Panasonic TC-P50ST30 3D Plasma HDTV

2D Performance
3D Performance
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Crisp, detailed images • Odd gammas in Custom mode • Little to complain about • Exceptional value

Panasonic means plasma. Yes, the company now offers a line of LCD displays, but only in smaller sizes. If you want a 50-inch or larger Panasonic, it will be a plasma. And that's not a bad thing. The TC-P50ST30 is Panasonic's latest, budget-priced, 50-inch 3D model. Only a few short years ago, you couldn't touch this level of quality in a 2D-only flat panel for five times the price—or more.

As Panasonic's entry-level 3D plasma, the ST30 is not THX-certified like the mid-level GT30 and flagship VT30. It has five Picture modes: Vivid, Standard, Cinema, Game, and Custom. Apart from the Custom mode, the settings for each mode are global and cannot be adjusted separately for each input. Separate settings for 2D and 3D are restricted to the Custom mode as well.

The ST30 also has a 2D-to-3D conversion mode and a Motion Smoother. The latter provides a three-position control (Off/Weak/Strong) that can produce more fluid motion, but it makes filmed content look wrong, as we often see with these features in LCDs. Fortunately, you really don't need this, as plasmas have inherently fast response times. That is, of course, unless you like the unnaturally oily smoothness this feature can produce. I don't.

For 24-frame-per-second material, the ST30's 24p Direct In setting gives you a choice of 48Hz (frames per second, with each 24fps frame displayed twice) or 60Hz, which is selected automatically for 60Hz progressive material or interlaced sources such as 1080i. It refreshes the image at 120Hz.

Choosing 60Hz for 24fps sources adds 3:2 pulldown. Why might you do that? Flicker. Flicker was obvious and annoying on the ST30 in its 48Hz setting. To eliminate it, I used the 60Hz setting for all of my viewing, both 2D and 3D. Converting a 24fps source to 60Hz via 3:2 pulldown is normally considered bad form, but in this case, it produced no obvious artifacts. This didn't surprise me; I've done the same on reviews of Panasonic sets for the past few years (the 24p Direct In feature isn't new) and for the same reason.

The C.A.T.S. control alters the picture's brightness according to your room's lighting. But it's excessively aggressive; it limits the brightness to cataract level in a dimly lit or darkened environment. If one or more of the modes seems incredibly dim out of the box, check this control. It's probably turned on. Turn it off.

The ST30 can connect to the Internet directly or through your home network. You can connect wirelessly via Panasonic's included wireless LAN adapter, which plugs into one of the set's USB jacks. With this connection, Viera Connect (called Viera Cast on earlier Panasonic sets and on this set's remote) provides access to a growing number of Internet sites that Panasonic has partnered with, including YouTube, Picasa, Fox Sports, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, CinemaNow, Twitter, Facebook, Hulu Plus, and Skype. By the time you read this, there could be more. For full Skype A/V operation, you'll need Panasonic's optional TY-CC10W camera ($170) or one of the alternate third-party cameras available. You can also see the images from a Panasonic security camera (not included) located anywhere in the house and linked to the set through your home network.

In addition, you can view still photos from your computer, full-motion images, and music through a connection to your home network or directly from a USB device or SD card. This includes compatible 3D content you may have captured on a 3D still or video camera.

As with most plasma sets, the ST30 has Anti Image retention features. These include a pixel orbiter that automatically and imperceptibly moves the image, an adjustment for the sidebar brightness on 4:3 sources, and a scrolling bar that can help clear temporary image retention (ghosts of images past) from the screen. As with all plasmas, a reasonable degree of caution with prolonged still images (or images that don't fill the entire screen) is advisable. There's no need to be paranoid about this, but it's smart to be extra careful during the set's first 100 to 200 hours of use. That's when the fresh-out-of-the-box phosphors are most sensitive to retention of fully stationary images, moving images with segments that don't move (such as scoreboards on sports broadcasts or video games), images that occupy less than the full screen, or particularly bright, opaque station bugs—here's lookin' at you, CNN.

After much head-scratching, hair-pulling, and mind-numbing back and forth on setup, I finally settled on using the Cinema Picture mode for 2D and the Custom mode for 3D. Custom is the only mode that provides user-menu high/low calibration settings for white balance (color tracking) plus multiple gamma selections and additional features.

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daveyk's picture

Anyone know how this compares to the Samsung PND7000? Any help would be appreciated.

SunriseGatefield's picture

Timely question--another popular TV review site just posted a glowing review of the Samsung, and the reviewer gives it the nod over the ST30 (indeed, it compares pretty favorably to the Panasonic and Samsung flagship panels).

I will say that in my recent search for "my next tv" I had--somewhat briefly--both a 55" ST30 and a 59" PND6500, which (I think) is the PND7000 without the "Real Black Filter" (which I had read some people were having peel off as the panel heated up). In dark rooms (where the black filter doesn't really do anything), the PND6500 *should* have the same image quality as the PND7000. My impression was that the ST30 had a better picture. I noticed some pretty obvious fluctuating blacks on the Samsung, and on the whole the picture had much less pop and was less crisp than the Panasonic.

That said, I hadn't broken the Samsung in nor had I dialed in the settings (it was in Movie mode), so my observations probably don't mean that much--you should put more stock in that other review site's judgment.

I will say this: once set up properly, the ST30 has a great picture, especially at the price. I had it for almost a month and loved it. Unfortunately, I see phosphor trails, which bother me enough that I had to return the set. It also means that I cannot have a plasma TV, since I see it on all plasmas. (I tried the Samsung hoping that it was something about the Panasonic. No dice.) I hate my eyes for it. I've had to spend a lot more money to find an LCD that matches the picture of the ST30.

eortizr's picture

can you post your settings on the service menu and Cinema mode?

Boring Ben's picture

Somewhat disappointing to see a near copy & paste of the the 55VT review onto this 50ST review. Granted, much about the products will be the same, but not all. So when debating over the $1,000+ price difference between the two, I was expecting to see a more unique review.

Of course there are the obvious differences any numbskull, this numbskull included, can ascertain - HDMI inputs, single glass pane, THX, picture modes, ISFccc, possibly the inclusion of 3D glasses and web cam, etc. But considering how close the units are to each other I'd expect a high quality outfit like HTM to spell out the differences and why $1,000-1,500 more might be worth spending on the VT.

I'm working on selling the boss on a 60" or 65" replacement for our 5 year old 50" Sam plasma. The "must have" guy in me says go VT, but what little I'm seeing out there for independent review/analysis suggests there isn't a great deal to be gained for the 33% increase in price. I'm pickier about my picture quality than everyone I know, but certainly not the experts here at HTM. And I'm not seeing the case for buying, or possibly even the existance of, a VT-tier product at that large of a cost difference. If the reviews for the two are simple enough of a cut & paste, ctrl+F to change VT to ST job, then add specific test data for each model, either the Panasonic product managers need to rethink their product strategy and cut costs on model redundancy, or HTM ought to dedicate a little more time living up to their reputation.

Considering how similar they are, I was just hoping to see our leaders at HTM spell it out to say "the VT does ____ noticably better than the ST", "the ST performs just as well as the VT in _____", or "the one-sheet-of-glass design clearly sets the VT apart from its GT & ST siblings because _______" . Sadly, the only thing I learned from these reviews is that ST and VT are almost the same, color tracking is slightly better on the VT, but VT does a better job at wallet cleaning. Expected from other sites/publications, but not here.

JoeCaridi's picture

I really want this TV. I can get it for less than $1K in through my company's employee purchase plan with panasonic. My concern is that I will be placing this TV in a room that receives quite a bit of light; both from some large windows and some overhead lights in the adjoining kitchen. Would it be a horrible mistake to get a plasma for this room or is a plasma only good for darkened man caves and cinema rooms? Am I better off with an LCD?

hadleyrille's picture

Why no mention of the green discolorations these sets have? If you dont know what I'm talking about run a Google search,type in "Panasonic Plasma Green Blobs"...It's all over the internet.And it's not just the U.S.A. versions,the European sets have this defect as well.People are also starting to post pictures of their sets so you can see it for yourself.This problem is also affecting the GT and VT series.The quickest way to spot it is to simply watch an old black and white tv show.If you see any color at all you've got a problem.It doesnt just show up on black and white movies though.All programming is affected.My ST30 is really bad.Sometimes half of someones face looks natural while the other half has a sickly green tint for example. It shows up on painted walls,ceilings,the sky,clothing,etc.

Jarod's picture

Tom obviously didn't see the green blobs or he would have commented on them. My new 55ST30 has no such green blobs. It's is not on every set.

Goodfellow's picture

You are an idiot. You don't get the green blob's on any plasma tv those were on the old rear projection tv's don't post your garbage on this site.

joejoesmith33's picture

I have a new Panasonic TCP50ST30 and am having a problem with high contrast scenes, especially black and white footage. I see yellow flashes if I move my eyes quickly from one side of the picture to another. This happens even with the video paused. I read that this is due to the color sequencing used in the TV. Is this inherent in all plasma TV's? Will it go away once the phosphors have aged somewhat? Do LCD TV's, especially LED full local dimming sets, also suffer from this issue? The picture is excellent except for this issue.

RSVM5's picture

@JoeCaridi, did you ever get an answer to your questions on 8/23/11? I have the same questions. Costco is current sells the 60ST30 for $1199 which close to my budget. But how do I know how much ambient light is too much for this plasma HDTV? Any help would be appreciated.