PICTURE QUALITY An HD DVD of Mission: Impossible III arrived at my home just in time to test the Sony - good thing, too, since it's the best-looking disc I've yet seen. A nighttime scene where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and crew infiltrate a German industrial plant to rescue a kidnapped colleague dramatically showed off the capabilities of the Sony's iris control. As Ethan sprinted down a dark corridor in the plant, shadows looked utterly black while background details such as machinery and pipes came through with exceptional clarity. And the projector's powerful contrast held up even as bright spotlights partially flooded the corridor.
Another scene from M:I III proved a natural for evaluating the Sony's detail. As Ethan approaches the wall of the Vatican, intending to scale it and gain entry, the thin layers of stone looked very crisp and detailed, although I noticed some line-twitter when the camera panned across them - the result of the Sony's less-than-perfect deinterlacing of my Toshiba HD DVD player's 1080i output. And when the scene shifted to a society event inside, the crimson dress worn by agent Zhen Lei (Maggie Q), as well as her orange car and the rows of yellow flowers in the background, looked rich and punchy. Even so, both the agent's tanned flesh and the considerably paler face of Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a sinister arms dealer, came through accurately.
But as fantastic as M:I III looked on the Sony, other movies revealed some picture-uniformity problems. In the mood for horror, I pulled out a black-and-white favorite of mine from Universal, The Mummy. Again, the picture showed snappy contrast, but the top and bottom edges of the frame had a distinct pink tint and the center looked comparatively green - a problem that was even more apparent on test patterns. Switching over to high-def cable, I saw the same issue on the black-and-white stills shown in a PBS documentary on Abraham Lincoln, although it was harder to detect on full-color programs. A second sample from Sony showed a reduced level of pink discoloration and no greenish tint.
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