I touched on this above. Let's start by saying that if you use the Sanyo PLV-Z3000's Pure Cinema mode, it's not very bright. In fact its 235 measured lumens in Pure Cinema make it the dimmest of all the projectors in this review. Fortunately we calibrated and made changes to iris settings, for their Creative Cinema mode, and the PLV-Z3000 comes to life, not to mention measuring 373 lumens.
That 373 lumens puts it at least par with the PT-AE3000's measured 293 lumens. I say that because the PT-AE3000 was pre-production and I figure full production projectors usually measure at least 10% higher. Still, neither one is overly bright in "best" mode.
Moving to "brightest" mode, to my surprise, the Sanyo had some muscle. We clocked a brighter than average 1046 lumens, a full 20% more than the PT-AE3000's 824 lumens. This is going to be a plus for those dealing with some ambient light while enjoying a sporting event, or your favorite sitcom, variety or cop show. As a side note, only three competitors in this class beat the Sanyo, and they were all Epsons sporting an additional 40% more lumens.
What about sharpness
Much to my surprise, the Panasonic came out as the slightly sharper of the two projectors (that wasn't the case with last year's models). I can't explain why. As I have said many times in this report, though, the differences in sharpness are slight enough to be a very minor issue. That's especially true since I classify both of these as average, not "sharper still".
Panasonic PT-AE3000 Anamorphic lens emulation
This is covered in depth in the Panasonic PT-AE3000 review, I'll keep this short (you'll also find these paragraphs in all the other head-to-head comparisons that include the Panasonic). This feature is only found on the Panasonic, so it is a distinct advantage for those who would like to get rid of letterboxing when watching movies. Note please, that while the PLV-Z3000 lacks this feature, being an ultra high contrast projector, the black letterboxing is pretty dark, so far less noticeable than on most projectors which have noticeably inferior black level performance. Of course if you are replacing an older projector, to take advantage of this feature with the Panasonic, you'll also need to replace your screen. OK, here's the scoop.
As most of you know, most movies are shot in Cinemascope - with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, a shape significantly wider than the 16:9 HDTV standard aspect ratio that is native for all home theater projectors. This leaves you with a letterbox (dark gray area) on your 16:9 screen, above and below the movie content. To get rid of that, you need a wider screen (2.35:1), and a stretching of the image horizontally with an anamorphic lens. You'll also want a motorized sled for that lens, to move it out of the way for 16:9 and 4:3 content. Problem is, an anamorphic lens and sled combination costs more than either of these projectors.
Panasonic's solution is to let you change the zoom for different aspect ratios. By having the ability to save different lens settings, this makes things practical for folks to go with that Cinemascope shaped screen. It's not a perfect solution, those dark gray letterbox areas are still there, but above and below a Cinemascope lens, and essentially invisible if your wall around the screen is dark. The other limitation is that with a real lens/sled combination, the projector uses every pixel for the movie, but with Panasonic's method, only about 80% are used, so the real anamorphic lens solution is about 20% brighter. To allow this to work, it also limits the usable range of the zoom to about half of the 2:1 ratio of the lens.
Very few people go anamorphic lens, and I doubt that many buying the Panasonic will pair it with a Cinemascope shaped screen, but the feature is a nice one, and there for those who desire it. By comparison, the Epson doesn't do this, and for that matter, doesn't support an anamorphic lens at all, without an outboard processor. If you want to go anamorphic with the Epson, you'll be better off buying the Pro Cinema 7500UB version which does have internal support for an anamorphic lens.