Sharp XV-Z17000 Projector Review

What is all this fuss about black levels?

It really comes down to scenes that are fairly dark. Let’s consider two projectors – one with good blacks, one with great ones.

On an average scene, perhaps a daytime, no sunlight shot, if there is supposed to be a true black area in the image, perhaps parts of a black car, in the shade, the “good” one will do a very good job. The great one’s black car will be a touch blacker, but you probably wouldn’t notice unless seen side by side. In other words, the difference would be very slight.

Now switch to a very dark scene, such as the night train scene I use below for shadow detail comparison. All of a sudden the difference between the two projectors is quite dramatic. The lower black levels of the great one would make its image “pop”, and the good one’s image will seem rather dull by comparison. That’s the story – short version.

The darker the scene, the more the blacks matter. Thing is, most movies have some fairly dark scenes, and even a significant percentage have some really dark scenes. Now don’t forget that if you’ve got a 15 watt light on in the room, it would throw enough ambient light, that the difference between projectors would be relatively insignificant, yet still there.

Let me also mention: Even if you have white walls (not a good thing) the difference in the projectors would still be there, although not quite as great a difference as with dark walls/floors/ceiling.

Still, how important is it? Well, if you are the person who wants a nice big image, but never bothered to adjust your LCDTV (probably still using the “demo/showroom” or vivid setting), I doubt you’ll notice. But, if you get hooked on image quality (become an enthusiast), you’ll crave better blacks. This Sharp XV-Z17000 offers up blacks that are sufficiently good, that other factors may become more important in your hunt for a great projector.

3D and Blacks – Already covered that on the first page, but the short of it, is that a projector like this Sharp, will see its brightness AND its black levels drop dramatically. The same very good blacks seem even better with everything darker, though, I expect that the the proportions remain the same (between brighter and darker areas).

Below, a satellite image from Space Cowboys. These are intentionally overexposed to so that the differences in blacks (and shadow detail) are more visible.

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JVC DLA-RS15 spacecowboys satellite large

Next, is the starship image from The Fifth Element, intentionally overexposed. That’s followed by the same frame – overexposed – on a number of additional projectors. When looking at those, note the level of brightness of the background space, and the letterbox area. If two projectors’ images have their background space and letter box at the same brightness, then the image of the starship that is the most overexposed is obviously, the one with the better blacks! Not so obvious? OK, consider, if two starships were identical in exposure, and one had obviously blacker space, etc., then, if we lightened up that one, until its space was the same as projector #2′s then its starship would be more overexposed. (One more note, these images taken with a new Canon D60 camera). Previous images (from other reviews) were taken with a definitely not quite as good Olympus E510 dSLR.

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