There are seven preset image modes. Normal ( a balanced mode, Dynamic, which boosts vividness designed for brighter environments, Colour1 (spelt correctly with a ‘u’ – well done Panasonic), Colour 2, Cinema 1, Cinema 2, Cinema 3, all of which are designed for movies. According to the manual, Cinema Setting One offers ‘Hollywood style colours’- which presumably means that if you watch it for too long you’ll feel the need to whiten your teeth and adopt Scientology.
Each of these can be adjusted from the factory default. In fact there is a large array of adjustments possible, Contrast, Colour, Tint, Sharpness, Colour Temperature – and that’s before you get into the advanced menu. There’s a waveform monitor that puts a live histogram on the screen and a Colour Management system freezes the picture and puts a James Bond like cursor on screen, which you can move to any point and make adjustments on that exact spot. It’s essentially a professional calibrators dream, but if you don’t know what you’re doing you could easily create a mess of a picture. Luckily you can go back to defaults and the good news is that the images are pretty damn impressive, right out of the box.
Despite the claimed maximum figure the use of the Auto Iris means that this isn’t the brightest projector in the world and if there is any light in the viewing room you’ll be forced to use the Normal or even Dynamic settings, which are good but won’t give you the widest contrast range or the optimum colours. In a dark environment these are overkill and the other modes come into their own. I preferred Cinema 1 or Cinema 3 for movies and kept Normal or Dynamic for games during the daytime. As you cycle between them, you can hear the iris adjusting – this is normal.
The first test source was an Xbox 360 outputting a 1080p signal over component. The picture was very good indeed. The 1080p seemed to suit the screen very well – colours are natural, not overly harsh and motion was smooth and there’s all the detail you expect for see at 1080p. It wasn’t the absolute sharpest I’ve ever seen, perhaps the side effect of the Smooth Screen technology, but it was sharp enough and certainly not soft.
I then moved to 1080p from HD DVD via a Toshiba HD-XE1 player using V for Vendetta, great for black levels. Natalie Portman never looked more beautiful, not that she needs much help with that. Skin tones are realistic, though obviously you can tailor the look of the image for your environment. The benefits of full HD can be seen in the detail visible in the wisps of smoke, and extreme close-ups.