Panasonic PT-D3500U - General Performance
There's a great deal to cover here, as the PT-D3500U is a commerical machine with lots of capability and options.
Panasonic Projector Lenses:
First of all, the PT-D3500U uses interchangeable bayonet type lenses. When my evaluation unit arrived, the standard lens was shipped seperately (not in the box with the projector). Once extracting the projector and the lens from their boxes, it took approximately 10 seconds to install the lens. Just too easy.
Panasonic offers 5 additional optional lenses to choose from (the same lenses work with their more powerful, 5000 lumen PT-D5500u. In addition to the "standard" zoom lens, there is a extremely short thow fixed wide angle lens, ideal for tight rear screen applications, plus a wide angle zoom, a medium telephoto zoom, an long telephoto zoom and an extremely long throw zoom. The extreme zoom can place the projector as far back as 54 feet from a 100" screen, which is ideal for back of room mounting of the projector.
Projector Lamps and Brightness
In addition to the standard lamp provided with the projector, which is rated at 1500 hours, Panasonic offers a longer life replacement lamp option. If you chose the long life lamp, you will get up to 4000 hours, but brightness drops to about half.
Panasonic is very serious about you replacing your lamp on a timely basis. With a standard lamp it warns you starting at 1300 hours (3800 hours for a long life lamp). At 1500 hours (4000 long life lamp) the projector will only power up for 10 minutes and then shut down. In other words, get a spare lamp when you get the first warning, if not before.
The Panasonic PT-D3500U remote control is compact, offers discrete buttons for each input, has remote mousing for your computer (with the Enter - left mouse - accomplished by a button for your trigger finger, under the remote, or by pressing down the disk pad (marked Enter). In order to do remote mousing, however, you will need to order the optional IR receiver - a tiny device that plugs into the USB port on your computer (Panasonic part number: ET-RMRC2). Just point the remote toward the computer, not the projector, to make use of the remote mousing functions.
Panasonic realizes that this class of projector may be used in multiple quantities. For example you might stack two together (thanks to lens shift) to virtually double the brightness, or you might have several in a large auditorium, church or command and control center. As a result, there is ID control, so the remote can control multiple PT-D3500U's together, or hit the button, use the keypad and select a specific projector to control. All-in-all, its a very slick setup that should work beautifully.
The remote also allows you to enter numeric passwords. This ties into one of the security features of this Panasonic - which includes the option of locking out the projector's top control panel. That way, without the remote and password, the projector can't be used!
The remote also offers freeze frame, and a button for the mechanical shutter to completely shut down light hitting the screen, without powering down the projector. The PT-D3500U also offers 3:1 digital zoom, which is controllable (in and out) by two buttons on the remote. A single button marked Lens, allows you to rotate throw the three lens controls: Power Focus, Power Zoom, and Power Vertical Lens Shift.
Projector Lens Shift
This Panasonic projector, like its big brother - the PT-D5500U DLP projector offers powered vertical lens shift, and manual horizontal lens shift. Lens shift allows you to place the projector over a wide range of positions without having to go to image degrading digital keystone correction to maintain a rectangular image. With the vertical lens shift the center of the lens can be located well above the top of the screen surface when ceiling mounting, or on a table or shelf, down noticeably below the bottom of the screen surface.
The other benefit of lens shift is that it allows you to stack 2 or 3 projectors vertically (also horizontally in the case of these Panasonic projectors since they have both vertical and horizontal lens shift. By stacking you can effectively double or triple the brightness. Perfect for large auditoriums, bright churches, sports bars, and casino sports books, etc. (Stacking also gives you redundency - if one projector should fail, the other is still operational.
Daylight View is corrective circuitry provided in most new Panasonic projectors. It relies on a light sensor that monitors room lighting. In bright rooms it automatically enhances contrast, color saturation, etc. to improve overall picture quality and minumize the tendency for the image to wash out.
Panasonic claims that Daylight View is almost like having a projector that is 50% brighter, and I think they are getting carried away in their enthusiasm. I looked at Daylight View closely a couple of months ago when reviewing the Panasonic PT-LB30NTU wireless networking projector. Remember that whites don't get any brighter. I'll concede that in bright rooms Daylight View might help to the tune of an extra 20% more lumens, overall, but not 50%.
Other brands of projectors may have settings such as "Dynamic", which also tweak settings, the big difference here, is that Daylight View actually "observes" room lighting conditions and adjusts accordingly, instead of having one "fits all" setting for brighter situations.
This is another feature Panasonic puts on their projectors - and also their Plasmas. It controls gray scale and adjusts on an "frame by frame" basis. On video it helps improve dynamics on dark scenes along with other capabilities. Default is turned on, and overall it really does help picture quality.
Direct Power Off
Thanks to a large built in capacitor that acts as a battery, this Panasonic projector (like most new Panasonic projector models), can be unplugged immediately after hitting the Power Off. The fan will continue to run, without power connected for a couple of minutes, eliminating the risk of shortening lamp life or damaging the projector from lack of proper cool down. Note, please; do not shove the projector into a tight carry case or shipping case, while the fan is still running, the projector does require ventilation while the fan is running.
The Panasonic claims 29db (very, very quiet for a business projector) in low power mode, but it also plenty quiet at full power. without measuring I would put it at 34 db. For a large, bright projector designed for larger rooms, that is quieter than users would normally demand.
Operating in Harsh Environments:
First, let me note that this Panasonic DLP projector has a sealed light path, preventing dust, dirt, and moisture from getting between the light source and the outside of the lens. This means less maintanence, less headaches - no dust blobs, etc.
The operating range of the Panasonic PT-D3500U is exceptional. It will run in areas as cold as 0 degrees centigrade (32 degrees Farenheit), and as hot as 40 centigrade (104 degrees farenheit)! Note, if you are high altitude (over 4600 feet to 8881 feet) you are limited to a maximum temperature of 95 degrees farenheit (35 centigrade).
This really works well if you have outdoor projection in mind, but also any temporary environment like trailers where consistant climate control could be a problem.
Panasonic's menus are very plain - in fact - as someone commented they look like something you would expect to find in a 1990 camcorder; with text in all capitals and very limited graphics. Overall navigation is good, not great, as they could improve the layout. As you can see, the menus are translucent, a plus if you are adjusting image controls it lets you see most of the screen.
As you can see from looking at the main menu, there are a large number of sub-menus. Also shown is the Option 1 menu. There is a network menu that allows you to input settings so that the projector can be controlled from anywhere over a web browser, as long as the projector is hooked up to a network with web access!
8 test patterns are also accessible from the Main Menu. All in all Panasonic offers a tremendous number of options and control, but this should not be surprising as this truly is a commercial quality projector, in both performance and capabilities.
The Panasonic PT-D3500U Operating Manual
Wow! It's a great, comprehensive manual. It starts with a great table of contents, with perhaps 100 separate entries. All together there are 70 pages between the covers, all but the last 7, in English. (The last 7 are warnings in French). Most projector manuals that are 70 pages long, are that long because they have 10 pages each in 7 languages. The explanations are clear, plenty of illustrations, and tons of charts - including lens throws for all optional lenses, mounting geometry, menus, etc.
Plug the projector into your network and configure it, and you can locate it on your network, or remotely over the internet (if your network is online), to control the projector. The Panasonic PT-D3500u can be controlled, it will show warnings if it needs maintenance, lamp change, filter change, etc. It can even send out emails advising on its status. The software interface for the networking is much newer and professional looking than the basic menus on the projectors.