The exception is that there's no true zoom mode; you can stretch letterboxed pictures (e.g. tapes, laserdiscs, etc.) horizontally to fill the width of the screen, but there's no way to stretch them vertically, the way you can with most projectors, which generally have a "magnify" setting (not an optical zoom, it's purely electronic).
This isn't a major problem, since the letterboxed pictures are about the same size as a full-screen picture on my old 32" widescreen TV, but it bugs me enough to make me wonder if anyone has come across any sort of solution to this problem that isn't horribly expensive. It'd need to take in a "normal" 4:3 ratio picture and stretch it to the width of a 16:9 frame, at the same time stretching it vertically to lose some of the top and bottom, hopefully without much of a time delay. Obviously the picture won't be as good as something intended for the full screen, I'm not expecting miracles. I'd need it to work mostly with PAL signals, since I'm in the UK.
I'm sure that this sort of thing is easily done with sophisticated video editing equipment, but I'm looking for a much simpler solution, something that simply sits between the player and the TV and works without much in the way of adjustment. Anyone got any suggestions?
One thing that struck me when I started looking at this was how cheap other sorts of effect and editing gear seem to be these days, a lot less than I expected. But zooming doesn't seem to be one of the capabilities they provide, of course...
Later: Horribly embarassed to report that there is a damn zoom mode, it just doesn't SAY it is; one of the widescreen settings is actually expanded both ways. What threw me is that the button that is labelled zoom expands teletext only and doesn't do a damned thing to the picture.