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 1280×720 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).

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