Epson Pro Cinema 800 Home Theater Projector

The Epson Pro Cinema 800 excells at image quality. First, and most significantly, right out of the box, the color is excellent, with great flesh tones, rich saturated colors, and for those with large screens, needing to combat some ambient light, plenty of brightness.

Claiming 5000:1 contrast ratio, this Epson projector, relys on the typical “AI” or smart frame by frame type processing that other LCD projectors are now using. Like those other projectors, the claim can be misleading. In the past, the higher the contrast ratio, the “blacker the blacks”, which translates to being able to resolve shadow detail in dark areas. In this regard, the LCD projectors still can’t get as close to black as higher quality DLP projectors using the Darkchip3 DLP chip. Instead, if a scene is pretty dark with no very bright areas, these LCD projectors typically close down an iris, or dim the lamp or both. That’s a great trick, but it doesn’t work in scenes with both dark and very bright areas.

But getting back to the Epson Pro Cinema 800, it’s black level performance appears to be slgithly better than the hot selling, lower cost LCD projectors, including the Sanyo Z4, Epson Cinema 550 and Panasonic AE900u. It also slightly outperformed them on my star scene test, with just a touch more stars visible on the black sky background.

What really sets this Epson home theater projector apart from the competition, is color accuracy. This should not be a surprise, since Epson labels the Pro Cinema 800 as being ISF Calibrated, that is, the color saturation, contrast, brightness, and accuracy have been set following the formal ISF standards. Now, normally when we talk about calibrating a projector, we refer to calibrating a specific projector, not thousands of identical projectors. There will be slight differences from one projector to the next, and this is normally the result of variance from lamp to lamp. But wait, even calibrating your own projector, the lamp’s output will dim, and there are likely to be minor color shifts to the lamps output as it ages.

Considering all of that, the bottom line is how good is this Epson’s color. The most striking thing I can say, is that when I first hooked it up, and viewed some Hi-Def football, and a couple of movies (The Fifth Element, Lord of the Rings), I was immediately impressed in that I found the color to be “right on”, or at least, as close as I could expect. There is more variation in color from DVD to DVD, and channel to channel than any error I experienced with the Epson projector.

Here are a couple of images, shot in the Epson’s Cinema Night mode and Silverscreen mode presets, using the default color settings, without any adjustments, starting with this image of Bruce Willis (above) from The Fifth Element:

In the image directly above, of the Chancellor in Star Wars II, not only can you appreciate the flesh tone colors, but also note detail in the bright background. My digital camera, cannot capture the full dynamic range of the projector’s image (or any projector’s image for tha tmatter), but, both highlight and shadow detail is excellent, although, the Epson, great on shadow details does lose some highlight details, as seen in the next two images. The first, my new test scene for highlight detail, from Star Wars, is from the Epson. Immediately below it, is an image from Marantz’s VP12S4, a $14,500 single chip DLP, and one of the very best out there. In that case you can see the loss of detail on the Panasonic in the bright areas outside the window.

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