Where's the Black?

I'm a Home Theater subscriber, and I always read your blogs. I can't believe there are no plasmas with deep blacks similar to the Pioneer Kuros. I'm a happy owner of the PRO-110FD (family room) and PRO-111FD (master bedroom). What new model is closest to the Pioneer Kuros that you would recommend to a friend who is looking for a plasma or LCD?

Second question: Do the new JVC 3D projectors support anamorphic lenses? Are you aware of any 3D projector (other than Runco's, which is too expensive) that supports anamorphic lenses?

Israel Javier Alvarado-Suarez

I believe the reason there are no plasmas that can match the blacks of the Kuros—and the reason Pioneer had to exit the plasma business—is that these sets cost so much to make and thus carried a price tag that was too high for most consumers to afford. This is also why there are no current plasmas that have Kuro-like blacks. The best we've seen so far in this regard are Panasonic's flagship plasmas—for example, the current VT30 (reviewed here) exhibited a black level of 0.006 foot-lamberts in our measurements, while last year's VT25 (reviewed here) measured 0.004fL, compared to the Kuro's 0.001fL.

The technology that comes closest to the Kuro in terms of black level is LED-backlit LCD with local dimming—the LEDs behind dark portions of the image are dimmed, while the LEDs behind bright portions of the image are brightened, which greatly increases the perceived contrast. (Both LED-backlit and LED-edgelit LCDs can drop to complete black when displaying a black field simply by turning off the LEDs, but this rarely happens in real-world content, and when it does, it's obvious and distracting.) However, LED backlighting is not a panacea—the LEDs are grouped into independently dimmable "zones" that are much larger than small, bright objects such as stars in outer space, which can exhibit halos as a result.

Interestingly, I measured a black level of 0.003fL on the Samsung UN46D6000 LED-edgelit LCD (reviewed here) using a low-APL PLUGE pattern, which is a mostly black field with a slightly above-black stripe to keep the LEDs from completely shutting down. However, the black field was quite non-uniform—that is, different parts of the screen looked lighter than other parts, which is endemic to LED-edgelit sets. I measured the black level in the center of the screen, where it was darkest.

All of JVC's 3D projectors can be used with Panamorph anamorphic lenses. You're right that the Runco D-73d also supports anamorphic lenses, and so does the SIM2 C3X Lumis, both of which are mega-expensive. I don't know of any others for sure; perhaps our readers can chime in here…

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askhometheater@gmail.com.

visualfocus's picture

All of the Mitsubishi range supports anamorphic modes, and the top model Epson. In fact Panamorph make a specific lens model to mount directly onto the Epson. The Mitsubishis have the anamorphic mode switching directly from the remote, as opposed to digging through menus like some others.

mcraeh's picture

didn't the actual review of the vt30 say the vt25 had better blacks than the vt30?

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Yes it did. The VT30 measured 0.006, while the VT25 measured 0.004. I wasn't as clear as I could have been here; I was using the VT30 as a current example, since the VT25 is last year's model. Even so, the difference between 0.006 and 0.004 is slight, and the point remains valid—the best we've seen so far are Panasonic's flagship plasmas (plural).
hendrikj's picture

Why does everybody forgets.
The Sony XBR 8 46 and 55 inch. Reviewed by Scott Wilkinson and Thomas J.Norton end 2008 :
BOTH 0.001-ft-L
(Full-On/Full-Off Contrast Ratio : INFINITE)
I am the proud owner of the 46 inch. (in South Africa called the
46X450). Very real blacks.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
The Sony XBR8 is an LED-backlit LCD, and as I said in my response, these sets can achieve essentially 0 black level, though with anything at all in the image, it's higher than 0. Still, LED backlighting can produce mighty deep blacks.
Brighton-Kuro's picture

I have the Kuro PDP-LX5090.
Expensive, but a great purchase,
Still Ichiban and so old ...
Unique as a modern product for its time at the top.
Thank you for the great work Scott.

RAllen's picture

I have seen many projector adds showing the inclusion of a stretch mode and some higher end receivers/processors, that include video upconversion, also incorporate the feature. I think the recently reviewed Anthem receivers incorporate a stretch mode. If it's in the receiver then any projector can be equipped with an anamorphic lens.

JazzGuyy's picture

The Oppo Blu-Ray players also provide the proper stretch mode for use with an anamorphic lens.

sarge1976's picture

Hi, I own a Pioneer KRP-600M and a KRP-500M(both ifs calibrated by:DNice), I have been keeping my eye out for a newer set that can compare to the black levels on my monitors. Don't get me wrong, I'm completely happy with these TVs but I'm thinking ahead since these sets won't last forever. Does anyone know if there are any TVs on the horizon that we can look forward to that have comparable black levels? Are those new "Elite" TVs by Sharp worth looking into? Thanks