Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector - Image Quality
Below we discuss the image quality of the Panasonic PT-AR100U home projector. As you have already seen, we provide a lot of photos of movies and other content, projected with the PT-AR100U.
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-AR100U 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-AR100U will look far better in your darkened theater, than these images on your computer monitor.
3/10/2012 - Art Feierman
Panasonic PT-AR100U Out of the Box Picture Quality
This Panasonic projector is downright impressive when it comes to out-of-the-box image performance. The Panasonic has many color modes and while none of them is dead on the money, the surprising thing is how good they all look!
Let's start with the most optimized for movie viewing. That would be Cinema 1, and REC 709. While both of these modes are a bit on the cool side with white measuring upward of 7,000K temperature they both really do look very good. REC 709 definitely has the best color management, the best CIE chart, so Mike used it for calibration, and our “best” mode. REC 709 is extremely watchable without any tweaking, or you could try sliding down the color temperature slightly. Of course we have published Mike’s calibration settings for you to try out.
Most impressive perhaps is that the brighter modes look rather good on the Panasonic PT‑AR100U projector. Dynamic is downright brilliant, at brightest about 2400 lumens. There is a touch too much yellow in the picture, so bright yellow greens can pick up a touch of neon look. Other than that, which can mostly be cured by reducing color saturation, Dynamic works well and is easy to watch. This is unlike most of the competition, where Dynamic modes are downright ugly tons of extra greens or other problems.
In most cases Mike does a quick calibration of the brightest mode to make it more watchable. He did that this time too, but as he pointed out, he couldn’t improve much on the default without a big drop in brightness.
This Dynamic mode is enough to keep most people happy when you need bright. Overall, I can't recall another projector that had as many modes that basically look pretty good right out of the box. Definitely for those of you not interested in tweaking or calibrating, the PT-AR100U makes an excellent choice.
Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector - Flesh Tones
After calibration, skin tones, which were already rather good using the REC 709 color profile, got even better. Mike's calibration proved nice and tight and the result was some really good looking skin tones. I will note this: Every projector has some sort of minor shift even when the numbers look great as they do here. In watching the PT-AR100U, if anything I noticed that skin tones are perhaps the slightest bit reddish but it's more of a slightly grayish feel to them that I noticed. This is not unusual in the course of projectors. I'm talking about a very small thing here, and may even be improved by a different calibration.
There are several side-by-side pictures with other projectors, where you can take a look at this. All considered though, you'll find many close-up pictures from X-Men First Class and I think you'll agree with me that in calibrated mode best mode, the Panasonic looks great. And in fact, it looks great in dynamic too, just not as great. Below you will find a large number of images demonstrating skin tones. As I pointed out above, remember what we see on the screen here is not what you are seeing on your small monitor. Too many factors make this unreliable to use as a demonstration of precisely the picture this Panasonic will deliver for you.
Below: 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-AR100U Black Levels & Shadow Detail
PT-AR100U Projector Black Level Peformance
Black levels are nothing to write home about on the Panasonic PT-AR100U, but then, that's not surprising, on a just above “entry level” priced projector. If you do want really excellent black levels - consider finding one of last year's Panasonic PT‑AE4000 projectors (it sold for about $2,000), or, the more expensive and new PT-AE7000, Panasonic's top-of-the-line home theater projector which isn't quite as bright, but has far superior black level performance, and by the way, is also 3D capable.
I do not believe that at $999 you can find another projector that has substantially better blacks.
Panasonic PT-AR100U: You can already see the letter box, and the blacks of space getting lighter. The dark black at top and bottom is screen, not screen frame, so that's how much ambient light is hitting the screen. It is obviously not a factor in the raised blacks (dark grey) of the PT-AR100U projector.
Epson Home Cinema 3010: Image is a good bit darker so letterboxes do not tell you much:
Epson Home Cinema 5010: Dramatically better, look at "outer space", and note how much darker it is on this much more expensive Epson. That's OK, though, we use the 5010 as our reference for mid and lower priced projectors because of its blacks.
Optoma HD8300: Very nice, better than the Panasonic, about half way to the Epson
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB ($2199), last year's black level champ under $3,000:
Optoma HD33 (lower cost, $1499 3D capable projector): Blacks are no match.
JVC DLA-HD250: Now discontinued - No dynamic iris, but blacks roughly comparable to the Epson 5010 and 8700UB. Otherwise though, limited in features compared to the Epson (no 3D, no CFI, and half the brightness).
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.
BenQ W6000, a "perennial favorite" now roughly $1500 DLP:
Shadow Detail Performance
Shadow details are typically very good, as one expects on a lower cost home entertainment projector that lacks truly superior black levels. Because of the overall lighter levels, the least bright area of an image is brighter than on projectors that are ultra-high contrast. Along with brighter black levels, the brightest of those dark shadow details are also lighter, making them easier to see than with those ultra-high contrast projectors.
All considered, the shadow detail of the Panasonic PT-AR100U home entertainment projector has to be considered very good but, we definitely have seen better in the price range. Note that better in the price range, may also be from projectors who can't quite hang in there in terms of black levels. All considered, shadow detail here is not something to be concerned with. It's doing a very nice job and other things are far more important.
Our first series of images is also a favorite for considering black levels, not just shadow detail. For this reason, note the brightness in the letterbox areas (for blacks). For shadow detail, look to the shrubs on the right, behind the tracks, and for details in the darkest area in the middle of the forest behind those tracks. The Panasonic does well enough, with dark shadow detail as easy to spot (if not as dark) as on more expensive, overall better projectors with better blacks.
Epson Home Cinema 3010: Epson's lowest priced 3D projector, $1599, has better dark shadow detail, and also a slight advantage in blacks (note the woods on the right):
Epson Home Cinema 5010: With the best blacks under $3000, the Epson really "pops" on this scene while the Panasonic seems flat. (And it easily does better than the Epson 3010 above.)
Panasonic PT-AE7000: Far better at blacks, and even slightly better at shadow detail than its little brother, the PT-AR100U
Optoma HD33: A bit more money, but a good 2D/3D, DLP projector, seems about comparable at both blacks and details
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, yet comparable to the Panasonic.
BenQ W6000 (ultra high contrast, 2D): A direct competitor, and a very good DLP for a bit less. No 3D.
Sony VPL-HW30ES: Really nice blacks, but like the Optoma HD8300, not quite up to the Epson, nor is its shadow detail
Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance: PT-AR100U Projector - Bottom Line
To summarize: Black level performance is fairly typical of lower cost entertainment projectors. Remember this projector is really destined for a family room, a living room, any kind of room you can throw at it that probably doesn't have dark walls, dark ceilings, dark floors and full lighting control. This is a projector built to slug it out with some ambient sunlight sneaking into the room or having some lights on and so on.
That means you wouldn't be able to appreciate the darkest blacks as much as if the projector were in a dedicated home theater. That ambient light is going to dilute the blacks, raise all the levels up with those better projectors. Even though they would still have the slight advantage with some ambient light present, it really negates much of the reason for having an ultra high contrast projector, if the room can't be property darkened.
With that in mind, Panasonic passed our tests here in that there are no issues with either the black levels or the shadow detail performance. This projector performs in terms of those items exactly as one would expect it to in a partially lit family room, which is to say, "very nicely".
Panasonic PT-AR100U - Overall Color & Picture Quality
If you are a "purist" looking for the best image quality down around $1000, and plan to place your projector in a home theater like environment, this Panasonic PT-AR100U may not be the best choice for you. Some of you who are really looking for that best movie image are going to favor some of the DLP based projectors in the price range, for that "look and feel". But, just as in the past, with older Panasonic projectors taking on their DLP competition, any slight advantage from that DLP "look", is offset by the much more flexible design, and bigger feature set found with this Panasonic.
Color itself is not an issue.
A mix of additional images to show off the Panasonic PT-AR100U:
While the projector calibrates easily, it doesn't result in the tightest numbers post calibration. Still, overall image quality is very good in calibrated REC 709, and not much worse without any calibration at all. All the brighter modes, I'd have to say, offer better color, than most other projectors in modes producing upwards of, for example, 1200 lumens.
I was especially impressed with the color, right out of the box, of modes like Sports and Dynamic. Normal, the 2nd brightest mode, also worked fine, though thin on reds with a 9000+ color temp.
Color may not be an issue for the PT-AR100U projector, and for that matter, black levels and shadow details, aren't an issue either. Blacks are just fine for a projector in this price range. Of the 4 or 5 DLP's at or below this price, probably one can beat the Panasonic's blacks, while the others are either roughly comparable, or worse.
Shadow detail is good! It's about where you want it to be. Yes, all considered the PT-AR100U could reveal a touch more in terms of dark shadow details, but we're talking just a touch. Further, we're talking a really minor difference between the PT-AR100U, say, and another projector with "great" shadow detail. Close enough!
Here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
All the greys below look really natural:
Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports, including 3D
If there is an element where the PT‑AR100U is truly at home, it's doing sports and television. I've watched a number of hours of sports including some March madness on the PT‑AR100U home entertainment projector, and I have yet to watch anything related to sports or TV, with the room fully darkened! At the very minimum, I have been running with my rear lights on (except for movies). All seven downward facing lights on! Most of the time however, if it's daytime, I'm also letting some ambient light come in through my shutter windows on the side and in the back of the room. That's because I can with this Panasonic projector!
That's because this projector is rated 2,800 lumens, and can actually put 2,400 on the screen, and basically, is simply brighter than anything else out there near the price. Of projectors designed for home, only the two Epsons come close in brightness, and they are not as bright.
Okay, I've got a some ambient light present. I fire up your PT-AR100U projector, select my favorite sports game, (it's March Madness for me at this time) and start off in Dynamic mode. It was evening time so no light coming in through my shades and you know what?
Even projecting a 100 inch diagonal sized image it was too bright to watch so I downscaled it bit. Tried different modes. I found Vivid cinema worked fine. I also enjoyed Sports mode and normal works if you don't like the more blues than red. It's particularly cool but it's the next brightest mode and a little softer in contrast than dynamic. Ultimately, pick your mode that matches the room and you should thoroughly enjoy the sports. Mind you, the PT-AR100U does not have CFI, but that's a matter for a different page.
We've taken an exceptional number of images to demonstrate modes with this Panasonic projector. Below first, is a series of images taken with a lot of ambient light in the room including sunlight. You can see the images of the room first and now you've got photos looking anywhere from very watchable to pretty much washed out. The most watchable being the dynamic brightest mode, the dimmest being Cinema 1 and the REC 709 modes. There is another set with more modest ambient light, and then for all these other images of sporting events, those were all taken with the projector in sports mode (note not calibrated, just the default sports mode). The rest are HDTV images that you see (Victoria Secret and other such things). A couple were taken in Sports because I forgot to switch. The really good looking ones were done in REC 709, which is the calibrated "best" mode.
First set: Relatively bright in back of room:
Second set: Relatively low ambient light:
A few more images, these being HDTV, but first some sports in different modes:
General HDTV images:
Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports, and also 3D HDTV content
Wow! If good brightness - horsepower - is the basic minimum requirement of enjoying sports... That is, not having to watch it in a darkened cave, instead, bright enough so you can see your buddies... then the Panasonic is the brightest and probably the best choice out there for the price, from that standpoint.
Of course the Panasonic lacks the creative frame interpolation found on more expensive projectors. However, I can only really think of one or two under $2,000 projectors, that currently offer CFI for smooth motion.
When you're choosing between the PT-AR100U projector and others near its price, none of them offer that nice optional feature (CFI - smooth motion).
As part of this review, I've taken pictures of the Panasonic projector with more ambient light hitting my screen than I have attempted with any other projectors since we moved to this place a year and a half ago.
And note, while our calibrated REC 709 "best" mode is fairly washed out on those images with the most ambient light, even with that massive amount of ambient light, the brighter modes had no real problem, you still have a very watchable image. So enjoy it.