288 of 297 people found the following review helpful
The Current Industry Standard In Picture Quality
, August 5, 2013
This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P60ZT60 60-Inch 600 Hz 1080p 3D Smart Plasma TV (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
As a consumer who actually bought the ZT60, I think I can put a few things into perspective. Back in '09 I saw a demo of a 50" Pioneer Kuro plasma (the industry reference for black level quality until now) at a store with the lights switched off. Yes, I was impressed. Blacks looked visibly black. A couple of months ago I went to a Magnolia (Best Buy) store to see if the ZT60 could live up to its hype. The ZT60 was not in a controlled demo room but was placed on a wall directly under a VT60 with a lot of ambient store lighting. Under such lighting conditions, I honestly couldn't see the difference in black level between the VT60 and the ZT60. The main advantage of the ZT60 under bright lighting was somewhat less reflectivity/screen glare. I asked for a demo in the dark demo room but only a VT60 was in the room. I checked out the blacks using night scenes off my own "Taxi Driver" and "American Werewolf in London" BluRay discs. Blacks were inky black. Since I couldn't do an A-B comparison between a VT60, ZT60, or the Pioneer Kuro TV for black level using the same material the best I can do was base my comparisons of black level on memory. Given the Kuro's already impressive performance, can anything else "blow it out of the water", as some posters on CNET put it? I'll just say that the Kuro has finally been laid to rest. But let me say that when a black screen appears on the VT60 it looks extremely dark already.
When looking at a black screen on my ZT60 at home at night with the lights off, it appears that the unit is practically turned off (really). At that level, it's just an exercise in futility to compare it to a Kuro and split hairs. It's plenty good enough for me.
In overall performance it handily beats the very best LED backlit LCDs I've seen, including the current Ultra HD 4K sets (except in resolution) I've seen (since all of them use LED backlighting). At this point, you may be wondering why I would compare a 1080P HDTV to a 2160P (4K) set. Based on the demos of 4K sets that I've seen on 60 to 65-inch screens, the difference (really just resolution) between 1080P and 2160P is only visible when you are standing several inches in front of the screen. Most people would rather view from several feet away in a living room setting. Also, the 4K demo material is video-based. I can't imagine seeing any more detail even from a transfer of a 70mm film print when seated at a normal viewing distance in a living room. In terms of 4K sources, the Blu-Ray format does not support that resolution, leaving Sony to offer a $600 4K media box that only works with their own brand of 4K TVs. There's another alternative in the form of an even more expensive source component. But all this points to a shaky start for yet another format that provides little benefit to consumers. In fact, 4K is just a transitional format for the 2nd tier of the Ultra HD standard, 8K. So why buy 4K at all? Anyway, I digress.
Back to the subject of overall picture quality. With all the statements about black level, you'd think that that was the only important picture parameter. I'll say that one of the first things I noticed about both the VT60 and ZT60 were the great reproduction of different shades of gray (maybe better than the Kuro set which had a tendency to crush dark shades of gray to black). On the ZT60 there seems to be, if anything, also a noticeable advantage in the reproduction of red. Reds are reproduced with a natural purity I've never seen before. I can't comment on the 3D performance of the ZT60 because I don't have a 3D BluRay player but I briefly converted a 2D Blu-Ray to 3D. The motion seemed to appear with the "soap opera" (video) effect. That said, 3D performance is not important to me so I consider the feature to be a "throw in" anyway.
My only pet peeve about all the professional reviews I've read about the ZT60 is the statement that SD sources look great. While it's true that DVDs appear extremely good on the ZT60 when using an HDMI connection, the aforementioned statement is obviously based on the reproduction of DVDs (which occasionally look like HD sources) and broadcasts. I say this because there is no support for legacy sources that use the S-Video connection. I've seen so many professional reviewers trash this connection by saying that making an S-Video connection was awkward (well, you don't do it often, do you?). Yet, there is no criticism of the old composite video connection's quality. I don't think a professional reviewer would mind putting up with the minor inconvenience, given the composite connection's dot crawl from inherent crosstalk between the luminance (black & white) and chrominance (color) signals. As expensive as the ZT60 is, you'd think that an S-Video input would be included. How much can such an input cost? I make a big deal about this because I have a lot of S-VHS recordings of material I simply can't buy or don't care to buy again in another format and I also have some laserdiscs. The composite input of the ZT60 rolls off the high end of the video signal. Looking at an S-VHS recording of a standard definition Snell & Wilcox resolution test pattern through the composite connection shows a horizontal resolution of well under 300 lines. Yet looking at the same recording through the S-Video input of my old old SDTV shows roughly 410 lines. So what to do? The receiver connected to my ZT60 doesn't have S-Video inputs either so I can't use it for any handshaking between the S-VHS VCR and the ZT60. Fortunately, I have a D-VHS machine that has S-Video inputs and HDMI outputs so I can either play my S-Video recordings through this machine or use its S-Video inputs for my S-VHS VCR (which does a better job playing S-VHS videos) along with the HDMI outputs to the receiver. Result? The 410 lines of resolution appears on the ZT60 and the recordings closely approach DVD quality.
Despite the S-Video omission, I still believe the ZT60 is a 5-star product. Its reduced screen glare/reflectivity, its practically perfect black level, the great reproduction of shadow detail, and extremely accurate colors have seduced me already. In fact, these performance parameters are unrivaled. As I've already mentioned, the first parameter cannot be matched by the current generation of higher resolution Ultra HD TV sets, given their use of LED-backlit technology.
To make the most out of the ZT60, I switch to the THX Cinema mode, load a Spears & Munsil Blu-Ray calibration disc then adjust the black-level, contrast, sharpness according to the disc's test patterns and set the color temperature to the normal setting. I didn't find the recommended picture adjustments of CNET reviewer, David Katzmaier, helpful. In fact, the settings seem to appear way off when looking at the results when using my OPPO BDP-83 Blu-Ray player as a source.
In a nutshell, I'd list the Pros vs. Cons as follows:
Unrivaled picture quality
Extremely accurate colors/color temperature in the THX mode/EBU modes right out of the box
Beats The Pioneer Kuros black level and gray scale reproduction
Low screen glare/reflectivity compared to all other plasmas to date
No S-video input to make the most of S-VHS sources; composite video input rolls off high-end and makes SD sources appear duller than they are
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2/28/2014 Update Regarding 3D viewing: Initially, I commented on a "soap opera" effect when switching to the 3D viewing mode. Upon closer examination, I realized that the motion-smoothing circuitry was turned on by default in this mode. Once I went through the "Picture" menu options to defeat the motion smoothing, the "soap opera" effect disappeared. Be that as it may, unless you have genuine 3D source material (mine is simulated from a non-3D Blu-Ray player), you may quickly grow tired of the 3D viewing mode. After about 30 minutes or less of viewing in 3D mode, my eyes felt a bit fatigued. So I just watched in 2D mode.
If I were to sum up the appearance of the 3D mode, the results are not unlike what you would see when looking through old "Viewmaster" 3D slides (remember those?). Rather than seemingly palpable images, objects appear to be 2D cutouts layered at varying depths. The appearance isn't unpleasant but it's not realistic either. I'm not faulting the ZT60 for this because this is a characteristic I've noticed with all the 3D sets I've watched.
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