Previously I argued that sync between audio and video was better in the VHS format than in most of today's digital formats. It's the biggest problem, in my view, but it's not the only way in which VHS was better. VHS and other analog tape formats also had the advantage of the "soft analog look."
This argument applies particularly well to the Super-VHS format, Hi8, and LaserDiscs, where picture detail was actually just a notch below standard DVDs. And what VHS and S-VHS had, in their analog outputs, was a smoothness that's largely lost in today's digital video environment.
Worst offenders are low-quality scaling processors that convert from the input resolution to the display's native resolution. With today's fixed-pixel displays -- LCD, plasma, and DLP projection -- the combination of scaling and the "hard edge" of digital video can be very unpleasing to the eye.
Another aspect where VHS was better than many of today's digital video systems was in color "smoothness" (or continuity, or granularity), that is to say, the transitions from one color to another. We've all seen cases where decoded digital video has abrupt edges in a blue sky, or as a fade-out occurs the image appears to "step" through a variety of discrete brightness levels. This never happened with VHS. It may have been noisy, but it looked smoother.
All of these problems share an ingredient that's inherent in digital image representation: Increments, and the resulting artifacts. Analog video's continuous scales for brightness, color level and "pixel" location have distinct advantages. Of course, pixels don't really exist in analog video -- which is precisely the point.
Clearly digital video recording is here to stay, and the world isn't about to start moving back to analog VHS. But just because this transition has already occurred there's no reason to assume that every single aspect of the new is better than the old. For years, designers have observed these picture quality issues and worked hard to overcome them, essentially putting a bit of the analog back into digital video. 36-bit color is certainly a step in the right direction. But clearly this work remains unfinished.