Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pioneer Plasma 5010FD Calibration

Much has been written in praise of the current line of Pioneer plasmas called Kuro. These TVs are reputed to have contrast ratios and black levels comparable to CRTs. I can say after spending some quality time with a 5010FD that this reputation is well-earned. The 5010 is part of a line that includes 42 and 50-inch 720p panels and 50 and 60-inch 1080p panels. Each variant is available as an Elite model as well. The 5010 is the 50-inch 1080p, non-Elite version. The glass and video processing is the same across all the 1080p sets. The Elite TVs add more adjustments and more precise setup at the factory. They also have a different screen coating to improve contrast and ambient light rejection. They also add $1000 to the retail price!

My subject today is the calibration of a 5010FD. Sources were a satellite tuner and a Denon DVD player, both connected via HDMI. The client had made no adjustments prior to my visit so I was starting with an out-of-the-box TV. There are the usual picture modes but only Movie and User allow access to all adjustments. These are in a sub-menu called Pro Adjust. I started in Movie mode. All enhancements were turned off. I immediately found a lot of interaction between Brightness, Contrast and the 3 Gamma settings. I also discovered differences in grayscale and gamma between Movie and User modes. Staying with User mode, I optimized Brightness and Contrast and achieved the best Gamma with setting 1. After adjusting Color and Tint with my CA6X analyzer, I found the grayscale to be within a whisker of D65 without having adjusted any Gains or Cuts. These controls are available in service but they just weren't necessary in this case. I really took my time to maximize the overall contrast ratio. In the end, I achieved a perfect gamma of 2.2, a grayscale within 150k of D65 and an ANSI contrast ratio of 448:1. Some of the black squares in the pattern read below .005 foot-lamberts, the lower limit of my meter! 100 IRE measured 21.97 fL with a full field and 49.5 fL with a window. This is the highest contrast I've ever measured. This was with a fully-resolved Pluge pattern and nearly perfect color accuracy.

Moving on to the DVD player, I noticed a change in gamma when I copied my new settings to its input. I tried changing to the Movie mode and things greatly improved. Gamma was back at 2.2 and the grayscale was again within 150k of D65. The player was a Denon 1940, an excellent player in the $350 range. A few tweaks to the other controls to dial in the player and my job was done.

All in all, this was a very pleasurable calibration. This TV is extremely well-made and color accuracy is obviously a priority for Pioneer. I still believe it benefits from professional calibration (of course!). There are interactions between most of the controls and without the benefit of instruments and experience, it's easy to become lost. This is truly a high-end video display. Why not set it up for maximum performance? One side note: this is one of the few displays on the market that supports 24p input, displaying the signal at 72 Hz. This makes it a perfect display for hi-def disc players that output 1080p/24. A new Blu-ray player is the perfect match for this excellent TV. Pioneer has really raised the bar with the Kuro line.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the view!


Anonymous said...

How does the picture quality of this Pioneer compare to the Panasonic TH50-PZ700U that you tested? You really seemed to like the it better?

Chris Eberle said...

Image quality on these TVs is very close. The Pioneer has more stable black levels but the minimum black is about the same. Their color accuracy is the same and light output is the same. I know it sounds non-committal but both these TVs are excellent. The only major advantage of the Pioneer is the 24p input capability. This is not a small feature and it would influence my decision if I were considering these displays.

Anonymous said...

I bought the 5010fd for a little less than 16000. at that time i could have bought the pro111fd for 2700 from a couple of sources. now the pro111fd is atleast about 3200. does the pro111fd blow away the 5010fd? should i have spent the extra money and got the 111fd? how do they compare?

Chris Eberle said...

The PRO-111 is a little better than the 5010. I wouldn't say it "blows it away." The Elite has a more accurate color gamut but the 5010s is very close. The 5010 is very bright. In fact I measured it slightly brighter than a PRO-111 in ISF Day mode. The 111 has a slightly better minimum black level. Overall I'd say the 111 is not twice as good as the 5010. You made a good purchase.