Planar PD8150 1080p Home Projector Review: Image Quality
Planar PD8150: Image Quality Sections
Planar PD8150 Projector; Out of the Box Picture Quality
PD8150 Skin Tone Handling
PD8150 Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail
Overall Image Quality (post Calibration)
PD8150 for HDTV and Sports
Bottom Line Image Quality (and additional images)
As you start this section, please remember that there are definite limits about how well we can capture images of what we see on the screeen, even with a very good dSLR, and also remember that your screen display is very limited in contrast, as well. Please use the images as support for commentary. Comparative images designed to show shadow detail, or black levels are very useful, but attempting to compare exact color between two projectors by the images can be misleading as the reproduction is inherently inferior to the original on the screen. Hopefully you can sink your teeth into this section of the PD8150 review. So, here's your first taste, an image from the Digital Video Essentials - HD, calibration disc. Let the games begin:
Planar PD8150 Home Theater Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality
The PD8150 is one of the best home theater projectors we've seen in the last couple of years when it comes to out of the box performance. Color accuracy is very good, but a touch on the warm (red) side, still it's very close to ideal, and very watchable. That doesn't, however, mean that it can't be improved with a calibration. Almost all (if not all) Planar dealers should be able to offer calibration services.
Skin Tone Handling
After calibration, the image was even better, removing almost all of the slight shift towards red. The end result was excellent handling of skin tones, as the images below show.
We'll start with the usual image from standard DVD, of Ganalf, in Lord of the Rings. Skin tones are extremely natural looking in "best" mode.
Also from the same movie, this image of Arwen:
All the rest of the images are from hi-def on Blu-ray disc. First are three images of Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Casino Royale. They show Bond under three different lighting situations - direct sunlight, fluorescent lighting, and filtered sunlight. All look realistic for the type of lighting. Other lighting situations might include night, and incandescent lighting.
Here are a few more images for your consideration.
From Aeon Flux:
From Men In Black:
And, finally, a couple from House of the Flying Daggers:
Planar PD8150: Black Level and Shadow Detail
Black Level Performance
Most impressive! While the PD8150 isn't the best we've seen, it's definitely among the better ones in terms of black level performance. Planar won't say which DLP chip that the PD8150 uses, but my guess is that it's a Darkchip3, not the top of the line Darkchip4, but, that's not a problem.
Planar has a very good dynamic iris, which definitely improves the black levels on dark scenes. Very few DLP projectors use dynamic irises, so this gives the Planar projector an advantage. We found, for example that the PD8150 can do better black levels than the InFocus IN83, a direct competitor that uses the Darkchip4, but lacks a dynamic iris.
For your consideration, first, my old favorite, the Starship scene from The Fifth Element:
For comparison, here's the same image from the InFocus IN83. One can never get the exposures identical, and in this case the PD8150 is a definitely brighter overall, yet the blacks appear (despite all those extra stars) roughly comparable.
This image below, another space scene, is from Space Cowboys, and it too demonstrates very good black levels:
Lastly a more traditional image - just a good old fashioned night scene with significant black areas, from Aeon Flux:
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PD8150 Projector: Shadow Detail Performance
Let's start with a relatively new image that I just began using a few reviews ago. This is from Space Cowboys and is an excellent test for shadow detail.
You want to be looking at the dark part of the satellite on your left, and also the very dark areas in the top center. To help, here's the same image but seriously overexposed. It reveals a tremendous amount of detail in the dark areas.
Next is the night scene of the city of Gondor, from Lord of the Rings
Next, from Space Cowboys, is this very dark scene with Clint Eastwood, on Blu-ray. The photos are intentionally way overexposed. Look for the blacks in the shades, and the details in those shades in the form of the white trim. (At this level of overexposure, don't even worry about the colors, as in these type of photos they always look terrible, and way oversaturated/too high contrast).
First image is the PD8150, followed by the much lower cost Mitsubishi HC6500. Next is the the Sony VW60. The last three in the sequence are the Sanyo PLV-Z700, InFocus IN83 and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB.
Next is a cropped, overexposed image from Space Cowboys. Look at the front of the satellite (bottom left) at the shadow details. This is a good image for demonstrating shadow detail in brighter scenes, as much of the image is very bright, with plenty of pure white in the space suit.
PD8150, Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, (first row), Sony VPL-VW60, and the JVC RS1 (second row), third row is the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, and the Sanyo PLV-Z2000
On the left, is the PD8150, the middle, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and on the right is the InFocus IN83 which is about as good as it gets in shadow detail, although not up to, say, the Epson 1080 UB, in black level performance.
Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
When comparing, look at the detail in the roof (tiles), and also in the assorted trees and plants.
Planar PD8150 projector:
Sony VPL-VW40 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB projector:
InFocus IN83 projector: (a more expensive projector that I've been raving about)
Panasonic PT-AE2000U projector: (sorry, this one is a bit underexposed, compared to the others)
Click on left thumbnail image for the Mitusibishi PD8150, Sanyo PLV-Z700 in the center, and the right for the InFocus IN82.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Planar, while the second one is from the less expensive InFocus IN83. Note, the PD8150 image appears a little blurred, put that down to user error when I took the photo:
As you can see, both do extremely well, with almost identical performance. You can see a little more detail in the Planar photo, but you'll also notice it's a little brighter. Basically it's pretty much a tie, between these two excellent projectors.
Additional images widely used in our reviews for considering shadow detail, are found below.
In the image above, from the beginning of Casino Royale, look at the detail in the furniture along the back of the room.
Above is a heavily overexposed image from National Treasure. Look at the excellent shadow detail in the uppoer right. This image can be found in most recent reviews.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Image Sharpness
No question about the sharpness of the Planar PD8150, it is about as good as it gets!
Top left: Planar PD8150, Top Center, Sony VPL-VW60, Top right: Panasonic PT-AE2000U
2nd row left: Sanyo PLV-2000, middle: Optoma HD8000, right: InFocus IN83
Close up of a computer monitor, from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray), left to right PD8150, InFocus IN83, JVC RS2, and BenQ W20000. You'll note that the JVC RS2, considered perhaps the best sub-$10,000 projector, is noticeably softer looking (as are the popular Epson Home and Pro Cinema 1080 UB projectors.)
Planar PD8150: Bottom Line Sharpness
The PD8150 is excellent, the image is extremely sharp and crisp. A sharp, crisp image is a real strength of this Planar projector.
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Planar PD8150 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
Coming in a few days, including images.
My only real reservation, in terms of HDTV viewing relates to the Planar's brightness, since for normal TV viewing, and especially sports, few want to watch in the proverbial "cave" - full darkness.
Despite the fact that the PD8150 is below average in brightness in its "brightest" mode, you can get a very respectable image under ambient light conditions by engaging both Brilliant Color and Adaptive Contrast. You will find a great deal more information about those modes, in the Projector Brightness area on the General Performance page.
Planar PD8150 Projector: Overall Image Quality
Sweet! The Planar handles all types of scenes extremely well. Bright scenes are vibrant, dark scenes are rich. Colors are well balanced, and movies do look film-like. I spent at least 25 hours just viewing content using the PD8150.
Whether sci-fi, like IronMan or Blade Runner, Space Cowboys and The Fifth Element, or "normal" films without all the special effects, the PD8150 never disappointed. I do see it most similar to the InFocus IN83 and the JVC RS1x, although the RS1 should still have the black level advantage, but also has the softest image.
Here is a varied selection of images, both from film and digital, all from Blu-ray disc. I do believe they support my point that the PD8150 really performs beautifully.
Overall Picture Quality: Bottom Line
The PD8150 is a top performing projector when it comes to what it puts up on your screen. Natural looking is a great way to describe it. It is one of the very few projectors with excellent skin tones, superior black levels and a sharp image.