Sharp XV-Z3000 Projector Review - Image Quality
Excellent image quality is what the XV-Z3000 does best. It performs very well in every catagory, natural flesh tones, rich, colors, excellent contrast resulting in the blackest blacks anywhere near the price, and the very good shadow detail, that you would expect with a projector that can produce really dark blacks.
Let's start with the handling of flesh tones.
For your perusal, the usual group of images from Lord of the Rings and The Fifth Element. These four images can be clicked on for larger versions. All of these images are from standard DVD versions, we'll look at some HD images as well.
I should note that most of these were taken with the projectors default settings (Movie2, Middle Iris), without adjusting color balance.
Quicktip, about the many photos: There are limits to the dynamic range of my digital camera. It cannot fully capture what most projectors put on the screen. As a result, although you should find the images useful, remember they are here to support the commentary, and not the other way around - so, "add a pound of salt"... In reality the images on the screen, are always more dynamic, and have far better shadow detail than these photos.
Also from HD-DVD, this image of Will Smith, from I,robot:
If possible, the projector looked even more natural with Hi-Def material, such as the following two images from movies on HD-DVD.
The first is from Phantom of the Opera, followed by AeonFlux, then, Space Cowboys:
XV-Z3000 Shadow Detail and Black Levels
This Sharp projector produces images with exceptionally "rich" blacks. All the more impressive since it is only using the Darkchip2 processor found in less expensive DLP projectors (and some its price). The XV-Z3000 claims 6500:1 contrast ratio, and this time, it seems to be a very good indication of what the Sharp is capable of, in terms of black levels.
The first image below is from Space Cowboys, from HD-DVD:
Next is the Starship image from standard DVD, The Fifth Element. I can't recall any single chip DLP projector, or LCD projector that does a better job, the blacks are very black, and the number of stars - well, I haven't seen more stars on this scene, with any other projector.
The pair of images below are a normally exposed frame from Phantom of the Opera, and below it, the same scene, overexposed. The second image will allow you to see the details in dark areas on the walls, etc., that were lost in the first image, due to limitations of my digital camera. Also, the frescos on the walls are very detailed. Click to enlarge these images:
Again, below are another pair of images - this time standard DVD from Lord of the Rings. The second image is overexposed so you can get a better look at the shadow details along the bottom and in the shed on the right:
The next image is from Sin City (standard DVD) of Nancy dancing. The XV-Z3000 delivers very good details in the walls, and other textured objects.
The car image below from Sin City, is also a good indicator of handling dark scenes in general, and is found on several other recent reviews (mostly more expensive 1080p projectors):
One more space image that shows off the blacks:
Here's one more great image for looking at shadow details and black levels, from AeonFlux (HD-DVD):
Sharp XV-Z3000 Overall Color Handling
Actually, I'll start with a black and white image. from the beginning of Phantom of the Opera, in fact, three shots of the same frame. You can see slight differences from one to the next. I got the exposures as close as I could to being the same. The first image is in the XV-Z3000's best mode - Movie 2, with the Iris set for High Contrast (the dimmest mode). This is followed by two more images - Iris to Medium Mode, and finally, to the brightest - High Brightness:
Here are a number of images that should give you a good idea of the color saturation, and natural look to the images:
Let's not forget HDTV sources. The following images were shot with modest to moderate light in the room. More HDTV images will be found in the Projector Brightness section under General Performance.
Sharp XV-Z3000 Sharpness
This is another area where the XV-Z3000 excels. Although generally this is not a great difference between the overall sharpness of one 720p resolution projector to another, there definitely are differences.
I happen to be a big fan of sharpness (natural, not enhanced sharpness using sharpness and edge sharpness controls found on most home theater projectors). This is, in part, because I like to sit fairly close to a large screen. (I normally sit between 1/3 and 1/2 way back in a movie theater.
Up until now, of the reviews of the current 720p projectors a few have been exceptionally sharp. Perhaps the sharpest, is the BenQ PE-8720 (which I own), a significantly more expensive projector than the XV-Z3000. Another very sharp projector is Sanyo's PLV-Z5, an LCD projector costing significantly less than the XV-Z3000, but also being less bright, and having more visible pixel structure, which in turn, is a detriment when sitting close.
The XV-Z3000 comes extremely close to the BenQ in overall sharpness, and shares it's more limited pixel visibility, thanks to being a DLP projector. Let's look at some images:
The first image is the closeup of Carlota's necklace from Phantom (and, of course, you can click on these images for larger versions):
For comparison, the next image is of the just mentioned Sanyo PLV-Z5 LCD projector:
Next is the Panasonic PT-AX100U, another LCD projector, but their smoothscreen technology softens the image in exchange for less visible pixels:
And finally, the Optoma HD70, another lower cost competing 720p DLP projector:
Since the Sharp is one of the sharpest (no pun intended) of the 720p projectors, here's the same necklace from the BenQ W10000, a 1080p resolution projector, whose sharpness is typical for the 1080p models (and a projector selling for more than twice the Sharp's price):
So, while the Sharp can't match a true 1080p projector with 1080 content, as you can see, it does project about as sharp an image as one could hope for, from a 720p projector.
Let's do it again, this time with an image I have only recently started using, from Space Cowboys (HD-DVD). You may find this one easier for comparisons but I haven't used it with very many projectors yet.
XV-Z3000 (click to enlarge):
Optoma HD81 ($8000 1080p projector - DLP):
And the Optoma HD70 again, ($999, 720p, DLP):
Enough. There will be some other images in the next section, as pixel visibility is discussed, in the section on Screen Door effect.
Lastly, here is an image from AeonFlux (HD-DVD), that I am starting to use for sharpness. Note how sharp her eyes are, and the details in her hair. You can find this image on several other recent reviews for comparison:
While the XV-Z3000 does an overall very good job, you can see that the 1080p projectors do add a real, easily visible jump in sharpness and detail. Here's a similar frame from the BenQ W10000, just in case you might have briefly thought that an especially sharp 720p projector really can match a good 1080p model (not happening!):
Lastly, if you click on the image of the tropical bird, below, you will get a closeup of the bird, and text. This is the first review I have shot this image for, but will be using it for future reviews. The text looks really good for a 720p projector. (Source is Discovery-HD 1080i).
Lastly for sharpness, is an image from The Italian Job (HD-DVD) the frame below is already significantly cropped (over 50%), and enlarged, when you click on it. Look at the sign next to the lamp post, the texture in the columns, etc. You'll find this image on several recent reviews.
Time to move on to the general performance section, for menus, remote control, screen recommendations, brightness measurements and more...