Particularly unexpected is the presence of a startlingly sophisticated colour management system. This actually allows you to manually choose a colour tone from the picture you’re watching using a movable ‘target’ cursor, and alter that tone’s colour phase, level and gamma elements via a simple menu list of alternative tones stretching out to either side of the original settings. Even JVC’s recently reviewed £3,500 HD350 didn’t manage to deliver colour management as sophisticated as this!
Other unexpected discoveries include five thematic image presets (of which we’d recommend the Brilliant and Creative Cinema options), five memory slots where you can store your own calibrated presets, manual gamma adjustment, unusually flexible lamp control should you want to sacrifice some brightness for better black levels/quieter fan noise, adjustable transient improvement, adjustable contrast improvement, an auto black stretch facility, three manual iris adjustments, a remarkably expansive and subtle iris range adjustment, and even the facility to customise the gamma settings. Phew.
The only pity with all this flexibility is that even after spending more time playing with all the options available than I can really afford, I still didn’t manage to come up with an image I could totally fall in love with.
There are a number of reasons for this. The worst is the projector’s black level response. Sanyo quotes a very respectable contrast ratio maximum of 10,000:1, but this doesn’t seem borne out by the amount of the dreaded grey misting effect hanging over all the dark street shots during ”30 Days of Night”.
What’s more, no matter which of the Z700’s countless tricks I used to try and improve things, nothing ever really seemed to significantly dent the fundamental greyness issue. This stops the picture from looking as dynamic and contrast rich as I’d like – especially if you use settings based around the Creative Cinema 2 image preset that otherwise seems to deliver the best image.
Making the Z700’s black level issues that bit tougher to take is the fact that its pictures aren’t particularly bright – at least when you’ve got the image calibrated to a point where colours and noise levels are at their best. Had the projector’s peak whites and colours been driven out of the screen with more aggression by a better brightness performance, then the black level issue might have seemed less troubling. But as it is I just didn’t find my attention held by the Z700’s picture as aggressively as it has been by some other affordable projectors I’ve assessed recently.
I also didn’t find the Z700 entirely satisfying with standard definition material, thanks to the appearance of some jaggedness over high-contrast edges (though ironically these jaggies are actually well handled when the projector is deinterlacing 1080i sources), and signs of what looks like the grid-like structure of the projector’s liquid crystal grid over areas of detail like hairlines or bright on-screen text. Plus I felt that standard def skin tones looked rather waxy and distant standard def objects slightly soft.