I spent a long time researching TVs this year (as I do most years) - last year I had a P42G20, itself a good TV. Having read through various forums and their numerous threads as well as viewing nearly all the current £1000+ TVs in various shops (I am sure most of you know that the picture quality in retail outlets is not what you will see at home - the first question on the menu is if for home viewing or shop - make sure you press the home option!) If you can, find a shop that has a proper viewing room if you are unsure.
First impressions are the TV is visually stunning (probably a first for panasonic). The bezel having a silver inner surround I thought might be a problem with the TV on, but is not, so please don't be concerned as I initally was. I also like the way the surround fades from black to gun metal around the panasonic logo. The bezel inself is the thinnest panasonic have done (please be aware this is not like lcd/led sets which on some of the expensive Samsung TVs is only mm thick - however personally I like this look better). The thichness of the TV is very thin as well, about half last years models.
A very important note for plasma TVs is the "run in time", for this set it between 200 and 500 hours long to get to the optium picture and calibration (google avforums for information on calibration, which most people will never do, but will make your picture stunning). The picture will noticeably improve over this time (mine is not fully run in but is a huge improvement over "out of the box").
In the menu section the picture options I would leave initially on THX or True Cinema, prehaps a touch of adjustment on the brightness (up) - please note do not use dynamic or make the contrast or brightness to high for the first 200 hours to allow accurate pixel development.
For day time viewing the picture will not be as bright as lcd/led TVs and I would put the CATS option on as will will help compensate for bright rooms. If you need any further info on set up send me a email.
Now firstly the HD picture. My Tv is using the integrated Freesat (this is generally better than Freeview HD) which is stunning, I sit about 11 feet from my TV and now I have adjusted from 42 to 50 inch (so glad I did). The colours are amazing and watching the Belgium GP last weekend on BBC1HD there was no picture lag (sometimes a problem on 50Hz TVs - this is not a "true" 600 Hz TV, no such TVs exist) or pixel problems. Watching Football again there was only the smallest lag on the ball. If you compare this to any lcd/led tv they will not be able to match this performance - try for yourself in large retail outlet and get them to show you HD sport with an lcd/led next to a plasma and you will see. The best sport to watch is golf as the ball moves very fast and there are lots of greens to really test the TV. The black levels (again plasma is best) are as good in my opinion as the Pioneer Kuro G9 (arguablely the best TVs made - and they stopped making them 3 years ago as they did not make a profit even though they cost £2000 to £4000! - I have 2 friends with them so I know what they look like).
SD picture quality is OK - but on any 50 inch TV it is not going to be fantastic - fortunately BBC, ITV and CH4 now broadcast most new TV in HD (but not kids tv). The best way to watch SD TV is to record to PVR or Hard Disk Recorder which has an upscaler built it (most do) and the picture is better, a bit more video looking rather than film looking but smoother - you can also use the various picture enhancements in the menu set up which smooth out poor quality pics. If you intend to watch mainly SD pictures I would not recommend a 50" TV.
DVD picture is upscaled very well, again most players have an upscale built in (when the picture comes on in the left hand corner 576p shows). Although not as good as blu ray it is still pretty decent. I would only replace my very favorite films with blu ray.
Blu Ray - pics are amazing and the sound through an external AV Receiver (buy Onkyo HST5405 all in one about £350) is superb. I watched Transformers as a test last week - picture perfect and the sound through the external receiver was absolutely amazing. All my connections are using 1.4 HDMI cables which means as soon as the tv is switched on av kit, blu ray dvd/hdd recorder all switches on. With the 1.4 version if you have a good av receiver you do not need an optical cable to get full 3d sound.
As well as a dvd/hdd recorder I use a 1 TB external hard drive to record TV using the USB connection. The picture quality is excellent, although you cannot use the THX picture mode - you would need to buy a Humax system. I use True Cinema picture setting which with a bit of fiddling is excellent. As external hard drives only cost about £50 this is the best way to record tv.
I am still waiting for my 3D glass so cannot comment on 3D performance but as I also got a panasonic blu ray player with 7 blu rays free offer including Avatar 3D I am looking forward to when Panasonic finally send some to England!
Overall this is an excellent TV - not perfect, as there is no such TV and until OLED or similar becomes available in the next 5 years then plasma will remain the best option for all large TVs. For value this is probably the best bang for your buck you can get. I could not see much difference to the VT30 which is £400 to £500 more, plus has a bigger surround so takes up more room.
I have not included all the many other functions this TV does such as wi fi etc etc as they are not the main reason for getting a TV
One final point, which is very important, if you are buying now the Firmware should be 1213.000, this seems to have fixed some fluctuating brightness issues some people experienced with the first batch of TVs - again email me if you want to know how to do this, it is simple.
If you read reviews this has pretty much cleaned the board this year. The latest What Hi Fi has the best ever TV review (for what thats worth) - I'll give you one guess which set won.....
Buy this TV - I know there are 2 poor reviews, but if you look at the 42" reviews they are all 5 star. With the right audio equipment, cabling, running in and fiddling with the set up this will make your viewing experience the best you can get......until next year