Panasonic PT-AE500U LCD video projector Calibration
I used several test-pattern generators and a Minolta CL-200 color-temperature meter to tweak the Panasonic's gray scale and color with 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i sources. By projecting gray-scale ramps and tweaking first the Gamma control (I selected about 2.2), then Contrast and Brightness, I was able to get very clean color out of the PT-AE500U. What's more, it didn't have the residual blue-green color cast so common on LCD projectors. When I dialed in a neutral gray, the image didn't shift excessively to magenta or cyan at high or low levels of luminance—another problem that often pops up on small LCD projectors.
While the PT-AE500U could have tracked color temperature a little better (the total shift was about +/-700 kelvins from 30 to 100 IRE), the overall color quality was pleasing simply because reds and yellows looked natural, and not like orange and lemon. And color saturation was quite good. I used my Princeton AF3.0HD monitor as a reference, and it took a little time to see the differences between its colors and those from the PT-AE500U.
Because the PT-AE500U is an LCD projector, its black levels are higher than you'd see on a DLP model. That, in turn, limits shadow detail and makes some darker colors look desaturated. But I got some pretty good-looking images out of this box when watching sports, HD, and widescreen programs with daytime lighting, and video games.
In terms of light output, I measured 365 ANSI lumens afterall of my adjustments. Brightness ranged as high as 645 lumens in Dynamic mode and as low as 120 lumens in Cinema 1 mode. The projector was not terribly bright, but suitable for a theater environment with controlled lighting. A plain matte screen should work fine, although a gray screen would pull those black levels down more.
Contrast measured 242:1 ANSI (average) and 328:1 peak (checkerboard)—good performance for a front LCD projector. Brightness uniformity on average to any corner was 55%, which means you might see a hot spot if you use a high-gain screen with the PT-AE500U. The best LCD projectors can usually achieve 70% or better brightness uniformity.—PP. [I obtained a peak contrast of 1129 for the PT-AE500U measuring a 100 IRE white field vs a black field from an open input—roughly corresonding to the way most manufacturer's specs are determined.—TJN]