From the basic camera obscura to today’s 4K projectors, projectors have been enlarging images for centuries. Here we’ll go over what you’ll need to consider to get a projector that’s just right for your needs so you can bring the movie theater to you!
WRITTEN BY: DEANNA AMOIA
So you’ve found your family’s old film collection in the attic or unearthed a box of slides that haven’t been seen in decades – what next? You can always digitize your films or turn your slides into a slideshow, but before you send them into a service like ours, you may want to find out what’s on them. Luckily, slide and film projectors can still be found if you know where to look.
For film reels, knowing what format you have is key to picking out a projector. Standard or Regular 8 film will be different from Super 8 film reels, and both of those will be different from 16mm film reels. Some projectors can switch between Standard and Super 8 and are called Dual 8, which is a great option if you have more than one format.
Many items that seem like steals might need repair before they’re ready to be used – we suggest only buying items that are shown in working order to avoid wasting money on scrap. If there’s any doubt, here are three questions to ask the seller:
- Are all the belts and gears are all accounted for?
- Have they tested the bulb?
- Where you can get replacement parts?
Thrift and antique stores are perfect places to hunt down an analog projector. Slide projectors come in a variety of styles and are often tucked in unusual places (like with kitchen appliances)! Names to look out for no matter what kind of projector you’re after are Bolex, Bell and Howell, Elmo, and, of course, Kodak.
Ebay and other second hand websites like Porter Electronics have a wide selection of projectors to search through. VintageCaliforniaUSA and super8filmaholic are Etsy stores that stock projectors and Phil’s Vintage refurbishes them!
What are you projecting?
The first thing to consider when looking at digital projectors is what you’ll be projecting. Will your projector be taken out for special occasions to watch home videos or a slideshow at a party, or will this be your primary screen for TV, games, and more? A mini projector may work well for intimate gatherings and watching YouTube videos, but not produce a big picture, while a 4k projector mounted to the ceiling would be great in a home theater system, but not very portable.
Where will you be projecting?
Are you going to be inside, where you’re able to block out windows and control the light, or outside, where you can share your videos with a whole crowd? Resolutions can range from standard 720p all the way to 4K – the bigger the size of the image, the more light and resolution you’ll want. If you’re projecting against a wall, make sure it’s a light color that can reflect light back, or you may want to consider buying an indoor or outdoor projector screen for the best quality image your projector can offer.
Projector sound, power, and connectivity.
The option to add speakers can help fill out larger spaces like a patio, while built-in speakers may work well for a small room. Portable projectors will likely have some kind of battery pack to use on the go, but most will need an outlet nearby for power.
If you want to share a video from your phone, look for a projector with Bluetooth or USB connections. HDMI jacks can be used to connect gaming systems, cable boxes, or computers as well. A variety of inputs will help you get the best use out of your projector – some even have wifi!
One downside: not many projectors have RCA inputs nowadays, so if you’re looking to watch VHS or other tapes, consider transferring them to a USB that you can plug into the projector instead.
All of these factors affect the price range you’ll be looking at. A mini projector for your smartphone may be as low as $60, while a top-of-the-line 4K projector will easily push you over the $1000 range. Whatever your needs, there are plenty of reviews that can help you pick out the best projector for you. BenQ, Epson, Optoma, and Panasonic are brands that are consistently included in these lists or come highly rated in reviews.
Once you’re ready to buy, head over to a retailer like Best Buy or your local electronics store to see what’s available. Check B and H’s used department as well for great deals on previously owned equipment.
Interested in our Film and Slide Digitizing services?