Because every positive mention of any VCR model on VideoHelp or DigitalFAQ instantly drives flocks of eager buyers to eBay, it should be noted here that the Panasonic PV-S4990 is a unicorn that almost never appears for sale, partly because they're incredibly rare and partly because they have an even more ghastly reliability/repair record than the AG1980 (and thats saying something). I owned a couple of these back when they were current, along with a few lesser models from the same vintage and followups circa 1992, and they were among the worst VCR purchases I ever made. Late 1990 thru mid-1993 was probably the most uneven design and engineering era in Panasonic consumer VCR history: many reliability and repairability issues with the transports/tracking, and confounding electronics issues with the top of the line 4990 and its two or three similar (but more cheaply constructed) followups. Reports of these issues were common on the prehistoric web (alt.rec.vcrs etc). Frustratingly, Panasonic service depots would flatly refuse to repair them even one day past their warranty period.
The 4990 and its two followups are almost impossible to find now in any condition: early JVC DigiPure TBC/DNR models outsold them 30:1 so Panasonic barely bothered to run a production line (the last of these unsellable leftover stocks technically remained at the top of Panasonic's consumer lineup for nearly a decade, while every other consumer Panasonic model was redesigned from the ground up year after year). The more marketable, profitable "prosumer" AG1970 (later AG1980) far eclipsed the 4990 series in sales volume and buyer awareness, promoted as Panasonic's "luxury consumer" models at select retailers while the 4990 followups slipped to "special order only" status. Because they are so rare with so little awareness, there are no proactive specialists like Deter or TG Grant around who regularly fix the 4990 or its two later sisters. johnmeyer was very fortunate he found a tech willing to do so: most of these early-90s Panasonics have been reduced to doorstops that will never function again.
A shame, because despite their poor construction playback performance was Panasonic's consumer peak. After 1993 Panasonic returned to more reliable, sturdy construction techniques in their consumer VCR lineup but the video playback quality suffered. PQ declined gracefully from 1993-1996, then fell off a cliff from 1997 on (after 1996, the only great-playing Panasonic model available new was the expensive AG1980). If you're a gambler and you want to try the elusive PV-S4990, I'd recommend limiting your search to that one model. It has stubborn electronics issues but at least the transport is usually repairable. The two followups have bad electronics and unrepairable defect-plagued tape loaders. I (mercifully) forgot the exact model numbers (PV-S4280? 4370?), but they're easy to spot: more matte plasticky looking than the elegant 4990, with a TBC switch under a square-shaped flap to the left of the tape slot.
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Last edited by orsetto; 14th Sep 2021 at 12:22.