Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 3D Plasma HDTV Page 2

A trace of red shift was visible on both sets at the darkest end of the PLUGE test patterns we use to set the Brightness control (seen at video levels of 17 to 19). The Pioneer’s color also had a subtly reddish cast next to the Panasonic. This was visible mostly in fleshtones, in the black bars in widescreen movies, and on a full black screen. It was apparently a deliberate Pioneer design choice and is inherent in that set’s front panel filter. The brightest whites on the Panasonic, meanwhile, had a trace of pink on near-white test patterns that couldn’t be dialed out by calibration. But none of these subtle deviations was clearly visible on normal program material. Both sets had superb post-calibration color on real-world material, and their color differences were trivial.

With their Sharpness controls properly set (Pioneer on –15, Panasonic on 50), resolution differences between the sets, as with the color, were hard to spot. Unless there were problems in the source material, neither set ever looked either soft or unnaturally detailed. But I did note, and liked, the Panasonic’s subtly crisper images.

The panels on both sets do produce a low level buzz, together with some fan noise, which may annoy some viewers in certain situations. But for me these noises were inconsequential and in any case were masked by the sound from the source.

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Pioneer Kuros have been criticized in some quarters for coming out of black a bit too slowly, resulting in crushed shadow detail. That may be true depending on your viewpoint, but it may well be a part of the Kuro’s inky-black secret sauce. Panasonic has argued in the past that its near-blacks may be a little lighter but that this better satisfies the need for good shadow detail.

With the sets matched as closely as possible with test patterns, particularly at the dark end of the brightness scale (difficult to do as the Panasonic appears to come out of black a bit sooner than the Pioneer), I pulled out two of my favorite black level and shadow detail torture discs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Prometheus. Early on in the Potter film, Harry, Ron, and Hermione converse at the top of a dark stairwell (about 5:50 into the movie, chapter 2). Both sets did beautifully on this scene, but the Panasonic revealed just a little more shadow detail. Later, Harry and his friends travel to the dark, gloomy vaults at Gringotts Bank (beginning at the start of chapter 5). Both sets did equally well. Further along in chapter 9 (at 32:05), there’s a dark exterior shot of Hogwarts. The Panasonic offered noticeably more shadow detail here, without the blacks turning grayish. And at the beginning of chapter 12, there’s a panning shot around Voldemort and his minions. Most HDTVs fail so badly on this scene that they take you out of the film, but both the Panasonic and Pioneer sailed through it, with excellent shadow detail and no trace of fogginess. In a few other dark scenes, I thought I saw a little more depth in the Pioneer’s (2D) image, but this was elusive and would never be noticed short of a side-by-side comparison.

Moving on to Prometheus, the black background behind the ghost-like figure in the Scott Free logo preceding the film (0:53) was darker on the Panasonic. Ditto the star fields at 7:38 and 12:27. But this was very close. Most other comparisons on this disc, including the darkness in the alien caves, ended in virtual ties. Only on one scene did the Pioneer earn a marginal but visible win. In chapter 2 (7:24), there’s a shot of the female lead’s face in very low light. On both sets, the face was slightly washed out, but it did have a little more pop on the Pioneer.

Neither set goes totally black when portions of the image go to black. For now, that trick is exclusive to local-dimming LCDs with full-array (not edge) LED backlighting. But the Panasonic’s black bars on letterboxed movies are a little less conspicuous than on the Pioneer—though this was, again, very close.

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It’s perhaps important to note that during this comparison, our sample of the Panasonic TC-65ZT60 had barely 150 hours on its clock, while the Pioneer Kuro PRO-141FD had four years of almost daily use behind it. With that considered, however, the bottom line is that this new Panasonic flagship can take a direct comparison to a Pioneer Kuro and come out, if not on top, at least very much on equal footing. And the Panasonic still had enough headroom for a slightly brighter picture if you need it (though not much more—super brightness is still an LCD show); the Pioneer in its preferred Pure mode was pretty much maxed out at the roughly 32 ft-L used in the comparisons.

Oh Yes, 3D
Plasmas are at a disadvantage in 3D relative to LCDs because of their inherently dimmer picture. With everything pushed to the wall—Contrast on 100, Panel brightness on High—the Panasonic’s peak brightness, post-calibration, measured just a shade over 5 ft-L. Compare that with the 3D brightness we’ve measured on some recent LCD designs—up to 24 ft-L in Sony’s latest 4K-resolution XBR model. This appears to be an inherent strength of LCD and an inherent weakness of plasmas.

That said, the Panasonic still produced good brightness in 3D. The 3D post-calibration color and resolution both measured and looked outstanding viewed through the glasses. Ghosting was less obvious than on many 3D sets.

The only bent arrow in the Panasonic’s 3D quiver was noticeable video noise, post calibration, on low-light-level test patterns in the High Panel brightness setting I needed to get the subjectively bright, punchy picture described earlier. This looked very bad on a 20-percent white window, but I never spotted it on real program material, including some of the darkest scenes in Avatar and Jack the Giant Slayer.

3D is becoming something of a commodity, but the TC-P65ZT60 produced the best 3D I’ve yet seen on a plasma display.

Conclusions
4K may be calling your name, but you have to consider the current dearth of true 4K sources and the probable need for a much bigger and more expensive screen to fully appreciate its benefits. 4K is also likely to be exclusively LCD, with that technology’s inherent weaknesses, for the foreseeable future. OLED is just coming to market, but with no guarantees about when we might see it at large screen sizes or affordable prices.

But the Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 is here now, and while it isn’t exactly a bargain-basement item, I can’t think of any currently available set of its size likely to produce a better picture on a 2K source. Absolutely recommended!

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COMMENTS
Jen Watterud's picture

Just curious if anyone has this TV and what your opinion is on it. Thanks.

strongstein's picture

When I heard that production was ending forced to buy now (11/8/13 - initial thoughts are "great buy" - Black levels are outstanding - on somethings movies they melt into the dark scenes and you I no idea where movie ends and bars begin - would classify myself as an "enthusiast" not and "expert" - use the THX modes for movies and standard for most broadcasts - TV is connected through an Onkyo TX-NR908 -I use direct on BluRay and for cable I use "picture adjust" - I set it to custom and 1080P. Seems to work well but unsure if I should just send the signal to "direct' or let the receiver do the deinterlacing.

mvision7m1's picture

As a current owner of a professionally calibrated 2011 Panasonic TC-P55VT30 I can tell you that the ZT60 is (so far) a much better TV overall. My ZT is also pro calibrated and I mention the VT30 only because until I got the ZT, it was my performance point of reference. The ZT's picture is crisper on all inputs, sharper, brighter and just flat out better. That doesn't diminish what a fine TV the VT30 is but it's just not in the same league. I'm very happy with the ZT60. Blu rays look fantastic, HD cable channels look great, streaming also looks great while standard def content only looks fair to good depending on the channel. The color reproduction is very rich yet realistic, better than the VT30 but I think some of the perceived difference is due to the ZT's higher light output capability. The ZT is plenty bright for me and appears much brighter than the VT30 in general. The ZT handles 24P sources better than the VT30 also (using the 96Hz mode) and 3D material looks much better on it as well. On the VT30 3D sometimes looked a little blurry, on the ZT it's sharp and clear at all times. I don't use the smart features very often but I have used the YouTube app and it functioned very well. I also have a home theater set up so I do not use the TV's speakers. The fan noise fix was completed at the dealer before I picked it up so I haven't heard any of the fan noise some have complained about and on occasion I have heard a low level buzz when the screen is really bright, it very low and not persistent. I love this TV so far, I've had it for just about three weeks now. Hope that helps.

shawn's picture

What happened to all the member comments?

Hi Tom. Is there any reason your 141 measurement for this comparison is so different from 2009?

http://www.soundandvision.com/content/pioneer-elite-kuro-pro-141fd-plasm...

Your MLL and contrast ratio are very different . Could this be because of the red tint you're now starting to get? Which by the way is not normal. Many members on AVS have gotten this problem. Just curious.

dsskid's picture

How did the Kuro's contrast ration drop from 33,500 to 24,400?

Also why are you limiting the Kuro to a peak luminous of 33 ftls, when it's capable of achieving at least 40 ftls, and thus a higher contrast ratio? Is it because the Panasonic cannot get as bright so you're dumbing down the Kuro?

ivenrein's picture

Thank you for the review, the ZT60 is definitely on my wish list. In the news today, however, is that Panasonic plans to close its last plasma TV factory. I missed out on Pioneer's Kuro, do I now risk missing out on the ZT/VT60? How long can we expect to see this Sound & Vision Top Pick in stores?

Thomas J. Norton's picture
The 2009 contrast ratio on the Pioneer was measured with the Minolta LS-100 light meter, which only goes to three significant figures beyond the decimal point. Since it rounds off, that means that a reading of 0.001 could actually be as high as 0.0014. The CRs shown in the current review were measured with our newly-acquired Klein K-10, which can measure low light levels with greater precision. Ergo, the difference. And because the contrast ratio is very dependent on the denominator in the calculation, a small difference there can make a big difference in the final result. But at these high measured contrast ratios, it's unlikely that there will be much of a visible difference, if any, between the two readings.

Contrast ratios this high, and black levels this low, are of interest mainly when viewing in a dimly-lit or darkened room. And since I've found a peak white output of 30-32 foot-lamberts to be most comfortable in such an environment, I use this level of peak white for all of my contrast ratio measurements--and all of my viewing as well.

LCD sets can often put out as much as 100 foot-lamberts or more, a level far above any plasma. Does this mean that we can say LCDs have better CRs than plasmas? In theory, yes, but in use, no, because their black levels are very often higher. A contrast ratio reading without the corresponding black level is of limited value.

Reports that Panasonic is closing its plasma factories early next year have not been confirmed by Panasonic, but there may be something behind the story. We're unlikely to know for certain until the upcoming January CES. But it's disturbing to hear that Panasonic's plasma business is deep in red ink, since consumers are flocking mainly to LCDs for inexplicable reasons. We have no way of knowing as yet how this all of this will shake out. But if you want a Panasonic plasma, I wouldn't put it off.

heavyken's picture

Two problems with the settings:

1) Under "W/B Detail Adjust" the two columns are labeled "Mid" and "High", but the 6 values in that menu are "Low" and "High". How should the columns really be labeled?

2) "Gamma Detail Adjustment" is missing the settings for 100 IRE

And a couple comments: While many reviews mention the less than ideal built-in speakers, I'm surprised there's no mention of lip sync issues with them. Both the ATSC tuner and all HDMI sources have mild lip sync issues on my unit. Panny might also try putting the speakers on the left and right edges rather than the bottom! (And yes I have a damn good audio setup, I just don't feel the need to use it for random sitcoms and other primetime shows).

And I don't recall any reviews mentioning the horrible fans! Panasonic should be ashamed.

Thomas J. Norton's picture
1) The W/B Detail Adjust for both 2D and 3D should read Low and High (now fixed). My original text had those designations, but there may have been a typo when the details were processed for the on line posting. 2) The Gamma Detail Adjustment offers control over the (white) luminance at each 10IRE step from 10IRE to 100IRE. (More correctly, 100IRE should be called 100%—IRE is an obsolescent term not truly relevant to digital displays. But we'll go with IRE here since that's the label Panasonic uses). But since gamma is a number derived by comparing the brightness at each step against the peak 100IRE brightness, the concept of gamma at the 100IRE level has no meaning.

So why is there a 100IRE gamma adjustment in the menu? If you change the setting at 100IRE, this will change the gamma at every step below 100IRE, since gamma is calculated against the 100IRE level. Though the resulting changes are unlikely to be linear at each step, such a global control may be useful in some situations, which is likely why Panasonic includes the 100IRE adjustment. But I didn't use the 100IRE control, so my 100IRE setting was 0. Our sample had no issues with either lip sync or fan noise. We've heard complaints about the latter in early reports on the set, but it may have been fixed by the time our sample arrived. The fans on our set are audible if you're within a foot or two of the set and there's no audio playing, but fan noise is never an issue from a normal seating position—with or without audio. The audibility of the fans will also depend on the size of the room, how close the set is to the wall behind it (close spacing, such as in a wall mount, may amplify the noise; in all of our viewing the set has been at least a foot or more from the wall) and, of course, the listener.

theo's picture

Tom, I got a 60VT60 just a few weeks ago. It was one of the last ones at Best Buy within a four state radius. I am so happy with this set and your review was a real catalyst in me making the final, last minute decision to purchase it. My old LCD TV was failing and I just couldn't stomach the thought of being left with an LED. It was more than I wanted to spend, but I'm so glad I did.

Devin79's picture

Hi I just received this TV a few days ago. I can access all the picture settings "except" Professional 1...do I need to do something special to get that setting?

Any help would be appreciated:)

Devin79's picture

Hi I just received this TV a few days ago. I can access all the picture settings "except" Professional 2...do I need to do something special to get that setting?

Any help would be appreciated:)

Gawain's picture

Hello i know this thread is now ancient, but I recently got a Panasonic ZT65b, I have applied these settings and I am quite impressed, it has given the picture a somewhat softer or smoother look, colours are not too harsh and the black levels are good with no annoying white static effect against some black scenes that I was previously experiencing before I applied these settings. I was just wondering if anyone else has used these settings and what they think ? . Also on the UK version( ZT65b) there is no option for a warm 2 picture mode, I only have the option of cool, warm and dynamic, I have set it to warm but does the US version have a warm 2 picture mode and if so will this effect these settings.

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