Sanyo PLV-Z700 Home Theater Projector Review: Image Quality
Sanyo PLV-Z700: Image Quality Sections
For your convenience, you can use these links to jump to sections further down this page.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Projector; Out of the Box Picture Quality
Skin Tone Handling
PLV-Z700 Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail
Overall Image Quality (post Calibration)
PLV-Z700 for HDTV and Sports
Bottom Line Image Quality (and additional images)
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Home Theater Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality
The PLV-Z700 right out of the box, hooked up, and watching assorted content, I quickly concluded that "out of the box" picture quality was reasonably good, and definitely not great. Overall, without adjustment, the image is too warm (reddish). Shadow detail was also just good (which improved with a slight increase to the brightness setting).
Overall, like the vast majority of home theater projectors, a noticeable and significant improvement can be made to the picture quality, by doing a basic, or professional calibration.
I found movie watching before adjustment to be "ok", and after the basic brightness and contrast settings, to be a little better.
The brightest mode - Dynamic, as with almost all projectors, sacrifices some color accuracy, to pump out maximum lumens. HD sports viewing in Dynamic mode provided a very watchable image, but one that was significantly improved by our calibration.
Bottom line: You won't get the full potential out of this projector (as is true for most), without spending a little time or money to get it calibrated. Plan B - just drop the calibration settings we came up with into the User memories, and start there. You will find them to provide a noticeable improvement.
Sanyo PLV-Z700: Skin Tone Handling
Once we got the PLV-Z700 calibrated, it started looking really good. Skin tones turned out to be extremely good overall, although in low lit scenes, it seemed they shifted just a little bit too much to red. This was even more the case, when watching TV in standard definition. I must comment now, though, that the numbers Mike came up with when calibrating for color saturation (+5), provided what was to my eye, a bit too much saturation. For much of my watching, I readjusted, instead using +1, and some might even go down to -1. (Photos were shot with the +1 setting) This may be in part due to my chosing to use the black level enhancement feature, and different iris combinations that I found more pleasing, than the core feature set Mike uses for calibration.
Once the color saturation was reduced, the slight shift to red in dark content was no longer an issue.
Please note, overall, at least on my computer screen, these images are just a little low in terms of color saturation. They certainly are that, compared to what appeared on the screen. Once again, this is related to the limitations of my dSLR software, working on my computer, and of course the limitations of your computer monitor, which doesn't come close to the performance of any good projector in terms of contrast, black levels, etc. In other words, the images are useful, but take them with "a grain of salt" (or more).
For your consideration, we'll start with two images from standard DVD format - the movie Lord of the Rings - Return of the King:
The image of Arwen above, looked particularly good. One thing I notice occasionally on this scene, is that due to the rich green forest, some of that green impacts the skin tone. On most projectors it isn't noticeable, but it should be. In the case of the Sanyo Z700 you can pick up on this, it's subtle, but more noticeable in her forehead. Nicely done.
The image of Gandalf is very natural looking, whereas pre-calibration it definitely was not as good.
Moving to hi-def content from Blu-ray disc, let's start with images from Aeon Flux, a sci-fi flick:
Again, skin tones look good. Unfortunately I picked a slightly overexposed frame (by accident) so the umbrellas in the background are somewhat faded compared to this image in other reviews. On screen, the umbrellas looked just fine!
Then there's an image of Leeloo from The Fifth Element, that is also found on all reviews:
In all reviews, I like to point out that determining great skin tone performance isn't easy. You have to consider the scene itself - obviously a person's face will have a different color balance depending on the scene lighting. Direct sunlight, incandescent light, cloudy day, fluoresecent lighting and night will all change the way a face looks.
Here are three images of Bond - Daniel Craig - from Casino Royale. The first - direct sunlight, the second - fluorescent lighting (in an airport), and "filtered" sunlight. As you can see, they vary significantly but all look very reasonable for the scene. In addition, below these, is one more image of Aeon, from Aeon Flux, which is a good example of how severely the color can shift when the director wants a certain effect. (Think - the green tint to everything in The Matrix movies.)
Here's that aforementioned image of Aeon. In this scene, the room is bathed in whites, washing out most color. The Sanyo PLV-Z700 handled this frame very well, with a very realistic result when it comes to the skin tones:
House of the Flying Daggers is a movie with very rich colors, although, I would say it's another example of the director wanting something a little "not dead on", which results in skin tones tending to be shifted slightly toward a pinkish shade. What you see here is consistent with other good projectors, post calibration:
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Black Level and Shadow Detail
Sanyo PLV-Z700: Black Level Performance
I can't say that I'm really disappointed, but I had hoped for a little more. I realized going in, that the claimed contrast of the PLV-Z700 is lower than the PLV-Z2000. In reality, that's fair, as the Z700 is considered Sanyo's entry-level 1080p projector while the old PLV-Z2000 is about to be replaced by a more expensive (than the Z700) PLV-Z3000. It would have been nice, though, if the Z700 matched the Z2000, especially since the PLV-Z3000 should have significantly better black levels than either of these two. That is, if specs are any indication.
What we have here, is a low cost 1080p projector with good black levels. It's definitely better than, say the old Mitsubishi HC4900, of that I have no doubt (one of the two least expensive), and it is probably comparable to the HC55500 (replaces the HC4900), depending on the settings you choose. Depending on settings, it should rival some of the basic DLP models using Darkchip 1 or Darkchip 2 DLP processors.
For those enthusiasts - really into pure performance, the PLV-Z700 is certainly not your end all solution, but may serve as a very good choice for those enthusiasts on a tight budget. Almost certainly the step up to the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 will be dramatic, in terms of black level performance.
Perhaps the most important point to discuss here, are all the combinations of dynamic and manual irises - including the lamp functions, and other advanced features. Fire them all up, and black levels are very respectable - but brightness is limited. The brightest settings for Creative Cinema, will limit black level performance. While we measured a good combination at around 675 lumens, I found that better black levels were achievable with more use of iris and advanced features. I would say I got a very respectable result from using both the dynamic iris (mode1), and lamp mode (A1), in combination with their Auto Black Stretch feature (I used low or mid), and the fixed iris at -25. Since we didn't measure that combination, I can only guess, but I put that guess between 450 and 525 lumens. And that is a nice, average brightness.
There are so many features that interreact with each other that the combinations are near endless. Enthusiasts will just love fooling with the different setting combinations and determining which is best for their room and viewing tastes. I only had time to view a handful of combinations.
This first Blu-ray image is from Space Cowboys - a nice dynamic, dark scene with a small area of bright white, and also a larger bright red area- a challenge for a dynamic iris.
Next is my favorite image from The Fifth Element on Blu-ray disc (the new improved version). The original Blu-ray Fifth Element was poorly mastered, and eventually redone.
For comparison, here is the same image from the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, which for the last year, has been the black level champ of the under $3,000 (US) projectors. You can appreciate the Epson's advantage in black levels, with blacker blacks and higher contrast, for a more dynamic looking image:
The two images above, are just the kind of scene where a projector with exceptional black levels has a real advantage over one that's merely average. I do believe you can appreciate how much more dynamic the Epson looks. Below is, again, the same image from the recent review of the direct competition to the PLV-Z700, and that's Mitsubishi's HC5500 - it is a little darker than the other two, yet the Epson still has the advantage:
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Sanyo PLV-Z700: Shadow Detail Performance
Below are images from Space Cowboys, of Clint Eastwood in a very dark room, lit only by a small table lamp. The images are overexposed to bring out shadow detail in the blinds in the back. Because of the very low brightness, and long exposures, the images vary greatly in color saturation and contrast, and color shifts are exaggerated. However, we are not looking at any of that, just the blinds (and through them), his black tee shirt, etc.
Below we have six "thumbnails" of this cropped HD scene from Space Cowboys. Click on each for an overexposed version. Look to the satellite on the left for dark shadow details. By row, starting top left:
PLV-Z700, Epson - and Pro - Home Cinema 1080 UB, Sony VW60, JVC RS1, JVC RS2, Sony VW40
Next is the re-entry scene - on the left, the Sanyo, and on the right, the Epson 1080 UB.
The next sequence is the casino at night image from Bond's Casino Royale.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector:
(Note, all five images below are the same. Clicking on each brings up the higher resolution, and overexposed versions for each projector. That allows you to compare shadow detail abilities in the dark areas. Look to the roof tiles, and the trees on the left.)
Sony VPL-VW40 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB projector:
Sony VPL-VW60 projector:
JVC DLA-RS2 projector:
These next image are found in almost all recent reviews. Click for large, and seriously overexposed versions of the thumbnails. You can look to the dark areas of the shed on the right, plants along the bottom, and the wood structure on the left, to compare shadow detail.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Sanyo, and the right for the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB.
Lastly, here is an image we just started using, from Space Cowboys (replacing the previous satellite shot, we've been using):
The PLV-Z700 projector does a very good job here, in terms of shadow detail. Inspecting the dark left side of the satellite reveals a lot of very dark shadow detail.
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Sanyo PLV-Z700: Sharpness
Sanyo has been very consistent in terms of providing home theater projectors with a sharper than average picture. The Sanyo PLV-Z700 is no exception. I should note that with each new generation of LCD panels, the pixel structure is less visible, and this tends to give images a touch more softness. This does not affect the ability to resolve detail, which is what sharpness is all about, but it may mean a slightly less crisp looking image. You'll note there isn't a great deal of difference between most of these images.
Our first image is the closeup of the DTS logo, from their test disc. The Sanyo does extremely well, compared to most of the competition. That's impressive, considering that the Sanyo is perhaps the least expensive 1080p home theater projector on the market.
Top left: Sanyo PLV-Z700, Top Center, Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, Top right: Panasonic PT-AE2000U
Also here's the new DTS logo image which we will be using going forward:
The close-up Monitor test from a scene from Space Cowboys on Blu-ray. Left is the Sanyo PLV-Z700, center is the Mitsubishi HC5500 and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, on the right.
Bottom Line Sharpness: The PLV-Z700 produces a sharp image. It is, for example a bit sharper/crisper, than the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and the more expensive JVC and Sony LCoS projectors. There are other sharp projectors too, though, including the Mitsubishi lineup in general, as well as Optoma, and especially BenQ, which is about as sharp as it gets. I'll give the Mitsubishi HC5500 a slight advantage over the Sanyo.
Let's just say that, while a few projectors might be able to be a touch better than the Z700, that it's not really enough to matter. On the other hand, its sharpness advantage over some of the others I mention is definitely greater than the difference between it, and any that might be sharper. Translation: No problem at all! Just one more minor factor to consider.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Performance: HDTV and Sports
The Sanyo does very well on HDTV and Sports. First, for the most part, black levels aren't critical in this area. Secondly, the Sanyo produces a sharp image, which you can appreciate more on digital video than on film, where there is an inherent softness to the image and film grain, to make differences in sharpness less noticeable.
If there's a downside to the PLV-Z700 projector in this regard, it has to be brightness, yet, the Sanyo in brightest mode is definitely at least average. My thoughts are, that if you have enough lumens for your room and screen, for movies, you should be just fine, for TV and sports.
Images coming this weekend (10/10/08)
Sanyo PLV-Z700: Overall Image Quality
How good the PLV-Z700 really is, is a question I can't answer yet. This is only the second "entry level" 1080p projector from the new batch announced at CEDIA, that I have had a chance to review. I have no doubt that the Sanyo does a very good job, overall, in terms of picture. The real question is, what is the value proposition compared to some of the other new ones, that will be shipping in the next 60 days or so.
Given, only this Sanyo projector, the previously reviewed Mitsubishi HC5500, and the Epson Home Cinema 6100 (due in December), are priced at that "under $2000" price point. The Epson is, of course an unknown, as I haven't worked with it yet.
I'm more concerned, however, with how the PLV-Z700's picture quality will also stack up against the sweetspot of the 1080p projector market - projectors selling right around $3000 or a little less.
As I see it, the PLV-Z700, from a picture standpoint is worth the price (barring the Epson Home Cinema 6100 being far superior?). What I am not certain of, is whether the Z700 is worth $2000, compared to a host of new projectors that will be selling for $2500 to low $3000s range.
Certainly Sanyo's own PLV-Z3000 is one of those, along with entries from Epson, and Mitsubishi, and of course the imminent Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
Still, with a decent calibration, the PLV-Z700 does an impressive job on color, skin tones, shadow detail and sharpness. Only in the black level area is it so-so. Mind you, it's definitely liveable, in fact fully enjoyable for non-hobbiest/enthusiasts - people who just want to watch something that looks great. The more expensive models from most of the manufacturers, though, should truly be superior in the black level department, if you've got a price decision to make.
Here are an assortment of photos from different content, for your consideration:
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Overall Picture Quality: Bottom Line
When you consider all the aspects that make for a good picture; color accuracy, richness, saturation, sharpness, black levels, shadow and highlight details, and so on, the PLV-700 is actually pretty impressive considering it's the currently lowest price option out there except for one or two closeouts. If I had to pick one area of weakness, like most lower cost projectors, that would be black level performance, but the PLV-Z700 fares well at everything else.