Sunday, September 09, 2007

Panasonic TH50-PZ700U Calibration

I had an opportunity this past week to calibrate this latest Panasonic plasma. The PZ700U is 1080p with 2 HDMI inputs and a slot for an SD memory card to display photos. This display is not only one of the best plasma panels available today, it is also by far the best value. The only brand at this level is the Pioneer Elite line and you'll pay more than double the price for the same screen size.

There are 4 picture modes available, Standard, Vivid, Cinema and Custom. Only the Custom setting allows different settings per input. Selecting the Warm color temp got me within striking distance of D65. One interesting thing I learned concerned video noise reduction. There are 3 controls that address noise reduction and none of them seemed to affect the image at all. I was viewing 1080i multi-burst patterns and even though the 1-pixel pattern was rendered perfectly, I could see just a bit of noise around it. I finally removed the noise by turning up the Sharpness a few clicks from off. In fact, the Sharpness control at full blast didn't introduce any ringing in the image. My conclusion is that Sharpness on this TV affects noise and not edge enhancement. Another factor is the HDSize control. There are 2 options. Number 2 combined with Normal Aspect will give a 1:1 pixel map. The first option introduces about 3% overscan which is in spec but it breaks up the 1 pixel multi-burst. Bottom line, the sharpest and cleanest image comes in the 1:1 pixel mode.

Grayscale tracking showed a Delta C* error of 5-13 before calibration and under 1 after adjustments were made in service. I was also able to improve gamma and black levels by working the sub-brightness adjustment. I noticed when adjusting Brightness in the user menu that there would be a certain point where the gamma curve would change visibly on one side or the other of a particular number. Just below this point was the sweet spot for the final Brightness setting. After exiting service, I loaded a few Blu-Ray titles into the client's PS3 for some real content analysis. The first thing we noticed is there was still some downward room to be had in black levels. I settled on another 3 clicks lower on both the PS3 and the SA8300HD cable box sources. Like the majority of consumer displays, the black levels float somewhat depending on the average light level of the image. The adjustments made in service greatly reduced this tendency. For example; before calibration the darkest Pluge pattern would actually change after a few seconds. The lighter bar would at first be visible then disappear. After calibration, the pattern remained stable. The change in different light output levels also had less of an effect on black level. Even though this set is decent before calibration, this improvement alone is worth doing a full calibration.

The color-related aspects of the picture were excellent all around. Primaries are dead on for blue and slightly over-saturated for red and green. This is not visible in content. A slight lowering of the Color control aligned the decoder fairly well. Using my Progressive Labs CA6X allowed me to adjust the Tint to correct secondary color errors with respect to the measured primaries. This is much more accurate than using filters. Filters are only useful if they match the displays actual primaries and this is quite rare.

In conclusion, I would rate this as one of the finest HDTVs I have calibrated to date. It's the closest in dynamic range and clarity to the legendary Sony XBR960 CRT, my benchmark. Given the amazing price point of this TV (around $2500), there is no better value to be had, period. There is certainly no 50-inch LCD of any decent quality that sells for as little. And I have yet to encounter an LCD that can reproduce the blacks this TV can. I was so impressed with this display that I'll be adding one to my own theater in the coming months.


Anonymous said...

I just purchsed the 58" PZ700U and it is so nice to see your positive review confirming I made the right decision since I was also considering a Pioneer. I was wondering though what you found to be the proper settings. I used a DVE disk and I also have an Anthem AVM50 pre/pro that produces the color charts, but after setting it up using the warm setting, it just didn't look right. I tried changing the color temp to "normal" using my previously set levels for everything else and it improved the picture considerably. (to my eyes anyway)
I am in a light controlled room and did all calibration while it was relatively dark. So, just curious to see how close my settings are to yours.

Chris Eberle said...

You were right to use DVE. You can't realistically adjust a TV using content, it varies too much in quality and accuracy. I can't give you exact settings because it wouldn't be fair to the client who paid me to calibrate his display. I will give you some guidelines though. Set the color temperature on warm, it's the closest to 6500k. It will seem strange at first because you are not accustomed to watching an accurate image. In time, other TVs will look much too blue to your eye. To set brightness, use a Pluge pattern according to the DVE instructions. Do the same for Contrast. Back off the color control 1 to 4 clicks to compensate for the oversaturated primaries. Leave Tint alone. Live with these settings for at least 2 weeks. Eventually, you will see the difference when you watch another TV or go to a showroom. Your patience will be rewarded.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the view!

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if you can give me some direction in enhancing this set's white level. I would like the whites to be "whiter" and find that adjusting the sub-brt only makes the darks less dark. I've also tried adjusting the contrast in the service menu but it doesn't seem to have the effect I'm looking for.

I found that when pressing the menu button on the remote the whites reach the "white level" I'd like. When I exit the menu, the whites go back to a duller white.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Chris Eberle said...

There are 2 ways to look at your problem. Either the color of white is not to your liking or the level of white is not to your liking. If your seeing a color tint in your whites, you need a grayscale calibration which has to be done in the service menu, preferably with a color analyzer. If the white level seems low, raise the contrast control until white detail begins to crush, then back off a bit. You might have to adjust brightness too as the controls interact.

Anonymous said...

Based on your article I tried setting my 50-PZ700U to HD Size 2, but with Verizon Fios TV this setting yielded a green line on the right and a white line on the left on some HD channels. On others the white line becomes a transparent but thicker line on the left. (Please forgive my lack of proper terminology...I am new to all this.)

Panasonic Service told me that this probably is due to the Fios STB and has nothing to do with the TV. They told me to just switch back to Size 1, but I believe you are saying that this would denigrate the PQ.

With my Oppo DVD player I don't get those same lines with Size 2, but I notice that there is a tiny bit more black space at the right edge of the screen then on the left.

Does it sound like I should push harder for Panasonic to do something about this, or do you think it is normal?

Thanks very much.

Chris Eberle said...

The artifacts you're seeing are not a fault in the TV. Many source devices either blank pixels along the edges or create garbage like you're seeing. Some DVDs have a line or two of garbage at the bottom of the image. Your best bet is to switch to Size 1 when this happens. This introduces about 2% overscan which is not excessive. The change in image quality is very small. I noticed it more in test patterns than in actual content. It's certainly less distracting than those green and white lines you're describing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris, thanks for writing this review. It helped me make my decision to buy this TV.

I have a question about the Vivid setting on this TV: I realize that typically people are told to stay away from Vivid mode in the picture settings. Usually because it's much too bright. But I find with this TV that Vivid makes the picture much sharper than normal or cinema. If you change all picture settings to the same numbers on Vivid, Normal and Cinema and then switch between them you'll notice that the sharpness changes drastically on Vivid. It's razor sharp. Maybe it's because I've played too many videogames, but I much prefer a sharp image to a soft one. My wife agrees with me. Vivid gives the TV that "3D pop" and the other settings make it look dull. I'd go so far as to say that on Normal my Blu-ray films look like the DVD versions. I've tried to play with the sharpness control to find out where Vivid and Normal match. To get close to matching my Normal must be set to +30 and my Vivid on -15. So if I put my Vivid on +30 the detail is amazing and Normal doesn't have a chance in matching it.

Anyway are we crazy? I don't see the point in buying a BD player if you end up softening the image by using the Normal or Custom setting.

Thanks very much for your time,

Chris Eberle said...

The goal of calibration and the Cinema modes of most televisions is to display an accurate image. By accuracy, I mean like film. The standards used by the ISF match those used by the film and broadcast industry. They were developed with human factors in mind. Vivid modes on TVs are designed for one purpose, to attract attention in a showroom. The color is very inaccurate and the image enhancements simply add material that wasn't in the original content. Running the Sharpness control at +30 adds a tremendous amount of ringing (white and black lines around areas of contrast). The additional detail is an illusion. You can achieve the same effect with a calibration which maximizes contrast and color detail. Until you've spent some time watching a calibrated display, you really don't know what you're missing.

Anonymous said...

For the guy talking about Vivid as the best mode, please note that the Normal mode applies to each source, but the Custom and Cinema modes are INPUT dependent and you can save different settings for each input source in those custome modes.

Try to make sure the Black levelis on LIGHT and not DARK so you dont lise the details in the dark shadow areas.
Also, make sure you turn OFF the color enhancement feature or DAYTIME feature that raises/lowers the brightness of the set depending on the ambient light level. This will cause the blacks to not be as black as they can be.