I finally bought a 50" Plasma HD display. I'd been holding off because I wasn't satisfied with the results I'd seen in showrooms and in neighbours' homes. I got the impression that color accuracy was greatly lacking. The emphasis seemed to be on dazzling vibrancy and oversaturation. Attempts to reduce such over-saturation seemed to result in inaccurate colors. Skins tones that are a shade too pink seems to be a common problem, as well as blown highlights and blocked-up shadows that often result from an attempt to get skin tones right.
Nevertheless, prices of plasma displays have continued to fall dramatically as contrast ratios have simultaneously continued to rise. There seemed to be no good reason not to get one. I chose a Panasonic with a claimed CR of 1,000,000:1 (I think the 'native' CR, with reference to a single scene, is 30,000:1; still good).
Initial impressions are very positive, sometimes stunning. My Dell laptop sports a Blu-ray player and HDMI output. I can use the Plasma display, through the HDMI connection, as a computer monitor at 1920x1080 resolution. Since HDMI is a 'digital' connection, as opposed to the analog connection of the VGA 15 pin D-Sub, one would expect the results to be a shade crisper. And indeed they appear to be, perhaps even a few shades crisper.
The set can also display jpeg still images from an SD card (up to 16GB SDHC). It automatically downsizes the jpegs to a maximum of 1920x1080. There's a great incentive to revisit my processed images and, where esthetically acceptable, re-crop them to the 16:9 aspect ratio. There is, of course, a resolution penalty with vertically orientated images and I'm not sure if it would be better to make triptychs of relatively unrelated images for the purposes of display.
On this set there's no picture adjustment controls for JPEG stills' mode. You can't adjust contrast & brightness, color etc. Nevertheless, converting my images to sRGB before saving to jpeg and transferring to an SDHC card, seems to work reasonably well with regard to color accuracy and shadow detail, on this Panasonic Plasma. In fact, surprisingly well considering the over all impact. I'm sometimes stunned. From a viewing distance of 6 to 10ft or so, or the sort of comfortable viewing distance from which one would watch a 50" screen, the results look better on this plasma screen than large prints I've made of similar size, on my Epson 7600 printer, viewed from the same distance.
I'm reminded of Bernard's recent article on LL which addressed this possibility of electronic displays taking over from the large format printer. I was very skeptical myself because a current HD display is a mere 2mp (or 6mb), and I see no new higher resolution format on the horizon, as a general standard. How can a 2mp image compete with anything? Well, from an appropriate viewing distance, it can. Buying this set has caused me to re-evaluate my priorities. How the heck can a 6mb (2mp) image displayed at such a large size look so good?
However, to the main point of this post; although images from my new plasma display can be eye-catching and gob-smackingly good, there's still the matter of color accuracy. From this perspective, there are criticisms to be made. For example, green grass can take on an unnatural luminance. It's sometimes so bright and ultra-green, one could be forgiven for thinking that each blade of grass contained its own set of LEDs.
Having failed to get an even remotely acceptable calibration with ColorMunki, a slightly better but still not acceptable result with GretagMacbeth i1, I rang Panansonic technical support in Australia. Wow! What a hostile reception! That I should dare to criticise a Panasonic product put the technician very much on the defensive. We spent most of the time arguing about the semantics of the term calibration. Total confusion followed.
Without going into details, the end result was he couldn't help in any way whatsoever. When I asked if he could recommend a technician who travels to the home to carry out a calibration in accordance with ISF standards, he advised me that such a process would invalidate the warranty. I tried to explain that I process images on a number of computers in different locations and I expect the appearance of such processed images to be the same, whatever the computer. I therefore need to calibrate the Panasonic plasma set to the same standards as my other computers so I can display such processed images with the confidence that the color will be the same, or very similar. I was alarmed that this technician simply didn't appear to appreciate the point. Could just be, he's Australian, or maybe he's scared of losing his job in these tough economic times and has a misguided notion of pleasing his employer, or maybe he's just a plain ignoramus