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Panasonic PT-AE1000U Projector Review - Image Quality

Posted on November 29, 2006 by Art Feierman

A quick note: Over the next few days more images will be added, including some side-by-side comparisons with another 1080p projector, the BenQ W10000, plus more images relating to sharpness. Some additional commentary will also be added. -art

Panasonic has made a big thing about their home theater projectors being "Hollywood tuned". They have, for the last couple of years, consulted heavily with hollywood colorists and other personnel responsible for making sure that the color balance on DVD's etc., result in the color that the directors intended.

Funny thing is, it works. The Panasonic projectors have consistantly produced really excellent and accurate color "out of the box".

The Panasonic PT-AE1000U is no exception. Out of the box performance is excellent! In fact, after I completed my measurements, and started on my ritual gray scale balance, I found that I needed virtually no adjustment - just a minor tweak to the contrast and brightness (primarily to match my screen's characteristics), but needed no change to the RGB balance. With this level of accuracy, it is one of the rare projectors that really doesn't require a basic calibration to thoroughly enjoy. Of course a professional calibration will further improve performance, but it sure looks good without. The only other adjustment I made, was to reduce the color saturatation ("color") to -2 or -3, and I was all set. All images were shot with the projector in Cinema 1 mode, unless specifically indicated. The screen used for most is the Carada Brilliant White (with 1.4 gain). HDTV images were shot on my Stewart Firehawk.

So let's look at the different areas of image quality, starting with the handling of flesh tones. After that we'll consider black levels and shadow detail, then image sharpness, etc. The first images are from standard DVD: Arwen and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Leeloo and Bruce Willis from The 5th Element, and Will Smith from I, Robot.

Please remember there are limits to what the digital camera can capture. As a result consider that the images are provided to support the commentary, not the other way around.

Most of the images provided, can be clicked on, for a much larger image to view.

Here are a few more images, this time from the higher resolution, and better color that comes with HD-DVD sources:

Pretty impressive, considering the only color adjustment made, was a very slight drop in the color saturation. The image of Clint Eastwood above from Space Cowboys was one of the few images shot before I decreased color saturation slightly.

Panasonic PT-AE1000U Black Levels and Shadow Detail

The PT-AE1000U claims a most impressive 11000:1 contrast ratio, and to accomplish this, this Panasonic relies on a dynamic iris. By using a dynamic iris, that is adjusted frame by frame, in scenes without really bright areas, the black levels can be dramatically lowered. In other scenes, where there are very bright areas, the iris can't be closed down, so black levels are much higher. Overall, the PT-AE1000U home theater projector does a more than respectable job in terms of black levels, and an especially good job in terms of revealing shadow details.

First a look at the impact of Panasonic's use of "AI" (artificial intelligence - although, with projectors "AI" is a far cry from the true definition of aritificial intelligence. Generally AI refers to using technology to look at the images frame by frame and adjusting them accordingly to improve picture quality.

In the first image below, you are looking at a star scene from The Fifth Element. Because the image is almost all blacks, and even the stars are not very bright, the dynamic iris closes down to produce very good blacks.

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