Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector - Image Quality
All of the Sharp XV-Z15000 images below are from either Blu-ray or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). Remember, by the time these Sharp XV-Z15000 projector images get to you through digital camera, software, browsers, and monitor, there are definite small color shifts, saturation differences, etc. The images are to support the commentary, but keep in mind the limitations when trying to compared images from the XV-Z15000 with other home theater projectors.
In reality, all projectors, including the XV-Z15000, always look better live than the images in our reviews.
6/9/09 - Art Feierman
XV-Z15000 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Although we use Movie 2 mode as our "best" mode after calibration, it was definitely too warm (shift towards red), right out of the box. Despite that, I have to rate the "out of the box" picture quality as very good.
The reason is simple: If you want the best color right out of the box, we recommend the Natural mode, which really is very good. It may not produce the best black level performance (it's a lot brighter, too), but you should like the skin tones, and overall color balance. And those two things are the primary ingredients of good "out of the box" performance.
Sharp's Natural mode on the XV-Z15000 projector is, in terms of color accuracy, superior to most projectors' "best" mode, out of the box. In other words, the Sharp is one of the more watchable projectors without doing a color calibration. That said, it definitely benefits from a calibration, and with one, Movie 2 becomes our "best" viewing mode. At the very least, check out our recommended settings for items like Brightness, Color, etc. on the Calibration page of this review.
Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector - Flesh Tones
Movie 2 mode on the XV-Z15000 does a very good job on skin tones once you input our calibration changes. In fact, "very good" is most likely an understatement. I've watched a lot of movies with this Sharp, and find little fault with its handling of a wide range of skin tones. Time to remind you -while we provide the settings Mike comes up with when he calibrates each projector, there will be differences from one unit to the next (lamp variation, for example). A professional calibrator should get you even better results, but try ours, if nothing else.
Gandalf looks great (above) and Arwen, if possible, even better. You can even spot the slight shift towards green higher on her face. The image is shot in a forest and is throwing a slight green caste on everything, including her skin tones.
Below are the usual three images of Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Casino Royale, under different lighting conditions. As I always point out, skin tones should look different under different lighting conditions. You can expect significantly different looking skin tones, when switching from bright sunlight, to nighttime, fluorescent lighting, incandescent lighting, or even lighting in the shade, or a cloudy day. Consider these three images: the first, in direct sunlight, the second is a scene with fluorescent lighting, and the third, a sunny day, but Bond is sitting in the shade - indirect lighting.
Three from Aeon Flux:
Men In Black:
From the DVE-HD calibration disc (digital source material, not film):
and finally one from Quantum of Solace (Bond) - stunning!:
XV-Z15000 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Wow! I am truly, and pleasantly surprised with the black level performance of the Sharp XV-Z15000. I really did expect another DLP projector with just average black level performance (even with using a dynamic iris).
The XV-Z15000 Black level performance is one of the very best we've seen of any of the projectors selling for under $3000 in the US.
Last night I did some side by side images with this Sharp projector going head to head with the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB. That Epson has been the reigning black level champ of the mid-priced class we used in our 1080p Projector Comparison Report that published a couple of months ago (projectors in that class selling from about $2100 to $3500).
No, the Sharp did not beat the Epson, but came exceptionally close. In most the black levels on the Sharp (Movie 2, Iris one set to High Contrast, Iris 2 - the dynamic iris set to On) were extremely close, and essentially indistinguishable from the Epson, without viewing them side by side. On other scenes, the XV-Z15000 wasn't quite as good as the Epson, but still in the ballpark.
Based on the side by side viewing, and translating what I saw to other competing projectors, I'd have to say, overall, the XV Z15000 is about comparable to the more expensive Mitsubishi HC7000, and every bit the equal to the Panasonic PT-AE3000. It should pretty consistently beat out the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 in black level performance, and that Sanyo is the least expensive of the ultra-high contrast 3LCD projectors, the one that is pretty much priced the same as the Sharp.
Immediately below: From The Dark Knight:
It's been too long since I've had one here, but I'd also think that the BenQ W5000 can't quite match this Sharp projector, either, although like with the Sanyo, it would be fairly close. That's an important point, because for those sold on the look and feel of DLP technology, the W5000 is the one to beat at this price point.
In other words, I'm impressed!
First, here are a couple of side by side images with the Sharp projector on the RIGHT.
As usual, we attempted to get the two projectors as close to each other in brightness, and as usual when neither has an individually controllable manual iris, we couldn't quite get them the same. In these images we ended up with the Epson (who's lamp now has several hundred hours on it), with the lamp on low power mode, and the Sharp at full power. This did end up, however, with the Sharp, on average, being a bit brighter overall. You'll have to deal with that when viewing the side by sides:
In the overexposed version of the starship, above, you can see the differences in the black levels in the letterbox area, and also in the starfield. (again, note: Sharp on the right.) I should mention that with dynamic irises, different scenes behave differently, on the starship above, the black levels of the Epson are "more better" than on some other dark scenes. In some cases the Sharp matches the Epson.
For general black level performance examples we'll start with my favorite, the Starship image found The Fifth Element. The first is our Sharp XV-Z15000. Immediately below it, is the Optoma HD8200, the last competing DLP projector we reviewed. Unfortunately, brightness varies even more (than with the side by side images) on these photos, making accurate comparisons of black levels a little difficult.
And below is the Panasonic PT-AE3000:
Next is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB:
Finally, here's the BenQ W5000 (it's an old image and, unforutnately, much darker than the others):
Consider two additional (digital) images which are good ones for observing black levels.
The image immediately below is from The Dark Knight. I've intentionally overexposed it to make a point. This is the type of scene where the difference in black level performance makes a huge difference. Because the outside areas of the scene, and for that matter the men's jackets are pretty black, with little detail at all, projectors with just "good" black levels look very flat - I've achieved that effect here. The XV-Z15000 actually does very nicely on this image, but the difference between the XV-Z15000, and say, the more expensive JVC RS10 and especially the RS20 is stunning. Even the less expensive Epson Home Cinema 6500UB , looks significantly better on this scene. Because the bright area of the image is of moderate brightness, projectors like the XV-Z15000 or the Epson, can't even get to their blackest blacks, whereas the JVCs, which do incredible blacks without an iris, would look drastically better. Right below it is an image from Quantum of Solace (but not overexposed), which is a very different scene type, but another where black level differences are almost "night and day". (I can't believe I'm getting away with that line! -art) The rocks on the left and right would be where the differences are.
The dynamic iris, of course is key to the excellent black levels. I figure this is as good a time to comment on the iris' impact on viewing. Below are two images from the beginning of one of the Star Wars movies (same exposure). The iris is one of the slower ones. As a result as I mention elsewhere, some times it is very evident. Below are two images from the opening credits, you can see the difference in brightness (brighter) when the credits are up. Seems like just as the credits come on, the iris has just finished lowering the brightness from the previous time. Then it slowly (a second) brightens back up just as the next credit is going off. The good news is the iris action is smooth, not at all jerky, and rarely will be obvious.
You can see the difference in brightness both in the scene (the two images were taken about 1 second runtime apart), and in the letterbox at the top.
Shadow Detail Performance
With the impressive black level performance, I wouldn't have been surprised if the XV-Z15000 projector was a little weak in terms of revealing the darkest shadow details (as is the case with the Epson UB models). The Epsons aren't quite as good at dark shadow detail as many others, although close.
As it turns out, though, the Sharp does very well. A good indication is this seriously overexposed night train scene from Casino Royale. The Sharp bests the Epson. Look to the bushes on the far side of the tracks on the far right. Now, in reality, the difference between the Sharp, and the Epson projectors isn't as great as it looks here. The closest I could get the two projectors in brightness, has the XV-Z15000 still being a little brighter, and therefore easier to spot really dark shadow detail:
From LOTR: Left: XV-Z15000, Middle: Panasonic PT-AE3000U, Right: BenQ W5000:
Here are a couple additional side-by-side dark scenes from The Dark Knight: Epson Home Cinema 6500UB on the left, Sharp XV-Z15000 on the right:
The next set of comparison images, continues with the same scene with Clint Eastwood from Space Cowboys. This is a very dark scene with Clint Eastwood, on Blu-ray disc. The photos are intentionally way overexposed. Look for the blacks in the shades, and the details in those shades in the form of the white trim. (At this level of overexposure, don't even worry about the skin tones, as in these type of photos they always look terrible, and way oversaturated/too high contrast).
First image is the XV-Z15000, followed by: Optoma HD8200, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Sony VPL-HW10, and the Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
The XV-Z15000 does extremely well in shadow detail on our Clint Eastwood dark scene from Space Cowboys:
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The XV-Z15000 (top left) has good shadow detail in the dark areas of the satellite, note though, that those areas look darker than on some others. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, Those images are followed by the Sony VPL-HW10 and the PT-AE3000U (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC6500 (left), and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 on the right.
The following images are both the same frame, from Space Cowboys. The first one is slightly overexposed, and the second one, dramatically so. Look in the brown area of the satellite on the left (and elsewhere). The XV-Z15000 does a very good job. The XV-Z15000 definitely does a solid job when it comes to shadow detail
Below is a heavily overexposed scene from Lord of the Rings. The overexposure lets you see all the details in the shed on the right, the structure on the left, and the plants and ground along the lower right. The XV-Z15000U performs very nicely.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Sharp XV-Z15000, Optoma HD8200 in the center, and the right for the PT-AE3000U.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Sharp XV-Z15000, second is the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, the third is the Optoma HD8200, and the last one is from the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
(Please note, the Panasonic image above is a little blurry, must have bumped the tripod. Sorry! That shouldn't affect your ability to see the shadow details. -art)
Another very good image for observing shadow detail is this very dark scene from the first National Treasure film. The XV-Z15000 does do a good job of revealing details, especially if you look to the top right, or the left center.
XV-Z15000 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Previously, I really liked the overall picture quality of the Optoma HD8200, recently reviewed. It was one of the things that definitely factored into my decision to award the Optoma with one of our Hot Product awards. (I was really on the fence, it was a tough call.)
Well, I'm even more pleased with this Sharp's color handling and overall picture. I suspect that, had I reviewed the Sharp first, it would have still won its Hot Product award, but likely would not have given the Optoma one. There is no doubt in my mind, that given a choice, I personally would choose this Sharp projector over the Optoma.
More to the point, the Sharp really is excellent when it comes to the overall picture. It doesn't seem to have any particular weaknesses. Skin Tones, black level performance, shadow detail, are all at least very good. Adding to that, the image really does stand out - it's that "pop and wow factor" again. Yet, the Sharp XV-Z15000 manages to have a dynamic looking image, without ending up a little contrasty looking, (such as the Epson 6500UB).
In other words, it's the complete package, when it comes to overall Picture Quality and Color. Oh, there are projectors that are better, in this regard, but I can't really think of any that cost less, and most cost anywhere from "more" to "a whole lot more", and then some.
Bottom Line for Overall Picture Quality and Color Handling: Excellent, especially for the money!
Here's the same image - first, the Sharp, then the Optoma:
A mix of additional images to show off the XV-Z15000:
From the DTS Blu-ray test disk, consider these:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
The measured 1100 lumens in Dynamic mode of the Sharp is enough to do a great job on my 128 inch Firehawk G3, with minimal ambient light, for my sports and general TV viewing. Afterall, it's brighter in "brightest" mode than my JVC, by roughly 200 lumens, and I get by. Like my JVC, though, there's not a whole lot of room to spare, if you have more ambient light. Actually, these images were taken with a fair amount of ambient, but in the testing room, on the Carada Brilliant White screen.
To put brightness in perspective, compared to the brightest competition (the Epson 6100 and 6500UB), those two are roughly 35% brighter, but that's at the mid-point of their zoom lenses. If you place the Sharp and an Epson at the same mounting point, that difference now becomes a little more than 50%.
Only the Epson's though are noticeably brighter, so compared to the rest of the field, the Sharp does better than most, even just a little.
Sports looks great. The image isn't quite as sharp and crisp as a couple of the DLP competitors, but is comparable to the rest, so no issue there. If you really like those Discovery HD type shows, with their stunning photography and want the sharpest, you'll do better, with, say the BenQ W5000, but as with most 1080p projectors, it looks sharp, just not "razor sharp" I really enjoy the Z15000 on my Blu-ray music videos and Palladia channel high def music videos. Colors are very rich, and that combines nicely with the great blacks. A few images for your consideration, off of HDTV:
The images above is from a Moody Blues Concert that has been broadcast in HD, and is also available on Blu-ray disc. This one was shot with minimal ambient light.
The three images below were taken with full lighting (two 65 watt recessed lights) on in the back of the room. As shown in the small images below them. For those football images, the projected image size was 100" diagonal, using a 1.4 gain Carada Brilliant White screen.
You can see the walls around the image above. The projector is bright enough that for the correct exposure, you can hardly see the wall. By the way, if you notice, the Sharp name is dim on the screen below. That's the startup screen. The picture was taken just a few seconds after powerup, before the projector was at full brightness (a minute or so).