Sanyo PLV-Z3 - Overview
Strange days. Toward the end of 2003, Sanyo introduced their Z2, to rave reviews. A couple months later, Panasonic shipped their competing AE500u, and the battle for supremacy in the $2000 price class for home theater projectors was on. While each had strengths over the other, the Sanyo offered more features.
It's the end of 2004, and history is almost repeating itself. This time Panasonic launched their AE700u (the 500u's replacement) first, at the beginning of October, and Sanyo followed with the Z3 about a month later. Again, these two new projectors (along with InFocus's Screenplay 5000) dominate the $2000 market. This time, it is the Panasonic with more features, although the Sanyo has some tricks of its own. Like the Panasonic, the Sanyo PLV-Z3 is a very significant improvement over last year's Z2 and L500u.
Sanyo's PLV-Z3 is rated 800 lumens and while none of the home theater projectors come close to their claimed brightness (sometimes as little as 30% of claim) when in their best modes, the Sanyo Z3 does better than most. More on this later.
Resolution is native 16:9, with 1280x720 pixels and contrast is rated 2000:1 matching many of the highly touted DLP projectors that start with selling prices over $4000 and going up to $15,000.
The Sanyo Z3 offers an adjustable iris, that "stops down" the lens, and increases contrast, to achieve the claimed 2000:1 ratio. 2000:1 means that the Sanyo can produce very good blacks and shadow detail that approach those much more expensive DLP models. In stopping down the lens however, you do give up a significant amount of brightness (this is also true of Panasonic's AE700, which does things somewhat differently but also uses an iris to the same end result). This is a home theater projector, and it is intended to be used in a near dark room. When you run the modes that maximize contrast, by relying more on the electronic iris, you start running out of brightness. Based on the machine's overall brightness, I would recommend that the screen size not exceed 100" diagonal unless you have near black conditions with dark walls, or go with a screen that provides gain, such as the Firehawk or a Studiotek with a gain of 1.3.
For handling the highest quality sources, the Sanyo Z3 has component video inputs and also HDMI the new digital video standard. (HDMI can be thought of as a superset of DVI which has been around for several years, and is found on most home theater projectors. The HDMI interface will handle signals from cable boxes, satellite receivers, some of the best DVD players, etc, that have DVI output.
The Z3 offers a zoom lens with very typical characteristics. The range is 1.3 to 1, or 30% adjustment. If you select a 100" screen the projector will need to be from just under 10 feet to just over 13 feet. This should work well on a table or ceiling mounting, and if your room is not too long, but almost square, you may be able to place the projector on a shelf in the rear of the room.
One real plus of the Z3 is optical lens shift. This allows you to maintain a rectangular image even if the projector is placed somewhat above, or below the screen. Few home theater projectors under $8000 offer this feature, and some that do, such as the Z3's competitor, the Panasonic, have a much more limited range, which doesn't help, if you need the projector down low, below the bottom of the screen, or ceiling mounted - above the top of the screen. The Z3 has enough range to help out in these scenarios, making proper setup viable when others won't work.
Let's take a look at the physical attributes of the Z3.