Comparing the Projectors Picture Quality
For most people, price not withstanding, the most important consideration is picture quality. As I've said, these projectors are more similar than different, but there are noteworthy differences in the projected image.
Black level performance
Although both of these projectors are what I call ultra high contrast (UHC) projectors, and both use the same Epson inorganic LCD panels, black level performance is visibly different. After calibration, the Panasonic retains a very small, but visible advantage over the PLV-Z3000. That's not to say that the Sanyo isn't very good, in fact it's far better than any projector costing less, and a number of projectors costing a lot more, including a favorite of mine, the $5000 InFocus IN83.
All that said, the Panasonic is better at black levels. Is it enough to make you pay the extra $400+? I would say, for many people, it's not. I like to talk about how much different people are willing to pay for the last 5% of performance. Well, if I had to put a number on the difference, it's probably 1%. In fact, if the black level difference between these two is, by your standards, enough to make the Panasonic a huge favorite, then you probably won't buy the Panasonic, instead opting for the Epson UB, whose black levels are better still, and whose price is about the same as the PT-AE3000.
The two projectors were set up side by side, each projecting about a 40" diagonal image. Our first image is between two black scenes. The pre-production Panasonic has an issue of blue in the corners, but if you forget that, you'll get the idea that its advantage is definitely there. The first side by side, is a black frame. Black scenes in their own right are hardly great indicators, because of the use of dynamic irises. One projector may shut down the iris a lot more on a pitch black scene, but even with a little ambient light, two projectors might end up the same in terms of blacks. Based on that image compared to others, I'd say the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 iris can shut down further than the PT-AE3000. The other images immediately below should give you a better perspective regarding the differences. The Panasonic was in Cinema 1 mode, the Sanyo in Pure Cinema. The Panasonic as you can see is the brighter of the two in these modes.
Note: Don't worry about color shifts - at these long exposures (typically 10+ seconds) subtle differences in color are greatly exaggerated.
In the starship image, despite the brightness difference, you can see that the blacks are a bit better with the PT-AE3000. The same is true on the overexposed casino image from Casino Royale. Look at the sky on the left.
Both projectors do a really good, if not excellent job in terms of dark shadow details.
While the PLV-Z700 does reveal a touch more, I don't consider the difference to be in any way significant.
Click Image to Enlarge