Sanyo PLV-Z60 Projector Review: Image Quality
Sanyo PLV-Z60 Image Quality Sections:
Sanyo PLV-Z60 Projector; Out of the Box Picture Quality
Skin Tone Handling
PLV-Z60 Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail
PLV-Z60 for HDTV and Sports
Overall Image Quality (post Calibration)
Sanyo PLV-Z60 Home Theater Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality
Actually, the PLV-Z60 does a very good job out of the box, when it comes to color accuracy. In a perfect world, for movie watching, you want a color temperature of 6500K, across the range from white, thru gray, to black. The PLV-Z60 does just that in its best mode, Pure Cinema, averaging just less than 6600K (which is extremely close). As a result, you get exactly what you should expect, nice natural looking skin tones, and a proper balance between warm (reds) and cool (blues).
Other modes all tend to be significantly cooler (more blue, thin on red), althought Brilliant Color and Creative Cinema presets are on the cool side, and need work, they aren't really bad.
Bottom line - for movie watching, in the PLV-Z60's best, and least bright mode, is extremely good, for out of the box performance, while the others are more typical. The brightest modes are way cool, and definitely need work to end up with a mode that's both bright, and has acceptable color balance. All considered, the PLV-Z60 is better than much of the competition.
Sanyo PLV-Z60: Skin Tone Handling
Post calibration, handling of skin tones gets even better (Pure Cinema mode), than the already most impressive performance. At this point, however, I need to pause to explain the photos below. There is some color shift from left to right, as noted. I must also explain, that due to an error on my part, when I did this photo shoot, I did not use the settings I normally use. I ended up with a significantly higher contrast setting on my Olympus dSLR, than I normally use. For the first time, I have felt it necessary to modify all the images to compensate. In this case, I reduced contrast, and color saturation slightly, in the RAW photo format, before cropping and resizing. All of the images were adjusted the same way. No attempt to alter the color balance was attempted, just contrast and saturation. I'm still not thrilled with the final, they are still a bit too saturated, but keep all that in mind. Please note, because of the background issue, when Sanyo sends out a new PLV-Z60, I will reshoot a few of the images and provide at at least one direct comparision which should help you out.
As always, though, there are limits to the photography, they can be useful to you, in that they support my commentary, but what you will see on your screen if you buy a projector, will always look better than the best these images can look on your computer screen. Always!
Other than the slight color shift from left to right, you should be able to appreciate the naturalness of skin tones. We'll start with the usual 2 "low-def" images of Gandalf and Arwen, from Lord of the Rings (standard DVD - SD-DVD). All other movie images are from Blu-ray disc. (Note, you can see that color shift I mentioned, by comparing the buildings in the background, on the left, to the right side.
Click on this image, and most others in this review, for a much larger version.
Images from Blu-ray disc sources:
Remember, when looking at images, that skin tones, and color in general will vary, depending on the supposed lighting on the subject, and the director's intent. The same person's skin tones will look different when you compare direct sunlight, filtered sunlight (shade), cloudy days, incandescent lighting, fluorescent lighting, night lighting, etc. There are three images of Daniel Craig as Bond, in Casino Royale. The first is direct sunlight, the second, florescent lighting (in an airport), and lastly filtered sunlight. You should get the idea!
Bottom Line: The Sanyo has no trouble handling skin tones, and provides a pretty natural feel to them. In some ways, the Z60 is a bit more film-like than some of the other 3LCD projectors, reminding me a little like some of those very natural DLP projectors, albeight without quite the sense of depth that some of the best DLP's provide. Overall, very solid performance, but modes other than Pure Cinema definitely need a basic end user calibration to appreciate what the Z60 is capable of!
Sanyo PLV-Z60: Black Level and Shadow Detail
PLV-Z60 Black Level Performance
This first Blu-ray image is from Space Cowboys - a nice dynamic, dark scene with a small area of bright white, and also bright red - a challenge for a dynamic iris.
The Sanyo Z60 does a respectable job, however the blacks just lack that ideal "inky black", that more expensive projectors with even better black levels can offer.
Of course, keep in mind, that there now seem to be three tiers of home theater projectors: 720p projectors with generally respectable black levels, entry level 1080p projectors, also with respectable black levels, and higher end 1080p projectors with extremely good, to excellent black levels.
To get into the first category - 720p projectors - you are looking $800 to $1300. For the 2nd group, basic 1080p projectors, around $1700 - $2500, and those with much better black levels, $2500 - $10,000. Still, the projectors within each category will have plenty of variation.
Back to the Sanyo PLV-Z60 and it's black level performance. Next are a couple of additional images, starting with the starship from The Fifth Element:
As you can see above, the stars are all out, but I've left in the letterbox area, intentionally. You can just tell, that it's not fully black, to get this level of exposure (slightly overexposed). More expensive projectors with better black levels can be much further overexposed before the letterbox area starts becoming visible. Still, for a 720p projector, the Z60 is pretty good!
Below is a very dark scene from Casino Royale. Once again, it is slightly overexposed to bring out shadow detail especially in the right side greenery behind the tracks. Again, as above, to get this level of brightness so you can make out the details in the shrubs and trees, the letterbox is no longer black. It is definitely a shade or to lighter gray. With some best performing 1080p projectors - such as the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, I can overexpose the image significantly more and still have the letterbox appear jet black.
Bottom line on black level performance: The Sanyo PLV-Z60 is definitely doing a good, but not spectacular job for a 720p projector. It's hard to nail it down precisely because of the uneven background of this sample projector. Still, I'd have to give it a slight edge over the Panasonic PT-AX200U, the best selling of all the 720p home theater projectors. The PT-AX200U is now a year old, but it doesn't look like Panasonic plans to replace it anytime soon.
Editor's Update: 10/14/2008: Regarding background uneven color issue
As noted in the review when released, the pre-production PLV-Z60 exhibited a significant amount of color shift in the background. Red is more predominent on the left, and blue-green to the right. Further, it's not an even shift. For example, the upper right corner is the most affected. This type of problem is common with pre-production (sample) units, but relatively rare, with full production projectors.
A second, this time full production PLV-Z60 arrived a few days ago. The sole purpose of getting it in, was to see if a production unit is significantly better.
The unit Sanyo sent was quite obviously brand new in the box, not one checked out before sending to me.
I am pleased to report that the problem is gone. Or, I should say, as gone as can be expected - no three chip device is every perfect across the full screen, in color consistency. The point is, the second Z60 performs as expected, and very well, at that.
For your consideration, first a long time exposure of just the "black" screen (and the little white pause marker from my PS3). It is from the new projector. As you peer closely, you can see variation in background brightness, but that is typical of most projectors, and the Z60 is probably a bit better than average. You can still make out a little bit of color shift, but, now it's well within reasonable levels:
A better example are these next two images of Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings. The first one below (yes, you can click for a larger version), is from the pre-production Z60, while the second one is from the new Z60.
It is easy to see the shift to red, in the whole upper left corner of the first image, and the change as your eye moves past Gandalf, to the right.
In the second image, the color from top left to right is extremely close, and is not going to be visible during normal viewing. BTW, the second Z60 was not calibrated, so you are seeing what it looks like on this image, right out of the box. Forgetting exposure for a second, the PLV-Z60 does a very nice job on skin tones without calibration. OK, the original PLV-Z60:
And the new PLV-Z60:
Much better. As predicted, no problem with the production PLV-Z60!
End of update. -art
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Sanyo PLV-Z60: Shadow Detail Performance
Once again, the PLV-Z60 performs very well, but not quite best in class. The first image here is from Space Cowboys - a photo of a scene with Clint Eastwood in his home office, a room lit only by a small table lamp, makes this an especially dark scene. Because of that, all the images are multiple second exposures, and that tends to make the images less consistent from projector to projector, in terms of color. What are subtle differences (a slight shift to red, or blue, or green) when viewed live on the screen, tends to be drastically exaggerated when photographed. As a result, ignore the color shifts, and instead focus on the shadow details, in the blinds in the back, the beer bottle, the back of Clint's head, etc.
First here's the image from the Sanyo PLV-Z60. You can, I should note, also make out in the scene, the blue hotspot in the upper right side of the image. This ties to the background evenness issue previously mentioned Obviously we'd see a little more shadow detail in that area in a production unit that has a good background:
Comparing the image above to the Mitsubishi image below, note that the Z60 is a little brighter. The letterbox area is also a touch brighter than in the image below. Compensate for the slight difference in exposures, and these two projectors are doing a roughly comparable job on black levels, and the same is true of shadow detail. I might give the Z60 the slightest advantage, and that's from studying the images, compensating for an exposure difference that's slight, etc. Let me say, though in fairness, that any slight advantage in shadow details that the Z60 has over the Mitsubishi HC1600, is not going to be enough to help you choose one over the other. We are talking slight!
Mitsubishi HC1600 below - a very popular 720p DLP projector:
Next. Optoma H65 (sorry, this image is a little underxposed compared to the others, so you'll have to mentally compensate):
Now, here's a fourth image, from the JVC RS1, which until a year ago, had the best black levels, and very good shadow detail, and widely considered the best 1080p projector at the time.
You can see the various differences in shadow details, but you can also see the differences in black levels.
In the next images (Space Cowboys) look for the shadow details in the satellite on the left side of the image. Immediately below is the PLV-Z60
Below we have four additional "thumbnails" of this cropped HD scene. Click on each for an overexposed version.
The images below, by row, starting top left:
In this re-entry photo, just some more comparison. This time the Sanyo is left side, Mitsubishi HC1600 center, Optoma HD65 on the right:
Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
Again, we have seriously overexposed these images. The images you see below are all from the same projector with a normal exposure, but when you click on each, you will get the larger, overexposed image. Look for shadow details in the roof, and the trees. the Mitsubishi, again, really pulls out all the details for you to see:
Mitsubishi HC1600 projector:
Some of you may be wondering why I haven't included any comparison images from the older Sanyo PLV-Z5. The explanation is simple, almost all our images for the last 18 months have been from Blu-ray disc. The Sanyo Z5, is actually a two year old projector, as Sanyo did not replace it last fall. As a result, simply stated, I haven't had my hands on a Z5 for almost two years, and therefore none of the same images. Based on the specs, the new PLV-Z60 should have a modest advantage in shadow detail compared with its predecessor, the PLV-Z5!
Click on the thumbnail for a larger, overexposed image. You'll find this image in almost all projector reviews. You can easily make out details in all the dark areas - the shed on the right, the plants along the bottom, and also in the wood in the structure on the left.
Left to right top row: Sanyo Z60, Mitsubishi HC1600, Panasonic PT-AX200U
Left to right bottom row: Epson Home Cinema 720, Optoma HD71, Epson Moviemate 72
Note, I am switching to the new version of the DTS demo disc, which has a different main screen. As a result the image for the Z60 is completely different than that for the other projectors, yet should still provide a good comparison. I'll be using the new image in future reviews.
Finally, a close up of the computer monitor from Space Cowboys
Below - Sanyo PLV-Z60 (left) the Mitsubishi HC1600 (2nd from left), the Optoma HD65 (right center), and the Panasonic PT-AX200U (far right). A quick comment on the Panasonic. They chose to implement what they call SmoothScreen technology, which makes the pixels virtually invisible, far less so than other 3LCD projectors and also far less so than DLP projectors. It does take a toll in sharpness.
Bottom line: The Sanyo PLV-Z60 is a very sharp 720p projector. It has a definite advantage on the other 3LCD projectors from Epson and Panasonic, and holds its own with the DLP projectors.
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Performance: HDTV and Sports
In its brightest modes, the Sanyo PLV-60 projector, provides a clear, crisp image when watching HDTV and especially sports on HDTV. On the downside, however, the Z60 still suffers from being below average in brightness for a 720p projector. In this regard it is similar to the older PLV-Z5, and the excellent little Optoma HD65.
Since most people don't want to watch TV, and in particular, sports, in a "cave", with the room fully darkened, brightness will be a big deciding point for those who are not looking for a projector just for movies. If you are running a smaller screen - say 100" diagonal or less, or have very good lighting control so you can get the background ambient lighting to an acceptable level without much of the lighting hitting the screen, then, the Sanyo's 1190 measured lumens in it's brightest mode should definitely be adequate. Consider though, three competing projectors - the Optoma HD71, the Panasonic PT-AX200 and the Epson Home Cinema 720 (being replaced by an even brighter Home Cinema 700 in December), all have at least 50% more lumens in their respective brightest modes.
Here are a few images from the Olympics and football games, as well as a couple from HDTV regular programming, for your consideration:
Overall Image Quality
The Sanyo PLV-Z60 projector is solid, all around, in terms of image quality. It combines a sharp image, with good black levels and shadow detail. While out of the box performance is very good for Pure Cinema mode - its best (and least bright), and brightest modes definitely need some attention. Using an end user calibration disc like the DVE-HD disc on Blu-ray, or the Avia disc (standard DVD), should give you very good color accuracy in the major preset modes. In most cases, even a novice can use these discs and calibrate one of the preset modes in less than an hour. Do it.
Here are a few additional images covering a wide range of scenes, to give you a further idea about the Z60's abilities.