Product Review

Sanyo PLV-Z3 Three-Panel 16:9 LCD Digital Projector

Part II

May, 2005

John E. Johnson, Jr. and Steve Smallcombe


In Use

The Z3 is a very easy projector to set up and use. The HDMI input worked flawlessly, but most of the time, I used component video.

The image is bright and contrasty, but not as contrasty as DLP. On the other hand, there is no rainbow effect with LCD, and I am very sensitive to that. So, if I had to choose between more contrast but having the rainbows, and less contrast but no rainbows, I would choose the latter.

In any case, the Z3 had sufficient contrast to give me a very good image. There was a bit of Fixed Pattern Noise (FPN), which manifests itself as some very light vertical lines, called Vertical Banding. This is caused by the column voltages varying a small amount between different columns of pixels. Another type of FPN affects local pixels, and has an appearance that looks like a dirty panel. I did not see that type in the Z3. FPN is only generally seen with static areas of the same color, such as a blue sky.

The screen door effect (SDE) was minimal. LCD panel manufacturers sure seem to have this problem under control.

The lens has a focal length a bit longer than I like, as I was not able to fill my 72" wide screen from the projector sitting on my coffee table.

The dynamic bulb brightness operated beautifully, and I really was unaware of its functioning. Automatic control of brightness to produce dynamic contrast by one method or another seems to be a very nice feature that is showing up on more and more projectors now.

On the Bench (Steve Smallcombe)

When I evaluate a projector, I not only look at images, I measure the color balance of the projector at various light intensity levels and determine the quality of what is called Grayscale Tracking. The idea is that black, white, and all shades of gray, should have the correct ratio of the three primary colors used in video projection Red, Green, and Blue. You can read more about the testing method in my past projector reviews on Secrets, or at For measurements in this review, I used the Accupel HDG-3000 Component Video Calibration Generator for test signals, a device capable of generating video calibration test signals in a wide range of video formats, including 1080i, 720p, 480i, and 480p.

Color Balance

An initial check of the various predefined Color Temperatures revealed that “Low1” was very close to the desired D65 at the mid IRE levels. A full SMART III run indicated, however, that the color balance varied from the ideal at high and low IRE levels as shown above. In viewing, blacks and shadows did seem a bit on the blue side, but no worse than many other LCD-based projectors I have reviewed. No doubt, the addition of a CC Red filter would help correct the color balance at the lowest IRE levels. Fortunately, in the brief tweaking I tried, it seemed that the Z3 is a much better behaved projector than the Z2, and the user menus seem to contain all the gain, bias, white level, and gamma controls needed to put things right without the need for factory or service mode adjustments – a real advance over previous Sanyo models.

The measured IRE 100/IRE 0 (full on/full off) contrast ratio, was 545:1, limited by blue leakage at IRE 0. With an IRE 100 window, the Z3 produced a measured brightness of 18.4 ftL at my unity gain DaMatte screen, corresponding to a projector output of 582 Lumens. The above measurements were made with the lamp mode in “High” I “AI” mode off and the iris fully open. With the AI mode on, the black levels measured for an IRE 0 window (Black) dropped by an additional 35 percent boosting the effective contrast ratio in the AI mode to 735:1. So, whether there is an automatic iris change with brightness, a lamp brightness change, or a combination (this is not explained in the manual), it seems to work well for improving dynamic contrast.

Gamma Tracking

The other thing we can measure is gamma tracking, or how the light output of the projector responds to the input signal. If the projector's gamma tracking is off, then details in the image will either be lost or the image may look flat and have little contrast. The Gamma Tracking graph shows the combined light intensity at the various IRE levels relative to a theoretical level. If the projector is accurately producing the intended light intensity level as a function of input or IRE level, all values should be close to 1 in the gamma tracking graph.

In the Gamma Tracking graph above you can see that the Z3 has accurate gamma tracking that is well described with an overall gamma of 2.2 with only a deviation at the lowest IRE levels. This measurement was made using the “0” gamma setting, and again with AI off.


The Sanyo PLV-Z3 is a fine projector. It has improved contrast over the Z2, adds better menus, and has the new HDMI input jack. At $2,000, it is an extremely competitive product, and will deliver a great home theater experience.


- John E. Johnson, Jr. and Steve Smallcombe -


© Copyright 2005 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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