However, to date, the only projectors we have seen that use this technology are the Acer K750 and Panasonic's PT-RZ470, both of which are aimed at the more professional end of the market. As we discovered with the Acer 750 the reason for this might well lie with colour accuracy because whilst the use of a laser increases the brightness of the projector compared to a standard LED light source, the colours were wildly over saturated. At a cost of around £3,600 the RZ470 certainly hits a sweet spot in terms of projector pricing and with the inclusion of 3D, it makes a more attractive home cinema prospect than Acer's K750. It has taken nearly a year for us to get a sample, so let's see if Panasonic's RZ470 was worth the wait.
Design and Connections
LED/Laser Light Source
These features obviously appeal to professional installations in places such as museums for example, where the projector can be left on all day and not require any maintenance - handy if it's in a difficult to access location. However these advantages would also work within a home cinema installation and the use of a LED/Laser light source provides other benefits. The RZ470 uses a proprietary power circuit with an ultra-fast drive that switches the LED/laser on and off, eliminating the need for a colour-wheel and reducing the rainbow effect often seen on single-chip DLP projectors. There is also a heat pipe cooling system that dissipates the heat to cooling fins, thus reducing the noise level to 29dB. In addition the use of a single-chip DLP means an extremely sharp image and a sealed optical block that eliminates any issues with dust or other particles in the air. Whilst Panasonic's professional division use DLP chips in their projectors, the consumer division uses LCD panels and these can be subject to 'dust blobs' due to the fact that the optical path can't be air-tight.
If there is one area where DLP projectors tend to have a weakness, it is in terms of native black levels, and so it proved with the RZ470. The better the blacks on a projector, the better the dynamic range and the more solid and film-like the image appears. The blacks on the RZ470 were mediocre, appearing more like a very dark grey and this detracted from the impact of the image, robbing it of some of its dynamic range. Panasonic claim an on/off contrast ratio of 20,000:1 but we actually measured it nearer to 1,740:1 after calibration. The projector's inherent brightness was obviously offsetting the weak native blacks, so at least in bright scenes it retained some impact. DLP projectors often perform better when it comes to ANSI contrast ratio measurements and here the K750 measured 800:1, so in terms of even intra-frame dynamic range it wasn't as bad. Shadow detail was also limited, although we were able to improve this by setting the Brightness control higher because in its default setting it was crushing the blacks.
The video processing on the RZ470 was very good and using the SMPTE 133 test pattern it was able to correctly scale the standard definition images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing test the results were also very impressive, with very little jaggies on the rotating line. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance was also good, with jaggies only appearing on the bottom line. In the cadence tests the RZ470 correctly detected both the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. It also had no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring. The RZ470 also performed well with high definition content and with the player set to 1080i the projector correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed excellent scaling and filtering performance, as well as good resolution enhancement. With 1080i material the projector had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems. In fact the only test that RZ470 had problems with was the peaks for the luma channels of the three primary colours, where all the colours were clipping.
Picture Quality - 2D
Since the RZ470 is a single chip DLP projector, it inherits all the benefits of that technology and some of the disadvantages. The use of a single chip means perfect convergence, so thanks to the decent quality lens images looked very detailed. This was especially true of high definition content, where the projector could take advantage of the increased resolution. The downside was that the sharp image could expose any weaknesses in source material. As we would expect from a DLP projector it also handled motion superbly, with 24p material in particular showing movement that was smooth and judder free. This is one of the major strengths of DLP and the RZ470 performed admirably, reproducing movement and camera pans with clarity and detail. There was none of the smearing or loss of detail that you will often get with LCD based projectors.
The big selling point of the RZ470 is the LED/Laser hybrid light source and Panasonic's claims of 3,500 lumens certainly weren't exaggerated. We could easily get over 1,000 lumens, even in the low power mode, which is more than enough for our screen and pitch black home cinema. The RZ470 and plenty of horsepower left for 3D or larger screens and less ideal environments. It's also worth remembering that the LED/Laser hybrid light source won't dim like a regular bulb, so the RZ470 should be able to maintain these levels of brightness during its lifetime. The other advantage of using a LED/Laser hybrid light source with a DLP projector is that is should eliminate rainbows and whilst this is mostly true, people that are very susceptible might still see them occasionally.
Aside from the colour accuracy, the only other weakness was in terms of the black levels and shadow detail, both of which were quite poor. This meant that despite the brightness of the RZ470, the weak blacks robbed the projected image of some of its dynamic range and thus its impact. With darker scenes this was especially true and shadow detail was often obscured but then, the RZ470 has primarily been designed for use in brightly lit environments. We watched a number of new arrivals on the RZ470 such as Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3 and Fast & the Furious 6. Overall the images produced by the Panasonic were excellent, although there was a slight green caste to the colours and as mentioned the blacks let the side down at times.
Picture Quality - 3D
- LED/Laser light source
- Instant on/off
- Consistent performance
- 20,000 hours lifespan
- Reference greyscale after calibration
- Very bright
- Excellent video processing
- Great motion handling
- Detailed image
- Attractive price
- Poor black levels
- Over-saturated colour gamut
- Aimed at professional market
Panasonic Professional PT-RZ470EAK 3D LED/Laser Hybrid Projector Review
The RZ470 is certainly bright, putting out enough light to fill our review screen, even in the low power mode. As a result it can handle some very large screen sizes and would be ideal for mitigating the dimming nature of 3D glasses. Despite this brightness, the absence of a bulb means that the RZ470 is quite quiet, which is useful in an average home cinema environment. The best out-of-the-box setting delivered a reasonably accurate greyscale and gamma, although this could be calibrated to a reference performance with the two-point white balance. Despite the picture mode being called 'Rec709', the colour gamut was rather inaccurate, with an excess of green in particular. We were unable to correct this with any of the picture controls available and suspect this may be a limitation of the technology.
As a result of the over saturated colour gamut, images did have a slight green caste to them, although overall the performance was actually quite good. As we would expect from a DLP projector, the precision and detail was excellent, as was the motion handling and the video processing. The reference greyscale and gamma also helped, although the RZ470 suffered from some very weak blacks and limited shadow detail. The flip side was that the projector's brightness gave images plenty of impact and although we couldn't test the 3D, the combination of light output and DLP's inherent strength in this area should result in an impressive performance.
The Panasonic PT-RZ470 is certainly a great projector for the professional market in which it will mainly be used and the LED/Laser light source provides a possible glimpse of the future. However the technology will need to be improved in terms of colour accuracy and black levels before it becomes a serious contender for home cinema implementation.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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