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Calibrating Samsung LE52F96BD
[Movie] mode is the picture preset that will bring you closest to the D65 imaging standard. On my review sample, the default settings in this mode yielded an overall CCT (correlated colour temperature) that was still decidedly cool, although things improved slightly as the percentage stimulus got higher:
CCT Of [Movie] Mode
RGB Tracking Of [Movie] Mode
In terms of colour, [Colour Space] "Auto" produced a gamut which was not too far from the Rec. 709 high-definition standard at all. [Colour Space] "Wide", on the other hand, resulted in green primary being pushed beyond normal saturation and deviated towards blue; do not select this if you wish to maintain colour accuracy.
|Pre-calibration [Colour Space] Auto||Pre-calibration [Colour Space] Wide|
Because Samsung LE52F96BD employs the local dimming LED technology which is – to say the least – revolutionary, there were some interesting quirks that amateur/professional calibrators should be aware of. For example, once [LED SmartLighting] was engaged, a window pattern would generate a lower level of peak brightness (measured in cd/m2) than the corresponding full-field pattern if all the luminance-affecting parameters (e.g. [Contrast], [Brightness], [Backlight], etc.) were left the same. This phenomenon instantly went away upon disengaging [LED SmartLighting]... it appeared that even the "bright" elements were affected by local dimming when a window pattern was put up.
This, together with the black level fluctuation that [LED SmartLighting] brings to the party, has some important implications on calibration and picture quality. Use the wrong settings and/ or patterns and you may end up clipping shadow detail/ highlights resulting in an S- shaped gamma curve rather than a more desirable exponential one:
Gamma with mild top-end clipping
Smooth exponential gamma
Nevertheless, once I figured out the characteristics of the Samsung LE52F96BD (with [LED SmartLighting] on; otherwise you might as well just buy an M86/ 87), it wasn't actually that difficult to attain near-D65 greyscale by tweaking the RGB cuts and gains in the user menu. At 40-50% stimulus, there remained some blue predominance that I've witnessed on most of Samsung's recent LCD TVs, although this didn't really detract from picture performance:
Calibrated CCT in [Movie] mode
Calibrated RGB tracking in [Movie] mode
|Dead/ stuck pixels||0|
|Screen/ backlight uniformity||Mild vertical banding; mild clouding if [LED SmartLighting] is switched off|
|Overscanning on HDMI||0% when [Just Scan] is enabled (over 1080i)|
|Blacker than black||Passed|
|Black level||True black (0 cd/m2) possible with [LED SmartLighting]|
|Black level retention||Fluctuates with [LED SmartLighting] on|
|Video mode deinterlacing||Average; limited jaggies reduction|
|Film deinterlacing ([Movie Plus] off)||3:2 passed only in 1080i|
|Film deinterlacing ([Movie Plus] on)||3:2 passed in 480i/ 1080i; 2:2 passed in 576i|
|Motion blur||Normal for a high-end LCD TV|
|Digital noise reduction||Average|
|Sharpness||Defeatable edge enhancement|
|1080p/24 capability (PS3)||Accepts 1080p/24 signal from PS3 – no telecine judder|
|1:1 pixel mapping||Yes, when [Just Scan] is enabled|
Black Level & Contrast Ratio
The black level granted by the local dimming LED backlight should be the most compelling reason to buy a Samsung LE52F96BD. On a full-off video black pattern, light output on the screen dropped to 0 cd/m2, giving a truly surreal impression as if the television was never switched on. This means that the full-on/ full-off contrast ratio is – by calculation – infinite.
However, because there are over 2 million pixels on the panel of Samsung LE52F96BD and only 96 dimming zones, black level fluctuation inevitably occurs: how low the blacks go will depend on the coverage and intensity of the brighter contents on screen. In addition to this, the brighter elements overlaying a black background would suffer from circumferential flaring (lighter halos around objects bleeding into the black background; worse on off-axis viewing), effectively reducing ANSI contrast. Even then, at its worst (e.g. 99% of the screen is white with 1% being black) the lowest measured black level would still equal that of a Samsung M86/ 87, which is of course by its own right excellent.
Flare around a mouse cursor (captured off-axis; it was far less obvious by eye)
If you're expecting Samsung to implement better video processing on the LE52F96BD which – strictly speaking – should be regarded as their flagship model, I'm sorry but you're in for a disappointment. The battery of tests I ran demonstrated that the quality of deinterlacing and scaling on Samsung LE52F96BD was no better than that on their cheaper range like R87/ 88, M86/ 87 and F86.
Video deinterlacing was only average with limited jaggies reduction in both motion-adaptive interpolation and directional filtering. In terms of film mode deinterlacing, [Movie Plus] was necessary for 3:2 and 2:2 cadence detection and processing, but because this also added a motion interpolation component, other problems are introduced such as loss of the 24p cinematic effect, and some estimation artifacts (e.g. shimmering around moving objects). The good news is that even with [Movie Plus] disabled, the Samsung LE52F96BD would still perform 2:3 pulldown over HDMI in 1080i correctly, thereby preserving the full resolution of your high-definition material if you haven't already used your playing device to carry out the deinterlacing (i.e. by passing a 1080p signal to your TV).
As far as I'm concerned Samsung has nailed this on their latest sets of flat panel HDTVs. The Samsung LE52F96BD accepted 1080p/24 signal from the PS3 even in "Automatic" mode, leading to an absence of telecine judder.
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