I just read this entire thread, a bit of a long read (some people mumbling too much technical jargon that 80% of us don't have time to follow).
Art @ pjreviews.com says the black levels are as good or better than the Panny 4000 or Sanyo z4000 (that is hard to believe, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt). Having used many recent model projectors and compared black levels, perhaps I can add a black level perspective for this projector. At the Sanyo's level of blacks (and therefore the Sharp's z17000's black levels), you don't really need it any darker, I mean sure it doesn't hurt, but the space scenes do you give that TRUE black feeling even at this level of blacks. In comparison, let's take a Mits hc4000 or an Epson 8350, at the Epson's or Mits's level of blacks, I never could get that TRUE BLACK space feeling, even after some lamp wear. This is easily and especially noticed by running my Blurays from the series "The Universe" which uses some computer renderings that put an absolute black background RENDERED with stars in it.
I think the most interesting thing would be if any former owners of the Sharp z15000 now have a Sharp z17000 and can compare the two in 2D, or if any Sharp owners can compare it with a former DLP. One member stated that it looks very similar to the Benq w5000, ok I can follow that (somewhat).
Art says the quality is about the same between the 15000 and 17000, but I noticed a
brighter image and slightly different calibrations in his own review, which makes me wonder.
Overall, it appears we have a very well designed 3D projector that is bright enough, but could use some gain to help it out after some lamp wear for 3D. According to the reviewers and owners in this thread, it appears this projector is UNMATCHED at 3D performance overall (even if comparing higher priced projectors). Hence, it should have better 3D than most (if not all) of its current 3D competitors, and as a BONUS, the 2D quality for bright scene POP that should surpass MOST, if not all, LCD projectors (again, for bright scene POP).
The question remains how does this projector compare in 2D vs. a Mits hc4000 or an Infocus sp8602, that would be interesting to know. Also often overlooked and equally as important is how the projector's colors and skin tones come out in a perceivable fashion, as well as how it handles noise (it seems to do fairly well though).
My best WILD guess is that the Mits hc4000 and Infocus sp8602 will beat it slightly in bright scene POP, but the Sharp will come back with the darker blacks than the Mits to be kind of like a POOR MAN's sp8602 for 2D viewing (given it actually costs the same as the NON-3D Infocus sp8602). Would love to see one of these things in person. Let me say I would not worry about black levels at all with this projector for 2D viewing if they can match or beat a Sanyo z4000's blacks. However, I would note that some previous reviews of the Sharp 15000 vs. the Panny 4000 and Sanyo 4000 state that the Sharp's blacks do not quite live up to these projectors, but despite which reviewer is RIGHT or WRONG, it sounds like the Sharp z17000's black levels are just good enough not to worry either way.