My 4000 arrived today, earlier than I thought it would, so I got a chance to watch a few hours of film and video. It's late, but tomorrow promises to be busy, so I thought I'd post a few thoughts. I'll be comparing it to my Sharp XV-Z20000.
I set it to Color 1, eco lamp, detail clarity 3, frame interpolation 1, color -5.
First, the color. I'm used to color that's far less intense on my Sharp 20k, so the color saturation was way too much for me. Faces seemed too ruddy and I didn't like the exaggerated skin tones. By bringing down color saturation to -5, I ended up with what looked like fairly accurate color, still more saturated than I'm used to, but which I actually ended up liking more than my less saturated Sharp color settings. Color accuracy at Color 1 seemed comparable to my Sharp, despite the dramatically increased saturation.
I set my Denon 3808 to 40ms audio delay to compensate for the frame interpolation 1 setting. Maybe not perfect, but awfully close. Using higher settings would have required still more delay.
Shadow detail was much better on the Panasonic than my Sharp. Black levels go to the Sharp. Space shots from Stargate Atlantis (Fan Favorites Blu-ray, disc 1) and Star Trek Insurrection (Blu-ray) were dark gray, not black. The Sharp can go lower, but with more digital noise. I prefer the deeper black of the Sharp, but the cleaner blacks of the Panasonic made up for much of the difference. Very smooth.
I thought at first that the Panasonic's auto iris was going to bother me, but I had neglected to set the lamp to eco mode initially, and this seemed to accentuate the changes. The one exception was the credits for Stargate Atlantis, which flashed quickly off and on instead of rolling. The auto iris spazzed out. Watching too much of that would drive me crazy. For most regular material, I pretty quickly forgot the auto iris was operating.
I really liked the contrast on the Panasonic, but for depth and "pop," the Sharp was still better, in both dark and light scenes. That has to be the ANSI contrast advantage the Sharp has. But the better shadow detail tilted me back toward the Panasonic.
I don't have a new lamp in the Sharp (it's over 1500 hours old), but I still think the Panasonic is brighter in eco mode than my Sharp was in eco mode when its lamp was new. On my 110" screen, "Normal" lamp mode is far too bright in Color 1. In eco mode, it's still a little too bright. I may try a filter to improve the black level. I never felt the need to mask my High Power screen while using the Sharp. The scope bars on a movie like Star Trek Insurrection never bothered me. I notice the bars on the Panasonic much more. Again, a filter may be necessary to tame this initial brightness.
Sharpness was a question mark for me initially, but that was because I had trouble focusing the Panasonic at first. I had to switch to my computer screen and focus on fine text. I then realized that the Panasonic was plenty sharp. I got up close, about a foot away. The pixel fill factor on the Panasonic was nearly perfect. With the sharp, each pixel has a black "square" around it. This might make the Sharp seem a little sharper, but that part of the perception is an illusion. I doubt any 3-chip design is going to beat the Sharp if you examine each pixel, but for all practical purposes, the Panasonic seems superbly sharp to me. Once I had the text focused on the computer screen, any misgivings I had about the Panasonic and the clarity of the Windows desktop evaporated.
Frame interpolation: there's absolutely no contest here. The Panasonic is far better than the Sharp when it comes to motion. I set frame interpolation to 1 and really liked it there, for film and TV shows. I also tried settings 2 and 3, but there was an odd look to moving objects that I didn't care for. Not in a million years would I have described what I saw as a "soap opera" look. I don't have a clue where that term came from, but I think it's just plain wrong. Where I noticed the most striking effect was during the pan across the Baku village in Insurrection. Set at 1, frame interpolation made for very smooth movement. At higher settings, I noticed an odd "noise" around the credits that were fading in and out (almost like mosquito noise in DVDs), and moving objects seemed a little unnatural. On credit rolls at the end of the movie, frame interpolation (at any setting) made for glassy smooth movement. The hay stacks at the opening of Insurrection showed none of the shimmering breakup that many of us have experienced in the past with that scene. Sharp 20k credit rolls don't even come close to being this smooth.
The Panasonic adjusted perfectly as I switched my sources in and out. It had no problem displaying Playstation 3, Dish 622 and home theater PC screens. There are "Normal" and "Expanded" settings for HDMI (video level vs. PC level). I have all my sources set for video levels, including my HTPC, and that simplifies things a bit. That part is every bit as seamless as it is with my Sharp. I did turn off the auto search feature. At first, even though I had only one HDMI input connected, wherever the Panasonic saw a resolution change coming from my PS3, it flipped out and displayed a graphic of the various inputs. When the movie started, of course, that stopped, but it was annoying.
Although I'm not overly sensitive to rainbows, I can see them. The Sharp 20k is actually a little worse at showing rainbows than the other two DLP's I've owned. With my 720p DLP's, I got to a point where I had to work really hard to see them at all. It was pleasant never once seeing a rainbow tonight.
There are some things I like better about the Sharp, especially the ANSI contrast and the single chip design. There are interior scenes in Stargate Atlantis that I love with the Sharp. It's a sense of depth that's just not quite there on the Panasonic. I think I can attribute that to better ANSI contrast and black level. Most of what I've read about ANSI contrast says it makes a bigger difference in bright scenes, but I think the contrast difference I'm perceiving is just as telling (even more so) in dark scenes.
Overall, though, I'm really impressed with the Panasonic 4000. It handles motion much better than my Sharp, despite DLP's speed advantage. Sharp is still selling the 20k, and you'll probably pay around $7,000 for it new, but there's no way it's worth that much more than the 4000. Although some people would probably disagree, on balance, I think the Panasonic is a better projector. I could change my mind with more viewing, but I think it will replace the Sharp in my main home theater.