Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector - Image Quality
The usual reminder about the accuracy of these images taken of projected content from the Panasonic PT-AE8000 home theater projector:
A lot goes on in delivering these images to your eyeballs: There's the projected image, and 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-AE8000 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-AE8000 will look far better in your darkened theater, than these images on your computer monitor
10/20/2012 - Art Feierman
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Out of the Box Picture Quality
The PT-AE8000 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 look reasonably 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, right around: 6500K.
Only Game and Dynamic can routinely seem "over the top". That's no surprise for 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-AE8000 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-AE8000 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, it's just one, and a very acceptable one (aspect of the PT-AE8000'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 whose images are below. (The newer images have been converted to grayscale so minimize the distraction of the color). Below the individual starship images you will find two side by side comparisions - one with the Epson HC5020, and the other with the Sony VPL-HW50ES.
Last year's PT-AE7000: The lower image is a bit less overexposed making it tough to spot any real improvement in the PT-AE8000.
Sony VPL-HW50ES: Has an advantage. Side by side comparison images still to be taken as of 10/21. Note that the Sony's starship is far more overexposed than the PT-AE8000's, yet the blacks, including the letter box area, are not brighter.
Optoma HD8300: Very nice, offers slightly better blacks than the Panasonic, (and probably a touch shy of the Sony?)
Epson Home Cinema 5010 ($2699, being replaced) the black level champ in the price range. The Panasonic PT-AE8000 for its improvements still comes up visibly, but not dramatically short.
Optoma HD33 (lower cost, $1499 3D capable projector): Blacks are not as good as the Panny, the image is less overexposed.
JVC DLA-RS45: Comparable blacks or better, and without 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-Z30000 (direct competitor):
BenQ W6000, a "perennial favorite" lower cost DLP:
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-AE8000 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.
Here are two side by side comparison images. Panasonic on the left, Sony VPL-HW50ES on the right. The Sony was placed in eco mode to try to get the brightness similar to the less bright Panny (both calibrated). The starship is a slight bit brighter on the Panasonic as a result. A close look at the blacks, in both the letterbox and the background shows the Sony to be a lot blacker.
Now for the PT-AE8000 vs. the Epson Home Cinema 5020:
Again, slight differences in exposure but the black levels definitely favor the Epson. In this case, on bright scenes, the Epson was slightly brighter, but on a dark scene like this, it's iris closes down more, lowering the blacks, but also making the starship a touch brighter on the Panasonic.
Shadow Detail Performance
I must say the same thing about Dark Shadow Detail handling: Essentially the PT-AE8000 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.
Most of these time exposures are pretty long, the end result is that color shifts. Focus on the details, not any color differences:
Last year's PT-AE7000:
The Epson Home Cinema 5020 is the new, and higher contrast and is a direct competitor to this Panasonic projector.
Note that the blacks on the Home Cinema 5020 below are easily blacker than those of the PT-AE8000.
Sony VPL-HW50ES:Comparable shadow detail in this shot, but blacker blacks, more "pop".
Epson Home Cinema 3010:
A lower cost projector ($1599), not an ultra-high contrast projector.
Optoma HD33: A DLP projector around $1500, it has more "pop" on this dark scene than the Panasonic, but reveals a bit less dark shadow detail.
Note, my original expectation was that the older AE7000 Panasonic and the Optoma would be about a tie. As it turned out, the Optoma's blacks were blacker (about half way between the Panasonic, and the Epson 8700UB at the time. That should still give the Optoma a slight - essentially insignificant advantage.
Mitsubishi HC4000: Excellent lower cost DLP projector, but no dynamic iris for improving blacks, and it shows. The letter box isn't exceptionally black yet it is perhaps the darkest exposure of the bunch!
BenQ W6000(ultra high contrast, 2D):
Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance: PT-AE8000 Projector - Bottom Line
The PT-AE8000 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-AE8000 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Post calibration color looked pretty natural. No sunburned faces, or other obvious flaws, in fact most people would just think - "looks outstanding," but for those of us who are trying to descern the best picture quality, every subtlety counts!
The picture tends to look right. There's always something better, but the PT-AE8000 will simply blow away your friends, and you, in a proper room with good lighting control and darker surfaces. It will not offend. In that it perhaps is a bit more forgiving in the naturalness of the picture than perhaps a few of those others that have a bit better blacks, for more pop. Remember, color is fun when you are watching something where the colors are supposed to jump out at you, like a balloon festival, but you want a projector that's not over the top. The Panny fits that description pretty well.
A mix of additional images to show off the Panasonic PT-AE8000:
Here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports, including 3D
Great football! I got in a day and an evening of NLF football on this Panasonic PT-AE8000. I had friends over for many hours.
We had controlled light coming in from side and rear windows though mostly closed shutters
The room has 7 rear down facing recessed lights on (each one an LED light with 50 to 65 watt equivalent). Here's the front/side of the room as used.
That's looking rather good, plenty of pop, for a room that isn't blacked out. Dark surfaces, of course is the key, but the point is this projector cranks out more than 2000 lumens when needed, about double the typical projector, and it lets us enjoy a bright image.
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.
To give you a better idea as to how much ambient light I was allowing in the room to get these sports images, here I've set exposure to give you an idea how the room looked. Then below it, less exposed:
Of course not all HDTV viewing is football and the olympics. I spent plenty of time with music videos etc. from Paladia, and watched a variety of programming, even part of one Presidential debate.
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports, and also 3D HDTV content
Nothing better for HDTV and sports than a really bright projector with good color. CFI is there for sports viewing. I turned it on low, and I forget about it.
If there's one aspect of HDTV and sports viewing, that the Panasonic could be better at, it would be sharpness. Digital content, rather than film is where you can appreciate every last bit of sharpness. No LCD projector, or LCoS one, with 3 chips is going to be perfectly converged, giving single chip projectors an inherent sharpness advantage. This Panasonic does fine, but there are some really sharp DLP projectors out there, and a couple of other 3 chip type projectors with exceptional detail enhancment.
For perspective, if you really want to know what a "night and day" difference is, in terms of sharpness, it's when we have Quad-HD, true 4K, or whatever the next generation is called, and next gen projectors that are 4K. I have worked with a true 4K projector with true 4K content, and it reminds me that we are talking smaller differences here, between these various projectors sharpness abilities.
So, I'll stop pointing out minor details. I have not a single serious complaint after watching a couple of dozen hours of assorted content, plus all that sports.