Panasonic P42ST50 Picture Quality
The Panasonic TX-P42ST50 isn’t as packed with picture fine-tuning tools as its more expensive Panasonic TX-P42GT50 and Panasonic VT50 plasma siblings. This might alarm the sort of really serious AV enthusiasts who tend to be the biggest fans of Panasonic’s plasma TVs, but we’d argue that the innate quality of the Panasonic TX-P42ST50’s pictures is such that to dismiss it just because it doesn’t have, say, a fulsome colour management system would be a mistake.
Getting stuck into the Panasonic TX-P42ST50’s pictures fresh from the impressive efforts of the Philips 46PFL8007, it’s a testament to Panasonic’s latest plasma technology that the P42ST50 still holds its own in many key ways. Its black levels, for starters, are capable of reaching some seriously extreme depths. What’s more, since plasma technology allows each pixel to have its own illumination level, you can still see loads of shadow detail information despite the profound black levels. The Philips LCD set, by comparison, tends to crush some shadow detail out of its darkest picture areas.
Also pretty brilliant on the Panasonic TX-P42ST50 is how sharp its HD pictures look. Detail levels are extremely high, the set’s plasma core together with the new sub-field driving system means there’s scarcely any sense of resolution being lost over moving objects, and for most of the time there are no significant noise issues to take the edge off things.
The Panasonic TX-P42ST50’s colour handling contributes to the sense of detail in the image too. For while colours aren’t rendered with quite so much finesse as they are on Panasonic’s GT50 and VT50 models, there’s certainly enough breadth to its palette and subtlety in its rendition of colour blends to avoid any ‘off-key’ tones and the sort of banding that can impact lesser plasma screens.
While comfortably at its best with HD, the P42ST50 is still a very respectable standard definition performer. Its upscaling engine does a good job of remapping standard def sources to the screen’s full HD resolution, avoiding the soft and/or noisy finish you often get.
We’re thoroughly accustomed now to Panasonic’s plasma TVs being among the best around when it comes to playing back 3D. And the Panasonic TX-P42ST50 mostly continues this trend. There’s bags of detail on show with HD 3D Blu-rays, for instance, and an excellently judged sense of depth aided and abetted by the TV’s impressive contrast capabilities.
Pictures look decently bright and colourful too compared with Panasonic’s previous plasma generations - though not quite enough to stop very dark scenes looking a touch short of detail.