Panasonic's PT-D5700The PT-D5700U and the PT-DW5100U are single chip DLP projectors rated at 6000 and 5500 lumens respectively. The 5700 has a 4:3 aspect ratio 1024x768 DLP chip, the 5100 sports a wider 16:9 aspect ratio chip with a pixel array of 1280x768. Other than aspect ratio, native resolution and slight difference in lumen production, these two projectors are virtually identical in form and function.
Panasonic promotes these siblings as primarily fixed install projectors. I am sure that they work very well for those applications, but do they have the reliability, performance, and credentials to be considered for the rental and staging environment? Let's take a closer look.
The projectors are functional in appearance and operation with a center lens design, rear mounted local control panel, and beefy adjustable front feet that have adequate tilt for most situations. The projector sports a side mounted input panel, which is not optimal, but the twin exhaust fan assembly and keypad controls on the rear of the unit leave room for little else. No usable hoisting points. If you want to fly this projector, a third party external cage is necessary and highly recommended. Panasonic makes a stacking cage, but it is not adequate to fly the unit due to the lack of and variety of mounting points.
The remote control design features black letters on white keys for easy visibility, but is not backlit...it should be. Also, the remote does have the provision to be hard wired to the projector, but the cable is not included in the box. Suggest you keep one in your tool kit for easier setups. The projectors and remotes can be match programmed so commands will address a specific projector in a group, wired or IR.
The projector does ship with a standard bayonet mounted lens featuring a 1.8-2.4:1 throw ratio. Four optional zoom lenses deliver a combined gapless throw ratio from 1.3 to 8.1, which is an excellent working range for R&S applications. A single .08 short throw, fixed focal length lens rounds out the suite. It would have been preferable to have an optical solution somewhere in the 0.6 range, so as to accommodate those situations where the customer demands a rear screen setup in an undersized room. As you know, every inch of floor space counts in these situations, and the shorter the lens throw, the better.
These compact lenses are bayonet mounted and make for quick and simple changes in the field. Push a button and twist the lens counterclockwise a quarter turn to remove it. The inverse procedure is more difficult due to the apparent absence of a registration key or mark on the lens or projector housing. It takes a little practice, but once you learn to orient the power zoom and focus electrical connectors at 10 o'clock, insert then twist clockwise, the installation goes smoothly. The projector ships with the lens installed, so I would assume that it's safe to store and ship the projector in the same manner.
The chassis is cooler to the touch compared to its predecessors. The previous versions of this projector with their dual 300W UHM DC lamps ran very, very hot after just a few minutes of operation. Although this never directly contributed to any failures in the older units that I saw, heat equates to trouble when electronics are involved. Cooler is better and this new projector uses two 275W UHM AC lamps as it's light source, it runs noticeable cooler and gets a 20 percent light output boost in the process. Panasonic claims that these new lamps burn cleaner for a more moderate brightness decrease curve and color balance shift over time while drawing less current in the process. These lamps are rated for 2000 hours of operation in full output mode which calculates to about 44 cents an hour operating cost based on the list price of a twin pack of lamps. Pressing "status" on the remote brings up a useful info window that reports overall projector run time in hours with a separate detail in hours for each of the two lamps.
The light engine itself features a unique liquid-cooling system that directly cools the DLP components. Since no forced air is used to cool the internal DLP array itself, this part of the optic system is sealed and quite impervious to particulates and contaminants. Using the 5700 in dusty or smoky environments or in areas with fog machines will still require maintenance as it would with any other device. The benefit here is that the items that need cleaning, like lenses and filters, are readily accessible and the internal components, the ones you cannot access, are protected. This reduces downtime, yields an image with a higher level of performance over time, and potentially dramatically extend the useful life and residual value of the projector.
An added benefit of liquid cooling is how amazingly silent this projector operates. With both lamps struck at full power, it is almost impossible to hear this projector running.
The footprint of the 5700 is a bit smaller than the average for a 6000 lumen projector, but the unit's overall height of 6.6 inches makes this one of, if not the lowest profile projector in its class. When you need to hug the ceiling or set the unit within the line of sight every inch you can lose within this dimension, the better. Vertical offset plays a role as well and the 5700 has adequate range. On a 100 inch diagonal screen, the 5700 had 40 inches of motorized vertical adjustment and 20 inches horizontally with the manual adjustment located on the front of the projector. That equates to 50 percent range in the vertical and 20 percent horizontal. No observable distortion, uniformity, or linearity of focus changes were evident throughout the range. Impressive.
The 5700 handled all of the signal combinations very well. Under no instance did the projector take more than 3-4 seconds to drop the old source and lock up to the new regardless of the difference in scan rate or input. As I switched from source to source, the projector's image would, in some cases, slightly scramble after blanking and then lock up to display a stable image. The unstable image lasted just a couple of frames or so, but to me, it was visible.
In all cases, the image blanked for several seconds. This is absolutely common for projectors to exhibit this type of behavior, and perhaps it is so common that everyone seems to accept it, but I am now going to get up on my soapbox and state that manufacturers need to address this issue.
While going through the image agility tests I began to realize that the images projected were quite simply, exceptional. The computer images were rock solid at all resolutions and the non-native data images on an Excel spreadsheet showed minimal interpolation artifacts. White field uniformity was excellent, an undeniable trademark of DLP technology. SD video was clean and HD video was, in a word, fantastic. These projectors do an excellent job with HD and would more than compliment any signal you would encounter in the rental and staging arena.
There are too many adjustments and features to thoroughly go through here. Suffice it to say that the menus flow logically and contain many options for optimal setup.
To sum up, the Panasonic PT-D5700U and is cousin the PT-DW5100U are not the perfect rental staging projector, but then again what is? They are, however, solid performers that could prove to be excellent additions to your rental inventory with the addition of a few accessories like a fly cage if you do truss work and a good transport case.
My first impression is that the 5700 will see a bit more use than its wide screen counterpart. But, as time goes on we will see an undeniable (and irreversible) shift towards wide aspect computer and video sources. It's in the video we see every day and starting to penetrate the laptop market. That's when the 5100 will come into it's own. For now the 5700 is compatible with, and will letterbox all these signal sources.
Neither of these units have the cosmetic armor, built-in flyware or the reputation of a Barco RLM, Digital Projection Titan, or a Christie Roadster, but they don't sport their price tag either. Each product has its unique capabilities and if you can accept the limitations and don't toss the unit off the back of the truck during deliveries these Panasonic units will probably serve well and more than earn their keep over the years.