Panasonic left the US television market a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean the company stopped making TVs. In fact, its OLED models have been extremely popular elsewhere in the world. At CES 2018, two new lines of Panasonic OLED TVs were unveiled: the FZ950 and FZ800. According to conversations I’ve had with company reps, these are consumer TVs that will be available in Europe and elsewhere, but they will be sold only as professional client-reference monitors for post-production studios in the US—at least, for the time being.
One of the hallmarks of Panasonic OLED TVs is the company’s proprietary HCX 4K video processor. The latest generation features a new Dynamic LUT (look-up table) system. As you may know, a LUT is often used with video displays to adjust colors so they are more accurate to a given standard. In some cases, an outboard LUT box is added to the signal chain, while in other cases, the video display has its own internal LUT.
According to the Panasonic press release, “Until now, LUTs in TVs were fixed according to the color space used by the source. With this innovation, the HCX automatically monitors the average brightness level of a scene and uses picture analysis to dynamically load a LUT appropriate to that scene. This brings especially significant improvements to mid-brightness scenes, making them look much more natural.” One result is nearly 100% coverage of the DCI/P3 color gamut.
The press release goes on to say, “To improve color accuracy in shadows, Panasonic has included additional layers of LUT data at much darker levels than previously. This means that while improving the transition from pure black to just above black, the colors in the shadows are even more accurate.
“Finally, in response to requests from Hollywood’s professional users,
Panasonic has extended the range and reduced the interval between calibration steps at the darkest end of the RGB and gamma scales. This can be adjusted by the user via Panasonic’s Color Management System. The FZ950 and FZ850 offer new calibration points at 5% and—in an industry first—just 2.5% luminance, providing the greatest control to users where it is most needed, just above complete blackness in low-light scenes. These new industry-first calibration points will also be supported by Portrait Display’s CalMan software with AutoCal functionality.
“All of this year’s new OLED screens boast an Absolute Black Filter, which helps ensure the purest, most accurate black levels by absorbing ambient light in order to eliminate reflections—especially beneficial in brightly lit rooms.”
In terms of high dynamic range (HDR), the new Panasonic OLED TVs will fully support HDR10+, the new, royalty-free HDR standard that adds dynamic metadata to HDR10. Of course, they will also support the HDR10 and HLG formats. (There’s no mention of Dolby Vision, so I assume these TVs do not support it.) In addition, a new Dynamic Scene Optimizer analyzes the image to mimic dynamic metadata when playing HDR10 content. Finally, a new Auto HDR Brightness Enhancer adjusts how HDR content looks in a brighter room.
Panasonic kept gamers in mind as well, with “the quickest-ever response times.” A dedicated Game mode is said to use exceptionally fast processing for 4K HDR gaming.
Normally, a TV’s onboard speakers are nothing to write home about. But the Panasonic OLED TVs might be different. They sport a Dynamic Blade Speaker, which is tuned by Technics, Panasonic’s audio brand. It incorporates audiophile-grade components, including four woofers, four “squawkers” (whatever they are!), and two tweeters in addition to a quad passive radiator to boost the bass.
The FZ950 and FZ800 Panasonic OLED TVs will be available in 55″ and 65″ screen sizes, though no pricing or availability was announced as of this writing. As I mentioned at the top, they are consumer-oriented TVs that will be sold at retail in Europe and elsewhere, but not in the US. However, they will be sold to professional studios as monitors in the US. And who knows? Perhaps Panasonic will decide to re-enter the US consumer-TV market if demand is high enough.