Epson Home Cinema 5020 UB Home Theater Projector Review

Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance

For six generations, Epson has been the black level champ among the mid-price level projectors.

Nothing has changed in that regard.  Well, not quite.  The Epson still has a distinct black level advantage over the likes of the BenQ W7000, Panasonic PT-AE8000, Sharp XV-Z30000 and other competitors.  The closest – a virtual tie, would be the Sony HW50ES.  The Epson wins in most viewing but usually by a very small amount.  On a couple of scenes though the Sony matches, and perhaps beats the Epson. Those two projectors are close enough to say “doesn’t matter”.

With all the others, the Epson’s advantage is enough to be a real advantage when you are purchasing!

Let’s start with a side by side image:  Epson HC5020 vs. Sony HW50ES (Epson on the left)

Click to enlarge.  So close.  I got the exposures almost identical.  You can see the slightest advantage in the blacks favoring the Epson (note the letter box area, stars on the left side).  These two are so close not to matter on this image.

Click Image to Enlarge

Black Levels Comparison

Epson Home Cinema 5020
PT-AE8000
Sony VPL-HW50ES
Optoma HD8300
Epson Home Cinema 5010
Optoma HD33
JVC DLA-RS45
Runco LS10d
Sharp XV-Z30000

PT-AE8000:  The lower image is a bit less overexposed making it tough to spot any real improvement in the HC5020.

Sony VPL-HW50ES: A little more overexposed making it hard to compare.

Optoma HD8300: Very nice, offers slightly better blacks than the Panasonic, (and probably a touch shy of the Sony?)

Epson Home Cinema 5010: ($2699, being replaced) the black level champ in the price range. The Epson Home Cinema 5020 for its improvements still comes up visibly, but not dramatically short of the best at black levels such as the two high end JVC’s (starting at $7999).

Optoma HD33: (lower cost, $1499 3D capable projector): Blacks are not as good as the Panny, the image is less overexposed.

JVC DLA-RS45: Comparable blacks or better, and with out using a dynamic iris. The HD250 is now discontinued.

Runco LS10d projector: ($27,000+):This one is included to make the point, that a lot more money doesn’t mean any significant improvement in black levels. Think, instead that other things become more important.

Sharp XV-Z30000: (direct competitor)

Shadow Detail Performance

Look at the shrubs on the right, on the far side of the tracks.  Compare detail in the trees also on the right.

When you do, you will see that the Epson’s black levels are rather excellent, besting or matching that of most of the competition.  This is an area where Epson has dramatically improved over the years.  And they’ve done so while maintaining their black level advantage!

As alway, ignore color shifts, long time exposures (up to 30 seconds, create problems).

Shadow Detail Comparison

Epson Home Cinema 5020
PT-AE8000
Epson Home Cinema 3010
Optoma HD33
Optoma HD8300
Sony VPL-HW50ES

Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance: HC5020 Projector - Bottom Line

Excellent and Excellent. Certainly blacks are as good as it gets until we get to some much more expensive projectors.  While I’m less concerned about whether a projector has exceptional detail (this Epson) or just really good (such as the HW50ES), the Epson seems unmatched so far.  Mike has calibrated all these projectors.  Not one of them seems to be able to best the Epson at either blacks, or Shadow detail.

I do not believe any projector we’ve reviewed in the under $3500 price range can match the performance of blacks and dark shadow detail of the Home Cinema 5020 UB projector this year.   (UB stands for “Ultra Black”)

The bottom line:  Overall picture quality is not going to sway you away from this projector. From the standpoint of picture quality, the Home Cinema 5020, the Epson pretty much as to be on everyone’s short list. In the under $3500 price range, if you are not choosing this projector it’s more likely to be something not related, such as the desire for motorized lens features, or that it’s in a mostly white case instead of black.

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