You can get colour levels and balances pretty close to the established video standards via the Z800’s calibration tools, though if these tools scare you, you should feel more than satisfied with either of the Brilliant Cinema or Creative Cinema presets.
With a claimed contrast ratio of 10,000:1 and a high (for its market position) brightness of 1,200 ANSI Lumens, it’s no surprise to find the Z800’s pictures looking generally pretty dynamic, with perky whites and bright light colours helping add a further sense of definition to the picture while also sitting against a credible black level response.
That said, the Z800’s black level response is also for us a definite performance weakness. For while it’s good enough to provide a nice foundation to mostly bright images, during mostly dark ones it’s noticeable that they look rather greyed over. This doesn’t thankfully go so far as to leave dark scenes feeling flat and short of shadow detail, so long as you don’t reduce the image’s brightness too much. But it does detract from the abundantly natural feeling that’s so impressed us with the Z800’s picture presentation generally.
It doesn’t help, either, that the Z800’s dynamic iris feels rather primitive. Even if you use the lowest-level of its two optional settings, the picture regularly shifts in brightness quite aggressively and noticeably, distracting you from what you’re watching.
Another niggle would be that although the Z800 runs reasonably quietly for a high-brightness budget projector, the noise levels do vary constantly and thus become more distracting if you’re using the dynamic iris modes. Which provides yet more reason to avoid them.
Turning to standard definition content leaves us a feeling a touch cold too, thanks to a rougher look and more obvious jaggies around contours than we’d like to see.
One final issue we really must raise before wrapping up is that the Z800 appears to be very, very similar to to Sanyo’s previous Z700 model. In fact, so far as we can tell the only ‘significant’ difference is a markedly lower standby energy consumption.
We know this projector has been pretty highly lauded in some AV circles, and we have to admit that for some reason, during this review we found ourselves more struck by the positives of the Z800’s performance than we did when we reviewed its nearly identical Z700 predecessor in 2008.
But we suspect this is because we were already preprepared for contrast issues with the Z800 based on our experience of the Z700, and so didn’t find ourselves feeling as immediately combative about them.
The simple reality, though, is that Sanyo just tweaking the standby power in shifting from the Z700 to the Z800 isn’t enough to persuade us to move upwards from the 7 mark we gave the Z700. And nor is it enough to persuade us to buy a Z800 ahead of Epson’s superior but almost identically priced TW2900.