Panasonic TC-P50ST30 3D Plasma HDTV Page 3

The ST30 offers exceptional resolution. If you don't see resolution that's second to none on this set when it's properly calibrated, you need either better source material or better glasses.

I noticed that foreground details were very slightly desaturated by a bright white background. I only saw this once or twice, and it was so subtle that I only mention it because I otherwise found so little to criticize in the ST30.

In terms of black level and shadow detail, the ST30 did very well. The darkest scenes in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World were impressive. And the star field that opens Stargate: Continuum displayed a density of stars, from the dimmest to the brightest, that often escapes lesser sets. That star field was also less affected than on most sets when the bright white title pops up over it. In addition, shadow detail was exceptional.

We still had our review sample of last year's top-of-the-line TC-P50VT25 on hand, so a comparison between that and the ST30 was clearly irresistible. There was only time for a 2D face-off, but one thing was clear: In terms of picture quality, the ST30 was neither better nor worse than the VT25 in any respect save one: The VT25 had better blacks—0.008 ft-L on the ST30 versus 0.004 ft-L on the VT25. The visible difference on a full black field was subtle but unmistakable. This was disappointing, as we were hoping for steadily increasing improvement in Panasonic's already very good black levels. The ST30's overall performance is still near the current state of the art for plasma, which can still beat the usable black-level performance of most LCDs. But note the word "current" in the last sentence. Even the best black-level measurement turned in by current flat panels is still well short of our gold standard: the 0.001 ft-L measured on the last generation of the now long-discontinued Pioneer Kuros.

3D Performance
I performed a full 3D calibration on the ST30. Like all sets in our experience, the brightness and color were somewhat muted in 3D. But in its Custom mode, those weren't major concerns. In particular, the ST30 is an outstanding 2D set that sacrifices nothing in its 3D quiver apart from the higher 3D brightness that a few LCD sets offer. I sometimes question whether 3D in and of itself is worthwhile if we have to sacrifice the brighter, punchier images we're used to seeing in 2D, as is typically the case. But this time, the 3D color appeared to leave nothing on the table. 3D can be addictive when done right, as it is here.

The ST30 produced no obvious 3D ghosting. Both Avatar and A Christmas Carol have exhibited serious ghosting on some active-glasses sets, but not here. The near total lack of this phenomenon may well be a major factor in this set's crisp, vivid 3D performance. I say "near total lack" because there's no way of knowing if this or that piece of some as-yet-unseen 3D material will conjure up an unwelcome apparition or two. But thanks to plasma's naturally fast response time, not to mention the faster phosphors Panasonic introduced with last year's first generation of 3D sets, I didn't find ghosting to be an issue here.

As with virtually all plasmas, this one exhibits the sort of off-axis performance that no LCD can match, which was true for both 2D and 3D. The color and 3D effects held up solidly as far off center as anyone would care to sit—at least 45 degrees. Sit beyond that, and parallax takes over (with an increasingly trapezoidal image), even as the basic picture quality remains virtually unchanged. Nor was head tilt ever an issue in 3D, as it is in LCD sets.

About that 2D-to-3D conversion mode. It provided a modest degree of depth to 2D material, but as I've said before, if I'm going to sacrifice brightness for 3D, I prefer the real thing.

Conclusion The ST30 series offers the best value by far among Panasonic's 2011 3D plasmas. Detail, color, blacks, and shadow detail are all excellent, even without THX certification. The G30 offers a few perks, such as slightly spiffier aesthetics, more cable clearance for a wall mount, an additional HDMI input, a PC input, and THX certification, but none of that is worth an extra $400 in my view. If you want 3D on a budget—or even if you only want the best 2D performance you can find without spending an arm and a leg—I can't think of a better way to go.

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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.