Calling All Panny Owners

This whole Panasonic plasma black-level thing really bugs me, and I'm not alone. Shoppers are shying away from Panny plasmas because they just don't know if the black level will increase significantly after months or years of use, and frankly, neither do I. In an effort to learn as much as possible about the phenomenon, I turn to you, our readers, for help. To anyone who owns a 2008 or 2009 Panasonic plasma, I pose the following question:

Have you noticed any increase in overall black level during the time you've owned the TV?

I'm not talking about objective measurements here. After all, most owners do not have an expensive light meter, and even if they do, they probably don't make a habit of measuring the black level periodically over time. (AVS Forum members are a notable exception.)

What I'm really asking for is your subjective impression about the black level over time. When you watch a sci-fi movie with scenes in outer space, does the black of space look lighter than it did when you first got the TV? Have letterbox bars become more noticeable over time? Has the picture lost some of its "pop"? A few readers have posted comments to this effect in my previous blog, but I would like to hear from as many as possible here.

I'm assuming that you've left the brightness control alone during most of the set's life—hopefully, you set that control correctly when you first got the TV. If you haven't fiddled with it much since then, any increase in black level must be due to something internal—presumably, the increase in drive voltage that Panasonic admits is part of its plasmas' normal aging process.

Of course, if you happen to have measured the black level over time, I'd be very interested in seeing those results, at least as a relative indicator. Absolute numbers are difficult to trust without knowing the particulars of the instrumentation and environment in which the measurements were taken, but they can provide a relative basis for identifying a general trend.

This problem is particularly pernicious because it manifests itself only over an extended period of time, so reviewers like me don't have the opportunity to observe it directly. Only long-time owners can do that, which is why I'm turning to those who have lived with a Panasonic plasma for a while to help all of us understand the extent of the problem in the real world. Please post your response here, and thanks in advance for your participation!

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COMMENTS
plasma's picture

I've owned 4 panasonic plasmas over the past few years, each increasing in screensize each time. My latest one is the 54S1. Owned for four months now, the picture is still as enjoyable as the beginning. due the black bars are as dark as they were initially? Hard to tell. However, blacks look darker than they do on the 42" 2007 model in the bedroom, but that unit is not a neo panel.

Eric's picture

I left my comment in the last blog, but here it is again. Panasonic 65" V10 285 hours. No perceptible change in black levels.

Ron's picture

I am ready to buy the new 50" G20 in the next 2 weeks. Is this the right move? Is ther another TV that I should be looking at?

hd_newbie's picture

I don't own one, but if I did, I would certainly observe some degradation in blacks after all the news even if there were none. Placebo effect can be very real.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Ron, I honestly don't know what to tell you. Panasonic has said that the pogrammed increase in drive voltage will be more gradual in its 2010 sets, but no one has much direct experience with them yet. From what I've seen at CES and the recent product showcase, the new models, such as the G20, look very good, but there's no way to know how well they will maintain that performance over time at this point. HD Newbie, I agree completely that the placebo effect is real, and given the attention this issue has received, people might well see a rise in black level even if there is no such rise by objective measurement.

David Freeman's picture

Have owned a 2009 TC-P50V10 since Aug ust now with approximately 1400 hours. Just past the 1,000 hour mark there was a dramatic change in blacks as they turned initially to a soft charcoal gray and in the last six weeks to a glowing medium gray. TV was purchased for watchin Blu-Ray movies and sports with proper processing of 24p content and the excellent color pallette of THX. DVE was used at about 150 hours to set color and gray scale. The full black slide at that time looked absolutely black. Now looks light gray. Do not own a meter, so no actual measurements. This is my third Panasonic plasma. Still have a 2006 42" in the bedroom. The three year old set has had little if any noticeable change in black level and at this point produces better blacks than Panasonic's 2009 flagship in the family room.

Mar c's picture

My 58S1, which started with excellent blacks, seem to transition to a lighter tone around the 150 hour mark. Now, at 550 hours, the color black is never reproduced on screen. There is always a gray tinge. In really bright scenes , the letterbox bars would fade into the bezel, but now, not even in bright scenes. Blacks comparable to my PX600u.

Justin B.'s picture

I bought my 46U1 in Nov ember of 2009 and around Jan uary of this year I noticed a change. I ignored it at first, thought it was just the source. That is until I popped in The Dark Knight blu-ray and seen that what were deep blacks just a few weeks earlier were now bluish grays. Even when watching in the daytime it is noticeable but at night it will make any AV enthusiast cringe. It is now comparable to my desktop computers HP LCD monitor in terms of black level which means it isn't black at all. My $900 plasma turned into a $300 LCD and Panasonic denies the problem even exists. They insist that all of their plasmas increase in voltage over time to compensate for the aging of the phosphors and that is in fact true. However, some panels, like mine, don't do this gradually but instead jump to the highest level of voltage, a level which would be the equivalent of the panel being 3 years old. My set is 4 months old. I don't have a meter and I don't need one. My eyes tell me all I need to know.

Mar cus Salles's picture

I own a TC-P50G11B (brazilian model). Black level rise (and increased IR) happened at exactly 200 hours. Dont have instruments, but it was not subtle, it was night and day difference.

Rich from Michigan's picture

I have a TC-P50S1 that was purchased in mid Sep tember 2009. The initial black level was good, not as good as my RP CRT but lower than it currently is. From about 150hrs to 500hrs it seemed to be a bit lower than when new but right around 500 it seemed to go up . I am somewhere between 750hrs and 1000hrs. I will be picking up ad X-Rite I1 LT to calibrat my greyscale but will be measuring and tracking the black level.

Brett's picture

I have a TC-P50G10 that was purchased in Aug ust. I was absolutely blown away by the black levels when I first purchased the TV. In early Oct ober, I turned it on one day and noticed that the "no input" screen looked way too bright. It was an extremely noticeable difference - not subtle at all. Now, as of Mar ch 2, 2010, my TV has 978 hours of use, and the black levels are WORSE than the previous TV that I upgraded from (Samsung LN40A550 LCD). Supposedly, there is another increase at the 1000 hour mark. I am dreading that day.

Jim's picture

I have a 2008 Panasonic plasma in my bedroom. I had just started noticing an obvious increase in black levels just before seeing this blog. The increase is not subtle. I plan to re-calibrate the image as soon as I get my test discs back from a friend.

Gov's picture

Have a 58V10 and have around 700 hours or so on it. Although my black levels still remain good, they have rose a bit which started around 600 hours or so. If they continue to rise which I have no doubt they will, I forsee it to be unacceptable to me. I do not have a meter and I do not need one to tell the difference. Panasonic "goofed" up with this and I am sure did not mean for the MLL to go up like it is doing. I think Panasonic will have no choice but to take this issue more seriously and make it right with their customers. I will no longer buy or recommend Panasonic products until they step up their customer service. Panasonic DO THE RIGHT THING!!

John's picture

I purchased a Panasonic TC-P42G15 in December 2009, and WITHIN 3 MONTHS of movie-only viewing (approximately 150 hours), I experienced a disappointing and obvious lightening of my black levels. What was once the best non-CRT picture quality I have ever seen in now an embarrassing joke. Blacks are grey at best now, and this affects not just letterbox bars and dark scenes, but overall image quality, contrast, and "punch." My TV appears no better than my (rather lame) 2007 Sharp LCD. After ONLY 150 HOURS OF VIEWING, this is appalling! If Panasonic continues to claim this is "normal" behavior, they will have blatantly mislead its plasma buyers, alienated its loyal customers, and will feel the effects of its sullied reputation upon its bottom line. Panasonic: It is not too late to make this right. Do the honorable thing and a offer a fix or a refund. Until you do so, I will continue to recommend that no one purchase Panasonic products, plasma or otherwise.

Adolf's picture

Ja! Ich habe dieses problem! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE3Mp89xHOg

Steve's picture

Scott, For those of us who are planning to buy a new TV in the near future and had settled on Panasonic's plasma line based on its reputation for price/performance, what do you now recommend???? I just can't imagine going LCD or even LED backlit LCD (because of the off-axis viewing problems). And I don't want to wait until long-term testing is done on existing Panasonics. With few Kuros left and even those out of my price range ($1500 or so for a 46-50 inch) what options are there? LG's plasmas don't get great marks from what I've read. Perhaps Samsung? Any help is appreciated.

Yukon Trooper's picture

Owner of a TC-P58S1 here. The blacks have noticeably risen since owning the set (now at 700 hours). I'm one of the posters at AVS with measured data, but my subjective impressions were what spurred me to measure the black levels. They are now at 0.012ftL. 58"/65" NeoPDP panels are supposed to be in the 0.6-0.8ftL range. I'm sickened at Panasonic. I will never buy a product of theirs again if the issue is not resolved.

John's picture

It's not limited to the 2008/2009 panels. I've seen an increase in my 2007 TH-58PZ700U. The black level on my LCD display now looks better than the black level on my TH-58PZ700U. Very frustrating. Pioneer....please start making plasmas again!

Ron's picture

Is there a adjusted black level number that could be compared to other TV's. How does the adjusted Panasonic compare to the levels of other TV's. Does it get equal to, or significantly worse. This is the number that Panasonic should publish.

The Audio Dufus's picture

What a downer. Just when I had my mouth all set for the new VT25, this clearly visible trend develops. Why would Panasonic say that the new models have a far more gradual adjustment unless they realized the previous incarnation was noticably wrong. There's no problem, but we've fixed it, so go ahead and buy our new line. I'm no electrical engineer, but wouldn't it be possible to reset and reprogram the scheduled adjustment through a firmware upgrade? Now I guess I'll consider one of the new Sony XBRs as the new Bravia engine finally creates natural motion. It's a shame though.

Dave's picture

Panasonic just brought out a firmware update for its G10/15 line, ostensibly to upgrade its Viera Cast utility (now you can get news in German!). Does anyone know if there were any tweaks made to the drive voltage software that would ameliorate or eliminate the problem descibed here?

John's picture

Scott, What advice would you give someone who is interested in purchasing a HDTV? You had me sold on a Panasonic plasma, my only decision was whether to pay extra and buy the V series and what size? This latest issue has me doubting any kind of purchase in the future? I've emailed Panasonic only to get the same response you can read on any of the forums. The only thing that they assure me on the 2010 models is that there will be a more gradual decline in the blacks. That's unacceptable. Please help.

The Audio Dufus's picture

At least with LED backlit LCD, the black level is stable enough that what you see when you purchase is what you get. Why would I buy into plasma now knowing that although it has 100,000 hours to half bright---I want to know how many hours to half black. Pitiful.

Oscar Worthy, DDS's picture

I just heard through the grape vine that Panasonic is facing a class action lawsuit with regards to this issue. Therefore, it will be difficult for them comment on the matter by any means except through their legal department. I hear the wheel squeeking.

ron's picture

I was all ready to get the new G20 when it came out. Now I think that I have decided on a Samsung LED Best buy had the new one today and it looked great

Sean's picture

I have a 50G10 and it was purchased for my theater room that has no windows and no ambient light (other than the minor glow from my receiver). When I first got this display I was amazed at how everything almost appeared to have actual depth to it. Images seemed to pop off the screen and it was the best display I had ever owned (I have owned 3 plasma's and 2 CRT's). However, one day I powered on the display and the change was like a punch in the face. I thought that perhaps my settings got changed but of course everything was the way I left it. I immediately called Panasonic and they sent a tech out (before they were denying this as an issue) and he replaced the A-board. My display is still grey and I have just come to the conclusion that I will NEVER again buy any Panasonic product. Do NOT purchase a 12G or 13G Panasonic. May be they will have this issue fixed for the 14G's but the 13G's are still going to have this issue as stated by Panasonic themselves. I hope someone files a Class

WildeCat's picture

No problem at all with my P42G10 displaying a dark black image. In fact, that's all it can do thanks to a blown power supply board after only 3 months use! From what I recall before it crapped out, the black levels had decreased to such a degree that when a scene in a movie went to pitch black, enough light was being emitted in a darkened room to faintly illuminate it. Not good.

Eric's picture

Scott, I had posted here before that my 65V10 didn't show any signs of elevated black levels. Well, I must have hit their voltage trigger because I noticed it when I turned on the TV this evening. It isn't as bad as a punch in the face, but it is certainly noticable. My old Sony 60A3000 now has better blacks than my Plasma. And I paid 3X more for it. It still has a nice picture, but it certainly doesn't pop as much. Thanks a bunch Panny. You've lost another 10 customers since people come to me for advice.

JimL's picture

I have a 50V10 that I bought last Aug ust. I'm guessing I have between 300-400 hours on it. So far I haven't noticed any problems with black levels. I recently re-tweaked brightness and contrast with the Spears and Munsil BD and everything checks out.

Mitch's picture

Is a Samsung 63b550 or 63b590 a good choice for an over 60" plasma in light of the Panny issues? I have a Pioneer 151, and am helping a friend get the next best thing. Thanks

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