Panasonic PT-AE7000 Home Theater Projector Review

Panasonic PT-AE7000 - Overall Color & Picture Quality

Post calibration color looked pretty natural. No sunburned faces, or other obvious flaws. The final calibrated image is pleasing but, the PT-AE7000 doesn’t have that transparency of the Runco LS-7 ($6995). There are definitely others with a bit more pop to the picture when considering “best mode”. I like the PT-AE7000 for most viewing. As I write this section, I’ve got Borne Supremacy running, filling my 124″, 2.35:1 Studiotek 130.

I keep saying blacks could be better still, but all those nice dark street scenes in Borne Supremacy look really good, with no obvious lack of rich blacks or shadow detail. In other words don’t let me scare you. We spend a lot of time focusing our writing on small differences, for the really hard core enthusiasts, as well as more general info for “regular folk.”

The Panasonic is at its best calibrated, as more brighter modes get more and more cooler (shift towards blue). It’s dynamic mode isn’t particularly pretty, though better with Mike’s “quick-cal”, but it has the horsepower to give your picture real brightness, in those brighter modes when needed. Few projectors other than lower cost, family room type entertainent projectors, can match the PT-AE7000′s lumen count when its in Dynamic. Consider it to have at least 50% more brightness at its brightest, than any of the more expensive and also 3D capable projectors we’ve reviewed in the few months.

A mix of additional images to show off the Panasonic PT-AE7000:

Below, Lady Gaga, in case you don’t recognize her (MTV awards):

 

Here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:

 

 

 

 

PT-AE7000 Lumen Output and Color Temp with 100 IRE Field (mid zoom):
Cinema 1 622 @ 7489
Cinema 2 1054 @ 8170
Game 1155 @ 9745
Normal 1255 @ 9428
Dynamic 1516 @ 8321
Rec. 709 602 @ 6550
D-Cinema 622 @ 6418

Mike took these initial PT-AE7000U brightness measurements “right out of the box”. Note that we set the zoom lens at the middle point, so we do not get as many lumens as a manufactuer would, as they all measure at wide angle – closest, which is almost always brighter than mid-point or zooming all the way out.

Note that, at least for the “color” of white, only Rec. 709 and D-Cinema are close to the 6500K target. REC 709 is the official standard for color space for HDTV.

Ultimately Mike did his calibration for “best” mode, starting with the Rec 709 mode.

All the really bright modes are a lot cooler – higher color temp. Basically, thin on reds.

Post Calibration: Best Mode = REC 709

The PT-AE7000 measured 442 lumens calibrated in “best” mode, based on the REC 709, with Mike making changes from there. That’s a rather significant drop from the original 602 lumens. Other attempts at a best calibration might yield a bit more than 442.

For 2D viewing, 442′s not bad at all for movie watching. That will comfortably fill a nice, normal 110″ screen with no problem. If you want really large, there are the brighter modes.

Post Calibration: Brightest Mode = Dynamic

Mike did some major settings changes to Dynamic, to improve the color a bit, from the original thin on reds, strong on blues and very strong on greens. Of course if he wanted to get it perfect, he’d end up with the kind of brightness he got with REC 709. Here the goal is a good blend of brightest, compromised a little for color improvement.

The end result looks pretty good for a brightest mode, with plenty of pop to the picture, a little over the top perhaps, and the underlying color tendencies are still there, but muted. In most cases, Mike’s result is very watchable compared to Dynamic, at the cost of only about a 10% drop in brightness from 1516 to 1355 lumens.

So what does all that horsepower give us? Have a blast….you can handle a decent amount of ambient light on mid-sized screens, for say sports viewing with friends. You can fill a much larger screen for movie viewing – pushing out to the 130″ plus range, if you are willing to sacrifice “best” color accuracy.

All considered the Panasonic measured just below average brightness, in its “best” mode, but is one of the brightest higher quality projectors around when you require a very bright mode! Panasonic claims 2000 lumens – impressive in its own right. As noted we measured over 1600 at brightest but we don’t set everything exactly how Panasonic would tell us to, to squeeze out every lumen.

As a good example, Mike measures with the Dynamic Iris off. In reading Panasonic info, they say the brightest measurements come when the iris is on. That means we may have missed a few dozen extra lumens

3D Brightness of the Panasonic PT-AE7000

Without a 3D test disk, Mike decided to take a section of a mountain snow scene in 3D, and measure the projector when in Dynamic and 3D, and then run the 2D version. Both measured the same. For that scene, he measured 1104 lumens (so it wasn’t pure white).

Ultimately, with lens on mid-point, and without calibration, you’ve got at least 1500 lumens for 3D viewing, and about 1350 with improved color.

Not one 3D projector we’ve measured to date, other than lower cost ones targeting family room type environments, has been able to really break 1000 lumens and most have been in the 700 – 900 lumen range.

That makes this a major improvement in 3D brightness. That those extra lumens are very significant as we search for reasonably bright projectors when doing 3D. I think I can say, that on 100″ sized screens this Panasonic PT-AE7000 can offer up 3D that isn’t dim at all, but it too, won’t be accused of being “very bright” in 3D.

If you try REC 709, for 3D, it’s not bright enough for my taste, but that’s exactly why you are able to kick in 3D with Dynamic or Normal modes instead. Now we’re talking, decent 3D brightness!

To me, the jump in brightness between this, and those Mitsubishi, Sony, Optoma, and JVC projectors is significant for 3D viewing. Of course smaller screens can help out those others, but, we’re in this projector mindset because we do like getting immersed.

Effect of zoom on lumen output (Dynamic mode):

Effect of zoom on lumen output (Dynamic mode):
Zoom out 1637
Mid-zoom 1516
Zoom in 1095

Looks like about an 8% increase in brightness if you can place the PT-AE7000U at its closest position to the screen.

The big news here, is the rather large drop to “telephoto” placing the projector at the far distance end of its placement range. Many who are rear shelf mounting will be out close to the maximum, so have less lumens to work with. And yet, that’s still more lumens than the average projector has at mid-point on its zoom.

PT-AE7000 Eco-Mode vs. Full Power

Changing lamp mode from full power to eco mode should result in the same amount of brightness drop, regardless of color mode. In this case Mike used Cinema 1 for his measurments. The 622 lumens measured in Cinema 1 dropped to 386 lumens in Eco-mode. That’s an unusually large, almost 38% drop in brightness. I normally say most projectors lose between 20 and 30% between modes, but lately, it seems we’re seeing more projectors dropping more than 30% when going into Eco-mode.

Panasonic PT-AE7000 Pre-Calibration Color temp, Cinema Mode:

For those curious as to how the rest of the default REC 709 measured:
30 IRE 6703
50 IRE 6310
80 IRE 6601
100 IRE 6550

That folks, is really very good, for right out of the box, and not too different from what I might expect from a THX mode on those projectors that have one.

Now right below is more detail, but how the Panasonic measured after calibration

PT-AE7000, Post Calibration, Best Mode (REC 709)

Color Temp over IRE Range (Post calibration):
20 IRE 6962
30 IRE 6504
40 IRE 6415
50 IRE 6455
60 IRE 6318
70 IRE 6511
80 IRE 6595
90 IRE 6408
100 IRE 6855

In addition to the RGB settings, Mike adjusted the the Gamma settings, not to mention the changes to the basic controls (Brightness, Sharpness, Contrast…). Those are all reported on the Calibration page. If you aren’t having your PT-AE7000 calibrated, you might try ours.

PT-AE7000, Post Calibration, Best Mode (REC 709)

In addition to the RGB settings, Mike adjusted the the Gamma settings, not to mention the changes to the basic controls (Brightness, Sharpness, Contrast…). Those are all reported on the Calibration page. If you aren’t having your PT-AE7000 calibrated, you might try ours.

Mike adds this note: Color gamut is reasonably good with the Rec. 709 mode (as you’d expect from that name).  Didn’t use the CMS, but with Rec. 709 you shouldn’t need to.

Below, the same frame taken using different modes, and using the same exposure. This is so you can get a handle on the relative brightness and color aspects of the major modes. Of course, since the exposures are the same, the darker modes like D-Cinema would look better here, if more properly exposed:

D-Cinema:

Cinema 1:

Cinema 2: (A nice choice, in the middle in brightness and a pretty good picture balance.)

Game: Very dynamic looking, but for things like movies, over the top.

Normal: 2nd brightest measured mode:

Dynamic: The brightest measured mode:

REC 709: Our “best” mode. I saved it for last, so you can see the difference between “brightest” (above) and “best”:

Of course, the “best” mode REC 709 image immediately above, is significantly under-exposed. Please don’t try to judge picture quality for that reason, just brightness.

Panasonic PT-AE7000 3D Brightness

Bingo! Now we’re talking. The PT-AE7000 seems to be anywhere from about 50% brighter, to more than twice the brightness of the LCoS 3D projectors from Sony, Mitsubishi and JVC, and the DLP projectors; the Optoma HD8300, and Sharp XV-Z17000, when comparing the brightest modes, and with all of those, you do need the brightest mode, to be, in my opinion, anything but dim.

This plays out in reality as well. No question about it, I’m happier with the brightness of the PT-AE7000 than any of the others, using the same setup, the only one of the others that I might have considered at all close is the Mitsubishi.

All cost more than the Panasonic. How’s that for a 3D value proposition? In fact, the most direct competition for the PT-AE7000 in terms of both brightness and price, will be the new Epson Home Cinema 5010 we’ll be reviewing next. They are both 3LCD, both brighter than all those others.

In fact, the only competitors for 3D in the home that we’ve reviewed so far, that are as bright or brighter, have been the low cost gaming projectors from Optoma, and the Epson model below the 5010, the Home Cinema 3010.

Bottom line: I’m satisfied with the brightness of the PT-AE7000. Simply stated, all of those other similar and more expensive projectors reviewed so far will look dimmer when doing 3D. This Panasonic, on the other hand, does pretty good. You aren’t likely to claim too much brightness (unless a combination of small, and high gain, screen.)

The PT-AE7000 has the necessary brightness when in 3D to do a respectable job in most people’s home theaters. Impressive; that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that about a an ultra high contrast projector! It’s about time.

Thank you Panasonic, you got the basics covered, but don’t quit there, make next year’s brighter still.

Panasonic PT-AE7000 Bottom Line Brightness

The HD8300 and all of the LCoS projectors but the JVC RS60 managed between 600 and 800 lumens in “best” mode, so they are brighter than the PT-AE7000 projector when they are all calibrated to be their best. But when you just want some good picture quality (or very good, but not calibrated), the Panasonic outshines all of them. And that makes it the big winner for 3D where even the Panasonic’s ample lumens are just enough, in most cases not to be a bit too dim to enjoy long term. Remember the 3D glasses settings. If you feel you need more lumens, go from the medium to light mode, for some more brightness, but also a bit more 3D artifacts such as crosstalk.

Panasonic PT-AE7000 Sharpness

Light Leakage

Excellent, no significant light leaking through the lens, and the vents are about as dark as you will find. Not a complaint here. All home theater projectors should be this clean.

Image Noise

We’re still trying to sort out what’s acceptable, and good and great (lack of) image noise for 3D projectors, but when it comes to 2D, the PT-AE7000 performs more than well enough. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen anything but very good to great image processing on over $2000 projectors.

That’s not to say we don’t see issues with dynamic features like CFI, but for normal viewing of 24fps movies, and the usual HDTV and TV content, motion artifacts are minimal.

Speaking of CFI, Panasonic’s Mode 1 is one of the smoothest I’ve seen. That’s traditional, they were about the first to add the feature a few years back, and even back then, it was the best at the time.

What I’m saying is you still get a touch of that “live digital video” look on movies, but it’s slight. I could live with it on for movies if others asked. I used Modes 1 and 2 for sports. I don’t notice much difference, so play with it, if you like CFI for different things, go with it. If not, don’t worry, this Panny has plenty of other neat features.

Audible Noise

As they say in Brooklyn, “Forgetaboutit!” This Panasonic is one of the quietest home theater projectors yet. I think I’ve seen a Mitsubishi or two perhaps slightly quieter, but this projector is quieter at full power, than most are in their lower power Eco-modes. The older PT-AE4000 was also quiet, but I don’t think it can match this new projector.

I believe even the most noise adverse enthusiasts will find nothing to complain about, and will, in fact, praise its quietness. Tastefully done!

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