Panasonic PT-AE7000 Projector - Image Quality
The usual reminder about the accuracy of these images taken of projected content from the Panasonic PT-AE7000 home theater projector:
A lot goes on: The projected image -any shifts due to the camera, a Canon 60D professional dSLR, a Mac laptop for cropping and resizing, etc, using Adobe Bridge and Photoshop, then saved "for web" (super compressed), and displayed with your graphics card, monitor, and browser all, further coloring the PT-AE7000 photos. In other words, they are useful, only to a point, as colors are not going to be all that accurate. Rest assured, the Panasonic PT-AE7000 will look far better in your darkened theater, than these images on your computer monitor
For one reason or another, no photo shoot looks exactly like what's on the screen. Technologies do cause some shifting. Note that all the PT-AE7000 images, while looking very good, seem to have (on the screen of my MacBook Pro, the slightest "salmon" shift - a little almost pinkish. Keep that in mind, though your monitor may end up with a different shift.
11/9/2011 - Art Feierman
Panasonic PT-AE7000 Out of the Box Picture Quality
The PT-AE7000 has lots of color modes. We found the best color, however, right out of the box, to be the REC 709 mode (officially that's the HDTV standard). The other close to "best" is the D-Cinema mode, although many may find that dark.
Cinema 1, 2, and Normal all can look pretty good, but each is cooler - color temp wise, than the one before, and white is about 7500K to 9000K+ for these modes. D-Cinema, and REC 709, though are right about where they should be: 6500K.
Only Game and Dynamic can routinely seem "over the top" and no surprise with those two modes.
Out of the box performance, therefore, is overall, very good. Just choose the right mode for what you are viewing, and remember, our settings should help you improve the "out of the box" accuracy, without having to hire a calibrator (who would do a better job though)!
Panasonic PT-AE7000 Projector - Flesh Tones
Once calibrated, the Panasonic's skin tones took on a very natural look. Not perfect. I mention above, that the images have a slight "salmon" colored shift. Let me say that the projector seems to exhibit this after calibration, but it is significantly exaggerated in the photos, compared to live. Minor further tweaking of the calibration, or, perhaps if we actually calibrated the individual colors as a professional calibrator normally would, that this might well disappear completely, at least from the projected image.
Our first two (above and below) as usual, are Gandalf and Arwen, from the Blu-ray version of Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King:
Below are three James Bond images from Casino Royale. Each has a different lighting scenario, the first - full sunlight, the second image; indoor fluorescent, and finally, a night time photo. As one would expect, that causes each image of James Bond - Daniel Craig - to have different looking skin tones.
More images we like for considering skin tones:
And that concludes our skin tones images.
Panasonic PT-AE7000 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
On nice bright scenes, few people care about black levels and shadow detail, unless it's really bad. Where these more expensive ultra-high contrast projectors come into play, is on darker scenes. Note the huge variation in the photos below, the lower cost projectors wash out far more than the Panasonic, and others that are ultra-high contrast. That's why we pay so much attention to Black Levels. Two projectors can be virtually equal in picture quality on a nice average scene, but on some dark scenes, one can look great while the other looks mediocre or poor.
This Panasonic is a true ultra-high contrast projector. Forget the 300,000:1 contrast spec, with dynamic irises and no formal testing method a projector with 50,000:1 can best a projector claiming 300,000:1, since they all measure differently. We make our determinations by actually viewing the content, not the specs.
It's middle of the pack for an ultra-high contrast projector, but the most important thing is to be one, and not have entry level (or near) black level performance. Sure blacker is better, but at this point, its just one, and a very acceptable one (aspect of the PT-AE7000's performance.
We'll start first fairly normally exposed version of this scene from The Fifth Element, followed by a heavily overexposed one which makes it easier to compare black level performance with all the other projectors whos images are below.
Sony VPL-HW30ES: No chance for a side by side, but a close look gives the Sony a modest advantage (it's image is a little less exposed so both the Sony's blacks and the starship itself are a darker than the Panasonic, but the blacks seem darker compared to the whites with the Sony, which would indicate the advantage). I would rather have had the two, same time, for a side by side.
Optoma HD8300: Very nice, offers slightly better blacks than the Panasonic, (and probably a touch shy of the Sony?)
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB ($2199) a black level champ, it beat the Panasonic at blacks without any real difficulty. .
Optoma HD33 (lower cost, $1499 3D capable projector): Blacks are no match.
JVC DLA-HD250: Comparable blacks or better, and with out using a dynamic iris. The HD250 is now discontinued.
Runco LS10d projector ($27,000+): This one is included to make the point, that a lot more money doesn't mean any significant improvement in black levels. Think, instead that other things become more important.
Sony VPL-VW90ES ($9995):
Sharp XV-Z17000 (direct competitor):
BenQ W6000, a "perennial favorite" lower cost DLP:
The PT-AE7000 offers what we call ultra-high contrast black level performance. That covers a number of projectors, and there is significant range in the black level performance. For example, the soon to being replaced Epson Home Cinema 8700UB still beats it, and we expect the PT-AE7000's new direct competitor, the Home Cinema 5010, to offer the same black performance as the 8700UB, which would give it the advantage as well.
The Panasonic is dramatically better than typical entry or near entry level projectors, such as the Optoma HD33, Viewsonic Pro8200, Mitsubishi HC4000 or the Epson Home Cinema 3010, or for that matter, the Epson 8350 which stays in the lineup for Epson. But once you take the leap to ultra-high contrast, the Panasonic is fine but some others can do a lot better.
The blacker the better, but the Panasonic PT-AE7000 is definitely in the game. While some of those others best it, the Panasonic has offsetting abilities.
Bottom line on black level performance: Definitely gets the job done, but not a particular strength of this projector.
Shadow Detail Performance
I must say the same thing about Dark Shadow Detail handling: Essentially the PT-AE7000 is very good at dark shadow detail, but several competitors are slightly better. The Casino Royale train scene below is excellent for looking at dark shadow detail. Peek into the shrubs on the right on the other side of the tracks, and in the dark areas of the trees behind them. You can see the differences in the larger images that come up when you click.
Epson Home Cinema 3010: Just reviewed, a lower cost, and not an ultra-high contrast projector. Note: The 5010, arriving shortly has higher contrast and is a direct competitor to this Panasonic projector. We will add that image when we've reviewed the Epson.
Optoma HD8300: Note, my original expectation was that the Panasonic and the Optoma would be about a tie. As it turns out (and there will be a side by side image in the competitor's section), the Optoma's blacks are blacker (about half way between the Panasonic, and the Epson 8700UB.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB: Still the black level champ of the projectors selling for around the Panasonic's price or less, though only $2000. The better blacks definitely add some extra pop and wow, on these really dark scenes.
Mitsubishi HC4000: Excellent lower cost DLP projector, but no dynamic iris for improving blacks.
BenQ W6000 (ultra high contrast, 2D):
Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance: PT-AE7000 Projector - Bottom Line
The PT-AE7000 does well on both, but not exceptionally. This is a solid, ultra high contrast projector. Blacks are really good, but there are better for the price, and in general, it's not quite as good as those slightly more expensive projectors I've mentioned, as well as the Epson, which has been the best under about $4K. That said, it's good enough to allow you to concede a small difference and be concerned with other features that the Panny has.
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:
Panasonic PT-AE7000 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports, including 3D
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 comes equipped with most of the goodies to be great for sports and general HDTV viewing. First of all, it's got several nice bright modes with varying degrees of color accuracy. Most folks won't want to watch most HDTV content in a fully darkened room.
The PT-AE7000U projector has two good motion smoothing modes for their Creative Frame interpolation. I had Mode 2 selected when I was watching the Little League playoffs, boy did that look great.
I will concede you can own projectors, with slightly sharper images. It is the digital world of HDTV and non-film based movies where you can appreciate slightly better optics, or slightly better convergence. Inherently, those single Chip DLP's do have an advantage. Running the Panny and the Optoma HD8300 side by side confirmed that the Optoma is the sharper/crisper image. It's a small difference. Film based movies have the film's own artifacts, including grain, which makes it harder to notice small differences in the gear.
Optics comes into play. Epson, on their new HC3010, for example has a new, lower cost lens than they use on higher end models. When I put that $1599 Epson side by side, the Panasonic was a touch crisper looking, which in this case, I'll attribute to the optics since convergence looked about the same.
There's plenty of pop and wow to the PT-AE7000 projector, when cranked up in Dynamic mode. Use it when you need it, and it's definitely viable for sports, but for Travel HD type content, dial it down and up the color quality, and you'll get more pleasure out of the picture.
These round of images was taken in the evening, with my recessed rear lights (7) all on. To give you an idea, here's the room, adjusted for the proper exposure of the image. (so the furniture is invisible, beause the image is bright) Below it, I over exposed the image so you can see the ambient light on the couch, etc. That's a 50 watt recessed LED light shooting straight down on the couch (one of the 7). Of course if I expose it so the room looks right, the screen image is completely blown out (overexposed). Note that you can see my MacBook in the lower right. You can see that the laptop display looks right too, in the exposure immediately below. That tells you that the projected image is as bright as my laptop screen! Here goes:
Check out some images from football, and other HDTV content: All the sports content was shot with those rear lights on. Most of the other HDTV content was shot with the lights off, unless noted otherwise.
When I say, the Panasonic looks good, I mean it. Consider these images
Panasonic PT-AE7000 Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports, and also 3D HDTV content
First I should note that, for 2D, the Panasonic performs very well, and that it works with all the DirecTV formats they "broadcast" from their 4 channels. No problem with Blu-ray 3D either.
Images below taken with the lights off:
That the Panasonic can muster up tons of lumens, is great for the HDTV and sports folks, who don't want to watch in a darkened room. I've been dealing with this issue for a couple of years with my old JVC. With less than 900 lumens max, (when it had a new lamp), I ALWAYS wanted more brightness for my sports viewing in my old room with more ambient light than my cave. The virtual doubling of brightness going from my JVC to this Panasonic would have made a huge difference (in fact that's why I would remove the JVC and put up the Epson 8500ub or 8700ub) on the shelf for my Superbowl parties.
Well this Panasonic is at least as bright as those Epson's that I had here for reference (still have the 8700UB as you will see in the competitors page - we have a couple of side by side images).
So, kudos for enough horsepower, to tackle some decent (hardly bright) ambient light, even on moderately large screens.
3D HDTV viewing is another story. In this case, unless you go with lower performance "entry level" or near entry level projectors, the Panasonic is the closest thing I've seen, under $10,000 to actually being bright enough. Those glasses will darken everything, but I'm pleased that in my room I can watch football, etc. have my rear lights on, even for 3D viewing.
Since Panasonic allows any picture mode to be used for 3D, you can stick with Dynamic, or improve color a bit with Normal, etc. without sacrificing much in brightness, in fact still have a lot more than any of the LCoS or DLP competition.
Last word. Strong on maximum brightness, good to great color (depending on mode), particularly good for sports due to both brightness and having a dynamic iris and CFI that work when in 3D.
I could always ask for more lumens (I always do), and the Panasonic could be a touch sharper, but overall, if 3D is on your agenda at all, best combination to date, if you want excellent brighter 3D, as well as lots of general lumens for watching with ambient light. Mind you, if you weren't really into movies, you could go with a lower cost, projector without the ultra high contrast blacks, and save, but this is a projector that tackles movies as well as HDTV/Sports with the blacks, the smooth motion, and the brightness.