Epson Home Cinema 5030 UB Home Theater Projector Review

Out of the Box Picture Quality

As expected, the preset modes of this latest refresh of the Epson UB lineup, look rather good.  The THX mode is very well balanced, but slightly cool.  Dynamic has too much green/yellow which is typical of most projectors, and especially LCD projectors.  We do provide some settings that very nicely improve on that.  Living Room mode, while not as bright as Dynamic, will be people’s first choice among the bright modes for those not wanting to play around with settings.

THX, Natural and Cinema all vary, but all produce a reasonably good looking and reasonably accurate image “right out of the box”.

BTW, improving Dynamic mode so that it’s my preferred setup for sports, only cost the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB about 7-8% of Dynamic’s full brightness.  That means it’s still exceptionally bright.

Click Image to Enlarge

Flesh Tones

Out of the box, skin tones look pretty good in all the lower brightness modes.  That said, what is interesting is post calibration.  Last evening, with the new calibration settings in place, I did a quick tour of some of my favorite movies that I use for images.  I stared long and hard at both the secretary, and Leeloo, from the Fifth Element, some Bond images of Daniel Craig, and others.

I do believe that Mike’s calibration resulted in the most natural looking skin tones yet from an Epson home projector.  I’ve had Epson Home Cinema UB projectors here for the better part of 5 years, all have been calibrated, but when I was gazing upon my favorite scenes last evening, I don’t think I’ve seen any Epson look better in terms of natural looking – and feeling – skin tones.

In general in the $2000 – $3500 price range I’ve felt that the Sony entry – the HW50ES last year had the most natural in the price range.  The Sony VPL-HW55ES, the new version, is due in soon, so I’ll be curious to run them side by side to see if the Epson is every bit as natural looking.  Typically, there’s always a very slight touch of green left in the Epson projectors post calibration.  Not so this time.  Nice!

Bottom Line on skin tones:   Best yet from Epson.  Competition – be nervous.  We’ll discuss which have the best skin tones after the Sony and JVC projectors arrive, and I do a lot of side by side testing and viewing.

Flesh Tones (Before & After Recalibration)

Mike's second, correct calibration after getting new equipment.
The same image after Mike's first, inaccurate calibration on the old equipment.

Black Levels & Shadow Detail

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 at black level performance is enough to be a real advantage when you are purchasing!

So, what’s the story?  Epson almost doubled the contrast spec. What does that do to the black levels?  Not a whole lot.  A doubling of contrast, at best is a slight improvement, and that’s what we have seen here, with the 5020UB and 5030 UB shot side by side.

Let’s start with a side by side image:  Epson HC5030 UB vs. last year’s Home Cinema 5020 UB:

The new Epson is on the right, old one on the left:  It’s impossible to match up the brightness exactly, so in this case, the 5030UB image was taken in eco mode, to bring the brightness down to be close to that of the 5020UB which has 1100 hours on its lamp.

In the second image, again, the new 5030 UB is on the right.  Blacks are just slightly blacker, but the difference is there, and I can measure it onscreen with my colorimeter.  Note the blue (and white) swimming pool (small) at the top of a building about 1/3 in from the right.  Below it is a black area several floors in height.  It both appears blacker, and measures so on the 5030UB.  No, you aren’t getting a night and day improvement, but blackest blacks are blacker than on last year’s Epson.  Score one big point for Epson against all those competitors that haven’t improved their projectors for 2013-14!

Black Levels Comparison

Starship image from the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB projector.
Panasonic PT-AE8000
Sony VPL-HW50ES
Optoma HD8300
Optoma HD25-LV
JVC DLA-X35
Runco LS10d projector
Sharp XV-Z30000

Black Levels Commentary

Here is the commentary on each of the black & white starship images above, comparing them to the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB.

Panasonic PT-AE8000U:  The blacks don’t measure as low (ie at one point in the letter box area, the Epson’s “blacks” measure in at 36, while the Panasonic’s blacks measure in at 45, which is a really significant difference.  But checking in the high bright areas, the difference is slight – with near white’s on the Panasonic measuring 254 while the Epson is at 253.  Thus white handling is virtually identical (within .5%) while blacks are about 30% lighter on the Panasonic. The Panny is a very nice ultra-high contrast projector but in reality, it’s not a match for the older 5020UB and certainly less so compared to the Home Cinema 5030 UB.

Sony VPL-HW50ES: A little more overexposed making it hard to compare.  BTW, our ratings of black level performance are not based on the few images here.  They are based on overall viewing.  The nature of dynamic irises and how they are setup means that one projector can be better at blacks on one image, while being not as good on another image. Keep that in mind. The “starship” and “night train” images are good examples of moderately dark, and very dark scenes, but they do not, by themselves, define how good one projector is, compared to another. My final calls about black levels are subjective, based on viewing movies, not staring at still images.

Optoma HD8300: Very nice, offers slightly better blacks than the Panasonic, (and definitely a bit shy of the 5030UB)

Optoma HD25-LV (lower cost, $1499 3D capable projector): Blacks are not as good as the Panny, let alone, the Epson. The blacks measure about half way in between the Epson and Panasonic, but the whites measure below both.  Overall, the Optoma is below the Panasonic in black level performance, and not match at all for the Epson – as in, not all that close!

JVC DLA-X35 (JVC’s current direct competition but at $3499): Overall better blacks than the Epson even if the JVC can’t get as dark.  The trick is they don’t use a dynamic iris, thus have more dynamic range.  On really dark scenes, though the Epson has the advantage, on medium and brighter scene the JVC would.

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):  Impressive black level performance, although not quite as good as the 5030 UB.  Close enough to be considered a true ultra-high contrast competitor.

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