Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector Review

These Home Cinema 8100 image photos below are from either Blu-ray or HDTV, with the one exception being Lord of the Rings (on standard DVD). Consider that by the time these Epson Home Cinema 8100 projector images get to your eyeball, via digital SLR, software, browsers, and even your monitor, there are definite color shifts, saturation differences, etc. The images are to support the commentary, but keep in mind these limitations when trying to compare images from the Home Cinema 8100 projector with other home theater projectors. Take them all, “with a grain of salt”.

It’s safe to say that all home theater projectors, including the Epson Home Cinema 8100 definitely look better live, than in even the best looking images would indicate.

Some projectors images photograph better than others, for reasons probably dealing with individual color saturation. This Epson did not photograph particularly well (almost a slight additional pinkish orange cast), thus the posted images do not represent the quality as well as some other reviews do..

Epson Home Cinema 8100 Out of the Box Picture Quality

“Out of the box” picture quality leaves a good bit to be desired. That’s nothing to worry about, or even consider seriously as this is not a production unit. I am expecting that there will be different final color tables when the projector starts shipping. Past Epsons have usually been good to very good, right out of the box, which is to say, they can still be significantly improved with a calibration, or, failing that, try the settings we provide.

Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector - Flesh Tones

The Epson Home Cinema 8100 calibrated very nicely. Skin tones ended up looking very good, but could be a touch better. Mike’s calibration tends to leave the skin tones with just the slightest green tint. We don’t calibrate the individual colors, where one would work to remove that slight tinge, due to oversaturated greens.

There are plenty of our favorite skin tone images, and as you look through them, you’ll have to admit they look really good.

Below are our three James Bond images from Casino Royale. Each has a different lighting scenario, the first – full sunlight, the second image; indoor fluorescent, and finally, filtered sunlight in the third image. And as one would expect, that causes each image of James Bond – Daniel Patrick – to have different looking skin tones. All look pretty good!

Epson Home Cinema 8100 Black Levels & Shadow Detail

With the doubling of the contrast ratio this year to 36,000:1 from 18,000:1 the new Epson promised a slight improvement in black levels. This is a good thing, despite the fact that the older Home Cinema 6100 was already about as good as it got in under $2000 projectors. In fact I said this about the 6100 last year:

“The Home Cinema 6100′s direct competition, on the other hand, mostly comes up short of this Epson.”

I also pointed out though, that the 6100 was not a match for the 3LCD ultra-high contrast projectors (using inorganic LCD panels), such as the Home Cinema 6500UB, the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, or the Panasonic PT-AE3000.

Sadly I must report, that, despite the doubling of contrast, this new Epson still can’t match the black levels of any of those more expensive 3LCD projectors.

I can’t complain, of course, for the money, the black level performance is really extremely good. So far this year, only the similarly priced Mitsubishi HC3800 can best the Epson, and not by much. (More on this later.)

In other words, the Home Cinema 8100 is one of the best under $2000 projectors when it comes to black level performance, not quite the best, but as we review more of the latest crop, I expect it will prove to be better than most, and not necessarily by a small amount.

Because I see a real battle between the Epson Home Cinema 8100 and the similarly priced HC3800, as premier low cost projectors, I have some side-by-side images taken with the Epson and Mitsubishi, before the full selection of black level and shadow detail photos of the Epson.

Our first shot is a nice sci-fi starfield from Star Trek note that for all these images, the Epson is on the left, the HC3800 on the right:

Black Levels - comparison

the Epson is on the left, the HC3800 on the right:

OK, in this photo, the epson is producing the blacker blacks, but this is the exception. With no significant bright areas, the Epson’s dynamic iris closes down enough to produce really good blacks. The HC3800 with a dynamic iris, is consistent, but can’t get blacks quite that black. In other images with some bright areas, that’s not the case.

Please note, and disregard the red in the lower right corner of the Epson side of the image. I’ll discuss that elsewhere, but, it primarily relates to being a pre-production projector. The other matter to note is that the size of the Epson image is smaller than the Mitsubishi. That was necessary to get the two to be about the same brightness in the photos, since, in “best” mode, the HC3800 is the brighter projector.

Below are two exposures of the same starship image from The Fifth Element. The first is fairly normally exposed, and the second, more overexposed. The second makes it easier to see the differences in black levels so we’ll concentrate on those. (Click for a larger, higher resolution version.) In this case, the advantage has shifted slightly to the Mitsubishi

Black Levels

For general black level performance examples from multiple projectors we’ll continue with the Starship image. The first is the Home Cinema 8100 followed by an overexposed version. Then comes the the a normally exposed, then an overexposed HC3800, then just the usual slight overexposure for all the others:

HC3800

HC3800

Mitsubishi

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