Panasonic TC-P50ST30 3D Plasma HDTV Page 2

The gamma is fixed in all Picture modes except Custom, where the Pro menu offers several fixed gamma options. Initially, the Custom mode's enticing adjustments and the potential for separate calibrations for 2D and 3D lured me in, but this proved to be a mixed blessing. I could regale you with the contents of 50-plus pages of calibration notes (I write large) accumulated over several days of multiple setup attempts. But I'll try to be a little more concise.

Gamma affects the brightness in the mid-brightness region. The most commonly recommended playback gamma hovers around 2.2. But, as measured, the gamma options available in the Custom mode's Pro menu were questionable if you want an accurate reproduction of the source. Even the highest available gamma setting (2.6) measured below 1.7 in 2D, and at some brightness levels in some settings, it clocked in at under 1.0. The Custom mode's 3D gammas were slightly better up to 70 IRE, but they still measured nowhere near the numbers indicated by their settings.

I abandoned further attempts to use the Custom mode for 2D. Fortunately, calibration in the Cinema mode, as performed in the service menu, was good to excellent. The 2D color points were also virtually spot on, although in all cases, the intensity/brightness of the individual colors measured higher than optimum. Turning down the Color control helped, but since it affects all colors simultaneously, it couldn't precisely correct all of them.

The calibrated Cinema mode produced good gamma results, and 2D images looked more fully saturated and three-dimensional, though these differences were subtle. I'm talking about the illusion of three dimensions in 2D playback here, not the use of the set's 2D-to-3D conversion feature. Properly set up, a good HDTV is inherently capable of producing a believable sensation of depth from 2D sources—something we seem to have forgotten in the race to 3D nirvana.

I also noted that after I made adjustments in the service menu, the measured results in normal operating mode were sometimes different. These differences were minor and acceptable on the ST30.

Apart from having to do calibrations in the service menu, there were no downsides to using the calibrated Cinema Picture modes for 2D. But Cinema doesn't offer the ability to do separate calibrations for 2D and 3D, even in the service menu, which defaults to 2D as soon as you open it. Custom mode, which does offer separate calibration controls for 3D in the user menu, suffered from the low gammas I mentioned earlier. However, while these were a bad bargain for 2D, I found that they produced a noticeably brighter, punchier 3D image than Cinema. A low gamma enhances 3D brightness, a benefit for plasma technology, which has less inherent brightness than LCD.

Oddly, while the 2.6 gamma setting in 3D measured closer to 2.2 across most of the brightness range, that setting (and 2.4 as well) looked dark and gloomy. For reasons that remain puzzling, the lower gamma settings—2.0 or 2.2, which actually measured far lower than that—looked much better. These gamma settings appear to have been cannily crafted to add significant brightness without washing out the picture or producing any other visible, distracting artifacts.

Apart from the common failure to properly handle 2:2 pulldown, and a failure to cleanly upscale 480p material to 1080p (see the Scaling block on the Video Test Bench chart), the ST30's HD video processing was good. The SD processing (upscaling and deinterlacing from 480i to 1080p, not shown in the charts) was borderline on 3:2 SD (marginal on two different tests, but a pass on a third). The set also failed a 2:2 SD pulldown test.

2D Performance
The ST30 offers gorgeous color on most sources, even with its somewhat inaccurate color gamuts (the points were spot on, but the intensities of the colors diverged from the HD standard, even with the color control turned down). While there were some minor flaws in its calibrated color tracking (see "HT Labs Measures"), none of these appeared to visibly compromise the results.

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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.