Panasonic ZT60 is Potential "Kuro Killer," Plasma Not Dead Yet - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 03:41 PM - Thread Starter
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In the world of premium plasma panels, the Pioneer Kuro is among the most legendary television lines of them all. With a name that literally means "black" and performance that set the standard for image quality, the Kuro's reputation as a reference display device is well established. For the past few years, as each new crop of plasma HDTVs was reviewed, home-theater aficionados stayed on the lookout for a so-called "Kuro Killer."

One of the joys of the Kuro is that its blacks are so deep—in fact, it requires a very dark room to appreciate the way it renders shadows. Since plasma panels always maintain at least a nominal charge, they never achieve absolute black the way OLED can by totally shutting off. However, with the best plasma TVs, the deepest shade of gray essentially looks black, due to the limitations of human vision.


Panasonic ZT60 Plasma HDTV - Photo from Panasonic.com

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending an event hosted by Panasonic in New York City, a preview of its 2013 line of HDTVs, soundbars, HTIBs, Blu-ray players, and other products. The star of the show was a 60" ZT60 plasma panel, which was set up next to a 60" 2008 Pioneer Kuro in a blacked-out, light-controlled area. When showing typical demo footage, the panels looked very similar, but when the displays rendered relatively challenging scenes, it became quite clear that the Kuro's reign as the top-dog reference TV could be over.

Of course, this was a demo set up by Panasonic using what could be a specially tweaked pre-production unit, so the question remains: "Will a production ZT60 will beat a calibrated Kuro in a third-party test?" At this point, my money is on the ZT60, based on what I saw with my own eyes—and what my camera saw.

Modern DSLRs are not limited the way human eyes are, especially when it comes to low-light sensitivity. During the demo, I realized I would be better off taking photos, if I could find a way to capture what Panasonic was trying to show me. Fortunately, much of the demo consisted of still or very slow-moving images, making it easy to shoot at different shutter speeds. I set my Sony a57 to ISO 3200 and opened up the lens aperture to its maximum. I took some shots at 1/60 of a second (the duration of a single video frame) and others with approximately a half-second exposure to capture the deepest blacks on the screens as shades of gray. I'll show you some of these shots shortly.

This technique greatly exaggerated the differences in black level and shadow detail between the two sets, though of course, no one watches TV like this. To the unaided eye, the differences between the ZT60 and Kuro were subtle, and to one other attendee, not perceptible at all. That person will probably remain a skeptic.

Which isn't to say I'm not a bit skeptical myself. As I mentioned earlier, Panasonic set up the demo, and I don't know how—or even if—the two panels were calibrated. The Kuro was clearly brighter than the ZT60, which might have affected its black level, and there was a discrepancy in the color balance that is easily visible in the comparison photos.

Still, I was very impressed by the ZT60, which excels at rendering the most subtle details within shadows, and it exhibits super-deep blacks. In addition, the ZT60's screen is much darker than the venerable Kuro's when both sets are powered off. As a result, in a partly dimmed environment, the ZT60's blacks looked practically infinite in depth, whereas the Kuro really needed a totally dark room to achieve its "deepest black" effect. When I asked why this advantage was not mentioned, the rep told me a decision was made to highlight other features instead.

Another clear advantage displayed by the ZT60 was the issue of phosphor trails. Briefly, phosphor trails occur when the red, green, and blue phosphors get excited and then decay at different rates. Blue decays the fastest, green decays the slowest, and the end result is a yellowish "trail" that can sometimes be seen on the trailing edge of a fast-moving object.

In a brief demonstration of a fast, horizontally panning scene, the Kuro exhibited phosphor trails that were considerably more pronounced than on the ZT60. Unfortunately, there was no way to capture that particular demonstration with a still camera, and the circumstances of the demo require some degree of skepticism at any assertions made by the manufacturer, at least until proper third-party tests are performed. It is also worth mentioning that sensitivity to phosphor-trail artifacts varies—most people don't see them most of the time. That said, the ZT60 renders high-speed motion extremely well, with very high motion resolution and no obvious artifacts, unlike the Kuro used in this demonstration.

Unfortunately, in terms of plasma technology, this is likely the last of its kind to come from Panasonic. After a long conversation about different technologies and the future of flat panels, I am convinced the ZT60 is the final statement from the company that finally might have killed the Kuro.

Is there any ray of hope for plasma fiends? Yes. Plasma technology just might live on as a specialized, jumbo-screen 4K technology. Panasonic has already built a 152" 4K plasma, which can be custom-ordered for a cool half-million dollars. The company rep I spoke to confirmed that current 1080p plasma screen sizes are scalable to a 4K display by doubling the dimensions, without needing to invest in new technology. That means premium 4K plasmas between 84" and 130" are not a total impossibility. Plasma fans, you had better speak up now, if you ever want to see something like that offered as a product. Panasonic still denies it is getting out of the plasma game, and its forecasts show the large-panel plasma market remaining flat at about 11% of the total HDTV market, after recent losses in market share.

The event provided a tantalizing glimpse at an eagerly anticipated possibility: The ZT60's performance might establish a new reference for HDTV panels in the 55-65 inch size range. Unfortunately, I cannot take Panasonic's assertion that it has gone "beyond the reference" at face value, due to questions about the comparison itself. To make that sort of judgment, I will have to attend a properly conducted HDTV shoot-out, which should happen soon enough.

For now, as the following photos show, the two panels differed in terms of overall brightness and color balance. Despite the apparent flaws in the comparison, certain aspects of the ZT60's performance were clearly superior, especially the way it rendered details in deep shadows. In all of the images, the ZT60 is on the left, and the Pioneer Kuro is on the right.


Photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger
This example of deep shadow detail rendition got my attention, prompting me to start taking photos of the comparison. The photograph I took was deliberately over-exposed. Playback was paused on a picture of black fur; even though absolute black is brighter on the Kuro, the ZT60 shows quite a bit more detail. The difference was a bit harder to detect with the naked eye.


Photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger
For this image, I set the exposure so that the darkest part of the ZT60 shows up as true black. It appears that the deepest blacks on this particular Kuro were not as deep as those found on the Panasonic; discrepancies in calibration make it impossible to draw a proper conclusion as to the cause of that.


Photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger
A normal exposure of a uniformly lit scene provided a glimpse into how each HDTV rendered color and their relative brightness with respect to each other. The Kuro is clearly brighter, and the color balance exhibits a bias toward magenta. The moire patterns visible in the images are the result of interactions between the plasma grid and the sensor grid in the DSLR; both HDTVs displayed nearly flawless-looking video. Digital photographs have a tendency to exaggerate differences that the human eye compensates for naturally. On location, the calibration of both HDTVs looked very similar to each other.



Photos ©2013 by Mark Henninger
These two photographs were taken at two different shutter speeds. The top photo represents a normal exposure, which I targeted for 1/60 second. The bottom image was deliberately over-exposed. For this example, the video was not paused but the image on screen was motionless. The difference is not as dramatic as it was with the dog fur example, but the ZT60 does manage to render more details in the dark shadow gradients of the hair. Remember, to the human eye, the displays looked like they do in the upper image.
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post #2 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 07:07 PM
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Why the heck panasonic come up with best TV as last hiccup;(
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post #3 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 07:27 PM
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First, thanks for the comparison! Which KURO model was it? I'm still amazed at how good my PRO-110FD looks and that was the first 1080P KURO Pioneer released...I've heard the later models were even better. I have no doubt the ZT60 series surpasses the KURO's performance, but for a 5-year old PDP, the KUROs still hold their own against many of today's panels. Other than purchasing a larger panel for another room (probably a ZT60), I won't be giving up my KURO. smile.gif
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post #4 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 08:27 PM
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The tv on the right is a kuro? That's exactly what my krp500 looks like in a dark room.
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post #5 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 08:51 PM
 
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Above Kuro is defective (a minority of them develop red tint...heck, maybe all of them do after enough hours pass? :0). And no, the ZT60 is still not going to match Kuro 9G blacks according to a certain insider who has received word direct from the engineers. That said, it should be equal or better in all other categories.
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post #6 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vinnie97 View Post

Above Kuro is defective (a minority of them develop red tint...heck, maybe all of them do after enough hours pass? :0). And no, the ZT60 is still not going to match Kuro 9G blacks according to a certain insider who has received word direct from the engineers. That said, it should be equal or better in all other categories.


Keep in mind that the red/magenta tint seen in the Kuro here is mostly due to intentional overexposure to exaggerate the differences between the two sets. Mark did note a slight magenta tint in the Kuro by eye, but it's not evident in the short-exposure photos above. Thus, I doubt it's defective, though of course, I don't know for sure.


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post #7 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 10:00 PM
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"The Kuro was clearly brighter than the ZT60, which might have affected its black level"

So if the black levels are close as the article seems to indicate, doesn't this mean the Kuro still has "clearly" better contrast as well?
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post #8 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 10:12 PM
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Not really a fair comparison as that Kuro is clearly messed up. So was the one from the event in february. Ken noticed this too when he saw the kuro at the show (which surprising to me he said was darker. Even with the red tint). My 151 looks night and day better than the ones Panasonic are using.

Just saying. Not taking anything away from the ZT60. I expect it to be the best set this year. But that Kuro isn't being giving a fighting chance. Guess it doesn't really matter in the end. The Kuros are long gone and we all know how they really perform.

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post #9 of 147 Old 04-10-2013, 11:05 PM
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I heard from another demo that they'd had to borrow a Kuro from a private person and they'd not wanted to mess with his setup, so it was a non-ISF-calibrated set. Don't know if it's the same specimen for this demo.

In any case, the ZT60 looks to be a great set and one you can buy. Don't think it would stand up to what the never produces 10G Kuro would have done, which is a pity... They should have bought that tech from Pioneer.

And it unfortunately seems like a curse to produce a great plasma... it leads to closedown of making them, it seems...

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post #10 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 12:39 AM
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http://cdn.avsforum.com/6/66/668a5f84_Panasonic_Z60_vs_Kuro10.jpeg

In this pic the right side television looks better with more details,better shadows and skin tone so i guess which ever television that is did an amazing job.smile.gif

Also i don't understand the need for over exposing an imagine to check which is better,it does not make sense unless the over exposed image is what one see's through the naked eye.
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post #11 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 12:44 AM
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Blue LED is Kuro

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post #12 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 02:48 AM
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Geez, that Kuro is not set up correctly, PERIOD. I had a VT50 for a short period and next to my KURO it was rubbish. There is no way this wasn't a setup by Pana.

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post #13 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 03:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cronuskronos View Post

http://cdn.avsforum.com/6/66/668a5f84_Panasonic_Z60_vs_Kuro10.jpeg

In this pic the right side television looks better with more details,better shadows and skin tone so i guess which ever television that is did an amazing job.smile.gif

Also i don't understand the need for over exposing an imagine to check which is better,it does not make sense unless the over exposed image is what one see's through the naked eye.

Actually it makes total sense. We were only given a few minutes for our eyes to adjust when the demo started. With more time, our low-light visual acuity would have improved. It takes eyes 20-30 minutes to fully adapt to a new brightness level.

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post #14 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 03:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by 1000 View Post

Geez, that Kuro is not set up correctly, PERIOD. I had a VT50 for a short period and next to my KURO it was rubbish. There is no way this wasn't a setup by Pana.

1000

There is a significant gap between the ZT60 and the VT50, in terms of image quality. The ZT60 is totally competitive with the Kuro.

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post #15 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 04:04 AM
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Right TV on the shot claimed to be VT50 on the place I found it. Link seems to originate back here, but I don't know what original posts says...
822780ad_543115_456039327777608_1835489553_n.jpeg

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post #16 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 04:36 AM
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Considering that Panasonic has announced that this will be the last line of plasma sets it will be developing, I will pass. I already have a 141. Why would I want to replace it with another set by a manufacturer getting out of the business? I will wait for OLED to finally come out. I would also take these public comparisons by a manufacturer with a huge grain of salt. A huge grain of salt.
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Incidentally, another article had this image posted -



It's a totally different camera; it's some other photographer's handiwork, but there is the same apparent discrepancy in brightness.

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post #18 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 05:54 AM
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Yeah. The brightness is wrong on the kuro. They should of got a brand new panel from pioneer and calibrated it or just calibrated the one they had.

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Originally Posted by saprano View Post

Yeah. The brightness is wrong on the kuro. They should of got a brand new panel from pioneer and calibrated it or just calibrated the one they had.

If only... rolleyes.gif

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post #20 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 06:13 AM
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Hee hee. If Pioneer still have brand new panel, there won't be any need to do this comparo, right? biggrin.gif having seen them side-by-side at my house, I prefer the Pana than the Pio especially in the lack-of phosphor trailing department.

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Interesting, even though the Kuru is probably not calibrated in this comparison, it's good to know that the ZT-60 will be a great replacement to my Pro-101 in the future.
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Any info on smaller size units using the same tech?

I doubt any potential advantage of the ZT60 would cause me to get rid of my 141, (unless there is a 65-70), but not so for any smaller units that might be avaiable as Pio maxed at 768p on the sub 50s.
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post #23 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 07:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JWhip View Post

Considering that Panasonic has announced that this will be the last line of plasma sets it will be developing, I will pass. I already have a 141. Why would I want to replace it with another set by a manufacturer getting out of the business? I will wait for OLED to finally come out. I would also take these public comparisons by a manufacturer with a huge grain of salt. A huge grain of salt.

May be a very long wait for OLED comprable to current Plasma sets at the same size for realistic $$$.

If my Panny Plasma died today I would probably consider a decent 3d Projector and just deal with the light problem with expensive shades. I am not optimistic about OLED in the short term.
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post #24 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 09:06 AM
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I honestly was starting to wonder when Panasonic would make something this good. I have two plasmas in my house, a GT50 in the family room and an ST20 in the bedroom.

I would like to get a front projector for movies one day, but since my house is small, this would sure make for a VERY VERY good alternative.

Like Stickboy, I am not the most optimistic about OLED, it is going to be too expensive for a long time and now with 4k coming it could take even longer....

Trying to enjoy the simple things in life.

 

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post #25 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 09:36 AM
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Okay so maybe this plasma is debatably comparable to the Kuro. Unfortunately, as we all know the Kuro line is finished.

So my question is how does this ZT60 compare to Samsung PNF8500? Those seem to be the two best plasma models out this year that can actually be purchased new.

Has anybody seen both or even better side by side? Trying to choose. I would love to wait for OLED but those prices are astronomical.
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Originally Posted by kingdavid21 View Post

Okay so maybe this plasma is debatably comparable to the Kuro. Unfortunately, as we all know the Kuro line is finished.

So my question is how does this ZT60 compare to Samsung PNF8500? Those seem to be the two best plasma models out this year that can actually be purchased new.

Has anybody seen both or even better side by side? Trying to choose. I would love to wait for OLED but those prices are astronomical.

I have seen them both, but there's no way to pass judgement. I'm fairly certain those two HDTVs have not been seen side-by-side yet. It's going to be very competitive, the Samsung F8500 has different strengths and weaknesses compared to the ZT60. I can't wait to compare the two.

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post #27 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 10:11 AM
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I have only seen that the ZT60 will be out in 60 and 65 inch. If this is true, the Samsung may be a better buy considering you can also get the 51" model for about 1k less...I really wish Panasonic would make their high end models a little smaller as I find the 50-55" market to be a very large market...

Other than the smaller size though they look to be about the same price.

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post #28 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by stickboy2k View Post

May be a very long wait for OLED comprable to current Plasma sets at the same size for realistic $$$.

If my Panny Plasma died today I would probably consider a decent 3d Projector and just deal with the light problem with expensive shades. I am not optimistic about OLED in the short term.

Which is why I have no plans to buy a new tv. I will continue to enjoy my set, hopefully for years.
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post #29 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 10:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kingdavid21 View Post

Okay so maybe this plasma is debatably comparable to the Kuro. Unfortunately, as we all know the Kuro line is finished.

So my question is how does this ZT60 compare to Samsung PNF8500? Those seem to be the two best plasma models out this year that can actually be purchased new.

Has anybody seen both or even better side by side? Trying to choose. I would love to wait for OLED but those prices are astronomical.

That is what the upcoming shootout is for. It will be interesting to see them side by side after full calibrations.
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post #30 of 147 Old 04-11-2013, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by skip61 View Post

Interesting, even though the Kuru is probably not calibrated in this comparison, it's good to know that the ZT-60 will be a great replacement to my Pro-101 in the future.

I have it on good authority that the Kuro Panasonic used in the comparison was a Pro-141 signature series. It was confirmed as functional and properly calibrated a few weeks prior to the demonstrations, but that's certainly no guarantee it was still properly calibrated when I saw it.

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