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Living With the Panasonic PT-L300U  

post #1 of 103
Thread Starter 
Well, I've clocked several hundred hours watching my Pansonic PT-L300 projector, and for those of you who may be on the fence about buying this PJ, I thought I would share my thoughts on the unit after spending so much quality time with it.

You may have read about some "issues" the PJ has, so I will address them one by one:

Scanline artifacting: Once and awhile I notice it, but 98% of the time I just watch the movie. The point being that it is probably there every minute, but I just dont notice it enough to care.

Screen Door Effect: With a 9 foot-wide screen, sitting about 13 feet away, I only notice SDE on SOME screen credits and or subtitles. Otherwise it is a NON-ISSUE. Smoothscreen technology WORKS.

Colors: Never a problem, they are always rich and vibrant.

Fan Noise: Never bothers me

Black levels/shadow detail: Ah, my one major complaint. This is the one area that annoys me to this day. Of course, when I take into account the price of the projector, I can't really complain... but the poor black levels and shadow detail definitely DO distract me from enjoying whatever I am watching. Some movies, like U-571 for instance, are simply BRUTAL in displaying this shortcoming. Then again, poor blacks are endemic to all LCD PJs I think, so one can not just single out the 300U for this. In any case, I've tried using the CC05m filter and ND filter on the lens, and also a dark grey projection surface... but alls I end up with in the end is a dimmer picture and darker greys. I wish I could get used to it, but with certain source material it's just impossible to not notice. The screen is just sometimes filled with large areas of featureless dark grey.

Overall though, the sheer fact that I can watch a 9 foot image is pretty cool. With the right source material, it looks great. With comedies (not a lot of dark scenes generally), it looks incredible, even on a bare white wall. It would be darn near perfect if it could just handle blacks better. Anyway, that's my .02 on the thing.
post #2 of 103
:) Thanx this helps alot:)
post #3 of 103

Regarding the black level and shadow details, do you have complete lighting control? I have the 200U shooting onto a white wall. While the blacks could be blacker, I really have no complaints about the shadow details. Even in dark scenes I can see a lot of details and they never occur to me just as a big blur of dark grey. I calibrated using AVIA.
post #4 of 103
I've logged quite a few hours already with my 300U. I am also enjoying this projector very much. The only problem I have with it is the scanline artifact. It is not a big problem, though just a minor issue that I once in a while notice. I've pretty much addressed the contrast and blacks issue with a Firehawk. The two work very well together, even with a fair amount of ambient light.

Put me down as another satisfied customer!
post #5 of 103
Have you seen the X1 also? If so, would you describe the blacks and lack of shadow detail as a little worse, moderately worse, or significantly worse on the 300? (Is this dissappointment limited to LCD technology or does it include DLP as well)?

Also, is scanline artifacting limited to the 300 or is this an LCD trait?

post #6 of 103
Really seems like my problem with FPN are severe on my PJ more than others.. most people dont really comment on it all. Think maybe my PJ needs to go back to Panansonic
post #7 of 103
I share the same feelings as MortgagePanic. Black level isn't a real issue for me, even though I project onto a white wall, and have about 95% light control...
post #8 of 103
I just broke a 172 hours on my L300u and my only complaint is the lack of sharpness in the picture. Now don't get me wrong, it has a great picture, the colors are vibrant, and I can't really complain about the black levels. But sometimes it seems like no matter how I adjust the projector it seems like it's out of focus. I was running it with a rp56 via component until it died, now I'm using a D1 at 720p. Still the L300 is a good step up from my previous Ae100. Maybe the L500u will be Nirvana??
post #9 of 103
Thread Starter 

Sorry, I've never seen an X-1. However, I researched the entry-level PJ's a great deal before buying the 300U, and I believe that the 300 is superior to the X-1, at least based on specs and other's opinions. In other words, the X-1 would be a step down in quality. Others (esp X-1 owners :) might disagree. However, you hit the nail on the head-- the lack of true black is specifically a problem with LCD PJs (and to a lesser extent, DLP PJs), because the LCD panels can not close completely and block all light from being emitted. This is what results in blacks being dark grey as opposed to truly black. Regarding the scanline artifact, this seems to be particular to the 300U. Many people have mentioned it as being an irritating phenomena with the unit. I was aware of all the complaints about the 300 when I bought mine, and after spending lots of time with it the only one that truly irritates me personally is the black level/shadow detail issue. I guess my brain just got used to the other things, thankfully.
post #10 of 103
Get a Firehawk to address the darks. Did wonders for my HS-10.
post #11 of 103
I owned a Sony VPL-VW10HT. It is about 3 years old now. I loved everything about it execpt blacks and contrast. I've since sold my 10HT and am in the market for a new projector. I am attracted to the under $3.5K projectors, but am worried that even with LCD technology that is 3 years newer, blacks will still bug me. I look forward to seeing the Sony HS20, Sanyo Z2, and Panny 500 in person and see if I can live with the blacks. I'll try real hard to find a place that can demo with a firehawk. Guess I have a a month or so before the projectors come out though.

I don't want DLP due to possible rainbow/headache issues for me and guests. It just seems wrong to me to view sequential RGB images. I mean that's not how we see in the real world. Who knows what effect it will have on someone long term. Maybe I'm over playing the issues, but it seems that someday people will look back and regard single chip DLP as as much a fad as 3D glasses. The technology thats kind of cool, but gives you a headache.
post #12 of 103

Have you considered a Vutec SilverStar and/or the Screen goo? I have to wonder if these will satisfy your craving for deeper blacks without causing a dimmer picture. Look at the screen forum if you haven't read up on these two choices. There is a VERY GOOD comparison of the Silver Star to a grey screen and hi-power screen. It includes detailed descriptions and many pictures. The pictures in his tread make a strong case for the Vutec!

Though it's not indicated much, these higher gain surfaces may cause a subtle loss of performance in off-angle viewing but this may be a fair trade for the blacks you crave....

post #13 of 103
mortgagepanic, I couldn't agree more. A little more shadow detail and this projector would be incredible for the money.

Over on HTF Ron-P had some comments about the x-1 compared to his l200u. I think there in the long l200u thread in the tv section.
post #14 of 103
I tried the Neutral Density + Kodak CC05M filter and found it improved blacks quite a bit. Did not notice any marked drop in brightness etc. I would also recommed the Da-Lite High Power model B for a screen. Best $300 I've ever spent.

Someone mentioned their picture not being very sharp...not sure what to tell you dude. Sounds like you may have a prob with your PJ. I'm a stickler for a sharp detailed picture and my 300u more than measures up. Of course some things look better than others, garbage in garbage out. But AOTC for example looks simply stunning and HDTV, :D :D :D :D my wife, who hates football sat and watched an entire quarter of Monday Nite Football because she couldn't get over seeing a 106" picture that was so clear it felt like you were there. I even sat and watched womans tennis the other day because it was in HD. The wow factor just can't be described. I can't believe I paid $2000 for a 55" mitz RPTV a year ago :rolleyes: Every time I fire up the 300u, I feel the excitement and satisfaction I wanted to feel with the TV (but never did!). Ok, I'm done gushing! :)

BTW, I did a side by side of the X1/300u for about 2 weeks. I felt the x1 was better out of the box, but with tweaking the 300u matched or surpassed the x1 PQ. Rainbows made it a no contest for me. Couldn't deal with them. If not for the rainbows, it would have been a very tough choice. The x1 is a fine PJ in it's own right.
post #15 of 103
Have you seen the X1 also? If so, would you describe the blacks and lack of shadow detail as a little worse, moderately worse, or significantly worse on the 300? (Is this dissappointment limited to LCD technology or does it include DLP as well)?
I bought the X1 and had it for about a week and a half. I then returned it and and bought the Panny 200u. Between the two, comparing the exact same scenes from several movies, I found the 200u to have slightly better detail in the blacks and an over all better black level. With both of these, I had no filters attached, firing on a matte white Da-Lite screen and calibrated with AVIA.

I then built my own screen and painted it gray. The black level is now far better than the white screen I started with, my friends and family cannot tell the difference between this set-up and my old ISF'd 46" Mits RPTV (of course I can though).

I am surprised at how LCD's take such a hit with black levels, I just can't figure it out because from my testing, I find LCD is equally as good as DLP or in my case between the two above, slightly better.

Peace Out~:D
post #16 of 103
I now have just over 100 hours on my Panny L300u in a totally light controlled theater. It is calibrated with Scot Knight's settings. Did try the ND2 route, but thought the image was too dark. Coincidentally, I have an ND-2 67mm filter for sale if you are interested. $23 shipped (to the US).

I am watching progressive DVD and HDTV both via component cable. My screen is a 126" Parkland plastics DIY job with a black velvet border. I have no added coating on the screen.

All I can say is that this projector ROCKS! I demoed the X1, Z1, HS10 and the Panny in my theater and much preferred the Panny to them all (see my other posts on my impressions of these other projectors). In somescenes when the L300 is cold, I can see SDE and blacks are a little crushed/washed out, but when it warms up after about 15-20 minutes, it's like a different projector!!!

HDTV is phenomenal. Woah! Smack-you-in-the-face-impressive! I was watching a program last night and there were to guys standing there with black trench coats on. I'm looking at the black and I just couldn't believe that they were actually wearing really black coats.....not grey or dark grey, but real black. Pure black. Now, maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, but I'm happy to settle for that if it looks so, so good.

Watching INHD2 last night as well and they were showing features from the Grand Canyon. Beautiful. If anybody wants to see just how good this projector is, you're more than welcome to stop by!

This one is a keeper. As far as I am concerned, there is no need to spend any extra money on a Z2, HS20 or L500. I am very picky with my expectations, and this projector has eclipsed absolutely all of those expectations! To take a hit in my projector, then spend another $1000-$1500 more for incremental (and possibly imperceptible) benefits is something I can't justify. Guess it's like computers.....some people always have to upgrade. If I did that, I'd be completely in debt!!

This projector (and the others I have mentioned) are all great projectors. The Panny was the one for me, and I am totally happy in my decision to purchase it.

Hope this info helps any prospective purchasers.

post #17 of 103
Hmm...I have the Sanyo PLV-z1 whihc from what I have read has the same type of black/shadow level as the L300. I find it to be good. Sure during dark scenes/movies the blacks aren't truly "black" but they are usually close enough. And hey, nothing in the real world is black anyway when lighting is low. Stuff is always a dark grey.
post #18 of 103
tweaking with AVIA or similar is a MUST!
Out of the box on the Panny, color is okay, but black level is not.
Be sure to team your settings with your source. If your source has black level settings you need to set these and then perform your calibrations.
For instance, some Panny DVD player have darker/lighter settings and such.
After calibration and proper black level / white level adjustment, I am completely satisfied with my image. Black rear wall and black-edged screen.
And, I project onto off-white formica!
You just can't get any darker black than Austin Powers horn-rimmed glasses!
post #19 of 103
Question: Are the Pannys (100/200/300) progressive?
post #20 of 103
All LCD and DLP pjs are 'progressive', they can only display non-interlaced signal. They all have internal de-interlacer to process interlaced inputs.
post #21 of 103
Thread Starter 
Sometimes I wonder if my perception of poor blacks is a self-fulfilling prophecy; i.e. prior to buying the 300 I read up on it and heard that it, and in general LCD PJs, had less-than-ideal blacks. Maybe it's also certain DVDs? The one that finally broke me was one of the discs in Season 2 of "24". I guess there were a lot of dark, night time scenes and i just really started to notice that large areas of the screen that were supposed to be really dark were in fact more grey. But then, last nite I watched "Peacemaker" and "Cliffhanger" and I didn't really become aware of poor black levels. Weird.
post #22 of 103
The black levels on the l300u are ENTIRELY based upon your setup. I have the l300u, denon 1600 dvd (which has a special 'blacks' setting) and monster cable component.

On a flat white wall blacks were BLACK! I could not tell the difference between the black bars on the top and bottom and the part of the wall that had no picture being projected on it.

I then switched to a HighPower 106" pulldown screen. Blacks were now grey, but with calibration it really isnt bad at all.

My only complaint (like another above) is the sharpness. I too see that the picture looks out of focus no matter how u focus it. The menu is in focus, the dvd is close. I imagine its the lower res of the dvd that creates this annomoly.
post #23 of 103
"Sometimes I wonder if my perception of poor blacks is a self-fulfilling prophecy"

I think that's often true. I think we sometimes become "visual hypochondriacs" to coin a phrase. We come here and read (and read and read) and someone mentions a perceived or real weakness in our displays and we immediately start looking for it. I know I've done it. Sometimes ignorance IS bliss I think! :) I love to tweak and am always looking for ways to squeeze every bit of of my PJ, but if you (you being figurative, not anyone in particular) spend all your time looking for imperfections, how can you enjoy this wonderful hobby? I think we can get a little anal sometimes. If I were as critical of my local cinema as I am of my own cinema, I'd never give them another dime. My sound system is better and goodness knows my PQ is better than the dark, grainy crap they throw up there 1/2 the time!
post #24 of 103
Thread Starter 
right now I'm projecting under-less-than ideal conditions onto an off-white wall. I have the NDx2 filter and CC05m installed. Did simple calibrations with the new DVE disc. My blacks are still dark grey. I have a Firehawk sample that i've taped in the center of my "screen" and at certain angles, the darks do appear to be better... I also have Goosystems Digtal Grey Lite which I've yet to apply to the screen area.

Re: Sharpness issues; I've never had this problem with the PJ... and in fact that is one of the things that I still marvel at; how close ups look so incredible with the thing even with just 480p and not HD. I think this is an issue with certain DVD's. "Jurassic Park" looked positively AWFUL to me for a big-budget film, whereas an much older film like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" looked razor sharp. Also, the "24" episode discs have all been extremely grainy. Just bad transfers in my opinion.

However, that said, when calibrating with the DVE disc I did notice a sharpness issue, in that I could not remove the "halos" or "ringing" from the sharpness pattern on the disc, even turning the sharpness on the PJ all the way down. The ringing was still present around the lines and text. I dont know if this is an artifact of my DVD player (Rp-62k) or the PJ itself, though.
post #25 of 103
I been reading post after post trying to sort out what budget projector I should buy. I'm pretty sure I'm set on the Panasonic PT-L300U and your comments have been helpful. Thanks! Can you help answer some of my final questions?

I'm concerned about the price drop once the next generation comes out. Right now the cheapest I've found is $1699 w/warranty. On a used unit with hours less than 100, what would be a reasonable price and would that price be reasonable once the next gen comes out since I expect the retail price will also drop?

Also, since the projector is not HDCP compliant, the worst case is I won't be able to watch HD PPV content? Or not be able to even connect to newer HD receivers?

Thanks from a new AVS Forum member!
post #26 of 103

Only the DVI input is not HDCP compliant. HDTV through component looks fantastic!!!

I bought my L300u for $1899.00, and consider that a bargain for this PJ. A couple of $$$ off is just icing on the cake.
post #27 of 103

No one has a crystal ball about price drop - when and by how much. If you're thinking about selling it in a couple of months, your potential of losing money is considerably higher than the bargain basement pjs like X1 and Z1.

Personally, if this is going to be temporary until the dust settles for the new models, I'll go for the cheaper models for now.
post #28 of 103
I have my L300 hooked up to a brand new Motorola 5100 HDTV box. All works fine and looks excellent!

Keep in mind that with the new crop of projectors, as they are new, retailers will not discount them initially. It may take 6 months until prices start to drop. It's just like everything when it is new. We sell Corvette's at our dealership...when the model is brand new, they go for full sticker. Give it some time and we'll sell the same car maybe a year or two later for $3-4K off the MSRP. Now, projector product lifespans are much shorter so the discounts will come sooner, but you get my drift?

The price on the L300 will probably remain static for a while. $1699 is a good price - it's what I paid about 2 months ago from VA.

Enjoy the projector now if you can. It will always be the bleeding edge of technology and the water's always warm. You just have to pick a time to jump in!

post #29 of 103
Originally posted by rickster904
Personally, if this is going to be temporary until the dust settles for the new models, I'll go for the cheaper models for now.
I second this. After lurking around here and reading up on ProjectorCentral, I had my mind fixed on the L300U. Then, the X1 dropped to $1K. Then, I found out that you could get 10% off of that by using one of those BB coupons. I then had a choice between spending $1800 or $900.....no brainer. This, taken with the ProjectorCentral comparison between the two, and my decision was made.

It's all about cashflow. With everything that will be coming out in the near future, it simply didn't make sense to drop twice the bucks on a PJ that didn't have a clear and distinct benefit over the the other. Hell, if something bigger and better comes along, then I can always sell my PJ on Ebay and write off the minor loss as an extended rental fee.

Good Luck
post #30 of 103
I definitely agree with the previous posts. I don't want to spend a good chunk because well, I can't afford it but I don't want to sit by and wait and not enjoy the fun of a home theater when it is within my grasp. I typically believe that you get what you pay for so that's why I've been a little skeptical about buying the projector.

Turbodog1 - So I take it you have the X1? Can you share you thoughts, other than the big price difference why you decided to go with the X1? I'm a stickler for image quality. I usually can pick out the screen door effect and that would make me unhappy with my purchase.

I'm building a 72" horizontal 16:9 screen and will be sitting 10-12 feet away. From what I've read, at that distance I should be able to pick it out but since dealers don't showcase their cheapo units I can't be sure.

I know I can scrutinize until I die, but here's my bottom line. I need to purchase something that I will be happy enough with so when I decide to upgrade in a few years my wife will let me. I'm sure some of you can relate!
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