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I recently rescued an old Panasonic M40 VHS camcorder. All the electronics work absolutely fine. I bought a pack of VHS tapes and did a quick video test. The video quality is very bad with wobbly lines moving through it all the time and often changing from black n white to colour. The sound quality is atrocious but I can live with that.

Is there anyone who has experience with these old units that knows of an easy fix? I played with the tracking so it's not that. I doubt it is physically the tape because I bought them brand new. Has anyone got any pointers or knows how to trouble shoot the problem? Or is this a massive waste of time?

I love having this big retro beast to play about with and I know it is gimmicky but so far it's cost me a tenner in tapes and an afternoon of fun. I'm willing to put more time and money (up to a point) into it but have no idea of what to do or where to go so any help will be well received.

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    Have you tried cleaning the heads? You need a VHS head cleaner tape, I have no idea where you'd find one though. Are the tapes new as in manufactured recently, or new as in manufactured in 1998 and not opened until now? – stib Feb 23 at 17:20
  • +1 for cleaning the heads, since you've already checked the tracking. Likely they're dirty, particularly if the unit has been sitting unused with whatever gunk on there oxidising away. I'd try to get cleaning fluid and clean yourself manually with cotton swabs if you can, some head cleaning tapes might be a bit abrasive for something that has been sitting a while. If head cleaning offers no improvement, the heads themselves are still likely the issue, might be easier to find another unit than getting them replaced at this point. – Peter Barton Mar 30 at 21:35
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The AV ARTIFACT ATLAS is a good resource for identifying errors in video. It also gives advice on how to fix them.

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