Despite the TX-L42E30B's lack of in-depth picture adjustments, it delivers an assured picture performance with little to fault it, particularly with hi-def Blu-rays.
Tweakers may bemoan the absence of serious colour management tools and will have to make do with an on/off Vivid colour mode, but Panasonic compensates for this by providing colour accuracy out of the box. With the TV in cinema mode and the Warm preset selected, we measured a spot-on 6,500K colour temp, so your DVD and Blu-ray platters should look close to how the director intended, colour-wise.
A 16-step colour gradation test shows the TX-L42E30B excels in green, yellow and blue reproduction. It's only with the brightest red shades that subtle shifts are lost.
With Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray this solid colour performance equates to a superbly cinematic experience; the exotic palette employed by Pixar is delivered with aplomb, without ever veering into gaudy territory. Some LED-lit screens can give film material an artificial feel, but not the TX-L42E30B.
Working in tandem with that considered colour presentation is a healthy black level. Panasonic is too grown-up these days to bother itself with outrageous contrast level claims (it just quotes 'High') and what's on offer here is fine enough. Darker areas of the picture remain free from crushed blacks, so shadow detailing, frequently evident in Toy Story 3 when Woody and chums are abandoned in a toy box, is maintained.
The solid black level is helped by an edge-LED lighting system that doesn't cause any unsightly light-pooling. Well, as long as you are sitting on-axis. We found that portions of the screen can brighten considerably if viewed from an angle.
The TX-L42E30B is also commendably adept with motion. When fed a sequence of vertical, horizontal and diagonal camera pans, and scenes with fast-moving objects, the Panasonic didn't falter. Motion was smooth with detail levels kept up.
Switching on the Intelligent Frame Creation Pro engine (it has two levels) makes things even silkier (almost comically so), but can introduce artefacts with multi-layered material. The TX-L42E30B's natural motion handling is sufficiently impressive to render IFC Pro all but redundant.
As you'd expect from a full HD panel, detail levels are high. Close up footage of a dissected kiwi fruit (an odd, but effective reference scene) was so lifelike it made us hungry. Blu-ray movies that make the most of the format's high-pixel count look gorgeous. Back in the land of Woody and Buzz, the exquisite textures of everything from a wooden door frame to Mr Potato Head's moustache are jaw-dropping.
With no 3D playback to get stuck into, the only other picture quality to report on is that of the TV's built-in Freeview HD tuner. Naturally, switching to this from Blu-ray brings a step-down in quality.
Macro-blocking and mosquito noise take the shine off SD channels (although the latter can be countered by the TX-L42E30B's effective P-NR noise reduction) and even the HD channel lack the razor-sharp panache of Blu-rays. Not that the Panasonic's Freeview pictures are worse than the competition (they are more stable than many budget rivals), it's just that Freeview itself is beginning to look a bit shoddy.