Panasonic Viera TH-50PZ800B 50in Plasma TV - Panasonic TH-50PZ800B

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One final absolutely crucial Panasonic talent we have to mention when covering any of the brand’s plasmas is its Real Black Drive. This technology enhances the control of the current that illuminates plasma cells, enabling the 50PZ800B to produce a contrast ratio quoted at – drum roll please – a million to one. And there was us thinking the 50,000:1 contrast figure quoted by our previous screen, LG’s 52LG5000, sounded good!


Starting our tests with the Blu-ray transfer of ”Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, the results of all the 50PZ800B’s formidable imaging technology are truly impresive. In fact, with the possible exception of Pioneer’s premium plasma TVs, I can’t recall any TV that’s made this actually quite tricky video transfer look better.


This is particularly true in the black level department, as the creepy blackness of the London streets during the film’s night scenes is rendered with not only sensational black level depth, but also a degree of shadow detailing that other flat TVs (again bar the Pioneers) can only dream about.


Check out the shots, in particular, of Anthony strolling the night streets pining for Joanna. The dark corners look completely and utterly black, with none of the grey clouding that afflicts these shots with almost all other flat TVs to some extent. Even better, you can make out not only individual bricks in the sides of the building he passes in long shot, but even the texture shadows within each brick. Seriously, this is amazing stuff.


Another genuine startling talent of the 50PZ800B is its fine detail response. Its Full HD panel is put to full use in ensuring not a single pixel of picture information gets ‘lost in translation’ between the Blu-ray player and the picture you eventually see – especially if you make sure you’ve deactivated Overscanning in the TV’s Set Up menu. And so as Todd writes a letter, for instance, you can actually make out the texture in the paper he’s using. Amazing. Again.


I was also very impressed by the 50PZ800B’s colours with HD viewing. It handles the very tricky ‘whitened out’ skin tones of Todd and Mrs Lovett with exceptional accuracy and finesse, while also leaving all the jets of blood looking natural rather than over-stressed. It can then burst into vibrant life nicely during the film’s rare ‘fantasy’ colourful moments, such as the scene where Todd is dragged away from his young wife at a market.


People who’ve become accustomed to LCD technology, with its extreme brightness, might just feel the 50PZ800B’s colours look a touch muted, especially using the Cinema preset we’d suggest you use for the majority of your TV viewing. But the reality is that the 50PZ800B’s colours during HD viewing are simply – for the most part – more believable and indeed more subtle than those of the majority of gaudy LCD rivals.