ways. Super 8 is 8 millimeters wide, and it’s also a type of video film. That’s where the similarities end.


One major difference between Super8 and 8mm film is the way that it’s packaged. With 8mm film, the cameraman (or woman) has to spool the film and roll it up manually. It involves a bit of work to make sure that it’s taught and feeding into the camera properly. It’s much more precise to use, and it requires more knowledge and experience to perfect. Super 8 film, on the other hand, comes in a convenient cartridge that pops right into compatible cameras. It’s much faster to load, and it’s less of a hassle to get developed and transported. It’s also easier to play back on a projector, since you don’t have to worry about winding or loading. Overall, you can think of Super 8 as an everyday man’s type of film, where 8mm is more for the aficionado or professional.


Besides usability differences, Super 8 and 8mm have differences in the way that the film itself looks and works. 8mm film has larger sprocket holes--the square holes that help feed the film through projectors and cameras--and they’re placed closer to the edges of each frame. For Super 8 film, the holes are smaller, and they’re pretty much smack dab in the middle of each frame. Here’s a handy photo that shows you what we’re talking about:

That’s about it! Both 8mm and Super 8 film are eight millimeters wide, and they’re both used to make videos. Each one has its pros and cons, and each made making home videos easier than it had been before. Next time Alex Trebek tries to hit you with the ole, “This type of film was invented in the 1970s as an alternative to its similarly sized 8mm counterpart,” you can respond with a confident, “What is Super 8, Alex?” Take the money and run.

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