Epson Home Cinema 3010 Projector - Image Quality
A lot of processing goes on from the start of a photo shoot until you are viewing the Epson Home Cinema 3010 images on your computer screen. As a result, these images are reasonable indications, but not accurate enough for comparing precise color, saturation and other aspects. Note: Selected images relating to shadow detail, and especially black level performance can be very effective at demonstrating how the Home Cinema 3010 positions itself compared to other home projectors. Different computers, browsers, displays, graphics cards, and software, all affect how the image looks on your screen.
I've always said, that all home theater projectors, including this Epson Home Cinema 3010, definitely looks better live at your place, than any of our images would indicate.
10/18/2011 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 3010 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Interesting, very interesting. Cinema mode of the Home Cinema 3010, which is our basis for our "best" mode, shows a significant difference in color balance between full power and eco-mode.
Both are pretty good, however, for "right out of the box".
In fact, "right out of the box", the Epson's Eco-mode offers the more accurate color. Eco-mode, in fact, is very good at overall color, though a touch cool, while full power is definitely shifted a bit more to warm - a bit strong on reds.
For the average consumer of a general home entertainment projector, for use in the family room, bonus room, basement or spare bedroom, probably either setting will be just fine. Most will favor high power, simply because most people see brighter as better.
For those of you really looking for an affordable projector for your theater, though the Epson 3010 is also a serious player for the price, especially if you also want 3D. In that case, try our calibration settings to further improve the picture. The Epson has a good set of color controls.
Epson Home Cinema 3010 Projector - Flesh Tones
Post calibration, the Epson Home Cinema 3010 looks really good. Skin tones are very good, but not truly exceptional. On the other hand, this is an entry level 3D capable projector. At this moment, it is the least expensive 1080p projector to sport 3D. (Technically the Optoma HD33 is $100 less, by MSRP, but the Epson comes with two pair of glasses, and for the Optoma, that's an extra $99 a pair.)
Above and below, our usual suspects - Gandalf and Arwen, from Lord of the Rings, on Blu-ray.
What I said above, not truly exceptional, I meant it. I have been switching back and forth between, the Home Cinema 3010, and the $3700 Sony VPL-HW30ES. No question about it, the Sony's skin tones are the more natural. The Epson does fine, but, there is a difference in quality.
On the bright side, though, these skin tones, post calibration are pretty impressive when compared to most other projectors around $1500. They certainly look as good as you will find walking down a line of LCDTVs at Best Buy.
Let's take a look at some images.
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 Craig - to have different looking skin tones.
More images we like for considering skin tones:
Epson Home Cinema 3010 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Let's start with the Home Cinema 3010's black level performance. This Epson claims a "dynamic" contrast ratio of 40,000:1. A few years ago, that number would have promised dazzling black level performance, but the numbers keep getting larger, faster than black levels improve.
The Home Cinema 3010 has good black level performance, but it is not what we like to call around here, a "ultra-high-contrast projector". It is typical for the price range, and probably not quite as good as the Home Cinema 8350, which remains in the lineup, as a less expensive, and not as bright, 2D only projector.
Epson Home Cinema 3010:
Viewsonic Pro8200 projector:
Sony VPL-HW30ES (LCoS projector under $3,699):
Vivitek H1080FD ($899):
All considered, the black levels are way better than some of the under $1000 home projectors, but not quite the best under $1500, although probably only the HC4000 from Mitsubishi and Epson's own 8350 are only very slightly better. On very dark scenes, in fact, the Epson Home Cinema 3010 probably can slightly beat the HC4000 which has better native blacks but no iris.
Shadow Detail Performance
The ability to resolve dark shadow detail is better than average for a projector in this class. Mind you, the blacker the blacks, the harder to see the darkest near black detail. Still as you look at the images below, you will find more dark shadow detail in the shrubs and trees on the back right, than on most of the other images. Overall, good shadow detail performance, not as good as a few projectors with much worse black level performance. Shadow detail won't disappoint anyone.
Epson Home Cinema 3010:
BenQ W6000 (ultra high contrast, 2D, $2000+):
Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance: Home Cinema 3010 Projector - Bottom Line
The Home Cinema 3010 is typical in terms of black levels, for under $2000 projectors. That said, there are a couple of projectors around $2000 that can do substantially better, the Panasonic PT-AE4000 and the Epson 8700UB. Both of those, however, are being discontinued for 3D capable projectors, the PT-AE7000 and Epson's Home Cinema 5010, and both of those are in the $3000 range.
All considered, the Epson does rather well against 2D only projectors in the same price range, and offers blacker blacks than the Optoma HD33, the only other 3D 1080p projector near the price.
Mind you 3D performance of black levels isn't as good, as the dynamic iris doesn't operate in 3D, but as 3D is inherently no more than about 25% of the brightness of 2D, few are concerned about 3D black levels. Everyone else is worried about dim pictures with 3D. In the case of the Epson, you'll have good 3D brightness, and since it's not way bright, you aren't likely to care about the blacks. And that's quadruply true if you are in a family room environment.
In other words, the Epson you have to consider the Epson to have shadow detail and black levels nicely under control.
Epson Home Cinema 3010 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
While I always crave for great black levels to go with beautiful color, one can only expect so much in the lower price ranges. All considered though, the Epson is extremely well balanced. Colors are really good in all aspects unless you go to Dynamic mode, where greens are too strong (typical) and its a bit thin on reds. Note: Livingroom isn't quite as bright as Dynamic, but it will be the preferred choice for many when they want more brightness than best mode.
Living Room mode is only about 15% dimmer than Dynamic, and looks much better.
As far as "best" mode goes, in 2D, skin tones are very good, but I would have to give the edge to another less expensive 2D only projector, and that would be the rather no frills, but good performance, Mitsubishi HC4000. For those not at all interested in 3D, and only if they don't need the brightness, look to both the Mitsubishi, HC4000 and the Epson Home Cinema 8350, but for a few hundred more you can enjoy a light canon, with a very good picture, and have 3D that can be as bright as about either of those two projectors can produce in 2D.
A mix of additional images to show off the Epson Home Cinema 3010:
Below, Lady Gaga, in case you don't recognize her (MTV awards):
Here's something to think about: some folks may well say that the Home Cinema 3010 is simply too bright for movie viewing on average (100"-110") screens. I might agree if you have a high power screen, but not with the typical 1.0 to 1.4 gain screens most use. And if you have a 0.8 grey screen, even less to be concerned about. Look, it takes about 4x the lumens of 2D, for 3D to be as bright. So, either one's dim, or the other's very bright. But this Epson in "best" mode, drops to 923 measured lumens with the lamp on Eco. Folks that's only about 100 - 200 lumens brighter than most far more expensive LCoS and DLP projectors in their "best" modes. So, even in a dedicated home theater, I don't see a problem with too much brightness, say, on a 110" screen for 2D viewing.
If you do the numbers by ft-lamberts, even in 3D Dynamic, with a shiny new lamp, on a mere 100" , 1.0 gain screen (a bit small by my taste), the numbers look like this:
3D Dynamic: Lamp on High x .75 (assuming a loss of 75%) = 1573 lumens *.75=393 lumens estimated (Probably higher, since the Epson loses about 19% going from Dynamic, to 3D dynamic, and that probably means some processing for the glasses is already in there). Of course 393 lumens = just over 13 ft lamberts minimum, with a new lamp.
2D "Best" mode: Lamp on Eco = 30.2 ft lamberts right at the top of the recommended range for movie theaters. Of course, by the time you've had any projector for a couple hundred hours use, lamp brightness will typically be down at least 10%.
So, it could be argued that even in Cinema mode, calibrated, with a new lamp, that the projector is too bright. (Not me, I like bright.) That is, on a 100" diagonal screen (and no ambient light), but remember, this is an LCD projector, not DLP. Very bright DLP's tend to make people notice the rainbow effect more, and fatigue some folks (small percentage), but LCD's haven't been accused of that. Technically by SMPTE standards the projector would be too bright if you are using a 1.3 gain screen which would get it close to 40 ft. lamberts.
So there's a potential issue of too much 2D brightness, in a darkened dedicated theater (where most of these Epsons won't be found), if you have a bright screen. Good news, folks, there's a fix if it really becomes an issue.
It's an old trick, used by most early home theater projector owners. They wanted to knock down the black levels, and were willing to give up brightness to do so. Go check out your favorite camera shop. Buy a relatively inexpensive neutral density filter, and place it in front of your lens, if you think it's too bright. You can knock off 25%, 50% or even more depending o the density of the filter. Mount the filter in front of the lens so you can remove when you want.
But, personally, I think the "too bright" argument is a red herring, with normal screens and normal screen sizes. Besides I recommend a larger than 100" screen for 3D (if not 2D), if you can find room for it. With a 120" diagonal screen, that same 2D "best mode" is now down to a very nice 21 ft-lamberts with a new lamp. Considering SMPTE recommends 16 ft-lamberts you are pretty much right on target. So, try a 120, a 124, 128, even 133 inch diagonal screen, and you'll still have respectable 3D brightness, and good 2D!
I'll concede that in most dedicated theaters, the 3010 is too bright for highest quality 2D movie viewing on a typical 82 or 92" diagonal screen - go bigger, or gray surface.
A last thought on the subject: The real problem with most of the 7-8 3D capable projectors reviewed so far, isn't too much brightness, but too much dimness. Consider, that on a 100" diagonal screen, using the same formula, not one of the at least 2x as expensive 3D capable DLP or LCoS projectors reviewed, can even get to 5 ft-lamberts in 3D with a new lamp on a 100" screen. Oh, the 3D standard recommended is around 4.5 ft lamberts by SMPTE, but I have to believe that spec only exists (and a 2.75 minimum) beause that's all the digital cinema gear was capable of. A concession to reality, rather than an accurate assessment of what is needed. The dimmest of the expensive projectors we reviewed, could barely hit that minimum with a brand new lamp on a 100" screen. You don't even want to think about how dim that JVC would be when the lamp gets old (less than 1.5 ft-lamberts - or less than 1/10th of what SMPTE recommends for 2D).
And finally, because lamps dim and lose half brightness over time: Consider that Joel Silver, President and founder of ISF, the organization of professional calibrators, believes the recommended spec for image brightness should really be up around 30 ft-lamberts, to allow for dimming.
Here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
Epson Home Cinema 3010 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports, includine 3D
The Home Cinema 3010 is great on HDTV and Sports, with only one reservation. As is typical for projectors in its price, it lacks CFI - smooth motion, which a lot of folks like for sports.
On the other hand, I can't think of one other projector selling for the Home Cinema 3010's price that does have CFI, except for perhaps a couple of closeouts.
Considering that, I withdraw my reservation.
We all got by fine without smooth motion (CFI) until just about 4 years ago. As I always point out, I'm not a fan of CFI on movies. It changes the feel, but on sports it can be a plus. I consider the lack of CFI at most, to be minor, and since you just normally don't find it around this price range, essentially you'll have to decide to spend more to get it, a lot more if you also want bright, and 3D.
3D sports is a total blast. For the first time, I got to watch my recorded games, filling about a 98" diagonal 16:9 size, and not at all feel like the image is dim. In fact, it's more than decent in 3D Cinema, and downright reasonably bright in 3D Dynamic mode.
Football is cool....very! Several friends have watched a 3D football game here, but it's not just football. In fact, far more impressive in 3D is boxing. I'm not a boxing fan at all, but, "wow!" I may be a fan of 3D boxing...
Perhaps even better than sports is the high quality 3D "Discovery HD, History HD, type content. China Revealed (3D) for the first time in my theater had sunlight scenes that actually seemed bright. Now were talking. I know there are other bright 3D projectors about to ship, the aforementioned Panasonic PT-AE7000 and Epson Home Cinema 5010.
People, 3D is made for projectors. If you've watched 3D at some point on someone's 42" or 55" LCDTV or Plasma, let me say that it's like looking at a small 3D picture box. When you view it on a 100" or so screen with a projector, it's a whole new window on the world, and so what if you have to wear some glasses.
Check out some images from football, and other HDTV content: All the sports images were taken with the blinds partially open, as per the picture, above, and with the back recessed lights on. The other HDTV images had the lights off and the shutters still partially open, just not as much.
Since all the modes are relatively similar in brightness, though, that's hardly a concern.
Epson Home Cinema 3010 Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports, and also 3D HDTV content
Simply stated, so far, this is the best game in town for a bright quality picture, in the sub-$2000 price range, or for that matter, sub $2500 range, if you want 3D as well as 2D. I recommend 3D HDTV content. In fact, for my own viewing I'm far more taken by HDTV content, than by movies in 3D.
The Epson handles sports, standard HDTV, and 3D with tons of brightness (2D) and good brightness for 3D.
The picture is crisp on HDTV. The Home Cinema 3010, I better point out, had no trouble with any of the HDTV 3D formats coming in from DirecTV. That's very unlike most first gen 3D capable 1080p projectors, of which only a couple could work with ESPN 3D, or other 720p resolution 3D channels.
For well under $2000, you will get most impressive 2D, nice and bright 3D.
Considering though, that most folks watch TV and sports with lights at least partially on, and can use lots of brightness, remember that this is one of the two brightnest 1080p projectors under $2000, unless you count some real entry level ones, that can't compete in black levels or picture quality.