The Pros and Cons of TV Calibration

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Q What are the pros and cons of having a 2013 Panasonic plasma TV such as the TC-P55VT60 professionally calibrated? And what should I look for in a calibrator? —Scott Oakley / via email

A It’s my opinion that there aren’t any cons to having a TV professionally calibrated. Even models like the Panasonic TC-P55VT60 that provide a THX Cinema picture preset will display some degree of grayscale and/or color point inaccuracy (though it’s likely to be less than what you’d see in sets lacking THX certification), so hiring a professional calibrator to adjust the set is the only way to ensure the picture you’re getting is perfect, or nearly so.

The only potential con to calibration I can put forth—and it’s a matter of perspective, really—is that the procedure isn’t cheap. Best Buy’s Geek Squad offers TV calibration service via “ISF-certified installers” for $250, but hiring an established independent calibration pro could run somewhere in the $400 range. Still, the fact that you sprung for a high-end TV (Panasonic’s step-down ST60 model, also a great performer, costs significantly less than the VT60) indicates that picture quality is important to you, so why hesitate to have it professionally tweaked?

As for choosing a calibrator, I’ll let ISF president Joel Silver handle that question: “Like any other contractor hired to work in your home, ask the calibrator for references from happy customers.  Feel free to call ISF to verify certification status, and see if their equipment is current.” Some calibrators maintain websites that list this information. There’s also one site, Tweak TV, that serves as a clearinghouse of sorts for a network of experienced calibrators. No matter who you end up hiring, one thing you’ll want to verify is that they can provide you with a calibration report showing before/after results of their work. My take? I’d go the established, independent calibrator route: they’ll be more likely to also calibrate 3D settings on your TV and make color-management system tweaks—adjustments that could extend well beyond the 2 hours the Geek Squad allots for its calibrations.

One more thing: If you do decide to have your plasma TV professionally calibrated, make sure you allow for sufficient break-in time before the visit. About 200 hours of regular TV viewing should do the trick.

Mike_Mc's picture

I waited years debating whether to calibrate through two TV's a Pioneer rear projector, a Mitsubishi DLP, and then finally decided to have my Pioneer Elite Kuro calibrated. I had all the discs, Joe Kane's Digital Video Essentials, Spears & Munsil's, Avia and did the best I could using these discs as a home theater nerd. I would do it again in a minute, and I had to pay travel time as he lived 100 miles away, $500.00 total. The money was well spent, he expanded the detail in the shadow range, corrected the gray scale color, and adjusted for Day and Night modes. The only downside I can see is that after seeing the corrected TV is that I can't stand a poorly calibrated television, which is virtually everyones.

Al Griffin's picture
Thanks for commenting on your own experience with calibration—and for adding the info that calibrator travel time can cost extra.
JerryV's picture

Initially I "calibrated" my Kuro TV and JVC projector using Spears + Munsil. Both looked very good (to me). Then, after much research on various forums I found "the best guy" and went for the whole hog ISF job.

Many hours and hundreds of dollars later my TV and projector still looked very VERY good. And I'm sure it was a lot better than what I was able to do. But to really tell, I would need a split screen. I'm quite sure I would see the difference then.

But the point of this is that the true benefit - for me is psychological. That is, I now KNOW that my system is performing the best it can perform. I don't judge the picture so much or look for things to tweak. It's done. And done professionally.

I change my bulb and get a calibration "tune-up" once a year. Yes a little costly. But I have the assurance that my system is as good as it can be.

To me - that's worth a lot.

jdesan's picture

If you have the money and can be assured the guy is good at it, I guess it's worth it. But the Geek Squad? No way, hose! Also, with a projector like mine ( Epson 8500UB ) as the bulb wears out and dims ever so slowly, wouldn't this require constant tweaks? For me, not worth it.

boulderskies's picture

Thanks for a very prompt and complete response to my question.

AlVacado's picture

I invested in a professional calibration on my 65" Mits DLP and feel it was a very worthwhile investment. For $350, he calibrated for the DirecTV input, the Oppo Blu-Ray input for 2d and 3d. Was at the home for about 4 hours. If bulb needs replacing...minor fee to come out and adjust. Said it probably would take some time getting used to, and that I might not like the settings in the beginning. He was right, but after a few weeks, it felt natural.

drj9797's picture

as a certified ISF calibrator, it warmed my heart to read both the article, and the comments. finally, people are beginning to "get it". when your TV has been professionally measured and adjusted to spec, it can produce a fantastic picture. what people don't realize is that there is NO TV that comes out of the box that is suitable for watching. as a calibrator for over 13 yrs, i like doing it, and am good at it. i have tweaked hundreds of TVs, they each have their own personalities. as a general rule, i have found the top models of each manufacturer can yield an outstanding picture after calibration. some people can see an immediate difference after calibration, others, as mentioned, need a few days or weeks. is it worth it ? well it comes down to this: do you want to watch your TV with the best picture ? or not ? a trained calibrator, using the latest computer software and electronic measuring equipment, will spend a few hours measuring, adjusting, measuring again, adjusting again until he can squeeze out the best results. you should try to find a calibrator in your area. our time and expertise are well worth it. most calibrator fees are similar, but may vary in each part of the country.
check the ISF website under DEALERS. go to

woody88's picture

Hi, since we have a calibrator reading this, my question would be, is there some sort of limit as far as viewing hours go, to stop getting a calibration as it may not matter much? I ask this as my Kuro 600M has over maybe 10,000 hours for sure. I have been debating about a calibration but kept putting off. Now the TV has quite a few hours logged. Is it still worth getting a calibration, and will I see a big difference?

I am currently using Kuro reader to plug in and have unlocked the ISF modes, and input with others' settings.