Panasonic PT-AE3000 - Image Quality
11/4/2008 - Art Feierman
Out of the Box Picture Quality
Hooking up the PT-AE3000 for the first time, before any adjustments were made, yielded very good color accuracy. In fact, very little needed to be done to the color settings when we calibrated the projector. Still, calibration did yield a small, but real improvement. Perhaps the weakest aspect of the out of the box settings, relates to color saturation, which proved to be a little over the top. Reducing saturation is easy, and definitely improved the image. This is, though one of the few projectors (saturation notwithstanding), that is extremely watchable without needing to make changes.
Excellent. With some 40 hours of watching the PT-AE3000, I have found the flesh (skin) tones to be very natural (after our minor changes when we calibrated). The PT-AE3000U isn't as natural as the InFocus IN83 which I raved about, when speaking of flesh tones, but it is very, very, good.
Here, first are a pair of images from my favorite movie not available yet on Blu-ray: Lord of the Rings, played from standard DVD.
Moving to movies and other content on hi-def Blu-ray disc, here is are the three images of Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Casino Royale. Scene lighting, and the director's intent (intentional changes), means that skin tones will vary, depending on the type of lighting, such as full sunlight (first image), fluorescent lighting (2nd image), and filtered sunlight - shaded on a sunny day (3rd image). In all three cases the PT-AE3000U provides realistic skin tones.
Next are images from the sci-fi flick, Aeon Flux:
From Men In Black:
Black Levels & Shadow Detail
For comparison, here's the same image from the Mitsubishi HC6500.
And here's the JVC DLA-RS2, which has set the standard for black level performance when introduced last year:
As you can see, the PT-AE3000 has a ways to go to catch the JVC RS2, in terms of black levels, but, that doesn't take away from the Panasonic's extremely good black level performance.
OK here's what many of you have been waiting for, side by side images for comparing black levels. I had the opportunity to shoot the PT-AE3000U against the JVC RS1, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB (shortly being replaced by the Home Cinema 6500 UB which claims even better black level performance).
The first image below is just slightly overexposed. The Panasonic is on the right. The image right below it is the same, but further overexposed so you can really see the difference in black levels (look at the letterbox area above and below the starship image).
Next, the same drill, but the Epson on the left, Panasonic on the right:
and now very overexposed:
As you can see above, these two are close, but the old Epson still has a slight advantage (despite claiming "only" 30,000:1 contrast, vs. the Panasonic's 60,000:1).
Lastly, to give you a little perspective, here's the same sets, but with the rather excellent InFocus IN83. While I am most impressed with the InFocus, its black level performance, despite a Darkchip4 DLP chip, can't match the Panasonic. The InFocus sells for about twice the Panasonic. Again, the Panasonic is on the right.
OK, forget the starship. I also took side-by-side images with a fully black "image".
Below: Panasonic on the right Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB on the left.
Below PT-AE3000U on the right, JVC RS1 on the left
Below, PT-AE3000U on the right, InFocus IN83 on the left, in this image the Dynamic iris on the Panasonic is turned on:
As you can see, a striking difference between the Panasonic and the InFocus. By the way, that curved brighter area about 1/3 in from the left edge of the Panasonic is actually light leakage from the InFocus.
Now, the same shot, but with the Panasonic's dynamic iris turned off. That gives you some idea of what a dynamic iris adds toward improving black levels:
You'll note, that the background of the Panasonic now appears a step brighter, while the InFocus appears a bit darker than on the image before it. The Panasonic still has a slight edge, instead of a much larger advantage. Remember though, a dynamic iris is most effective with an all dark scene. Add any significant white areas, and the dynamic iris can't do anything to help the dark areas.
Enough! Here is just two more images which is a good one for considering black levels. Look for the richness in the black part of some of the buildings and the sky in the second image. Both of these are digital hi-def images from the DVE-HD calibration disc.
Shadow Detail Performance
The Panasonic exhibits extremely good shadow detail. There may be a few projectors that can do a touch better, but I'd say that it is a non-issue. Shadow detail is something you don't have to worry about with the PT-AE3000U, it has plenty.
The next set of comparison images is from Space Cowboys. This is a very dark scene with Clint Eastwood, on Blu-ray disc. The photos are intentionally way overexposed. Look for the blacks in the shades, and the details in those shades in the form of the white trim. (At this level of overexposure, don't even worry about the skin tones, as in these type of photos they always look terrible, and way oversaturated/too high contrast).
First image is the PT-AE3000U, followed by the HC6500. Next is the the Sony VW60. The last three in the sequence are the Sanyo PLV-Z700, Panasonic PT-AE2000U and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB.
The Panasonic does a great job on revealing details in the window shades, bettter than most of the competition.
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The PT-AE3000U (top left) shows a great deal of detail in the dark areas of the satellite. Again, not the best ever, but very good. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, Those images are followed by the Sony VPL-VW60 and the JVC RS1 (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC6500 (left), and the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 on the right.
The re-entry image below, is a tough shadow detail test. Projectors with weak black levels and average shadow detail ability tend to generate an image where much of the right side of earth, looks to have that flat, lacking in detail look. All projectors pick up some of the brighter features on the right side, while better ones, pick up a lot more and usually have richer blacks as well.
On the left, is the PT-AE3000U, the middle, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and on the right, at roughly twice the price, is the InFocus IN83 which is about as good as it gets, in terms of shadow detail, although not up to, say, the Epson 1080 UB, in black level performance.
Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
When comparing, look at the detail in the roof (tiles), and also in the assorted trees and plants. The small images below show a slightly overexposed scene. Click on the images and the larger versions are far more overexposed, to allow a closer inspection of shadow details.
Panasonic PT-AE3000U projector:
Sony VPL-VW40 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB projector:
InFocus IN83 projector: (a more expensive projector that I've been raving about)
Mitsubishi HC6500 projector:
Below is a heavily overexposed scene from Lord of the Rings. The overexposure lets you see all the details in the shed on the right, the structure on the left, and the plants and ground along the lower right. The PT-AE3000U performs very nicely.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Panasonic PT-AE3000U, Sanyo PLV-Z700 in the center, and the right for the InFocus IN82.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Panasonic PT-AE3000U, the second is the Mitsubishi HC6500, and the last one is from the more expensive InFocus IN83:
(Please note, the image above is a little blurry, must have bumped the tripod. Sorry! That shouldn't affect your ability to see the shadow details. -art)
Overall Color & Picture Quality
With the rather minimal adjustments made during calibration of the Cinema 1 mode, the overall picture quality is really very impressive. The Panasonic has excellent color balance plus good depth to the image. (The depth, no doubt helped by the excellent black levels, and a number of assorted image enhancing tools, like their Detail Clarity, and Cinema Reality controls).
When you need the maximum lumens, the Panasonic may not crank out as many as a number of competitors (it's strictly average), but, I am impressed with the picture performance of their Dynamic mode.
After some minor adjustment, the color accuracy is better than some brighter projectors such as the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, in its Dynamic mode. Let's just say that Panasonic's Dynamic mode in terms of color is better than many projectors "best mode" out of the box. While enjoying Monday Night Football tonight, while writing up the review, I really was pleased with the color. On the down side, while its color is better, I have kept the PT-AE3000U to 110" diagonal on my 128" screen. When I use the Epson, I get slightly more brightness, even when filling the full 128".
Bottom line: This is one fine projector when it comes to image quality. It is one of those projectors with no serious flaws, and everything well balanced. If I was Epson, Sanyo or Mitsubishi, I'd really be concerned about the PT-AE3000U, especially considering it's really low $2499 street price.
A mix of additional images to show off the PT-AE3000U:
From the DTS Blu-ray test disk, consider these:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
Back to movies - here's a couple from Dogma:
Lastly, here is an image from the Disney movie Cars:
Panasonic PT-AE3000U Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports