Basic set up of the Z3000 is a doddle – provided you can find a coffee table big enough to hold its considerable bulk. Thanks to the provision of exceptionally flexible horizontal and vertical image shifting wheels down the projector’s side, I was able to get an image perfectly positioned on my screen in no time – and without the need for any nasty, distorting keystone correction, either.
The projector’s onscreen menus aren’t bad either, in a no-nonsense kind of way. The only area of complaint here is that I found the picture unusually tricky to calibrate correctly. And worryingly this seemed to be more down to issues with the image itself than the projector not providing me with enough adjustment tools for the job. More on this later.
Key features of the menus that you’ll need to familiarise yourself with include a selection of lamp output presets, with two dark ones aimed at home cinema use; gamma adjustment; noise reduction adjustment; two ‘dynamic’ iris settings and one fixed option; the facility to reduce the iris’s range; automatic black stretch, contrast enhancement and transient improvement options; an adjustable Smooth motion mode; that 5:5 pull down system; and last but not least, a really quite sophisticated colour management system.
The latter actually lets you select small target areas of the picture (which is frozen at the moment you select the feature) and adjust the level, phase and gamma of the selected tone using a ‘sliding scale’ of slightly different shades to either side of the original. Helpfully there are Before and After boxes so you can track exactly what impact your changes are having.
If this all sounds a bit scary, the projector also ships with a variety of picture presets installed, including Brilliant Cinema, Creative Cinema, Pure Cinema and Natural. Though I have to say that I didn’t find any of these entirely compelling, chiefly on the grounds that I just wasn’t blown away by the projector’s colour response when using any of them.
Seriously not one of the out-of-the-box modes seemed to deliver a colour palette that I felt entirely convinced by, and to be honest, while considerable time spent in the innovative but very time-consuming colour management system yielded considerable improvements, I never quite felt that the results looked completely ‘right’.
Trying to be a bit more specific on this, skin tones tend to look a touch orangey, some greens look slightly anaemic and some dark scenes seem to carry a slightly green undercurrent.
As an interesting adjunct to this, two of the three cinema presets provided really don’t infuse the image with very much brightness at all, a phenomenon I usually associate with a projector that’s slightly struggling to get its colours coming out right.
It’s probably on account of this apparent suspicion of brightness that the Z3000 also doesn’t deliver quite so much snap and dynamism with dark scenes – or rather combination dark/light scenes – as some competitors, including Panasonic’s PT-AE3000.