Sharp XV-Z30000 3D DLP Video Projector Page 2
Color and Detail Enhancement controls offered no improvement in the accuracy of the Sharp’s images, so I left them both at their minimum positions. There’s also a separate Anamorphic control (directly accessible on the remote control) for those who plan to use the Sharp with an anamorphic lens.
The projector offers no motion smoothing/motion interpolation. DLP projectors, despite their high operating speed, can’t totally eliminate motion smear, but they are generally a little better at it than other projection technologies. In any case, since I never use motion interpolation, even when it’s included, I didn’t miss it here.
A Reset control returns all of the settings for the mode you’re in to their factory default settings. But be careful. There is no “Are you sure you want to reset this mode?” warning. On two occasions, I accidentally reset all of the controls while making some fine adjustments. Luckily, I’d written down all the settings—a word to the wise.
A 3D menu offers controls to turn 3D off or on (although it will come on automatically when the projector senses a 3D source), select the appropriate 3D mode when necessary, and enhance or subdue the 3D depth in 16 steps. There is no 2D-to-3D conversion mode.
The Sharp XV-Z30000 comes standard with two pair of active glasses and an external IR 3D transmitter to activate them. The glasses offer the option of turning off the 3D effect for individual viewers who may find 3D uncomfortable, allowing them to see a 2D picture without a double image.
The remote lacks backlighting but can directly access each of the projector’s inputs (including two HDMI), select or deselect the two iris modes, change the Eco+Quiet (lamp) setting, cycle through the picture modes, adjust the most often used picture controls, activate the lens memory modes, and more.
All of the testing and viewing of the Sharp XV-Z30000 was done with between 100 and 225 hours on its projection lamp. The projector’s HD video processing was good (see the Video Test Bench). The 2:2 HD failure was borderline.
While I alternated on occasion between the two screens available to me—a 101-inch-wide, 2.35:1 Elite (specified 1.1 gain) and a 78-inch-wide, 16x9 Stewart StudioTek 130 (specified 1.3 gain), the Elite saw the heaviest duty. The observations here, unless noted otherwise, reflect the results on that larger screen. The low-lamp setting (Eco+Quiet on) was far too dim for use on a low-gain, 101-inch screen, so I chose high (Eco+Quiet off). I also set Iris1 to High Brightness, which together with the high-lamp mode produced a peak 2D brightness of about 20 foot-lamberts on the Elite. I actually had to turn down the Contrast control by several steps to get the level this low: This is one very bright projector! I would have preferred a multistep adjustment for Iris1 instead of the two fixed options.
I did all of my viewing with Sharp’s auto iris (Iris2) engaged. Automatic (dynamic) irises can dramatically improve the peak (full-on/full-off or sequential) contrast ratio, but they don’t always do so without side effects, such as obvious pumping of the image brightness as the iris opens and closes. However, the XV-Z30000’s auto iris (Iris2) worked beautifully. The only times I thought I caught a hint of it operating turned out to be in the source material itself.
Similarly, the ubiquitous single-chip, DLP rainbow effect (brief, random, and annoying flashes of rainbow-like color) was virtually absent here. The Sharp uses a six-segment (RGBRGB) color wheel operating at 5x, or 150 revolutions per second (6x or 180 rps in 3D). In dozens of hours of watching, I can’t recall a single serious attack of the rainbows, and I’ve always been hypersensitive to them. Some individuals are not.
Out of the box, and after properly setting its Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness controls, the Sharp produced a subjectively good picture. Its color balance was definitely off, but not in a way that would be obvious to most viewers. Once the lamp had settled in, however, a full calibration improved matters significantly. But as noted earlier, short of that new firmware, there were simply not enough color controls, with sufficient flexibility, to massage the projector into a first-class calibration.
The most serious offender was the color gamut. The location of green, in particular, was oversaturated and pulled slightly toward yellow. This slices off some required colors on the left side of the CIE chart (see HT Labs Measures), colors that are needed for an accurate HD (Rec. 709) color gamut. This green position, according to my ISF contacts, can also add as much as 20 percent to a projector’s brightness.
Was the Sharp’s color, to the eye, truly awful? Not at all. Post-calibration, the grayscale was both measurably and subjectively respectable. While the color gamut was definitely off target, the deviations were not anywhere near as visible as you might expect. The oversaturated reds made bright-red objects pop a bit too much, magenta edged toward purple, and cyan was a bit undersaturated. But the average viewer will not likely notice any of this and will be fine with the Sharp’s color as is. The poppy red fan club has a large, happy membership.
Still, I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t hit the HD standard dead-on. The fussy videophile (like me) can hope for the day when Sharp at least provides a full set of white balance/grayscale controls (high and low), and a full color management system that works properly, with full adjustments for the three primary and three secondary colors.
Improving on the Sharp’s color would be a big deal, because in all other respects, this projector blew me away. I wasn’t impressed with the earlier XV-Z17000, but the changes Sharp has made with this new model, both functional (a better dynamic iris in particular) and ergonomic (full motorized lens adjustments, with memories), puts it squarely in the home theater projector race.
The Sharp’s picture is as detailed as any projector I’ve reviewed, and sharper than most. That includes some far more expensive models. Its sharpness extended across the full width of the 101-inch Elite screen; when viewed close up, the pixels at the edges were very nearly as well defined as those at the center. Single-chip DLPs have an inherent advantage here over LCD and LCOS designs, since with only one imaging device, there are no panel-alignment issues. Chromatic aberration—a lens artifact that can produce misalignment of the colors as well, particularly as you move away from center—was not totally absent (even the best projectors we’ve reviewed have at least a hint of it). But it was not an issue.
The Sharp’s black level, even with its dynamic iris engaged, was not quite as deep as in the best of the recent Sony and JVC projectors. But it was nevertheless very good (see HT Labs Measures).
The result of these strengths, which was not really compromised subjectively by the projector’s inaccurate color, was compelling performance on a wide range of material. Despite its shaky-cam cinematography, Battle Los Angeles looked terrific. It’s a mostly brightly lit film and was consistently crisp and sharp. Its inherent color balance is subdued in most scenes, but its flesh tones on the Sharp looked natural and believable. War Horse, apart from its battle sequences, is far more colorful. The green of the British countryside looked realistic and not in any way cartoonish (turning the Color control down a few steps helped). The special features on this box set, all of them in HD, looked even better. The outtakes from the film, the behind-the-scenes shots, and the talking-head interviews looked truly spectacular on the Sharp.
As for black level and shadow detail, only the darkest, lowest-contrast scenes turned a little foggy. But such scenes are rare, and very few projectors I’ve reviewed can do significantly better with them. In any event, you will want to use the dynamic iris. Without it, the dark scene performance was significantly degraded. With it, the gloomiest scenes in, for example, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 were rich and deep, with fine shadow detail.
I even checked out a pair of older widescreen films, The Egyptian (1954, Blu-ray available at screenarchives.com) and The Guns of Navarone (1961). Both transfers varied widely in quality from scene to scene, but at their best, they looked striking on the Sharp. Through the XV-Z30000, I could easily distinguish between soft shots and those that were crisply detailed.
Sharp claims this projector produces a bright, punchy 3D image, and in a relative sense that’s true. But also true is the fact that there is a dramatic loss of brightness from 2D levels, even in the Dynamic Picture Mode. In that respect, the XV-Z30000 is little different from most 3D displays we’ve tested.
But even the Sharp’s 3D was punchier than you might expect—more so than many of its competitors. One reason for this is its relatively low gamma in 3D (mostly under 2.0 at best). A low gamma lightens the middle of the brightness range and gives the impression of a brighter image, despite a low peak-white level. The dark 3D glasses help minimize the image washout a low gamma can often produce.
The Sharp’s convincing and satisfying 3D images were also notably free of ghosting. On The Adventures of Tintin, reviewed on page 77, it worked beautifully, offering some of the best 3D I’ve seen—a credit both to the source material and the projector. Ditto the remarkable, live action plus CGI on Legends of Flight, a 3D IMAX documentary about the building of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
In much of the 3D I watched on the Sharp, I went back and forth as to whether I preferred the 3D versions, with their greater depth, to the 2D versions with their much higher punch and brightness. As usual, I came down on the side of 2D brightness. But watching 3D on the Sharp was great fun, and I never regretted the time I spent doing it.
Ultimately, the Sharp misses a Top Pick selection by a nose, largely because of its color issues and value. I could have easily gone either way with the call. But my video perfectionist side won out on color. On the value side, both the Sony VPL-HW30ES and the JVC DLA-X30 are available, similarly equipped, for about $1,000 less. Both offer superior color and deeper black levels, although they are arguably less achingly crisp, somewhat less bright (but bright enough), and more prone to 3D ghosting than the Sharp.
You pay your money and you take your choice. But I enjoyed my time with the Sharp so much that I could easily live with it indefinitely if I had no need for more accurate color or state-of-the-art blacks. I do have these needs, but if you’re not a video perfectionist, or even if you are, you owe it to yourself to see this projector.
Back in the day when all home projectors that mattered were DLPs and priced at more than $10,000, Sharp produced one of the best on the market, the XV-Z20000. These days, price pressures have made the boundaries more restrictive, but if the XV-Z30000 is any indication, Sharp could yet do it again.
(Editor’s note: At press time, upon seeing our review for fact check, Sharp suddenly informed us that new service menu “firmware has been added to the XV-Z30000 to provide full CMS control of all the primary and secondary colors.” A second sample was said to be on its way.)