Click to enlarge. So Close. The PLV-Z3000 and Home Cinema 8500UB are fairly comparable in terms of revealing dark shadow details. Of the two, the Sanyo has a slight advantage, that was equally true against the 6500UB last year.
Click to enlarge. SO close
It is particularly good, though not the best. The Epson just won't quite reveal as much dark shadow detail as the Sanyo with casual viewing.
Click Image to Enlarge
Post calibration, we found the Epson to continue its advantage in color accuracy. With our calibration of the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, we still ended up with a slightly yellow-green caste. It is just noticeable in skin tones. I am fairly confident that a second, different shot at calibrating the Z3000 might have eliminated much of that, but those were the results we ended up with. The Epson's skin tones should definitely be a bit better (interpolating from the 6500UB to the 8500UB's performance). On paper, measured results of the grayscale balance were very good with both projectors. We normally don't calibrate the individual primary (or secondary) colors, and the tendency of oversaturated greens with most 3LCD home theater projectors is likely the culprit with the PLV-Z3000. In other words, a more complete calibration should cure that problem.
Overall Look and Feel of the Picture
In the images below, the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB is on the left.
Relative to our settings, you can see in the images above, that with the settings we used, the Sanyo's image is a little more saturated. For our testing purposes, Mike (who does the calibrations), does make recommendations for the color saturation settings, although I find his a bit too saturated, at least in conjunction with viewing on my high contrast gray screen. As such, I tend to further adjust color saturation by eye, at the time of the primary review. In the case of doing side-by-side comparison photos, I stick with the settings for the reviews, as opposed to trying to get both to have the same saturation for the photo shoot.
Bottom Line - Image Quality
I favor the deeper black level performance of the Epson, and the slightly more accurate skin tones. Both projectors, however, do exhibit a similar look and feel to the image, relative, for example, compared to competing DLP projectors. Neither is exceptionally film-like, but both do a pretty impressive job. The Sanyo seems to produce a slightly more dynamic looking image on bright scenes, while the Epson definitely has a very distinct advantage on very dark scenes, with noticeably more "pop and wow" factor.