Epson Home Cinema 705HD - Image Quality
1/22/2010 - Art Feierman
Home Cinema 705HD Picture Quality - Out of the Box
The Epson Home Cinema 705HD performs rather well, right out of the box. Skin tones are actually very good for a low priced projector. Skin tones are very reasonable in Theatre mode - this Epson's best image mode. Moving to Livingroom and Dynamic, skin tones take a slight hit in Livingroom mode, but still, very watchable. I actually had a bunch of friends watch the first twenty minutes of the Golden Globes, on the 705HD, before switching to my JVC. Mostly teenagers, and one set of parents. Most didn't notice the change from Epson to JVC, actually, although some time after the switch, one of the more clever ones asked me something like this. "This projector isn't as bright as the other one, is it?" (Ahh, rocket scientist!). Actually you would think a bunch of people who are more interested in the dresses the women are wearing on the Red Carpet, than who won which award, would notice the subtle difference between the Epson 705HD, and last year's "best projector under $10,000". It just goes to demonstrate that while there are hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts, most people are still "turn it on and watch it" folks, who have never adjusted any TV set they've ever owned, except to turn it on, and change the channels.
The Epson does have individual color calibration ability, but relies on its selection of pre-defined color temp settings for grayscale balance. As such we did not calibrate the individual colors, and therefore continued to work with out of the box performance.
In this case, the pictures tell the story! Not bad, not bad at all!
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.
Moving to Blu-ray source material:
First, for your consideration, here, we have 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 fluorescent lighting, and the last of the three, is filtered sunlight (shade). These images are here to demonstrate that there really is no single correct skin tone, that lighting plays a key role, in what a skin tone will and should look like:
A few additional images for your consideration:
From The Dark Knight on Blu-ray disc:
Here are two, from The Fifth Element:
This next two images are from the DVE-HD calibration disc, from their demonstration materials section:
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 705HD Black Levels & Shadow Detail
The 3000:1 contrast ratio, is a pretty low number, these days, although still substantially better than the 2000:1 ratio of last year's Home Cinema 700. Black levels are just acceptable for an entry level projector.
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, until the point where everything is sufficiently washed out that no one cares.
And that's why the Home Cinema 705HD is a home entertainment projector - not a home theater projector. It is expected to work in a world which isn't pitch black. And it's design compromises and trade-offs are in part based on that assumptions. Still, further improvement of black levels would have made for a better projector. On the other hand, that's why Epson sells 5 more expensive home theater projectors.
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, no point in "beating the point to death".
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:
You may notice a visible shift from a bluish black to a redish black background on the image above. This was the case with our review unit. It's more shift than I've seen in a while on a production unit. That said, the color shift you see is only slightly visible, if at all, during normal viewing. Still, this is not a good unit, in terms of background uniformity, and I've just asked for a second one to look at.
Next, is last year's Home Cinema 700, which isn't quite as good at blacks.
For comparison, here's the same image from the Optoma HD71:
And here's the Mitsubishi HC1600 another low cost (no longer available, I think) 720p DLP projector:
This next image is from the DVE-HD disc. Look at the blacks in the sky and the buildings in the upper left. Blacks are pretty good, but not exceptional:
Here's an image from Space Cowboys:
Again, the exposure is typical of what you will find in other reviews, but "space" isn't quite as black.
Immediately below is a shot from the DTS test disc. The first one is the Epson Home Cinema 705HD, and below it, the Panasonic PT-AX200U (sorry, slightly oversaturated). Look to the blacks in the slice of sky and around the picture:
Shadow Detail Performance
As is often typical of projectors that lack great black level performance, shadow detail is very good. With "blacks" elevated to dark gray, near blacks end up a touch lighter. That makes those details actually easier to spot than on a projector with much better blacks. The reason is that the near blacks may well be there, but are much, much darker than on the inferior projector. Darker equals harder to notice.
Regardless, the Epson Home Cinema 705HD does an excellent job on shadow detail.
Top left: Home Cinema 705HD, Middle: Panasonic PT-AX200U, Right: Optoma HD71
Next is this very dark scene from Space Cowboys. It is a good one for checking out both shadow detail and black level performance. All the images are seriously overexposed for that purpose. Don't worry about contrast or skin tones as they tend to get exaggerated on long time exposures on dark images like this one. Look at the shades in the back for shadow details. Consider, that some that have very good shadow detail do not seem to do particularly black, blacks.
Epson HC705HD projector, followed by the Epson HC720, PT-AX200U, Optoma HD71, Sanyo PLV-Z60 and Optoma HD65:
Note, the HC720 image above was taken about 2 years ago, with a different camera.
Let's take another look at shadow detail abilities, this time compared to one DLP and one more expensive 3LCD projector:
Above is the re-entry scene from space cowboys, the enlarged versions are intentionally overexposed. Left is the Home Cinema 705HD, center, the PT-AX200U, right is the Optoma HD65.
Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
When comparing, the Home Cinema 705HD to the competition, look at the detail in the roof (tiles), and in the assorted trees and plants. The images below are from the same projector and slightly overexposed. Click on the images and the larger versions showing the different projectors will appear. Those are far more overexposed, to allow a closer inspection of shadow details.
Epson Home Cinema 705HD projector:
Optoma HD65 projector:
InFocus X9 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 720:
Below is a heavily overexposed scene from Lord of the Rings. The overexposure lets you see all the details in the shed on the right, the structure on the left, and the plants and ground along the lower right. The blacks might not be very black, but there is plenty of detail. It's not uncommon for projectors with lesser black level performance to do particularly well on dark shadow detail, since the darkest shadow areas appear lighter, and therefore are easier to see. With a projector with exceptional black levels, the nearest non-blacks are still extremely dark, and more easily lost to sight, especially if there are bright areas nearby. Look to the details in the wood in the shed, and the free standing structure on the left.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Epson, second, the older Epson 700, then the InFocus X9, the fourth is the Sanyo PLV-Z60, and the last one is from the Optoma HD71. (Sorry, the 705HD image is a little darker than most)
Epson Home Cinema 705HD - Overall Color & Picture Quality
If you are not an enthusiast/hobbyist, and you just want a nice little projector that puts a pretty good image up on the screen (or white wall?), the HC705HD does fine. In fact it does very well overall, except in one area (blacks).
Another way to consider it is this way. It does just just fine on everything but dark scenes, and does lack a little punch on scenes with mostly bright areas but with some significant contrasty dark areas. Feed it brighter scenes, and it looks great for a low cost projector. That's especially true of sports viewing. This is a projector that could easily find itself in use in sports bars, as well as your family room. If you plan to do a lot of viewing, in a fully darkened room with dark walls, you should probably choose another projector, but this one's just dandy for the typical family room which is relatively bright, by comparison, with light walls and ceiling.
Color temp isn't quite as right on, as many other projectors, as the image is slightly cool - favoring blues over reds. Still, looks pretty good to me.
Here are a variety of images, most don't have critical dark areas, and look great.
The next images are from digital sources on Blu-ray (as opposed to film sources above):
Home Cinema 705HD Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
In other words, it's a great, inexpensive projector for sports viewing!
First three views of my room, with some shades open as much as I have tried before with any other home theater projectors, and it still did pretty well.
I slightly preferred Livingroom mode over Dynamic for most sports viewing, even though Dynamic was closer to 6500K. Green was a bit better in balance with red and blue, with Livingroom mode.
The image was bright and dynamic, lots of wow factor. Colors on hdtv sports were rich, even with more than a little ambient light.
Of course, as a 720p resolution projector, the image isn't as sharp as what you would get with a 1080p projector, but, hey, that's why the Home Cinema 705HD is an inexpensive projector. For twice the price, in the Epson lineup, you would get a 1080p projector, one that is bright, but still not a match for this one, but with a lot more features, and placement flexibility. For around $1000 or a little less, you can get an entry level 1080p projector, with some similar features, but not as bright.
So, yes, you can spend more, for more sharpness, but, you know what? I watched two full NFL playoff games on the Epson 705HD, and it worked out just dandy. All I had to do, to remind myself that it was sharp enough, was to turn on my JVC (with the shades open as I had them for the 705HD), and wince for a few seconds at the very sharp, but badly washed out JVC image, that comes from having less than half the lumens!
All the images below were taken with more window based ambient light in the room, than I would ever dare to have, if I was watching my far less bright JVC projector. Still they look pretty good, barely washed out at all.
For those not into all those performance details, the 705HD works. My neighbor, Mark, who just got himself a new LCDTV, and doesn't really have a suitable room for a theater, came by earlier today. I had to show him the 705HD. I put on a game, then also toggled the JVC on and off for him. He understands - thought the Epson was great, something easily set up, and nice and bright. And, he liked the built in speaker. Who knows he may yet buy a projector, one he can keep in the closet and break out for occasions...
Below, four consecutive images of the same coach. All were taken at the same exposure, to illustrate the brightness and color differences, as well as how they handle the same room ambient light, compared to each other. In order: Theatre, LivingRoom, Dynamic, and Game. Even Theatre mode, as you can see, is pretty bright:
You see, he does have one of those livingrooms that doesn't get used, unfortunately, his is two stories in height, and has lots, and lots of windows. The HD705 however, probably has enough horsepower to still do a decent job in his room, even with lots of light, as long as he keeps image size to, say, 100 or 110 inch diagonal.
I should note, that with lamp on full power, the Epson does get a little noisy, in fact it claims 34db, which is, well, a bit noisy! Actually, it's only 2-3 db louder than a number of DLP projectors, some costing many times the price. In low power lamp mode, the 705HD is slightly quieter than those same other projectors, except that the Epson is still going to be brighter than those even if it's in low power, and they are not. The maximum fan noise levels are nothing to worry about if you are watching sports, or a good sitcom. If you are demanding dead silence while viewing quiet night scenes where the only noise are some crickets chirping in the background, then yes, the Epson can be loud!
All the usual gorgeous HDTV content, such as Discovery HD, SyFiHD, Travel Channel HD, etc. look really good, but it was there I missed the 1080 resolution more than even sports. That of course from a projector junkie. For the folks this projector is targeted at, most will "ooo and ahhh" at those same Discovery HD images on the 705HD, as I do when I see them on a razor sharp 1080p DLP projector. In other words, the regular cineplex looks darn good, until you see the same flick in IMAX.
Enough! The bottom line: When it comes to HDTV and Sports this Epson light canon (who's primary competition in brightness is the more expensive Panasonic PT-AX200U), has the brightness, and a good looking image. The Home Cinema 705HD makes an excellent low cost, entry level projector for sports and your TV, HDTV.OK, with that understood, lets see how bright the Epson really is, and how it performs in other areas, as well.