Planar 7060 Projector Review - Image Quality
Affordable DLP projectors sporting the top of the line Darkchip3 DLP processor (with superior black level performance and contrast) are few and far between, at least compared to the lower priced Darkchip2 projectors which now start at under $1000 US. In the US market, Optoma has had their HD7100, now being replaced by a more expensive (and more capable) HD7300 with outboard processing from Gennum. We have been awaiting their $2000 HD73, but as of this writing it isn't shipping yet. BenQ's PE-8720 is very capable, and flexible and still commanding over $3000 street price.
Enter the Planar 7060, at $2995 MSRP. This is the least expensive of the three Planar's with Darkchip3, and the only one without lens shift.
What counts most, though, if the 7060 will work in your room, is its image quality, which I should start off by saying is excellent, as the images will show.
I mentioned in the first page, that there was one serious problem with the pre-production 7060 I was provided. Fortunately Planar's product management had a quick work-around for it, and assured me that the units just being shipped have upgraded firmware that solves that problem. I will show you what was happening below, but hate to start this section "with a problem".
So let's begin with handling of flesh tones, which I have to say, the Planar 7060 does very well out of the box. The first images below, are the usual suspects - from Lord of the Rings - Return of the King, and The Fifth Element. Let's start with Gandalf, and Arwen:
Let me note that all the images shown, are "out of the box" performance - no calibration of any sort, other than a quick adjustment of brightness and contrast. And, the "fix" for the problem, which amounted to setting what Planar labels as white peaking from 0 to 10 (out of 100). That setting of white peaking, primarily affects very dark areas, which I will show you the results below.) Overall, considering no tuning of grayscale has been done, the color balance is very, very good. (As usual, you may click to enlarge almost all images).
Please consider - these images are here to support our commentary, not the other way around. There are limitations to the digital images I shoot, for openers, the camera can't capture the full dynamic range of what the projectors can put on a screen. As a result, shadow detail is lost, and some hightlight detail gets blown out as well. The images can provide some useful insight, in conjunction with the text, but take them with "a pound of salt" - as a grain won't be enough! -art
The Fifth Element:
Leeloo above looks just about right - good highights in her orange hair, not too purple a cast in her face (which is the tendency of most projectors), based on the original image), and natural looking lips and eyes.
Bruce Willis looks good above, with the flesh tones appearing very natural, considering the warm (indoor theater lighting) cast to the scene.
Will Smith also looks very good in the image below from I, Robot. The reds are just the tiniest bit strong, yet his skin tone looks very natural. Again, no adjustment to color balance has even been attempted. Not bad at all!
Of course HD sources are much higher quality, with better dynamic range than regular DVDs, so here are a few images from HD-DVD, starting with the movie Aeon Flux:
I especially was impressed with the first of these two images, a night scene and Aeon's skin tones looked just exceptional.
The classic image of La Carlota, from Phantom of the Opera:
And Clint Eastwood from the HD-DVD of Space Cowboys. I will note that the frame itself has a tendency toward strong reds, as seen in the same image on most projectors, and in general the Space Cowboys HD-DVD has a bit more color saturation that most, which attributes to this red tendency on projectors.
For a quick comparison, the image below, is the same frame but shot with the Epson Pro Cinema 810, which is an LCD projector, and priced the same. The Epson shot was taken after doing a grayscale adjustment. That said, I prefer the Planar except for the higher contrast in dark areas (right side of Clint's face), which, as I will note, is directly attributable to that aforementioned problem.
OK, before moving on to other aspects of image quality, let's consider this Pre-production projector's problem. Basically, as explained to me by Planar, the secondary colors - Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta - (and those close to them) are seriously desaturated with white peaking at 0. This is resulting in what appears to be a flattening, and limited color palette in dark areas. It's enough to make a drastic change to the image , and an untennable one at that.
When I first spotted the problem (about 5 minutes into using the 7060), it was apparent that very dark areas were really bad. Consider this same frame from a very dark scene from Space Cowboys, shot first as I orignally spotted it, and below, after adjusting the white peaking to 10. In this scene the room is completely dark except for a small light on a drafting table (below to the right). In the original setup, Clint's face is almost not there, and in the neck area, and in the denim shirt, it looks like colors are posterized, far too few to make smooth transitions or a natural feel (you can click to enlarge).
Resetting the white peaking to 10, as recommended by Planar, made a word of difference, not perfect, but, overall, brought performance up to easily acceptable levels. You'll also notice details on the back wall, and right side, completely missing from the first image. The exposures were almost identical.
When I pointed out the problem initially to Planar, I photographed the same image on my BenQ PE-8720, and sent them both. Here is one of the images from the BenQ, although the exposure is darker than the others, you can see that like the lower picture above, it is less contrasty. You can still see the upper part of Clint's face, unlike the first image. And you can see more detail in the walls.
Sorry no enlargement. Bottom line on the problem. The setting of the white peaking at 10 is a work around. The ideal is to have the problem fixed, and be able to compare using the 0 setting. For that, however, I'll have to wait for a production version to come in (soon I hope).
Despite the inherent problem with this unit, setting white peaking to 10, ended up providing very good final results. And on bright scenes, 0 or 10 looked great. it took many other comparison images, but won't spend your time, on a problem defined, and not relevant to someone buying a full production version with updated firmware.
Overall color handling and dynamics of the Planar 7060
With white peaking set to 10, here is a good cross section to show how the Planar 7060 performed overall. Generally images were richly saturated, and offer nice dark blacks for a feel of good depth:
The three above, are from Aeon Flux (HD-DVD), next, from Phantom of the Opera (also HD-DVD):
And, Space Cowboys (HD-DVD):
Switching back to standard DVDs, starting with Starship Troopers:
Above, is the Throneroom of Gondor from Lord of the rings. The Planar 7060 does a good job on this high contrast scene, (including pulling all the details up in the floors), and I imagine it will do better still with the corrected, production units. Below, a city scene from The Fifth Element:
Planar 7060 Shadow Detail and Black Levels
Let's take a look at some images, and discuss black levels and shadow detail. Rather, I will focus on black levels, because I suspect that my conclusions on shadow details will not be accurate, relative to the production versions, as they will perform better.
Black levels are most impressive, as I would expect from any Darkchip3 DLP projector. Note, the two higher end Planar's claim even better, and use a dynamic iris.
On star scenes the Planar 7060 (white peaking at 10) performed admirably. Not only did it reveal lots and lots of stars (especially compared to lesser projectors), but the blacks had that "inky" black look to them, that really makes you think "pure black".
Starting first with standard DVD, here are two images from The Fifth Element, the first, the starship image found on almost all reviews done for the last year or more:
Despite the exposure being pretty much "right on" there are plenty of stars. Slightly overexposing the image brings out even more, and makes them look more spectacular, but oversaturates areas of the ship and flare on the left (the oversaturation comes from camera limitations).
This second image I have been using to demonstrate black levels, especially with projectors having dynamic irises (almost all are LCD projectors, which inherently can't match DLP's black level performance, so use irises to compensate. When a projector has a dynamic iris, I take a shot as you see it here, and again with menus open. The bright menus, effectively defeat the use of the iris, and you get to see the black level quality deteriorate. Since there is no iris, no need for the menu shot.
Space Cowboys (HD-DVD) is even better thanks to the extended dynamics of HD-DVD:
Good performance in terms of black levels and shadow detail is not just about counting stars, so here are a number of dark scenes, to give you a good idea of the Planar's abilities, starting with one of my favorite scenes to work with, from Aeon Flux. The near black table top, and bright lighting make this scene tough to reproduce well, yet the Planar 7060 does it just fine. Note, in particular, the shadows cast on the table on the lower center and right. I can't wait to see how a production 7060 handles this scene:
Here's a night scene from Aeon Flux - rich colors, great saturation. Eye-popping!
Phantom of the Opera weighs in with this night scene:
And, while we are back to Phantom, here is the cavern scene I use to reveal dark shadow details in all recent projector reviews: The first image is normally exposed, and the second one, significantly overexposed so that you can see details in the walls, ground, and the horse, that are lost by the limitations of my digital camera:
You can easily see the frescos on the wall behind the horse, and middle right, but the detail in the darkest areas on the right wall, and the left wall, lack any detail. Other projectors do better. However, this ties directly to the problem described above. I will reshoot this image when the production 7060 arrives.
In the same vein, here is the scene I use on regular DVD from Lord of the Rings. In this case, however, the details we are looking for are not as close to black as above, so you really can see the details in the shed and the grown.
Below are additional photos, frames from Sin City (standard DVD), that are inherently dark and good tests for a projectors ability to present shadow details: The first three, in a bar, show Nancy Dancing, a man drinking, and a closeup of Nancy. In this sequence the movie is basically shot in black and white (or rather sepia/white), with only occasional spot color. Note the details in the walls and objects on the right, in the first image.
One more image from HD-DVD (Space Cowboys):
Our last image is from Phantom again, but this time from the black and white section of the movie at the beginning. Shadow detail is good, but I plan to review this image with the replacement, production, 7060:
Planar 7060 home theater projector: Image Sharpness
What a pleasant surprise. In the wonderful world of 720p projectors there are only (in the affordable ranges) a few that are especially sharp, and fewer that are especially sharp, and DLP. The Planar 7060 is one of them. Planar has done an excellent job. I put the 7060 right there with the BenQ PE8720 that I own (and slightly more expensive) as the two sharpest of the DLP projectors (short of spending $10,999 for the Marantz VP-12S4). Other particularly sharp projectors include the Sanyo PLV-Z5, and the Sony HS-51A (HS60 overseas), both LCD projectors. The Epson Pro Cinema 810, my last review, which is also a $2995 projector, I commented on as having good sharpness, however, I viewed the Epson side by side with the Planar 7060, with the same sources being fed. Of the two, the Planar is visibly sharper.
Lower cost DLP projectors, like the Optoma HD70 and HD72, the Mitsubishi HD1000U and HC3000, cannot match the sharpness of the Planar 7060. Only other lower cost DLP projector that might be in the battle would be BenQ's PE7700 which was always pretty sharp, however, that review was done almost 2 years ago, and the only hi-def images used, where from D-Vhs tape, which I don' t use anymore, so I have no direct comparisons. If I had to take a guess, though, my money would be on the Planar. Even InFocus's IN76 did not strike me as exceptionally sharp.
Let's take a look, starting with the closeup of the Computer Monitor image from Space Cowboys (HD-DVD)
Immediately below are two identical images (showing the same frame side by side on the two projectors (Epson on the left). The reason you see two identical pairs, is that if you click on the first pair, you will get a closeup and larger image of the Planer 7060. The second one will also open a window, but with the same closeup of the Epson. As you look at various text on the monitors and other details the difference in sharpness is slight, but visible!
Next is the usual closeup of La Carlota's neckace from Phantom, an image found in most reviews this is a small section of the same frame found above (8th image on this page).:
One of the best comparsion images is this one below from Aeon Flux. Look at the detail in the hair (above her forehead, and straggling hairs on the sides, as well as the sharpness and gleam in her eye. I find this image very telling, with the best of the 1080p projectors really capturing that razor sharp gleam, and the best 720p projectors doing a pretty good job of the same.
Also from Aeon Flux, this shot of Aeon, and a closeup when you click to enlarge:
And not many frames later, the movie zooms in to one eye:
One more Hi-def image - from The Italian Job. The enlarged version is also cropped in. Look for details in the columns, and the sign next to the lampost:
Before we move on to the General Performance section, time to spend a few moments on:
Planar 7060 HDTV performance
I took a number of images, but I want to start with two images of the Tonight Show, with Jay Leno. Normally for HDTV or regular TV viewing you want a cooler (more blue color balance in the 7500K - 8000K range. This first image of Leno was accidently shot with the projector still set for movies, with the Color Temp at the warmer 6500K. As a result, you'll note that Leno is a bit red overall. In the second image the color balance was moved to 9000K which actually measured closer to 8000K. The more ideal 7500K setting measured in the upper 6000's so the 9000K setting worked better. I did not further adjust the color, which could be tweaked to be even better Notice the huge difference in flesh tones, and his tie.:
Moving now, to the Superbowl here are a couple of great looking images:
I watch a lot of music videos in Hi-def, here's a shot of the Sugarland - Bon Jovi concert:
And definitely check out (on the summary page), the closeup image of Pete Townsend from The Who, grabbed from the hi-def Isle of Wight concert, the sharpness and detail is stunning!
BTW, the big problem with concert images is that the concert lighting is anything but natural!
That about raps up this section. I have a few "extra" images for your consideration, and then it's time to visit the General Performance section, where we look at menus, remote control, projector brightness, screen recommendations, and more.
Enough, click below to proceed to the next section!