Panasonic FZ952 (TX-65FZ952B) Review

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Stunning image quality every step of the way...

by Phil Hinton Jul 12, 2018 at 9:18 AM

  • SRP: £3,999.00

    What is the Panasonic FZ952?

    This is the latest flagship TV from Panasonic featuring a 65-inch OLED panel mated to the now legendary HCX processing and accurate image quality that has the Hollywood seal of approval. The masters of plasma are trying hard to make OLED technology the cutting edge of image quality in the home and this is their statement piece for the year. This sample was provided for review by Panasonic UK.

    Panasonic's 2018 OLED range is similar to many rivals in that the video performance of the two different model levels is identical and it is their secondary features that separate them. There are two distinct ranges, the FZ802/ FZ800 and the FZ952/ FZ950 seen here, and what sets them apart isn’t in the screen but is instead underneath it, the ‘Dynamic Blade’ speaker. Tuned by sister brand Technics and making use of ‘audiophile tuned components,’ the speaker uses eight drivers; four bass, two midrange and two tweeters. These are in turn augmented by no less than four passive radiators. Panasonic claims that the result is both beautifully elegant and sonically compelling.

    The big addition in picture terms for 2018 is HDR10+. While welcome in itself and promising an initial hit of content with Amazon Prime material, it is fitted instead of Dolby Vision rather than as well as. Standard HDR10 material is also supported however. Panasonic has also tweaked the performance to better support the HDR requirements of gamers and combined this with their ‘quickest ever’ response times.

    Panasonic’s major area of differentiation from the competition remains the picture processing developed in cooperation with the major Hollywood studios. Combined with extremely accurate setup and calibration options, including revisions to the very dark end of the colour spectrum just above black. Combined with a new dynamic 3D Look Up Table (LUT) system, Panasonic promises an exceptionally accurate picture from the FZ952.

    So with no support for Dolby Vision within the FZ952/ FZ950 and a lack of currently available HDR10+ material, it will be down to just how good the image quality is on the FZ952 to win it sales over its peers. Will this be a major impact factor for the Panasonic OLED or can it still wow consumers with stunning picture quality? Let’s find out…

    Design

    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Design
    There is no getting away from the fact that the natural thinness of an OLED panel adds a fantastic design aspect that can make it look stunning in comparison to larger (and fatter) FALD LED LCD TVs. At 65-inches in size the Panasonic FZ950/ FZ952 could have been a dominating feature in our living room, but instead it has a elegant look and no need for massive bezels, which means it’s actual foot print is far smaller than older-styled 65-inch Plasma and LCD screens. As such and even when switched off we think it adds a nice touch to your lounge, instead of dominating it. And when switched on, the fact that it is almost entirely a moving image is also impressive with no bezel and just a 7mm black edge to the image all around the screen. To the bottom is an additional black metal strip that measures 10mm and is angled away from the screen surface and slightly recessed. This has the Panasonic logo in the centre and a light to indicate if the TV is in standby or on which is positioned to the left side when looking directly at the screen.

    The panel has no other features to note on the front and it sits on a metal stand that fixes to points at the bottom rear. This is attached first and then the Dynamic Blade Speaker is attached to the base by sliding in two raised studs to the stand and is then screwed in place. The sound bar is plugged into the TV by a proprietary connector directly under the screen where it is attached to the stand. This can be covered over by a supplied plastic cover making it look neat and tidy. Once on the stand the panels sits three inches above your TV cabinet or mounting surface with the Dynamic Blade Speaker also standing this tall and positioned two inches in front of the panel. You don’t have to use the Speaker but if that is your intention then buy the FZ802 instead as it’s the same TV, just sold without the speaker and a more traditional stand.

    The Dynamic Blade Speaker is a nicely designed feature and fits with the overall design ethos, which you would expect as it is all one unit. It is the same width as the TV measuring in just a tad more than 56 inches and as the name suggests it has a wedged blade like shape that slopes back towards the TV screen. It is covered in black speaker cloth with a ‘tuned by Technics’ plaque at the right side. It is made from solid plastic and there are two bass ports to the rear underside for the passive radiators, which are unseen when in position. The speaker doesn’t support the screen of the FZ950/ FZ952 in anyway, but is designed to look as though it does a supporting role.

    Around the back things follow the simple and elegant approach with plastic covers used to hide cables connected to the TV and there is also some cable management on offer. While it is not as well thought out as the Sony AF8, it is probably more relevant to most users and where they will place their TV. It only really matters if the rear of the TV is on display in some way. If on a TV rack up against a wall or even wall mounted, hidden cable inputs are not that important, but it is a nice to have feature. If you are wall mounting you need to be aware that the power cable is attached to the panel and not removable.

    Connectivity

    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Connectivity
    All the connections are on the rear of the panel and include sideways facing and rearwards slots. If you use the sideways connectors only, you will be able to use the plastic cover to hide the things away, however if you need to use the rear facing slots you’ll have no room to do that.

    Around the rear we have three USB slots with one of them side mounted and it can be used for HDD recording duties. We also have four HDMI inputs with two side mounted and two rearward facing. The rear facing HDMI slots are not full-fat full bandwidth but can accept 4K 4:2:0 at 50/60hz. The side facing HDMIs are full bandwidth 4:4:4 compatible and HDMI 2 is also ARC compatible. We also have an SD Card slot, twin satellite and Digital TV inputs, CI slot, Ethernet, Digital audio and composite/component RCA and audio in. The power cable is hardwired to the panel, which may be an issue if you plan to wall mount.

    Control

    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Control
    Thankfully Panasonic realise what a flagship TV is all about and the remote controls provided with the FZ952/ FZ950 certainly feel like they belong to a high-end model. It really does put to shame the likes of the Sony AF8 and the rubberised remote they offer with that similar priced model. Here we get full metal and weighty feeling remotes with a nice chrome finish and a backlight.

    Supplied are two remote controls designed for different uses and users. We have the traditional long remote covered in buttons and a new modern-looking curved touchpad with very few buttons. The traditional remote is my favourite option and I found myself using this all the time during my testing of the FZ952/ FZ950. It’s not that I don’t like the idea behind the simplified remote control, but swiping to browse channels or features had me going past the ones I wanted and having to slowly go back and forth, which kind of defeated the point, I thought. LG do this kind of thing so much better with the magic remote which I love to use on our long term 55 inch C8 OLED TV, that this approach feels less intuitive and useful. But I am old and younger users may have no issues with this at all.

    Both remote controls have plus and minus points, but overall they manage to control the TVs as desired and the premium feel and backlight is most welcome and a feature some manufacturers skimp on.

    Functionality

    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Functionality
    Panasonic have been using the open source Mozilla Firefox system for its operating system and smart TV for a number of years now and I am a fan of this approach. It is not as advanced or snazzy as the WebOS or Tizen systems used by LG and Samsung, but it is simple, intuitive and it works. It is fast in operation and selecting content is an easy task with no hanging or crashes. You can pull your favourite apps/content and pin it to the home page for easy access and customise to your heart's content with how the system works for you. We get 4K HDR versions of the major streaming apps from Netflix, YouTube and Amazon and the FZ952/ FZ950 is also able to access the BBC iPlayer HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) HDR demos and World Cup trial.

    With the FZ952 also being capable of supporting HDR10+ dynamic metadata we were keen to see this in action and Amazon Prime Video is supposed to have content available in the UK in the HDR10+ format. However this is not marked as such in the menu system of Prime video and as the Panasonic FZ950 doesn’t flag up what flavour of HDR you are watching it was impossible to tell if what we were watching was HDR10+ or ‘just’ HDR10. The LG C8 (and all LG OLEDs) displays a little visible flag on the screen for a few seconds which tells you what you are watching, i.e. HLG, Dolby Vision etc., so you can confirm that the TV is displaying the content correctly. Most other TVs also have that displayed in the picture menu next to the picture mode, but on the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 it just says HDR. Perhaps this could be added?

    We also have Freeview Play on-board the FZ952 that provides all the major catch-up services from the UK terrestrial broadcasters, allowing easy ways to catch something you might have missed. We found the way to browse and watch TV content was incredibly intuitive and easy with some nice touches like the discovery bar helping you find programme’s you may have missed otherwise.

    The menu system on the FZ950 is also intuitive to use and has everything laid out in a logical manner. Even novices when it comes to setting up a TV will be able to find the most important functions easily and quickly. If it’s not broke don’t fix it, and we still feel the Panasonic way of doing things is one of the best out there. I also really like the customisability with some of the menu system, like the picture mode selection. You can deselect the picture modes you don’t want to have and keep those you use the most.

    As a user interface I really like the way Panasonic does things that keeps everything simple, intuitive and using the TV is elegant and stress free. It works as it should, is fast and is very reliable, which is a nice touch in a world where everything is getting more complicated and processor hungry.

    The Panasonic FZ952 has the most intuitive user interface of any TV we have tested this year

    Features

    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Features
    The FZ952/ FZ950 uses the latest generation LG Display supplied OLED panel married to Panasonic’s suite of electronics and processing to produce 4K images with support for HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), but there is no support for Dolby Vision and the TV will not be upgraded to accept the Dolby flavour of HDR. This may be an issue for some users who want a future proofed TV at this price point. The FZ952 also uses the second generation of the Panasonic HCX processor that handles picture accuracy thanks to Panasonic’s use of 3D LUT (look up tables) which are now dynamic in thanks to the latest HCX processor. This means that the tables can be changed scene to scene if required to make sure that you are getting the most accurate picture to the industry standards. The fact the Panasonic OLEDs are used by major Hollywood production houses should give you some idea just how accurate the FZ952/ FZ950 is at producing cinematic images.

    There is also advanced image processing and scaling within the FZ950 to make sure that any content you feed it is handled correctly and matches the capabilities of the display. Lower resolution sources such as SD TV channels will always look bad due to the fact they are poor quality and are highly compressed, but DVD and above can look extremely good, even on this 65-inch screen. HD to 4K scaling is perfect, as you would imagine thanks to the processing on-board.

    Additionally to the HDR standards supported there are some processing features that aim to manipulate the HDR image to try and make it brighter and more colourful, but not to the standards of accurate image quality. Those are the HDR Auto Brightness and HDR Brightness Enhancer, which is basically an updated auto luminance technology that adjusts screen brightness to match the viewing environment. We didn’t find it useful in any way with the content we tested the TV with. All the manufacturers have their own versions of these picture enhancements this year. Thankfully they can all be switched off.

    Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) is also on-board with the FZ952/ FZ950 and this year there is also a Black Frame Insertion (BFI) mode, but strangely it is not located in the motion menu, you’ll find it along with Game mode in the Options menu. IFC has four settings of Custom, Min, Mid and Max. In the Custom mode you can adjust the Blur Reduction and Film Smooth, which do warrant some experimentation if you watch a lot of video based sports material, or similar.

    Further backing of the image quality on offer with the FZ952 is full THX 4K display certification that includes the usual picture modes available for dark and bright rooms. The FZ950 is also certified Ultra HD Premium and has full ISFccc certification, including a full suite of calibration controls and a new 12-point white balance line-up under the advanced menu, and the usual professional picture modes. This year you can also select which picture modes you want to have available under the Picture button on the remote for easy access. You can do this by selecting those you want, for example, Professional 1, THX Dark and Game, and when you press the Picture button you are only given those modes to choose from. Finally we can get rid of the inaccurate, overly bright and garishly coloured Normal and Dynamic modes! (If only we could remove them, for good, from all TV sets). Panasonic have also added a new Sports mode, which pumps up the colour saturation, adds surround to the speaker and adds some motion compensation. It’s best avoided in all honestly.

    For smart TV the Panasonic yet again uses the My Home Screen 3.0 suite based on the Mozilla FireFox platform of open sourced code. While it is not as advanced or as slick as LG WebOS and Tizen from Samsung, it is simple to use, intuitive and has everything you could possibly need, bar one or two apps like Now TV. It is also fast to use with no lag and no crashes during our testing period. We liked the simplicity of use and the way the buttons on the remote are grouped which makes it second nature for the correct inputs when required.

    The TV tuner section is powered with Freeview Play, which is excellent with all catch-up services available for the terrestrial broadcasters. I also really like the fact that pressing the direction keys up or down on the remote brings up the now and next and you can quickly surf through the channels while what you were watching is still shown full screen. I much prefer this approach compared to the LG way of doing things, which requires the guide or actually having to change channel.

    Finally the other major feature that is a selling point of the FZ952 is the Dynamic Blade Speaker that is tuned by Technics. This is a high quality soundbar that manages to work extremely well with not only the design of the TV but also sounds very good as well. It lacks some of the bottom end punch you would get from some after market soundbars, especially those supplied with a subwoofer, but it manages to improve greatly on the usual standard of audio from such a slim TV as an OLED.

    Out-of-the-Box Measurements

    For the vast majority of consumers the performance out of the box will be the only way they use their TVs, as they simply won’t get it calibrated. The same is perhaps also true of many AV enthusiasts and TV fans who want accuracy out of the box and don’t see the value in getting their TV calibrated. We would obviously always say that to get complete accuracy to your room and video chain, hiring a professional has it’s benefits, but it is also true that accuracy is getting to a point where the differences in image quality are perhaps not as huge as they once were. With all that said we set about measuring the best out of the box image presents. We found that Professional 1 with all the image processing turned off, gamma at 2.4 and white balance at Warm2 gave the best results towards the industry standards of Rec.709 for colour and D65 for white point. These are the standards used in the content creation and how you should be set up to view it at home.
    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Out-of-the-Box Measurements
    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Out-of-the-Box Measurements

    As we can see in the greyscale tracking graph (top left) we have a very good result with blue just starting to dip from 30ire onwards and red just slightly high at the top end. Normally this would translate to a slight yellow look to whites, but actually it was pretty neutral with actual on screen content and deltaE errors were 2 and under, so below the visual threshold of 3. Gamma also tracked fairly close to our 2.4 target for dark room viewing with just a slight lightening around 70-90ire which we should be able to fix. For an out of the box result this is very good indeed.

    Moving to the Rec.709 gamut results (top right) we can see that with our slight yellow pull in the white balance the colour points have a slight hue error within the graph, but again this wasn’t visible with actual viewing material. Red was a little over saturated at all the saturation points, but everything else was tracking extremely close to where it should be and with on screen viewing material we really didn’t notice the red saturation apart from some occasional rosy cheeks and a slight red/yellow tint with some material now and again, but we were being extremely picky here. Once again out of the box we have no complaints with the results here in the graphs, but more importantly on screen with actual film and TV content the FZ952 looks superb.

    Calibrated Results

    Moving to calibration and the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 offers up some of the best and most accurate calibration controls on any consumer TV. By that we mean that when using them to make adjustments there are no after effects with image artefacts or other issues, when set by a professional who knows what they are doing. We get full access to white balance, gamma and a Colour Management System (CMS), which allow detailed adjustment. So just how pretty could we make the graphs look?
    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Calibrated Results
    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B Calibrated Results

    As you could probably have guessed we can make the greyscale tracking (top left) perfect as well as using the gamma editor to flatten out the luminance results. This brings deltaE errors well under 1 and you could say this is reference levels of accuracy. Compared to the out of the box image results with actual onscreen content a trained eye can pick out the more neutral greyscale and better gamma, but it is not night and day and without a reference point the vast majority of viewers would never tell the difference. But again it is impressive that we can get as accurate.

    The same can also be said for the Rec.709 colour gamut results that are now nearly 100% perfect on the graph and more importantly with onscreen viewing you can be sure it looks, as it should. Again it isn’t a night and day difference but the very slight red push is gone from skin tones and the Panasonic does look breathtakingly natural in its colour performance. By getting your TV calibrated you can be sure that with the Panasonic you are getting complete accuracy, but it isn’t bad at all out of the box and many would be just as happy with that over a slight improvement.

    Working with Hollywood has certainly paid off for Panasonic

    HDR Results

    As mentioned in recent reviews the standards for HDR are causing issues for manufacturers of different TV technologies and as such there is no joined up approach for how content is shown as intended. It is not true that standards have been settled upon or that they indeed work for consumer level displays. As such manufacturers are approaching HDR content such as HDR10 with its static metadata from different points of view, depending on how their TV or display performs and then matching that native performance to the mapping of the HDR content to suit. This means that each manufacturer approaches the problem from a slightly different point of view. As such we have noticed that tone mapping is used to highlight the positive attributes of some TVs and cover up where they are slightly weaker. For example Sony go for a consistent APL and as such can look darker compared to an LG OLED which tracks brighter and clips more in the highlights to achieve this.

    So what does this mean for the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 and its HDR performance? Well we set out to measure its out of the box performance with HDR content. We also measure the colour gamut to see just how close the FZ952 can get to the current standard used (DCI-P3 within Rec.2020).
    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B HDR Results
    Panasonic TX-65FZ952B HDR Results

    Looking at the EOTF PQ and greyscale (top left) we can see that there are a few things standing out in the EOTF PQ chart. There is a slight dip at 10ire that translates to some very slight black crush with onscreen material and it is slightly above the track as well before rolling off as it hits the native performance of the panel. This results in a very slightly brighter HDR performance in the mid-tones without looking overblown or overcooked, it is a noticeable uplift in brightness compared to rivals. We were happy with the greyscale tracking staying fairly accurate until the set rolls off in the higher end of the image.

    Colour gamut saturation tracking performance is very good out of the box for the DCI-P3 within Rec.2020 standard. There are a few errors with hue on green and magenta and also some slight over saturation, but these are at the maximum 100% point in most cases and a lack of luminance at these points is a native draw back of the OLED panel. We get a slight white to yellow error because of this point as well, but this is nothing that will stand out as an error for 99.9% of viewers of HDR content on the FZ952/ FZ950. Rec.2020 gamut coverage measured in at 74% XY and 80% UV, with P3 gamut coverage at 99% XY and 100% UV and peak brightness in Professional 1 mode and calibrated to D65 on a 10% window was 669 nits and 5% window at 745 nits. It will go brighter in more inaccurate picture modes. ABL is conservative on the FZ952/ FZ950 with it kicking in without any noticeable drop in brightness to the eye.

    General Performance

    Panel Uniformity, banding, image retention and viewing angles

    The FZ952/ FZ950 uses the latest LG Display supplied OLED panel, but everything else is down to Panasonic designed parts and electronics. We are happy to report that this review sample was free from any uniformity issues, dirty screen effect, dark edges, vignetting or colour shifts. There is some mild panel banding at very low luminance levels (2 and 5 % slides) which is a known trait of all OLED panels, and we didn’t notice this with any real viewing content and don’t consider it an issue. There’s a lot of football on at the moment and the FZ952 handled this without any issues of banding or colour shifts with large areas of the screen being the same colour. Overall the FZ952/ FZ950 doesn’t cause us any concerns with the panel quality.

    As this is an OLED TV there are no issues with viewing angles and you can watch this TV from quite extreme angles without any noticeable drop in contrast or shift in colours. We wouldn’t recommend extreme off axis viewing just because it will spoil your enjoyment of the content, not because of any image quality issues. If you have a living room with seating placed well off axis, an OLED TV will be the best option for you.

    There is a lot of talk on forums and the internet in general about avoiding OLED TVs because they get image retention and permanent burn-in. In the case of image retention it is possible to leave temporary retention on the screen when using it with bright content in the more inaccurate modes, or if you leave a channel like Sky News playing for hours on end. This will not normally be permanent as long as you allow the TV to perform it’s built-in panel cleaning cycles and make sure those options are always switched on. This will mitigate the most extreme instances of image retention happening. Being sensible with what you watch and how you use the OLED TV will help avoid any issues at all. This is how the technology works and it is for those who want the absolute blacks and dynamic range for movie and TV viewing, with some occasional gaming and so on. If that doesn’t sound like you, then OLED is perhaps not the technology for you. In terms of permanent burn-in we don’t have any evidence to suggest it is a common problem with OLED TVs being used as intended. We have only ever seen this on one OLED TV which was an early model being used for a trade show and displaying bright static logos for hours on end, so not your every day TV and movie watching. You shouldn’t let the issue of retention or possible burn-in affect your buying decision, unless you’re intended use is different from normal viewing.

    We have long term test OLED TVs at AVForums where we are testing for image retention and burn-in issues throughout the year and so far we haven’t seen anything from normal use of the panels.

    Black levels and contrast performance

    Black levels on this OLED TV are as expected with superb dynamic range and contrast performance. With SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) content the FZ952/ FZ950 is a stunning TV to watch with some jaw dropping examples of just above black detail retrieval and shadow details, bringing an amazing depth to the image. With absolute black performance on/off and ANSI contrast measurements are infinity and we love OLED technology because of what it can offer in terms of contrast and black levels performance, especially with SDR material.

    With HDR the FZ952/ FZ950 is also an impressive TV with stunning levels of dynamic range in dark viewing environments. We did notice that with some well known HDR content we use for regular testing there was a little bit of crushing with HDR10 content just above black, which was also seen in our test graphs above. We tried using the new 5ire and 2.5ire controls to see if this could be fixed and found that while it could be raised, it actually ended up pushing the image gamma off and losing some of the pop from the image. We found that leaving it be was the best compromise option and we only mention it to be complete in our assessment. The HDR performance is stunning and we didn’t actual find the slight crush on some material to be a deal breaker, or even a major issue at all. We will feed our findings back to Panasonic and see if they can fix this tiny issue we found.

    Motion handling and video processing performance

    Panasonic TVs of the past have had the occasional issue with 50hz material in the UK, but we are happy to report no such issues here with the FZ952/ FZ950. Image quality with broadcast 50i material is superb, especially HD channels upscaled to the native resolution of the panel. We didn’t see any instances of back door processing, edge enhancement or noise reduction happening with any accurate picture presets and de-interlacing and scaling performance was superb, with even the correct cadence detection with some of the older test clips being spot on.

    We were happy to note that all our torture tests were passed with flying colours and the Panasonic FZ952 manages to present images on screen without any issues at all. Any issues seen were source related and not the TV introducing them. 24p material also looked natural with IFC switched off with no induced judder or blur added to what should be there naturally in the source.

    Moving on to IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation) and we have four options to choose from with Custom, Min, Mid and Max. In Custom you can experiment with the two controls to get motion looking smooth without adding in SOE (Soap Opera Effect) in some cases. With fast moving sports, like the World Cup games being shown at the moment, we found that the Min setting worked well without adding any obvious artefacts to the video look. Moving up the scale does start to add in issues and it really will be personal preference from here on in. For film content we still recommend that IFC is switched off. There is a BFI (Black Frame Insertion) mode but you’ll need to go to the Options menu to find it. It adds in black frames as the name suggests fooling the eye into seeing smoother motion. This technique can work for some people who are not very sensitive to flicker but for everyone else, including me, it can be too distracting for long periods of time.

    We found the performance from the Panasonic FZ852/ FZ950 to be excellent and almost as good as the Sony AF8 which is the 2018 bench mark for this area of performance.

    Input lag and Gaming Performance

    I had great fun playing Forza 7 in HDR on the Xbox One X with the FZ952. The 65-inch screen can be immersive and image quality is fantastic which adds a real sense of realism thanks to the graphical performance and photo realistic look of the game. I also died many times within a few minutes in Star Wars: Battlefront II and Far Cry 5, but that was due to me being rubbish at the games and not the lag.
    We didn’t find the FZ952 dimming the HDR performance at all when gaming and it appears that it maintains a constant APL no matter what game you are playing, suggesting it does it own custom tone mapping in game mode. We didn’t find any aggressive ABL or other issues with our time spent playing on the FZ952/ FZ950.

    Input lag as we suggest is low in both HDR and SDR game mode, coming in at 22ms for both.

    Panasonic FZ952 sound quality performance

    The Dynamic Blade Speaker is Panasonic’s answer to the thin TV sound problem, placing the soundbar below and in front of the panel. It also helps to reinforce the design of the FZ952/ FZ950 although it doesn’t act as a panel support in any way. Once the TV is assembled on the stand the soundbar is plugged into the bottom of the panel and then slides into position at the front of the TV support stand. Two plastic panels then cover up the cabling and stand to give a sleek appearance to the TV.

    Sound quality from the FZ952/ FZ950 via the Dynamic Blade Speaker is very good indeed with a nice, wide stereo sound stage that is detailed and crisp at normal listening volumes. It has a number of drivers, tweeters and passive radiators (12 of them in all to be precise) and the soundbar itself is made from thick plastic. A speaker cloth runs the entire length of the speaker and there is a Technics badge to the right hand side. The Technics badge is important as the Dynamic Blade Speaker is ‘tuned’ by the Panasonic audio company to give it a Hi-Fi quality sound, according to the marketing. Whilst a quality outboard sound solution will always be the preference of most AVForums readers, the fact the FZ952 comes as an all-in-one solution is pleasing and the quality is good. Even the in-built surround mode works very well giving movies a nice weighty sound field that is better than most flat panels out there. The lack of a subwoofer is noticeable however, and we also found that with some soundtracks dialogue could get a little tinny and lost in an action sequence. But overall this performs above average as a TV solution. If you don’t need the Dynamic Blade Speaker and have your own audio system then you should look at the FZ802/ FZ800, which is basically the same TV, but without the soundbar included.

    It should also be noted that as well as lacking Dolby Vision for the picture side of the TV, there is also no Dolby Atmos support for the audio on the FZ952/ FZ950.

    Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 Picture Performance

    Out of the box SDR presets

    If you want the best out of your TV picture quality that always means going for an image that is close to the industry standards. Those standards are what TV and filmmakers use to determine how colourful their shows and movies are, and that any device following the same standards will display it as it was supposed to be seen. You can of course choose your own picture settings and have them as bright and colourful as you like, but why would you do that when you could have the film or TV show as it was supposed to be seen? As such we have tested the most popular picture presets on the FZ952/ FZ950 to guide you towards the best possible settings to use.

    Dynamic mode – This certainly lives up to its name with bright and overly vivid colours popping off the screen. Detail in the brighter areas of the image is clipped away as are some of the midtones, especially with facial detail and skin tones. Faces can look almost plasticine in nature and football pitches are too saturated with detail missing from various kits, especially those in white. Mentioning white is not actually accurate as in this picture mode they are overly blue. We really wouldn’t recommend this preset at all. Yes it looks bright and vivid, but that will also start to be tiring for your eyes to watch and you increase the likelihood of image retention with onscreen channel tags and gaming huds. Obviously with all these types of image presets there are various picture processing features switched on as default which add other issues to the image, such as motion artefacts from IFC being on high and so on. Even switching most of these features off will not overly improve the image quality or make it any more natural or accurate.

    Normal mode – This is actually a far better solution for bright images than the Dynamic mode, but it is also still far from being accurate. Whites are still blue but there are some details now back in faces and skin tones look a little more natural. The TV ships in this mode and with numerous picture-processing features also on as a default. This can make images look overly bright, clip detail and make motion look odd. We didn’t find any selection within this mode, which would make us want to watch this for TV shows and we certainly wouldn’t watch any movies in it either. If you want accuracy you won’t find it with this preset.

    THX Cinema/ Professional 1 & 2 – These are your go-to presets for the best image quality from the FZ952/ FZ950. Be aware that out of the box the professional presets will have some image processing features switched on, usually in the low setting and this is true for IFC as well. Make sure you switch these off if they are not desired. THX bright room is a good daytime setting that raises the image brightness for daytime viewing in a bright room and also adjusts the gamma to match. The Cinema preset is for dark room or evening viewing and improves the image brightness and gamma response as such. The professional settings as the same as THX but with a few default settings switched on. All these modes have excellent colour accuracy and greyscale tracking out of the box, which gives you an image that is very close to the intended look.

    If you are flicking between picture modes quickly then the THX and Professional presets are going to look more dull and washed out than the other modes, but that is because the other settings are too bright and far too colourful, with missing detail and definition, along with blue whites. White in TV and film production is described as midday sun on a piece of white paper. That is what D65 in video equates to and tries to replicate, so we can see an image and the colour as it is supposed to be seen. Our eyes are programed by nature to seek out bright colours and images and this is why manufacturers use such image settings for TV showrooms, they want to draw the eye, but this is far from being accurate. If you want to see films and TV shows as they are supposed to be seen, these are the best settings to achieve that without a full professional calibration.

    Out of the box the FZ952/ FZ950 looks superb in the professional mode once various items are switched off. Skin tones look very natural with plenty of fine detail and pores to be seen. Colours are extremely faithful and accurate with a stunningly natural look, which Panasonic does excel at. Where the LG C8 might measure well, it does have a slightly pushed, saturated look, but colour on the FZ952 looks far more balanced and neutral, something graphs just can’t show you. TV dramas look superb, even when streamed in less than ideal circumstances, like Westworld season two. Shadow detail and black levels are superb with extremely natural skin tones on offer and a muted, yet realistic and gritty colour palette on offer. It looks incredibly cinematic and adds to the atmosphere of the drama on screen. Switching to my Blu-ray favourites and again the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 out of the box is incredibly neutral and cinematic in the images it produces, with superb shadow detail retrieval, especially in the lower reaches of the image, which just adds to the depth on offer. Colours are yet again incredibly accurate to look at within scenes I know like the back of my hand. Even normal TV viewing and football looks incredibly good on the FZ952 with skin tones and facial detail looking superb with the pundits during the HD BBC World Cup broadcasts. White shirts have detail and shadows which show up texture and creases, faces look highly detailed without any obvious edge enhancement and motion is also very good indeed, giving the Sony AF8 a run for its money in this department. Indeed for sports and football, in the most accurate professional modes with IFC on low, we found a set up that excelled for our sports viewing in HD SDR with no obvious issues with motion or image artefacts.

    The Panasonic FZ952 produces one of the best images we have seen out of the box in terms of accuracy, colour saturation and black levels.

    Out of the box HDR 4K

    When HDR material is fed to the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 it automatically switches into the appropriate settings for that metadata. The FZ952 will slightly change its tone mapping depending on the HDR10 content being 1000nits or 4000nits mastered material. It’s not a significant change as the Panasonic tone mapping follows the PQ EOTF close until starting to gently roll off above 120nits (approximately) in both profiles. The roll off is just slightly different between the two, to allow for peak highlights to have a little more detail within them than compared to the FZ950’s peers. While the tracking looks like it will be a darker image, the midtones around 100nits is actually just a smidge brighter than it should be, which gives the FZ952 a brighter mid range and balanced peak highlight with little clipping seen in the brighter highlights. We did however notice in side-by-side tests that there is also a slight crush just above black within darker scenes in some HDR10 content. In isolation we doubt many users would notice this and in our opinion it is not a significant issue, but if Panasonic can fix it with a firmware upgrade that would be welcomed. We will feed back to them.

    We did find that in a normal living room HDR10 content looked stunning with excellent peak brightness, but also superb black levels and shadow detail retrieval which added a superb depth and structure to images. Colours were also fantastic with superb saturation and a natural accurate tone, right out of the box. Again, the LG C8 produces great HDR colours that are perhaps just a smidge unnatural in tone, which the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 doesn’t have; it looks more natural and nuanced, something graphs can’t show you. I ended up watching the entire film when I sat down to test chapter two of the new 4K UHD Blu-ray of Saving Private Ryan. This is a Dolby Vision disc, but as the FZ952/ FZ950 isn’t a Dolby Vision TV we watched the HDR10 layer and to be honest there is not much of a difference between them, having done a comparison with the C8. The washed out ‘look’ of the film is stunning and certainly resembles the old WWII documentary and news footage we have seen many times. The muted colour palette and gritty grainy feel is superb with strong blacks, excellent shadow detail and image depth, along with superb detail and no issues whatsoever. Moving to Planet Earth II on UHD Blu-ray is a complete opposite in terms of looks and the excellent nature photography is full of rich colours, excellent highlights and superb black levels during the night photography, an area where all LCD LED TVs I have seen have failed to manage properly.

    UHD Disc based content is sublime, but we were also pleased with streaming service playback in 4K HDR as well, with Lost in Space looking especially good. The overly blue tones of episode one are captured perfectly, along with the strong blacks and piercing highlights of the flames in the forest fire. Even in such a gloomy scene, detail is superb with no noise other than source based, and excellent shadow detail on show to deepen the frame and image depth. Skin tones are realistic and colours look incredibly good. We just couldn’t find fault with the FZ952/ FZ950 image quality with HDR material at all.

    We round up this section with the BBC 4K HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) testing during the World Cup and the FZ952 did an excellent job here as well. Obviously it is a test so there were issues with the earlier games being broadcast which were full of compression issues and drops in resolution, but as the tournament has progressed so has the quality of the images on offer. Especially noticeable is the detail in the crowds draped in sunlight where the HD broadcast is completely blown out. In the HLG feed you can see the crowd in excellent detail and clarity. The same is true for the kits being used by the teams, especially white, where there is detail in the creases and folds of the material, which again is not as pronounced or even visible on the HD broadcast feed. We were particularly happy with motion resolution on the FZ952 with sports material, even with IFC switched off or on low. This is a big step forward for most viewers of 50Hz TVs and nice to see Panasonic has managed to produce the goods on this occasion.

    Calibrated image performance

    The Panasonic FZ952 is so good out of the box that the calibration here was more an exercise in getting the graphs looking nice than adding any night and day difference to the image quality. Obviously if you are spending this much on a TV of this quality we would always recommend the services of a professional to not only get the image correct, but also check your video chain and sources to make sure you are getting the absolute best out of the TV. The Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 offers some of the best thought out calibration controls in the business with full ISFccc and THX certification to boot. It didn’t take long to have the greyscale and gamma tracking perfectly for SDR content, and HDR was also improved slightly with some minor adjustments made to EOTF PQ tracking. The results were more or less the same comments as above, with stunning black levels, excellent shadow detail, (slight black crush in some scenes aside), with stunning natural colours and superb details without any artefacts. Motion was also superb with no induced judder to 24fps material and image blur was as intended within the source material.

    Panasonic FZ952 Video Review


    Overall the Panasonic FZ952 has the most cinematic picture quality we have seen from an OLED TV!

    Conclusion

    9
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Stunning SDR picture quality
    • Superb HDR10 picture quality
    • Excellent HLG picture quality
    • Superb black levels
    • Excellent shadow detail retreival
    • Stunning colour accuracy both out of the box and calibrated
    • Excellent input lag at 22ms
    • Competitive pricing for a 65-inch flagship TV

    Cons

    • Only two full-fat HDMI inputs
    • No Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos support
    • Slight black crush with HDR on certain scenes
    You own this Total 8
    You want this Total 4
    You had this Total 0

    Panasonic FZ952 (TX-65FZ952B) Review

    OLED has certainly matured nicely this year with all the producers making their top end models extremely tempting with their varying attributes to the picture quality and design. It really is tough to pick out winners for the best OLED TV of the year so far, as each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 does however pip them all when it comes to that cinematic look and feel in the image quality. It is incredibly accurate out of the box and has a way of producing colours that are simply just more neutral and natural than its peers, even though looking at graphs you’d think they were all the same. The way the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 uses 3D LUTs and can now make real time adjustments to those, gives it the edge when it comes to producing some of the nicest looking colours we have seen on a WRGB OLED.

    Added to this is the expected black levels and shadow detail which brings stunning dynamic range and depth to both SDR and HDR content. The only tiny chink in the armour is some slight crush within some content just above black, but we didn’t think this was a deal breaker in any way whatsoever and unless you have a side-by-side comparison, we doubt most viewers would know or feel they are missing anything. Plus we feel that with scenes we have knowledge of, having sat with the creators and had them explain the look they want, the Panasonic resolves these scenes perfectly, with no crush issues. So for us it is not a big issue, but we will feed back our findings as always.

    We are really struggling to find any weak points with the FZ952 as the user interface is one of the best with an intuitive layout and we really like the way the programme menus work within the Freeview Play tuner, which mirrors popular set top boxes such as the Sky and BT now and next bars. The smart system worked flawlessly without any crashes, or long pauses and it was super fast in operation. It might not be as slick as some others out there, but it all works fine and most of the major services are here, and in 4K and HDR.

    The only issue we could find, and this is purely from a future-proof and box ticking point of view, is the lack of Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound. We personally didn’t find the lack of Dolby Vision to be a major issue given the superb HDR10 and HLG performance of the FZ952/ FZ950 where we didn’t feel there was a real lack of performance or major differences in side-by-side comparisons with our C8 showing the DV version. HLG performance was also excellent, so while it would be nice to have the choice of using the Dolby Vision dynamic metadata system, we don’t feel it is a deal breaker in anyway when considering the FZ952. However we do realise the market place will demand that all new TVs must have Dolby Vision and that many consumers will simply not choose a TV without it on board. This will likely cost Panasonic sales this year and that is a real shame, but it's the way the TV market is going. Our final small issue is also HDR related and this time its HDR10+ which the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 does support but where we haven’t been able to test it, well not knowingly anyway. That is because the only source for this is currently Amazon streaming, but they do not list which content is HDR10+ and the TV also doesn’t tell you what signal it is decoding. So, we may have watched some content in this dynamic metadata system, but were unaware of what it was.

    Overall the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 is another stunning flagship TV with the most cinematic SDR and HDR images we have yet seen. It also has an excellent user interface and smart TV line-up with almost all the major service available. Against its peers the LG C8 pips it to the post of best all-rounder by virtue of supporting Dolby Vision and all other HDR formats (minus HDR10+) and Dolby Atmos sound, along with every major service on its WebOS smart system. But the C8 isn’t quite as cinematic in the image department, where the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 manages to be a smidge better, especially with colour reproduction. So if you want a cinematic TV that was tuned by Hollywood professionals and has the image quality to back all that up, then the Panasonic FZ952/ FZ950 is the screen for you. Highly Recommended!


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £3,999.00

    The Rundown

    Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

    10

    Screen Uniformity

    9

    Colour Accuracy

    10

    Greyscale Accuracy

    10

    Video Processing

    9

    Picture Quality

    10

    SDR Picture Quality

    10

    HDR Picture Quality

    9

    Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box

    9

    Picture Quality Calibrated

    10

    Sound Quality

    8

    Smart Features

    8

    Build Quality

    8

    Ease of Use

    9

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    9

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