I noticed there are tweaks listed for the Z4, but not any for the Z5. First let me say that I am not a professional at this, but I do believe I have an excellent eye for detail and color. I highlighted the settings in a greenish yellow color for those that want to skip my wordy mumbo jumbo and get right to the settings.
I do not think the Z4 tweak threads completely apply to the Z5, as the Z5's color accuracy, lens options, and brightness differs somewhat from the Z4, which means the settings will differ as well. So below I give my opinions for others to experiment with, and hopefully others will contribute as well (maybe even with better suggestions than I have). I have tried a calibration CD, and what I found was that it made faces look really natural, but I did not always like the colors across the board for every type of viewing after the calibration CD. I have also found that different channels are skewing the settings of the color calibration (even different HD channels). I therefore find myself adjusting the picture depending NOT only on what type of content I am watching, but also what channel I am watching (go figure). Whether this be sports, scenery (like Discovery HD), or movies. Of course a professional calibration wrould likely provide an even better starting point, but not all of us wish to go this route (I am saving my money for 1080p eventually).
First my setup:
Screen: Apollo 1.0 Gain White Matte 70" Diagonal 16:9 Screen (have an 84" elite but haven't had a chance to mount it yet). I also have an off-white wall that I have projected large images onto, up to 130" or so.
Sitting Distance: about 10 feet to 12.5 feet (varies with my recliner)
Mount: Mounted at 5' high on a shelf and image is projected at virtually perfect centered angle (no keystone usage and only 2-4 slides/clicks of image shift)
Media Formats I use Time Warner HD Cable and have about 10 HD channels. I also have an HTPC (home theater PC), and a Pioneer progressive DVD player (480p)
Lamp Usage: Currently at 120 hours of lamp from when I first bought the projector
Cable Box and Hookup Methods I use the Scientifica Atlanta 8300 HD-DVR over HDMI connection. I have also tried component and I saw no difference in PQ. I have tried VGA and HDMI for my HTPC and saw no difference between the two here either. (let me stress I did not do a live comparison of these though)
Ambient and Reflective Light Conditions I have a pretty dark viewing environment, as all windows are blocked with blackout curtains. However, I do not quite have a "black hole" for a viewing room, as the room has beige carpet and white walls. There is not much light reflection because the only wall close enough to reflect any has black curtains on it to stop this. I would say my setup is a 7 or 8 out of a possible 10 as far as blocking ambient light, with a 9 or 10 being black carpet with black walls, etc...
Does the brightness noticeably fade over time from lamp usage?
One thing to take note of is that your pre-100 hour calibration will differ from your post-100 hour calibration (this is not exact but it is a good standard estimate for when most brightness change takes place). The brightness does drop off quite significantly once you get over 100 hours, but the projector does still have enough brightness at this point (even for 100" screen). Some people have said they cannot tell it has changed in brightness, but I can easily tell. You may want to get a 1.5 gain screen for 92" or more (not necessary but may give you more kick for the life of the bulb). Under 92" you probably want to stick with a 1.0 gain screen. As stated above, I currently have 120 hours on the projector's lamp, so I cannot say if the brightness fades further after this point.
Getting Started on adjusting for the BEST PQ
The biggest problem with the Z5 is definitely the color accuracy, which is why I generally recommend starting with either Creative Cinema or Natural Mode and
then going from there. These 2 modes seem to have more accurate colors as compared to the other modes, even if the reds are still off in these modes (which is not bothersome to me). You can of course base your adjustments from any factory preset, but the above is simply my recommendation based on what I have found by experimenting. One thing worth noting is I used to prefer Creative Cinema, but after 100 hours of lamp usage, I seem to get better results starting my tweaking from "natural mode".
Skip this paragraph if you are not a newbie
For those unfamiliar with the Z5, the way you change colors based on a factory pre-set is by saving your custom settings into a user pre-set (there are 4 user modes you can store your own tweaks in) . Changing the factory preset never actually changes it, so you will need to store any changes you make in one of those 4 user slots. The 4 user modes are located in the same menu as the factory Modes (keep scrolling down and you will see them after going down below Vivid setting). So you choose a factory pre-set mode (like Natural), make your own adjustments, and then from the "image adj." menu you click "store". From this point on it is self-explanatory.
Your settings will of course vary due to sitting distance, ambient light conditions, lamp usage time, personal preferences, and various other reasons... Even though this is all true, I still think this might help some people since I am on a pretty standard setup in a dark room. I have given a range of settings in most cases, since I believe most people will find the sweet spots somewhere close to this range.
Scenery / IMAX Type Viewing:
I find the below settings look good for IMAX or scenery type viewing, as well as other viewing. For non-scenery viewing you will want to tone down the color saturation (color temp and color).
Start with Natural Mode by choosing this from the first menu (Image)...
Next, go to the Z5's second menu (Image Adj.) and begin changing the below
Color Temp = Mid or High I usually set this to "High", but sometimes use "Mid". I find it provides a superior starting point over the other options. Going to Low1 or lower adds more orange to the picture (warmer color temperature), while the highest settings (med or high) give a cooler color temperature
Color +5 to +20 (depends on your preference of color saturation) Adding more color will give more punch by making all those leaves look greener, butterflies will have more color, etc... Even if this is somewhat of a fake addition, I use +10 to +20 sometimes just to see the color pop. This doesn't usually make animals or scenery look fake, but it can make people look bad. You will likely need to tone this down for normal viewing, but for the most pop try raising during a few scenes to see just what this Z5 can do. It truely can provide some incredible color pop in this situation!
Contrast +5 to +25 You will get a more punchy and less washed out image once you find the correct balance between brightness and contrast. If you see crushed whites, which can show up as shiny spots on someone's face, or clouds in the sky that have too much of a solid look, then you need to re-adjust your contrast or brightness in some cases. However, there is some trade off in getting the punchiest image, which may cause some things like clouds to look crushed and lack detail. The problem is at least in part the nature of light in general, as clouds are often reflecting the sunlight back to the lens, so this area of the image will be very sensitive to contrast. Attempt to get the contrast levels where things appear acceptable in most situations, without too many shiny spots or crushed whites. Generally a higher contrast combined with a lower brightness will provide a better picture, as it will give the picture a higher contrast range/ratio overall.
Brightness - 20 to + 10 (really depends on lamp usage and personal preferences, that is why I gave a huge range, at first you may go down even more). Mine is set at 0 to +10 usually, since my lamp is already worn in.
Gamma = 0 I left this at the default since this basically appears to primarily change brightness and contrast as a sort of all-in-one setting. This can be useful to adjust if you are having a hard time finding your sweet spot for brightness and contrast.
Lamp Iris = -30 This is another setting that affects brightness, I leave this at -30. I believe where you set this also affects how much room you are giving the automatic iris to move on its own (that is if you have the automatic iris enabled, see below under advanced)
Lamp Mode Economy Why use anything else since this makes the lamp last longer, you can simply adjust the brightness to compensate.
Progressive = L1 I leave this at L1/default, as L2 caused me some fringing. I did not see much difference in PQ with it off or on L1 however.
Sharpness = 0 I did not notice any difference between the full range of sharpness settings, but some do suggest setting this to -6 to reduce image noise and edge fringing. I actually leave mine at the default setting of 0.
I did not find many of the other settings in the standard menu that useful, but you may wish to add individual color correction or changes to the tint settings.
Change to the Image Adj. Advanced Menu (same menu as image adj. but click advanced)
Lamp Iris = Open This is where you can change it to automatic if you wish, but I really do not like it on automatic as I can hear it change and it makes some scenes too dark. Although I do sit only a foot away from the projector, so this is probably why. I did not notice that much difference in black levels with it set to Auto 1 or Auto 2, all I really noticed was a difference in brightness across the board. Feel free to experiment of course, just my observations.
Auto Black Stretch = Off Saw no noticeable differences either way.
Contrast Enhancement = Off This basically provides a small tweak to increase contrast by either raising or lowering brightness slightly (I do not think it changes like the iris, but it is a one-time set it and forget it. The setting did not appear to cause any harm to the picture, but I leave this OFF generally. You might try to use L1 to L3 if you like the picture it gives you.
Transient Improvement = L1 This is one of the few "effects" I do like. What this does is add a sharpness filter, similar to adding sharpness in a program like Paint Shop Pro or Adobe Photoshop. I would turn this off for video games or animated viewing, since this type of material is already at maximum sharpness. Also note that anything beyond L1 became a bit too much in some video scenes, but L1 seemed to provide that extra oomph of overall clarity, without making the image look pixelated or grainy. You may notice a tiny bit more pixelated look on some scenes, but I did not really notice any bad traits to the image, and to me it was worth any barely visible trade off. For instance, I noticed with Transient set to L1 that all the underwater fish shots in the Coral Reef Imax adventure looked sharper, more detailed, and a good bit clearer.
Color List = 0 I usually leave this at default, although it is a useful setting. It further alters your color settings to provide some corrective abilities. I noticed setting this to other color lists can help faces look more natural in some respects. It basically just changes the RGB scales a bit automatically. Remember though, the settings I am providing here are for an emphasis on scenery and color pop, while preserving the natural look as much as possible. You can experiment with the Color List all you want without seemingly causing any major changes to your actual viewing experience (other than the color scale of course).
Dynamic Gamma = Off This setting basically goes along with the automatic Iris, I am guessing this is part of the second IRIS / automatic brightness adjustment. I prefer this off because I like to keep my brightness pretty uniform for the most part. An irony is that on really dark scenes I don't always want better blacks because sometimes it loses detail to the point of not seeing anything! You can mess around with this and all the other Iris settings without seemingly causing any major differences in viewing experience (other than a bit of sound coming from the iris moving).
With the above settings as a reference, I mainly only feel the need to adjust the "color" (color saturation) and brightness when viewing different material. For sports or sitcom viewing (like Miami: CSI for example), then I usually lower the colors back down to somewhere around -10 to +5, and I may raise or lower the brightness depending on what I am watching.
The Z5 manual will also explain each setting somewhat, although it could be a little more detailed at times. You may want to consult the manual for more specifics. I hope some of this proves useful. Remember, this is just based on my own experiences and my own viewing environment, so constructive comments are welcome.