Originally Posted by lordsmurf
The idea that Betamax had a "better picture" than VHS is revisionist myth. The formats were essentially the same in terms of image quality. The stupid myth only appeared in the last 5-6 years online, almost entirely in user forums.
Respectfully disagree- "Beta and VHS were essentially the same quality" is also
a not-entirely-true "myth".
Especially in the early '80s, VHS was atrocious at making dubs: absolutely horrid. It was OK for pre-recorded playback, and passable for off-air recording at SP if you had fantastic reception, but gawd help you if you wanted to archive bits and pieces on a compilation tape or make copies of anything for any reason: VHS was terrible. I wasn't using "junk" decks, either: I rented the top-line 4-head RCA 650 and borrowed an early JVC (when JVC still gave a damn about quality construction). In frustration, I broke down and bought the top Betamax SL-5800 and it was a revelation: it made beautiful dubs, holding decent color/contrast/detail where VHS dubs would just be a mass of swirling chroma/luma noise. It is quite true that the Beta II two-hour speed was actually slower than VHS SP, and Beta II did suffer badly from crosstalk issues, but the better dubbing quality trumped all that and the crosstalk could be dialed way down by careful adjustment of the tracking control.
After my SL-5800 was stolen, I replaced it with a Toshiba (!) beta clone which was even better, then an NEC which was so-so, and finally the first Sony Beta HiFi SL-5200. That got me thru the MTV years
, but its breakdown rate was infuriating. When VHS came out with its own HiFi technology, I picked up the first Panasonic 4-head hifi unit: beautifully built and elegant to use, but mediocre video with added crosstalk similar to Beta
and terrible tracking issues with the new hifi audio system. I stuck it out with Beta until Minolta began selling a 4-head hifi VHS made exclusively for them by Hitachi. That Minolta was so stunningly good at even third-generation dubbing that I sold everything I owned to buy two of them. I was happy as a clam with my Minolta VHS decks thru the late 80s into the early 90s when they broke down and couldn't be repaired. Since then I've never found their equal- by 1990 VHS was a profitless commodity item so no mfr bothered to make stunning video quality a priority anymore. The best recording quality you could get was the top-line JVCs, but they weren't near as good as the Minoltas and about as reliable as the weather: I went thru JVC models like Kirstie Alley goes thru Doritos- no long-term joy.
Todays $159 Magnavox H2160 beats any $900 VCR I've ever owned by a mile, as do the more expensive Pioneers. I'm stockpiling both like crazy...