Epson Home Cinema 1080 Home Theater Projector and Pro Cinema 1080 – Overview

The first thing I did, when the Epson Home Cinema 1080 arrived, was set it up in my theater. That evening I dropped in a Blu-Ray edition of X-men: The Last Stand, and watched about a 20 minute segment. My immediate impression was rich colors, very good but not truly spectacular black levels (for the 1080p class of projectors – and all of them so far have had very respectable to superb black level performance), and generally very good color out of the box. I followed X-Men with a few minutes of Space Cowboys, then on to a quick 5 minute glance of the Superbowl off of my DVR, from the HD broadcast and finally, some Jay Leno live. Overall pretty impressive, picture quality. In fact it reminds me somewhat of Optoma’s DLP projectors, with particularly rich dark colors.

While black levels really were good, I think, no, I know, that I’m spoiled now. In the last 30 days I also reviewed the two best I have yet to see, in terms of black levels and shadow detail. First was the Sony Pearl, an LCOS (SXRD) 1080p projector, and immediately after that, the JVC RS1, another, but more expensive 1080p, which simply produces blacker blacks than anything else, by a rather impressive margin. Of course the Sony is about $1000 more than the Epson, while the JVC is twice its price. I should note, that just as I started writing this page, the doorbell rang with my new personal projector – the JVC RS1 so tonight I plan to do a few “side by side” images, as the RS1 is my new “reference” projector. You’ll find some below.

So, I wasn’t blown away by the black levels, but there is no doubt that the projector does well enough in this regard to respectably handle dark scenes.

After the first evening, I moved the projector into the testing room, and did the usual measurements and adjusted the RGB values to get as close to the 6500K color temperature as possible. I should note here, that while I did accomplish that, I wasn’t quite satisfied, with the results. I attribute this to my own adjustments. I probably should have started over, but the long and short of it, I ended up with a bit too much red, especially in the darker ranges. You will see that in some of the images. I have no doubt that this could be improved on, so I wouldn’t recommend you put to much emphasis on the overly redish quality you’ll see in some images.

Remember, the images you will see, are hardly perfect. My digital camera cannot capture the full dynamic range of the projected image, thus photos lose shadow detail, and tend to “crush” the near whites (they lose highlight detail). The images are to support the commentary, and not to be taken as a perfect rendition of what you will see on the screen if you buy a Cinema 1080. So take them, with a “pound of salt”, not a grain! Perhaps even more importantly, what you see on your computer display is probably different in terms of color balance, contrast, etc., than what I see on mine. In fact, the cropping and resizing software I use, yields a different overall image than what I see when I look at a finished review off of my site. Lastly the photos (at least on my computer, come out a bit more color saturated than what I see on the screen. So, again, not perfect by any means, if the images look oversaturated to you, you might try turning down your color control a touch, to compensate. I do not, ever, modify the screen images in terms of color balance, contrast or brightness, with computer software, I only crop and resize.

Please note:. I used the Theater Black 1 color preset for most of my work. It defaults to a color temp setting of 7500K (for some reason) instead of the 6500K setting. The first thing you will want to do, for using Theater Dark 1, is adjust the Color Temp slide from 7500K down to 6500K. Let’s start with flesh tones, and remember the images have a bit more reddish caste to them than what I was seeing on the screen. This is particularly true in very dark scenes, it seems my camera itself tends to have a slight shift towards red when I’m doing long exposures (some take up to 5 seconds). OK, overall, skin tones were very natural in appearance on the screen. The first set of five images are from standard DVD – the first two – Gandalf, and Arwen from Lord of the Rings, followed by Leeloo and a shot of Bruce Willis, from The Fifth Element, and last, Will Smith from I, Robot.

Overall, the flesh tones were really very good, in fact excellent. I regret that this time around, the photos are showing more red than what I saw on the screen. Before I get into black levels and shadow detail handling, and sharpness, this time, I want to provide you with some general images that should give a good idea what the Cinema 1080 can do on typical movie (and HDTV) scenes. I usually start with movies off of the various DVD formats, so for a change of pace, let’s do HDTV first.

I watch a lot of concerts in HDTV, so here are two images, from hi-def channels (the first from INHD, of Pete Townsend, from The Who: Isle of Wight, and the second of Bon Jovi and Sugarland on M HD (MTV’s HD video channel). Of course stage lighting changes everything, but they looked good!

Epson Cinema 1080 Projector Sharpness:

Overall, sharpness compared to other 1080p projectors, would best be described as about average, and that means sharp. There is certainly no comparison at all, between the Home Cinema 1080 and even the best of the 720p projectors. Of the seven 1080p projectors reviewed so far, it looks like the Epson is in the same grouping (in terms of sharpness) as the JVC RS1, and Sony VW50, which puts it slightly less sharp than the Optoma HD81 and BenQ W10000, and the Mitsubishi HC5000. The HC5000 has the most visible pixels of the 1080p projectors reviewed so far, so the big question is, while the Mitsubishi gives the feel of being sharper, is that the result of a barely visible pixel structure, or is it actually revealing more details in the image. I lean toward the idea of the pixel structure giving the feel of more sharpness, rather than actually showing more information. Even, though, if that is true, many will like the Mitsubishi because it “seems” sharper.

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