PLV-Z60 Black Level Performance
This first Blu-ray image is from Space Cowboys - a nice dynamic, dark scene with a small area of bright white, and also bright red - a challenge for a dynamic iris.
The Sanyo Z60 does a respectable job, however the blacks just lack that ideal "inky black", that more expensive projectors with even better black levels can offer.
Of course, keep in mind, that there now seem to be three tiers of home theater projectors: 720p projectors with generally respectable black levels, entry level 1080p projectors, also with respectable black levels, and higher end 1080p projectors with extremely good, to excellent black levels.
To get into the first category - 720p projectors - you are looking $800 to $1300. For the 2nd group, basic 1080p projectors, around $1700 - $2500, and those with much better black levels, $2500 - $10,000. Still, the projectors within each category will have plenty of variation.
Back to the Sanyo PLV-Z60 and it's black level performance. Next are a couple of additional images, starting with the starship from The Fifth Element:
As you can see above, the stars are all out, but I've left in the letterbox area, intentionally. You can just tell, that it's not fully black, to get this level of exposure (slightly overexposed). More expensive projectors with better black levels can be much further overexposed before the letterbox area starts becoming visible. Still, for a 720p projector, the Z60 is pretty good!
Below is a very dark scene from Casino Royale. Once again, it is slightly overexposed to bring out shadow detail especially in the right side greenery behind the tracks. Again, as above, to get this level of brightness so you can make out the details in the shrubs and trees, the letterbox is no longer black. It is definitely a shade or to lighter gray. With some best performing 1080p projectors - such as the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, I can overexpose the image significantly more and still have the letterbox appear jet black. Bottom line on black level performance: The Sanyo PLV-Z60 is definitely doing a good, but not spectacular job for a 720p projector. It's hard to nail it down precisely because of the uneven background of this sample projector. Still, I'd have to give it a slight edge over the Panasonic PT-AX200U, the best selling of all the 720p home theater projectors. The PT-AX200U is now a year old, but it doesn't look like Panasonic plans to replace it anytime soon. Editor's Update: 10/14/2008: Regarding background uneven color issue As noted in the review when released, the pre-production PLV-Z60 exhibited a significant amount of color shift in the background. Red is more predominent on the left, and blue-green to the right. Further, it's not an even shift. For example, the upper right corner is the most affected. This type of problem is common with pre-production (sample) units, but relatively rare, with full production projectors.
A second, this time full production PLV-Z60 arrived a few days ago. The sole purpose of getting it in, was to see if a production unit is significantly better. The unit Sanyo sent was quite obviously brand new in the box, not one checked out before sending to me. I am pleased to report that the problem is gone. Or, I should say, as gone as can be expected - no three chip device is every perfect across the full screen, in color consistency. The point is, the second Z60 performs as expected, and very well, at that.
For your consideration, first a long time exposure of just the "black" screen (and the little white pause marker from my PS3). It is from the new projector. As you peer closely, you can see variation in background brightness, but that is typical of most projectors, and the Z60 is probably a bit better than average. You can still make out a little bit of color shift, but, now it's well within reasonable levels:
A better example are these next two images of Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings. The first one below (yes, you can click for a larger version), is from the pre-production Z60, while the second one is from the new Z60.
It is easy to see the shift to red, in the whole upper left corner of the first image, and the change as your eye moves past Gandalf, to the right.
In the second image, the color from top left to right is extremely close, and is not going to be visible during normal viewing. BTW, the second Z60 was not calibrated, so you are seeing what it looks like on this image, right out of the box. Forgetting exposure for a second, the PLV-Z60 does a very nice job on skin tones without calibration. OK, the original PLV-Z60: