Sanyo PLV-Z4 Projector Image Quality
For virtually all of my testing, I had the Sanyo Z4 projector in it's "best" mode - Creative Cinema. Note, though, that the default iris setting for Creative Cinema is -44. To view on my 128" Firehawk, I did open up the iris to -28 and put the lamp into full power mode. In this mode contrast is enhanced as best the Sanyo projector can, and colors are generally very good. I did switch to the "Pure Cinema" mode, for a number of scenes, but if there is dark content, the Creative Cinema seems to enhance shadow detail and also provide a slightly more dynamic image.
In most images this Sanyo projector tends to display a slight color shift to a redish purple. This is slight, however this color shift is greater, than say the Panasonic's slight shift to yellow. That said, calibrating the projector will allow you improve the image in this regard. The image above of Arwen from Lord of the Rings, is clear and has smooth tonal qualities, however, the color seems subdued compared to some of the best competing projectors.
The Creative Cinema mode, does a good job of enhancing shadow detail, and making dark scenes look better than their Pure Cinema mode. That said, overall ability to do blacks and shadow details seems roughly comparable to DLP projectors that use the HD2+ chip (like the BenQ PE7700, and the recently discontinued Optoma H77), although when it comes to blacks themselves the DLP's still exhibit a slight edge.
I viewed (and took a number of pictures from the movie Sin City, which is done mostly in black and white with color enhancements. It certainly challenges most front home theater projectors, as almost all of the imagery is extremely dark. While a projector may seem to handle scenes very well, a switch to a different better projector will reveal details lost on some projectors. The Sanyo Z4 fits into the catagory of projectors that does a good job, but cannot rival projectors with better true contrast, such as any of the (more expensive) DLP projectors using the Darkchip3 (Optoma H78DC3 (reviewed), H79, Marantz VP12S4 (reviewed), BenQ PE-8720 (recently reviewed), etc.
A couple of the images from Sin City were also shot on the Optoma H78DC3, and the BenQ PE8720, and are posted in those reviews, should you want to compare.
Back to color and flesh tones, the Z4's overall handling of flesh tones is pleasing, although with tweaking, it improves. The image of Gandalf on the right is in Creative Cinema mode, with default color settings.
The image of Will Smith from I, Robot, is sharp and vivid, with good color fidelity, although again that slight shift to bluish purple.
In a number of other reviews I talk about what I dub the "Sunny day" or sunshine factor. Many projectors are challenged when trying to reproduce a really bright, clear sunny day. Imagine the sunshine glowing off a person's face, or off of objects like buildings, grass, etc. Often projectors seem to project images that seem to have been taking on hazy days, without that razorsharp definition that you get on that "sunny day".
The Z4 fits into those projectors that come up a little short. I'm talking about minor differences here, but for example this is one area where I found the Panasonic PT-AE900u home theater projector to have the edge, although the Sanyo did better than the BenQ PE7700.
Here are two images, the first from the Star Wars (DVD) with waterfalls, grass, blue sky, etc. that illustrates my point. The image on the left is the Sanyo PLV-Z4, the right is the Pansonic PTAE900u projector. In the second image (Hi-Def 1080i) from D-VHS tape, again the Sanyo is on the left, the Panasonic on the right. Note, the Panasonic was shot in it's Cinema2 mode, and with the lamp on low power mode, for I found the Panasonic, otherwise, to be notably brighter on most scenes when in full power mode, compared to the Creative Cinema mode of the Sanyo Z4.
Quicktip: Look for the comparison review between the Sanyo Z4 home theater projector and the Panasonic PT-AE900u projector which should be posted within days of this review. As a result I'll be saving most comparison images that I have shot, for that dual projector review.
The image to the left, from the Italian Job, is another example of film shot on a bright sunny day. The Z4 is a bit muted.
One of the areas that has been the strong point of DLP projectors over LCD projectors, has been over the issue of pixel structure. With LCD projectors, the pixels are normally far more visible, requiring you to sit significantly further back from a screen to avoid seeing them or the associated "screen door effect". Strides have been made over the last few years to minimize the pixel structure visibility on some LCD projectors. Today, the best LCD panels (in this regard) are very close to DLP, while most home theater LCD projectors still have an issue with pixel visibility. Of note here, the Sanyo is fairly typical, its pixel structure is visible enough so that you probably want to sit at least 1.5 times screen width from the screen. (Get a 100" wide screen - sit at least 12.5 feet back.) By comparison, with a DLP, to have similar pixel visibility to the same degree, you could sit 9 feet from that same sized screen. So, if you are like me, and prefer to sit relatively close, this is a huge issue.