Considering Panasonic was the driving force behind bringing full HD 3D technology into our living rooms, and remains the most vocal proponent of the alternate frame 3D approach, the amount of time it’s taken the brand to produce a 3D projector seems bizarre.
After all, nobody doubts that 3D looks its best on really big screens of the sort you can only get - for remotely sensible money, anyway - with a projector system. And nobody should be in any doubt, either, that Panasonic knows its projector onions; there are multiple generations of home cinema models, culminating in the PT-AE4000, to prove that Panasonic is actually one of the best LCD projector makers around.
Yet the fact remains that until the official Los Angeles launch of the Panasonic PT-AT5000 at the end of last week, Panasonic hadn’t given us a single 3D projection solution - despite a growing public clamour for one.
What’s taken the brand so long? According to the PT-AT5000’s senior product manager, Rena Yotsu, it’s a simple matter of quality: “We wanted to create a premium quality product in keeping with Panasonic’s uncompromising approach to 3D. We didn’t want to go out at a premature stage - we wanted to be safe.”
These are bold words that obviously set the AT5000 up for a fall. But based on what we saw at the launch of the projector at Panasonic’s Hollywood Labs (PHL) in Los Angeles, a ‘fall’ is not likely to be on the cards.
The first thing that struck us as Panasonic whisked the cover off the AT5000 for the first time in its suitably awesome PHL cinema room was that, thankfully, it’s a more attractive beast than the frankly industrial PT-AE4000. It features less of the grilles that dominate all sides of the AE4000, its finish is slightly flashier, it’s slightly less chunky, and most amazing of all, it’s actually got - gasp - a few curves.
It’s still got a pretty expansive footprint for a projector that’s likely to retail for under £3k when it launches in the UK, though, ensuring that it looks suitably serious rather than like some casual ‘shove it in a cupboard when you’re not using it’ affair.
It’s been nearly 18 months since the AE4000 came out, so it’s good to see that the AT5000’s specs offer some major improvements beyond the ‘mere’ addition of 3D. Particularly eye-catching is the doubling of the claimed contrast ratio to 300,000:1, thanks in part to a completely new dynamic iris design. But also potentially significant given the AT5000’s 3D ambitions is a significantly higher brightness output of 2000 ANSI Lumens. Brightness is particularly important with 3D projectors, because they need to combat the inevitable dimming effect of active shutter glasses.