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Panasonic PT-AE3000 LCD Projector - Panasonic PT-AE3000
Panasonic claims a huge claimed contrast ratio of 60,000:1, and while this figure is dependent on a dynamic iris system (which reduces the image's brightness during dark scenes) rather than being a native figure, it still looks more believable than the contrast ratio figures quoted by most LCD/SXRD projector rivals.
It's not just the sheer darkness of the AE3000's black level that impresses, either. For thanks to a vastly superior brightness output - and the more sophisticated optics generally - the AE3000 retains terrific amounts of shadow detail during dark scenes, helping them look three-dimensional, textured and cinematic, to use a much-abused term!
When Bond visits M in her home at night on the Blu-ray of Casino Royale, for instance, you can see the weave in Bond's suit even in shadowy areas where lesser projectors would just present a general wash of one-dimensional blackness.
Even better, despite this scene having a stark mix of very bright and very dark image elements within a single frame, the image doesn't ‘flatten out' - a common problem with other LCD models caused by the dynamic contrast systems only being able to judge their brightness levels based on the image as a whole, rather than localised sections.
The AE3000 doesn't have local brightness adaptation either, of course. It's just that its natural contrast is so good that it can handle stark single-image brightness differentials without even needing its dynamic contrast system.
The AE3000 improves on its predecessor, too, when it comes to sharpness. For the fractionally soft flavour of the AE2000 is replaced by exceptional sharpness and clarity, making HD sources look just as spectacular as we know they should. For instance, using Casino Royale again, as Bond backs the tourist's gold Range Rover into a parking space at the hotel resort, you can see dust and moisture trails on the bonnet that just aren't apparent on the majority of even Full HD projectors. Hmm. Guess this finally puts to death my long-held theory that the Smooth Screen system somehow makes pictures look a bit soft…