Panasonic's PT-MZ16KL is a fantastic 3LCD laser projector that delivers bright, accurate images with quiet operation and easy setup and menu navigation.
- High brightness with low weight and small form factor
- Multi-Laser light engine with failsafe features
- Quiet operation
- Requires only a 115v/15-amp outlet
- Only 1 HDMI connection
As the flagship for Panasonic's three-member MZ family of WUXGA-resolution laser projectors, the PT-MZ16KL should work well for its primary target market of universities and businesses. Larger churches could also benefit from its 16,000 lumens of power. For those seeking the same design and features with less brightness and lower cost, the MZ line also consists of the PT-MZ13KL (13,000 lumens) and the PT-MZ10KL (10,000 lumens) model projectors, greatly adding to its versatility. All three lumen classes are offered in either black or white cabinets with a BU or WU suffix on the model number.
The PT-MZ16KL is a 3-chip design with 1-inch LCD panels. This 3-chip architecture brings with it the benefits of no potential for rainbow artifacts and equal white and color brightness. As one might expect, color brightness and fidelity were noticeably better than most single-chip DLP projectors I have reviewed in the past. And the projector's wide variety of picture modes will help ensure that regardless of your content or environment, you will find the options and capabilities you need with this projector.
Putting the PT-MZ16KL through its paces was a lot of fun as it became a challenge to try and "trip it up" with a wide variety of different content in different settings. Ultimately, it handled every challenge with ease.
The PT-MZ16KL carries a $33,999 MSRP before adding a lens. Making the investment in a $30k+ projector means that you are looking at a set of criteria far different than with a sub-$10k unit. Things like maintenance, average lifespan, and network control can be just as important as color brightness and image quality. The PT-MZ16KL delivers in all these areas, starting with a 20,000-hour lifespan for Panasonic's liquid-cooled Solid Shine Laser engine and a sealed design that requires no filter changes. Laser failover circuitry also guarantees that if a laser diode fails, rather than knocking out the whole projector, that section of the array is bypassed while projection continues with just a small perceived loss of brightness. Another failsafe to prevent a blank screen in critical environments is provided by a clever Backup Input setting, which allows selection of a default secondary input the projector switches to in the event the primary input signal is interrupted.
Given its high brightness, the PT-MZ16KL is relatively small and light, measuring in at 25.6 x 7.3 x17.3 inches and 49.2 pounds without lens. And it achieves these dimensions with the quietest fan I have ever heard on a projector of this brightness. The official specification in lab conditions is 38 dB in Normal power mode and 32 dB in Quiet power mode. What fan noise is there is also of a friendly pitch that, in testing, never really registered with me. I was often unaware that the fan was on until I came to turn the projector off at the end of a session and was reminded by its absence that it had been running.
As described in the Connections section at the end of the review, there are several digital video input options, including HDMI, DVI-D, HD-SDI, and DIGITAL LINK, which is what Panasonic calls its RJ-45 HDBaseT connection. I was slightly surprised to find only one HDMI input port (with HDCP 2.2 copyright management), a lack which may be noticed in some setups. Of course, DVI can usually double for video-only HDMI with an adapter in a pinch (this port is also HDCP equipped, though with an unspecified version). And in any event, given the use-cases for this type of projector it is likely to be attached to some kind of outboard switcher or other hardware that will control the selection of input signals. As an added feature, the PT-MZ16KL is compatible with video signals up to 4K/60p via its HDMI and HDBaseT connections, which it displays at its native WUXGA resolution.
Setup options and adjustments are plentiful on the PT-MZ16KL, starting with an image size range specified as 80 to 500 inches diagonal (16:10 aspect ratio). The PT-MZ16K series supports seven different lens options, all zooms, beginning with a short zoom with a 0.48-0.55:1 throw ratio and ranging up to a long-throw with a 4.14-7.4:1 throw ratio. Lens shift varies somewhat based on the selected lens, but is generous for most of the lens options at ±60% vertical and ±20% horizontal. Keystone correction, four-corner correction, and geometric correction for curved surfaces are all available.
Mounting location flexibility is improved by the PT-MZ16KL's ability to deliver its full brightness from a dedicated 115v/15 amp circuit; it burns just 1,050 watts. This may be especially helpful for upgrading an existing projector location with a much brighter model. As with many better laser projectors, mounting options include full 360-degree orientation in any axis, and the PT-MZ16KL is specified for demanding 24/7 operation. The image can be set for ceiling for surface mounting and either front or rear projection. There's even an Auto setting that engages a built-in attitude sensor that can detect whether ceiling or surface mounting has been selected and properly orient the image. That's a pretty nifty little feature, honestly. As an integrator, I can tell you that it's irritating when you get the projector mounted only to realize you had not set the mounting orientation in the menu to ceiling before you installed it. Reading menus upside-down and backwards is a little known skill for an integrator. I can see this feature also coming in handy in rental/staging applications where the same projector is used many times in different environments and mounting orientations.
Along with all the onboard setup tools, the PTMZ16K series supports the company's Smart Projector Control app, and Panasonic touts these as its first LCD projectors to support the company's Geometry Manager Pro software. The first allows control of the projector via an iPhone or Android smartphone, while the Geo Pro software provides for simplified geometric correction, edge-blending, and color matching of multiple projectors. Furthermore, the projectors come pre-activated in the U.S., Canada, and many other countries with support for Panasonic's new NFC function, which uses Near Field Commuication capability found on some smartphones to touch-pair the phone with the projector and control some settings. (An optional NFC upgrade is available in other countries.)
Here's a quick overview of PT-MZ16K Series key features:
- Models of 16,000, 13,000, or 10,000 lumens brightness
- WUXGA resolution via three 1.0-inch LCD panels
- Liquid-cooled laser light source with 20,000 hour rated lifetime
- Maintenance-free operation with dust-proof construction and long-lasting 20,000-hour filter
- Failsafe design keeps light source operating near full brightness in event of a laser diode failure
- Secondary backup input signal feature auto-switches with failure of primary input signal
- Compact and light weight for its lumen class (25.6 x 7.3 x17.3 inches, 49.2 pounds without lens)
- Near Field Communication (NFC) function for touch-pairing smartphone and controlling settings
- Free grid geometric correction via remote control
- Quiet operation for noise-sensitive environments (38dB in Normal, 32 dB in Quiet)
- Seven zoom lens options ranging from 0.48:1 to 7.4:1 throw ratio
- Multiple digital input types including DIGITAL LINK HDBaseT
- Supports 4K input signal on some inputs
- Compatible with Art-Net staging control
- Supports Panasonic software including Smart Projector Control iOS/Android smartphone app, Logo Transfer, Multimonitoring and Control for multiple networked displays, Early Warning Software for networked displays, Geometry Manager Pro for setup/blending of networked projectors
- 3 year parts/labor limited warranty
The PT-MZ16U offers seven preset Picture Modes to accommodate different content types and viewing conditions. They are impressive to look at, though a noticeable "missing in action" was a dedicated User mode memory to fully customize a picture preset for a specific source or use-case (though User memories are provided for custom laser brightness settings as described below). This omission is somewhat made up for by the fact that you can make extensive adjustments to your liking in any picture mode and save those settings to that mode. In addition, you can also choose any of these modes as the default mode, which is really helpful in an installation situation where you want to force the projector to always start up to your preferred setting rather than the projector recalling the last-used settings.
Within each Picture Mode setting, you'll find most of the usual adjustments to fine-tune the image, including the basics (Contrast, Brightness, Color saturation, Tint, and Sharpness) as well as some of the more advanced controls experts like to see (Color Temp, Gamma, White Balance with red, green, and blue gain (HIGH) and bias (LOW) controls. There's a dedicated 6-position setting called System Daylight View that's intended to quickly boost the vividness of the image for projection in bright light without needing to tune the other settings. The projector also has an effective Dynamic Contrast function with three preset levels (besides off) and a custom option that allows fine adjustment of the auto contrast feature and also lets you set the threshold at which dark images will start to be brightened.
Along with selecting an appropriate Picture Mode for your content, the PT-MZ16U allows for brightness adjustment of the laser engine with five different power options. Normal provides full laser output, while Quiet reduces both brightness and fan noise for noise-sensitive installations. Engaging Quiet reduces the brightness by approximately 40% in any Picture Mode.
Additionally there are three settings—User 1, 2, and 3—that allow you to store and easily recall any power setting from 8% to 100% full power. For a rental environment, this can help ensure that your projectors are properly setup for maximum longevity while still delivering adequate brightness for your clients. For example, if your client only needs 80% of full brightness, you can simply put the projector into User2 mode before they pick up the unit. While the user can change max brightness on their own, they would have to dig into the menu to find the setting and then make the adjustment.
Here's a rundown of the Picture Mode presets and some observations:
Standard. The projector's default out-of-box image mode, Standard is intended to meet the needs of a range of content types. Designed to provide a high degree of punch at the sacrifice of some color accuracy compared with the better-tuned Cinema and REC.709 modes, it still gave a very satisfying image while delivering 13,416 ANSI lumens of measured brightness to the screen, fairly close to the projector's full output.
Dynamic. This mode maximizes brightness from the laser source to help punch through high ambient light or fill a large screen. It hit 15,791 ANSI lumens in our measurements, essentially the projector's full spec and well within ANSI tolerance. As is common for most projector's brightest modes, it has an obvious green bias compared to the more color-accurate modes, but this bias was less than we see on many projectors and tended to call attention to itself only in direct comparison with other picture modes. It was more than suitable for viewing presentations and graphics—and even some less critical video content—in the bright light in which it's likely to be seen.
Graphic. Nearly as bright at Dynamic but without the obvious green color bias, the Graphic mode, with 14,334 measured lumens, is designed for presentations, documents and other images from a computer source. This was my preferred mode for Powerpoints and other graphic or text material from a computer input, though the high-contrast DICOM sim mode, with much less brightness, also looked good with documents. When I switched over to watching fullscreen YouTube streams from the computer, it isn't surprising that the best mode became a showdown between the Cinema and REC709 modes in terms of color accuracy and reproduction.
Cinema. As you may guess, professionally produced film and video content looked especially pleasing with this mode, which despite being among the three least-bright modes still produced a very bright 9,043 lumens while maintaining good color accuracy. Furthermore, compared with other high output projectors I have reviewed, there doesn't seem to be as noticeable a drop in overall perceived brightness in this mode compared to its brightest modes, perhaps a byproduct of its 3-chip LCD architecture producing equal color and white brightness. This was my preferred mode for movie watching and most live video content.
Natural. With 9,718 lumens, Natural is tuned to bring accurate color to photos and film-based movie content in a dark environment.
REC709. With content mastered to the REC709 high definition TV color standard, this picture mode, with its default settings, will deliver a REC709-compliant image.
DICOM SIM. As if often found on other projectors, this preset is designed to mimic the DICOM Part 14 Grayscale Standard used for medical imaging, and allows for more revealing presentations of X-rays and other high contrast images in non-diagnostic training and teaching environments. Out of the box, it was the projector's least-bright mode with 8,773 ANSI lumens.
If you search the ProjectorCentral Find a Projector database for laser projectors with WUXGA resolution in the 15,000 to 16,000 ANSI lumens brightness range you'll find only four current models and their slight variants, with the others all directly competitive price-wise with the PT-MZ16KU. Zeroing in on 3-chip LCD models vs. single-chip DLP brings the options down to two. And none of the listed projectors with any technology are more compact or lighter than this Panasonic.
This competitive positioning, along with quiet operation, maintenance-free management, excellent out-of-box image quality, extensive set-up flexibility, and other thoughtful features make the PT-MZ16KU a strong contender in its class. It's an option that should be seriously considered for the higher-education, large conference room, museum, worship, and other venues that want bright, punchy, big images in high ambient light.
Brightness. We measured the projector's brightest image in Dynamic Picture Mode and Normal Operating (power) Mode, and with the ET-EMS600 zoom lens at its widest position. It registered 15,791 ANSI lumens, very slightly shy of the claimed 16,000 lumen spec and well within ANSI's 10% tolerance. Applying the Quiet Operating mode reduced power by 40.3%. Engaging the User power memories further allows adjustment of power and brightness by any percentage of full power from 8% to 100%. Following are the measurements for all the Picture Modes in the Normal and Quiet Operating Modes.
Panasonic PT-MZ16KL ANSI LUMENS
Zoom Lens Light Loss. Utilizing the ET-EMS600 zoom lens for my test (with a 1.35:1-2.10:1 throw ratio) I achieved the projector's maximum brightness measurement of 15,791 lumens with the zoom at its widest setting. Shifting the lens to full telephoto caused brightness to drop to 14,003 ANSI lumens, or about an 11.3% loss.
Brightness Uniformity. With the ET-EMS600 zoom lens set to its wide angle position, brightness uniformity measured 89%. When set on the max zoom, I measured a very close 87% BU. These are excellent results and in keeping with previously tested higher-end projectors.
Fan Noise. As I stated earlier, rated fan noise is 38 dB in Normal power mode and 32 dB in Quiet mode. Subjectively speaking, the fan noise was barely noticeable during use, even on Normal mode. and I would say this would be an ideal projector for museums, house of worship and other applications where quiet operation is paramount.
Input Lag. With a measured input lag of 37.4 ms, the latency in this projector is half that of other high brightness commercial projectors I have tested, and while it's not nearly as fast as a gaming monitor or even a gaming projector, it is approaching the minimum I would consider usable for a projection gaming application. While well outside the price range of most gamers, it might be suitable for displays at tournaments and other, large-venue applications.
- VGA (RGB)
- HDMI (with HDCP 2.2, accepts 4K/60 signals)
- RJ-45 (DIGITAL LINK HDBaseT, with HDCP 2.2, accepts 4K/60 signals)
- RJ-45 (LAN)
- DC Out (5V 2A)
- Serial/Multi-Projector Sync Input (D-SUB 9-pin female)
- Serial/Multi-Projector Sync Output (D-SUB 9-pin male)
- Remote In (D-SUB 9-pin female)
- Remote In (3.5mm)
- Remote Out (3.5mm)
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Panasonic PT-MZ16KLBU projector page.
The Panasonic PT-MZ16KLBU is also sold outside of the United States of America as the Panasonic PT-MZ16ELK, Panasonic PT-MZ16LBD and the Panasonic PT-MZ16LBX. Some specifications may be slightly different. Check with Panasonic for complete specifications.