Epson Home Cinema 5030 UB Home Theater Projector Review

Epson Home Cinema 5030UB: Shadow Detail Performance

In our Bond night train scene, the best place to observe how well a projector shows the darkest shadow detail is to look at the shrubs on the right, on the far side of the tracks, and the darkest areas of the forest behind the tracks.  Compare detail in those trees

All considered the Epson loses almost nothing.  No doubt the we might even come out a touch better if Epson’s controls were a little finer.

These images (below) have all been converted to grayscale so that the color shifts don’t obscure what we’re looking at.

PT-AE8000: Also very good dark shadow detail, but it’s pretty plain to look at these two images that the Epson wins at black levels.

Epson Home Cinema 3020: A lower cost projector ($1599), not an ultra-high contrast projector.

Optoma HD25-LV: Another low cost projector – around $1500:  Not bad, but not quite “ultra-high contrast” let along as good as the 5030UB is as one of the best in terms of blacks.

Epson Home Cinema 5030UB: Comparing Shadow Detail

Epson Home Cinema 5030UB
Panasonic PT-AE8000
Epson Home Cinema 3020
Optoma HD25-LV
Optoma HD8300
Sony VPL-HW50ES
Epson Home Cinema 5030UB
+Panasonic PT-AE8000

Epson Home Cinema 5030UB: Bottom Line Black Level & Shadow Detail Performance

No surprises.  The Epson Home Cinema 5030UB and its almost identical siblings, offers unmatched black level performance for projectors that routinely sell for under $3000.  We only consider two competitors, the JVC and Sony, both typically a good $700 or more extra, to be at all competitive, with the Sony being closest. The Epson gives up nothing to either of those projectors in terms of dark shadow detail, as well.

The ability of the Home Cinema 5030UB in terms of both blacks and dark shadow detail is better than any projector I can think of that sells for less.  To really improve on the black level performanc even slightly , I’m thinking you must go all the way up to the $4999 JVC DLA-X500 and RS56, or the Sony VPL-VW95ES at $5999. To truly have better blacks, you’ll need to opt for the JVC DLA-X700R and equivalent RS projector.

Let’s face it, bang for the buck, the Epson is the black level champ, without really spending two or three times as much.

Epson Home Cinema 5030 UB: Overall Color & Picture Quality

Perhaps Mike’s new calibration gear and software works better than his previous combination, because the Home Cinema 5030 UB once he calibrated it, has the best color yet from an Epson.  I just could never get the Home Cinema 5020 UB or Pro Cinema 6020 UB quite so nice.

Skin tones are better.  The tiny trace of green caste isn’t present this time.  Kudos go out to Mike for his calibration, or to Epson for further improvements, but definitely the Best Epson home theater projector yet, in terms of picture quality.

Others offer great skin tones and overall color as well.  It’s the combination of all of that, plus the great black level performance for the price, though that is key to Epson’s overall excellent picture quality on the Home Cinema 5030UB (and Pro Cinema 6030 UB as well).

No one likes an insufficiently bright projector, and that further establishes this Epson for picture quality.  Oh, the picture isn’t as great in Living Room, or even a tweaked “Brightest” Dynamic mode as it si calibrated, but this Epson has 50-150% more brightness in it’s brightest mode than most competition so it’s ready to tackle ambient light and less ideal rooms, something that really stymies the JVC competition, as well as Sharp, Optoma and others.  The Sony has a fair amount of bright mode lumens but still comes up a good bit short.  BenQ’s W7000 projector – the same.

Epson Home Cinema 5030 UB: Performance, HDTV and Sports, including 3D

Monday Night Football in less than two hours as I write this. Yesterday, I got in a good 6 hours of football with friends.  I played around with 3 modes – THX briefly – great color but when I queried my buddies, and offered them my tuned Dynamic mode over THX, after a couple of quick back and forths it was unanimous – go for the brightness.  So we watched with roughly 1500 lumens in tuned Dynamic, instead of about 650 lumens calibrated.  Everyone was happy, window shutters were partially open, and rear lighting on.  Much like in these two image below taken using the 5020 UB last year.

We had controlled light coming in from side and rear windows though partially closed shutters.

Remember, the Epson also has a Living Room mode. Living Room mode is still a bit more natural than the tuned Dynamic, but the real trade-off is Living Room vs. default Dynamic. Living Room is the way to go, it’s a lot better looking, if not as bright, than the default Dynamic. It’s Mike’s “quick-cal” of Dynamic, that makes it really nicely watchable.  Dynamic “pops” more than Living Room, which is fine for my sports, but less desireable say for some high quality digital content such as that from Discovery HD, or Travel HD.

When watching Game Mix, I overshoot my 124″ diagonal 2.35:1 screen. I can do that because the 8 games don’t occupy all of the left/right, and I don’t mind cutting off the picture above and below the games, so that the games are at their largest (around 32″ diagonal or more, each!)

These images shows the back of the room (taken standing between the screen and the window next to it).  It was a sunny day, and the outer room seen there is lit by a large sky light.  You can also make out most of my recessed lighting (all 65 watt equivalent LED down facing flood lights).

These HDTV images were all taken using Mike’s tuned Dynamic mode.

All the sports content was shot with those rear lights on. Most of the other HDTV content was shot with the lights off, but the shutters partially open, unless noted otherwise.

 

Epson Home Cinema 5030 UB: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports, and also 3D HDTV content

This Epson’s got the horsepower – the brightness – to do excellent sports viewing in less than great rooms when paired with the right screen. In a dedicated home theater there’s more than enough brightness to go around. In my dedicated home theater even at our largest image size (over 124″) there’s enough bang to even use the calibrated THX mode.  Still most folks aren’t demanding perfect color for sports viewing, so most will still prefer the doubling of brightness and then some of the brightest modes of the Home Cinema 5030 UB.

Crank up the Super-Resolution too.  For all my football yesterday, I had Super-Resolution set to 3, where it provides what seems to be a visibly more detailed, sharper looking image.

And don’t forget smooth motion – CFI.  I don’t crank that up to high, as you end up seeing noise around the moving objects, but the low setting or medium, work fine for my sports.

OK enough on Image Quality.  I’ll be repeating myself in the Summary section regardless.  Time to look at measurements and performance!

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News And Comments

  • peter griffin

    Art,

    Thank you for the great review. Got a question regarding the screen.

    How do you use the 5030 on your 124″ diagonal 2.35:1 seeing as it doesn’t have the lens memory? I have all intentions of purchasing the 5030 but would love to be able to use a 2.35 screen.

    Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

    • ProjectorReviews.com

      Hi, the answer, as you might have guessed, is that I cheat. Because I don’t have a mounted projector – projectors come and go all the time, there are usually two projectors on the table behind my captains chair. When I want to go to widescreen to fill my widescreen, I get out of my chair, and adjust the zoom and the lens shift, and then double check the focus. Then when I need 16:9 again, for some football, I get out of my chair again, and do it in reverse.

      No motorized features is one of the things that keeps the Epson really inexpensive for its performance. But it’s not “widescreen friendly.” If you are mounting and have a 8 foot ceiling you can probably reach the lens controls, but do you want to is the question? I did enjoy things when I had the Sony VW600ES here, the JVCs, etc. I’ll have 3 JVC’s and the VW600 and VW1100 all coming in here over the next 4 months. I won’t have to get up out of my chair much. -art