Out of the box color accuracy differs between these two projectors: Without a doubt, the Panasonic PT-AE3000 has better out of the box color, but we're not concerned with that here. Both projectors improve with calibration. The Panasonic a good bit, and the Sanyo, quite a lot. Both projectors offer plenty of adjustment capability, but the Panasonic has some nice touches to help you adjust it, including image analsys tools and a split screen - before/after feature. Once we calibrated both, the Panasonic still had an advantage. The PLV-Z3000 still exhibited a small amount of shift to yellow green that Mike didn't manage to eliminate. That's not to say a fresh calibration wouldn't solve the problem. We've had to do that before. Please note, when looking at the photos, that that yellow green shift, in reality is a small fraction of what you see. As I've reported multiple times, my camera already adds a little green, and that gets accentuated here.
By comparison, the Panasonic is a touch strong on the reds, especially in the darker levels.
All considered though, the Panasonic PT-AE3000 does have the more accurate color, post calibration. In fact, from a grayscale standpoint, it is one of the best we've seen, with everything from 30IRE to 100IRE (white), within 57K of the ideal 6500K. (Remember, we calibrate gray scale, but not individual colors, so a pro calibrator would use the color management system to compensate for that yellow green issue found on the PLV-Z3000). Think of it this way: The adjustments we make, are with a broad sword, not a scalpel.
Overall Look and Feel of the Picture
This comes down to a lot of options. Comparing Pure Cinema on the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 to Cinema 1 on the Panasonic, the less bright Sanyo looks a little flat, uninspiring. We recommend using one of the brighter modes, though, a customized Creative Cinema, or if you really need lumens for movie watching, their Brilliant Cinema. This changes the ballgame. First, it allows the Sanyo to match the brightness of the PT-AE3000, and with Brilliant Cinema, beat the Panasonic.
The Sanyo offers extensive controls on its iris setup (and lamp dimming), so a lot of possibilities exist. Get the PLV-Z3000 out of its Pure Cinema mode, though, and the bottom line is that the image starts to look nice and dynamic. In fact, all considered, with the settings I used for most of my viewing, I really liked the picture - it had pizazz. By comparison to that, the Pansonic now, was a touch muted, but, in fairness, the PT-AE3000 is very right on - what I describe as film-like for a really good 3LCD projector.
Bottom Line - Image Quality
I have to give the advantage to the Panasonic. The slight yellow green shift definitely weighs in heavy in that call. I feel bad for not having Mike take another go at the calibration, for if the PLV-Z3000 was as neutral in color accuracy as the Panasonic, I would definitely have liked it more, and who knows - maybe picked up a Runner-up award.
Still, that wasn't the only difference if you recall. The PLV-Z3000 can't match the Panasonic's black levels (although it makes up for some of that with slightly better shadow detail). Remember what I indicated earlier. While there is a distinct black level difference, it's small compared to any of the same or lower priced projectors, so don't get too hung up on the difference.