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As I began to explore the picture options in Custom mode, I found Panasonic included many useful adjustments such as R/G/B hue and saturation, high and low white balance adjustments, separate block and mosquito noise reduction, gamma presets, and panel brightness selection. There was a selection for blur reduction, which creates sub fields in the picture, but I did not notice any change in the picture during a couple of brief experiments with it.The VT25 comes out of the box in Standard picture mode, and I took a look at my customary DVE and The Dark Knight demo material before making any adjustments. While Panasonic may have had low power consumption in mind when they made the decision to ship the set in Standard mode, it gets my vote as the mode most likely to make people turn away and make a mad dash to the nearest LCD. My notes include such glowing adjectives as "soft" and "muted"; and I noticed blurred edges, pink/violet fleshtones, severe pumping, crushed blacks, and graininess, especially during movement. Whew! At least the blacks looked nice and dark along with the rest of the picture.
Thankfully, when I switched to the THX picture preset, the VT25's performance took a dramatic about-face. While THX mode is much better suited to dark rooms, even in average lighting conditions it shed most of Standard mode's qualities and showed that this set has the capability to be a great looking display. Though flesh tones appeared to be a little too pink and rosy, the picture acquired a respectable measure of pop and punch, good stability, very good shadow detail, and great blacks. The picture still looked a bit muted, though, and I noticed a little picture grain during movements. Colors appeared to be just a bit pale, and I wasn't falling in love with the somewhat choppy pans (even with 96Hz mode on). THX mode's pre calibration measurements are shown in attachment 1.
Switching from THX mode to Custom brought about a new level of contrast, with the picture nearly oodling pop and punch. Custom mode handled the ambient light very well, and the picture had a good sense of depth and shadow detail. The picture was free of the moire I've been noticing lately on the LG PK550. Of course, my critic's hat was still very much on, and I began to notice that the colors just didn't seem right. In addition to the pink and rosy fleshtones, I found that blond hair tended to look a little greenish. Attachment 2 shows Custom's out of the box measurements.
After calibrating THX mode close to 50 fL to match the LG, the VT25 ended up with superb color. It reminded me very much of a 9G Pioneer Elite Kuro's color in ISF day mode: nearly perfect, but perhaps just a tiny bit pale. Shadow detail was excellent, though it was just a bit on the exaggerated side of neutral. Gamma measured good though not excellent. The gamma measurement was ever so slightly compromised by my decision to push THX mode to a higher light output. At this point, I felt that I was getting the best overall picture out of the VT25; THX retained nearly all of Custom's good points but added that extra amount of color purity. The measurements for this final, high brightness THX mode calibration are shown in attachment 5.
By this time, the sun had set and I was able to get a handle on how the VT25 and the PK550 I had just calibrated compared in a mostly dark room. The first thing that jumped out at me was that the VT25 had much deeper blacks. Dark scenes really showed it off; there was a lot more pop in the darker scenes of The Dark Knight on the VT25. Also, letterbox bars blended in to the bezel much better on the VT25, though still not to the degree of a 9G Kuro. Interestingly, the PK550 had the edge in bright scenes; if there were little to no dark objects in the picture, the PK550 had slightly more punch. The PK550's flesh tones were slightly more rosy, and it's colors looked a tiny bit more vibrant overall, in a good way. The VT25 showed a little bit more shadow detail, though again I felt it was just on the exaggerated side of neutral. The VT25 had an easygoing, natural look compared to a slightly more dramatic presentation on the PK550. That was probably due to a combination of the VT25's lack of moire and more aggressive brightness limiting inherent in the THX mode. I did prefer the PK550's smoother pans, both in 1080i and 1080P/24. Hard pressed to call a winner, I would have called it a toss up slightly in the PK550's favor if it were not for the better blacks of the VT25. The VT25's impressive blacks, great color, and good pop make it overall the best plasma I have worked with since the 9G Elite Kuro, despite some buggy calibration behavior.
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