Epson Home Cinema 700 Projector Review
Home Cinema 700 Picture Quality - Out of the Box
The Epson Home Cinema 700 does very nicely out of the box. Skin tones are actually very good, for a low priced projector. Those skin tones are just a touch on the warm side (redish), but it is slight, and easily corrected. Shadow detail is very good, and black levels – well, as already mentioned, that’s the achilles heel of this Epson, but then Epson built this projector primarily for those who can’t fully darken their rooms. All in all, the 700 does nicely out of the box, and only improves slightly with calibration.
Once calibrated, skin tones no longer has a slightly redish cast and are nicely neutral. In fact they are impressively good for a projector designed not for the enthusiast/hobbyist, but rather for the less critical viewer.
From Lord of the Rings – images of Gandalf, and Arwen (SD-DVD). Almost all screen images in this review can be clicked on for a much larger version.
The Arwen photo above was a scene deep in a forest with lots of green, which softens the skin tones. The Home Cinema 700 picks up on that shift to green nicely, especially where it is more evident toward the top of her face.
Moving to Blu-ray source material:
First, Daniel Craig as Bond, in Casino Royale, under three different lighting situations. The first image is full sunlight on his face, the second is in an airport, with flourescent lighting, and the last of the three, is filtered sunlight (shade).
Bottom Line: Skin tone performance is pretty impressive for a true, low cost, entry level projector. I’ve seen less accurate skin tone results from a number of projectors costing a whole lot more. But, then, I did say skin tones were very good.
Home Cinema 700 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
The 2000:1 contrast claim for this Epson (and yes, it does have a dynamic iris), is a low number by today’s standards. While a high contrast number is no longer a really accurate indicator of black level performance, in this case, it is.
Some say, that if you have a moderate amount of ambient light, it negates the advantages of a projector with great black level abilities. That isn’t quite correct. Place two projectors of equal brightness, side by side. If one has much better black levels, even as you turn the lights up, it will still do blacker blacks. The more ambient light, the less noticeable the difference, but the difference is still definitely significant.
And that’s why I refer to the Home Cinema 700 as a home entertainment projector – not a home theater projector. It is expected to work in a world which isn’t pitch black. Still, further improvement of black levels would have made for a better projector. On the other hand, that’s why Epson sells that Home Cinema 720, which only costs between $200 and $250 more.
I’ve cut down the number of images relating to black levels and shadow detail, as compared with other reviews, because you’ll get the point rather quickly, and doing a whole lot more dark images won’t tell you any more, than these few.
We’ll start with the The Fifth Element image of the Starship. As you can see, the exposure is fairly normal (not noticeably overexposed), yet you can see that the blacks of the background are not as black as some other images below.
Here’s the same image, dramatically overexposed, which gives you a good perspective as to the black level performance. Note how bright (lightness of the background space, and of the letterboxing at top and bottom) is, relative to the overexposed starship. Projectors with much better black levels would produce similar brightness in the starship, but with much darker space background and, also brighter letterboxing:
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