Epson Home Cinema 5020 Projector - Performance
10/28/12 - Art Feierman
This page is dedicated to discussing performance aspects of the Epson HC5020 UB projector's brightness in its best and brightest modes, including images showing relative brightness of the modes. We also look at sharpness, image, audible noise levels...
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Brightness
Very interesting! Although according to Epson and their specs, the Home Cinema 5020 UB is the same brightness as the older HC5010, there was a nice surprise. When measuring the Dynamic mode it proved to be brighter, but by less than 5%. Still, that's nice.
More impressive, however, Mike reported that after his calibration, the HC5020 measured 10% brighter than last year.
A side note for those of you considering this Epson projector or its closest competitor, the Panasonic PT-AE8000: In the recent PT-AE8000 review I commended Panasonic for increasing brightness, and said (anticipating no increase in calibrated brightness for this Epson), that Panasonic, has finally caught up to Epson in terms of calibrated lumens. Well, it turns out that Epson has managed to stay ahead of them, by 7-8% That's not huge but, it does mean you can fill a roughly 5" larger diagonal screen with the same amount of brightness (compared to the PT-AE8000).
As always, I ask Mike to also "tweak" the brightest mode, to improve color as much as possible, at the least cost in brightness (we call his "tweaking" a "quick-cal"). We consider this important, as most often, a projector has a brightest mode that just is not pretty to watch.
First, measurements "right out of the box":
Lumen Output and Color Temp at 100 IRE:
Dynamic= 1890 @ 6702
Living Room= 1473 @ 8088
Natural= 804 @ 7132, 572 in Eco lamp mode (default)
Cinema= 804 @ 7041, 572 in Eco lamp mode (default)
THX= 804 @ 7012, 572 in Eco lamp mode (default)
Note that THX and the other similar highest quality modes really look good, if just a touch cool. They measure 800 lumens, a significant increase of more than 20% "out of the box" compared to Mike's measurements last year for the older HC5010.
Comparing "out of the box" brightness of best modes with the Panasonic, the Epson sports just over 800 lumens to the Panasonic's 650ish lumens. That makes this Epson HC5020 UB more than 20% brighter. I'll discuss more in the inevitable Panasonic vs. Epson shoot-out.
Post Calibration: Best Mode
Mike Calibrated Cinema mode. Post calibration: 678 lumens
It's a modest 48 lumens brighter than last year, but at almost 700, it has for the first time, put a calibrated Epson up with similar brightness to a number of LCoS and DLP projectors. Epson's have routinely been drastically brighter at best, but also typically those calibrate in the 700 range. Just two years ago, the Epson's were right around 500 lumens, so this represents almost a 40% increase. In the old days, I never felt that Epson's had quite enough brightness to fill my old 128" screen when calibrated. But my 700 lumen and change JVC could. Finally Epson can handle larger screens when fully calibrated.
Quick-Cal: Brightest Mode = Dynamic 1706 lumens
This isn't a D65 (6500K) calibration, rather an attempt to make the Home Cinema 5020 projector's Dynamic mode a little more balanced in color, than it starts with. Most dynamic type modes, greens and blues tend to be over the top. Our goal is to just make a dynamic mode more natural, but with the paramater of not giving up too much brightness.
Effect of zoom on lumen output (Dynamic mode):
In all the talk above about lumens, remember that how you place your projector has a lot of impact on brightness. This Epson with its wide range zoom, loses brightness the further back you place it from your screen.
Effect of zoom on lumen output (Dynamic mode):
Zoom out: 2142
Zoom in: 1438
Put that projector as close to the screen as you can, and you've got over 2100 lumens to work with, but lose just over 10% by moving back to the mid-range of the zoom, and for those of you putting the projector on a shelf at the far end of the range, you get about 30 percent less. This is typical of projectors that have zoom lenses with tons of range (2:1 or greater).
This is why we do all our measurements except this one, with the projector at mid-zoom. I normally have most projectors set up near their mid-points when I'm watching them. If you are at the short end of the range, you've got a few more lumens - a little extra juice. If you are way back, my declarations of bright enough, are a touch optimistic. Have fun with all that.
Home Cinema 5020 Eco-Mode vs. Full Power
True, dropping to eco-mode will make the lamp last longer - 5000 hours instead of 4000, but that's not a huge percentage. Most likely anyone's real motivation is fan noise (discussed below.)
HC5020 Lumen Output (Eco Lamp, Dynamic): 1357
That's about a 29% drop, and should be consistent, regardless of which modes you use. Last year we measured about a 32% drop. The difference is within the famous "margin of error" Epson's have typically dropped about 30% when switching to eco mode.
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Pre-Calibration Color temp:
30 IRE – 7164
50 IRE – 7170
80 IRE – 7172
100 IRE – 7012
Home Cinema 5020, Post Calibration, Best Mode User 1 (based on THX)
Calibrated color temps, 20 – 100 IRE:
20 IRE = 6719
30 IRE = 6515
40 IRE = 6474
50 IRE = 6539
60 IRE = 6503
70 IRE = 6509
80 IRE = 6564
90 IRE = 6528
100 IRE = 6517
That's a pretty tight range of color temp, post calibration. We've seen projectors that calibrate even tighter, but not often, or significantly (last year, the 5010 was a even tighter). Of course, Mike could invest more time, and narrow the range further, but the picture works for me!
Below, photos showing the differences between modes. These are taken at the same exposure, to give you an idea of relative brightness. It also gives you a good idea about color, though it's a touch tougher to fully appreciate since the less bright modes are a bit underexposed, and the brighter modes overexposed due to the exposure. Let's look at how the different modes handle some skin tones:
Dynamic above is suffering from being way overexposed. Still, if you try to forget that, you can note that our Victoria Secret model picks up a yellowish caste due to increased greens, etc.
Epson Home Cinema 5020 3D Brightness
The Epson HC5020 UB, by Mike's measurements, is the brightest projector yet, in a 3D mode. Altough we don't have a measurement system to determine brightness back to the eye (factoring glasses, etc.) and we have no 3D test disk, we have a work around. Problem is, glasses, black frames, overlap, affect brightness. The end result is subjective analysis, not measurements. I do, however have the advantage of comparing different 3D capable projectors side by side. I had the opportunity to view this HC5020 compared to the Sony HW50ES, the Panasonic PT-AE8000 and the older 5010. The Home Cinema 5020 appeared brighter than all the others.
Most surprising was the brightness differences with the projectors at their brightest. Consider the Epson vs. Panasonic. When viewing both, I used a middle setting for the "glasses" control. Doing so, the Epson was visibly brighter than the Panasonic, the Sony (expected, it's not nearly as bright as the Epson when they are both in 2D), and even the older 5010 (by noticeably more difference than the brightness difference in 2D would suggest).
It is always a challenge to get the brightness to match up for our side by side images.
Although not by a great deal, this Epson is the brightest home theater projector we've seen, when comparing brightest 3D modes.
Epson Home Cinema 5020 Sharpness
Same old, same old! Optics are not a problem. Epson's been using the same Fujinon lens for 5 generations. Pretty good center to edge sharpness with just a touch of softness at the edges if you focus on the center. It's usually best to focus your projector 25% to 1/3 out from the center.
There is an auto alignment system which I used. I also did a manual alignment working with a grid. I loathe adjusting such things, it can take a long - boring - time. In reality, though, I only adjusted at 6 or 7 points, which went pretty quickly - 5 minutres or so, once I was ready to start. My end result was better than Auto. It's easy, you just have to be motivated!
Epson makes no claims about "4K" resolution. No gimmicks. This is a 2K projector, plain and simple (like every other home theater projector currently (10/12) under $24K). Epson offers their Super-Resolution detail enhancement which works very nicely in giving you a crisper looking image than without, but with any dynamic control, the more you push it, the more likely you see side-effects. Only the Sony HW50ES so far (not even Sony's slightly older VW95ES) has a detail enhancement control that is noticeably better.
Top left: Epson Home Cinema 5020, Top Center - Sharp XV-Z30000, Top Right: PT-AE8000
2nd row left: Sony VPL-HW50ES, center: Optoma HD8300, Right: JVC DLA-RS45
Epson Home Cinema 5020: Bottom Line Sharpness
Very nice. True, not as purely sharp as a well designed single chip DLP projector, but for most, more than fine enough/close enough. Detail enhancement can put make for a noticeable difference.
I'm a big sports fan, and it's with pure digital content (rather than analog/digital - such as film-based movies), that you are best able to appreciate slight sharpness differences. Keep in mind though, that cable and satellite compress their signals quite a bit, which has a far greater impact on picture quality/sharpness than the differences between most projectors.
Once again, Epson is excellent, identical to the previous model. I don't think this Epson leaks any visible light out its front vents. Any stray light from the optical path, through the lens seems to be well below visibility (I'm not talking about blooming which all lenses do.)
The Epson has no particular image noise issues. I viewed the same disasterous panning scene from the beginning of the movie RED, that I have with others. That scene is a real torture test (a slow 360 pan of a suburban neighborhood). Nothing looks great, but the Epson was good enough to be definitely visibly better than the more expensive Sony VPL-HW50ES projector. Basic image noise with default settings is typical of non-DLP projectors DLP's always seem to have more background noise.
Once again, like the 5010 before it, the Home Cinema 5020 projectors are a bit on the noisy side when it comes to full power. Epson claims 32 db, not a number to be particularly proud about, but, it doesn't seem to be that much of an issue, as the pitch is farily low, no whining. In the past some people have reported a low rumbly sound from the dynamic iris. In communicating with a few people who had previously reported that soft low rumbling, I had suggested that in some cases the noise is magnified if there's a sympathetic vibration from the ceiling mount, or if on a table, the table. We all know if you take a boom box that's playing in your hands, and you put it on a table, the bass will be magnified. Same idea. A few reported that putting in some spacers with a touch of foam or a piece of cardboard between projector and mount, or projector and table top, reduced the rumbling sound. (Works at my place too.)
The HC5020 projector's overall audible noise level is pretty much just below most of the DLP projectors, and noisier than most other LCD based projectors and LCoS projectors. I sit in my captain's chair about 3 feet from ear to projector, not a problem for me, but I know a few folks really don't like any audible noise. (The Epson HC5020 is definitely quieter than my Sony PS3's fan.)
If you are one of the few who is especially audible noise adverse, note that the Epson claims 22db, which in reality, is very quiet. I don't think anyone will have an issue with Eco-mode.