Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector - Image Quality
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..
10/04/2009 - Art Feierman
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!
More images we like for considering skin tones:
Three from Aeon Flux:
From The Dark Knight:
Men In Black:
and finally one from Quantum of Solace (Bond):
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:
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
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:
And below is the Panasonic PT-AE3000:
Next is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB:
Finally, here's the new BenQ W6000, which is costs almost twice as much.
Consider this additional image from The Dark Knight which is a really good image for observing black levels and dark shadow detail.
The image immediately below is from The Dark Knight. I've intentionally overexposed it to make a point. This is the type of scene where the difference in black level performance makes a huge difference. Because the outside areas of the scene, and for that matter the men's jackets are pretty black, with little detail at all, projectors with just "good" black levels look very flat. Below the Home Cinema 8100 silhouette image, is the same scene using the BenQ W6000, and then, the Sony VPL-VW15, both of which are definitely "step up" competitors, yet the Epson hangs in pretty well, seeming to be at least as dynamic looking as the others.
The Epson Home Cinema 8100 relies on a dynamic iris to achieve deep blacks on dark scenes. As is normal for a dynamic iris, it can't be allowed to close down if large areas of a scene are bright, but will close down somewhat, or even a lot, when there is only a small amount of very bright, or a larger quantity of medium bright areas. The end result is some compression of the image. So that you see how this Epson handles all that (and other projectors with dynamic irises), consider these two images.
On the pair of images below (Home Cinema 8100), taken several frames apart, you can see that the black levels (and bright areas) are different. That is precisely unlike the pair of images below it from the Mitsubishi HC3800, which has no iris, and the background remains constant.
With the BenQ, you can see how the background lightens when the credits are up. This type of visible shifting of the image due to iris action is not an issue with the Home Cinema 8100. The trade-off - the Home Cinema 8100 doesn't quite match the black level performance of most projectors with a dynamic iris. Before you ask, yes the second pair (W6000) are more overexposed, which was done to make it easier to see the difference between the blacks with and without credits on the projector with the dynamic iris. BTW, do not use these images to equate the black levels of the two projectors, the frames taken with the Home Cinema 8100 were done without signficant overexposure, unlike the W6000 images. Look closely and you can see the background on the Epson image with the Leonard Nimoy credit, is slightly lighter than the plain star image below it.
Same, Mitsubishi HC3800:
Same (but seriously overexposed) of the BenQ W6000:
Shadow Detail Performance
Dark shadow detail of the Epson Home Cinema projectors has never been stellar. I'm not sure why, but the Epsons always seem to have a touch less dark shadow detail than most of the competition. In the quest for better blacks (a normal Epson tendency) compared to having better shadow detail, I favor the blacker blacks, so I don't really mind the slight loss. It may bother some, but quite honestly, the Epson 8100, on dark scenes, tends to have a good amount of "pop", which may be mostly due to the blacks. While more shadow detail would be better still, the Epson did very well on that silhouette image above, better than some other more expensive projectors with better shadow detail. Again, we're quibbling about very slight differences. Those of you just getting into projectors, don't let all this "critical" talk scare you off. These projectors all look great, but some folks really want to know all the subtle differences.
One more time with the Epson vs. the Mitsubishi HC3800, on this dark scene from The Dark Knight. Look to the buildings behind and to the left of the blue skyscraper. You can see more buildings, and detail with the HC3800 on the right. Would you notice, however when casually watching the movie, or would you be watching Batman there on the ledge?
The next set of comparison images, uses a very dark scene with Clint Eastwood from Space Cowboys on Blu-ray disc. The photos are intentionally way overexposed. Look for the blacks in the shades, and the details in those shades in the form of the white trim. (At this level of overexposure, don't even worry about the skin tones, as in these type of photos they always look terrible, and way oversaturated/too high contrast).
First image is the Home Cinema 8100, the Mitsubishi HC3800, then the BenQ W6000 followed by the VPL-HW15. After those, are: Sharp XV-Z15000, Optoma HD8200, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and the Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
The Epson image has good contrast and plenty of detail in the blinds and window.
Next one of our satellite images from Space Cowboys, look in the dark interior brown area near the left, and other dark areas on the satellite. Epson Home Cinema 8100:
Epson Home Cinema 8100 overexposed:
Below: Mitsubishi HC3800 overexposed:
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 Home Cinema 8100 doesn't reveal as much detail as the others, but it's close.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Epson 8100, Sony VPL-HW15 in the center, and the right for the Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
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, followed by the Mitsubishi HC3800, BenQ W6000, then the Sony VPL-HW15, followed by the Sharp XV-Z15000, fifth is the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and the last one is from the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
In the image below, the Epson doesn't show quite as much dark detail (as most of the other projectors shown) in the shrubs and trees on the right, behind the railroad tracks.
(Please note, the Panasonic image above is a little blurry, must have bumped the tripod. Sorry! That shouldn't affect your ability to see the shadow details. -art)
Epson Home Cinema 8100 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Generally, the Home Cinema 8100 looks really good. It really has not a single significant weakness, at least not compared to other, similarly priced projectors. Color and skin tones really are extremely good, better than all the images in this review would suggest. Black levels are really very respectable for lower cost, non "ultra-high contrast" projectors. Shadow detail is good, though not great. The Epson image might be described as being dynamic looking - has that "pop and wow" factor I have attributed to other Epsons and some other projectors in the past. The Epson 8100 is not a purist's projector, but a good overall projector in terms of picture, that will please most regular folks, and enthusiasts.
Here's the "crew" image from Space Cowboys - first one is the Home Cinema 8100, followed by the Mitsubishi, and the BenQ W6000.
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector: HDTV and Sports
I love this Epson for my HDTV sports viewing. It's bright, it's reasonably sharp, and the picture pops. My college and pro football games last weekend all impressed me and my friends. I primarily watched in our calibrated Dynamic mode, which is putting out about 1300 lumens on this pre-production projector. That's a good four hundred more than my JVC projector in the same room, and, wow, watching on the Epson was far better, with the modest ambient light in the room.
Simply stated, for HDTV sports, this projector is going to be really tough to beat, especially since it's about the brightest around.
Consider the images:
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports
With Dynamic nicely calibrated, and the gamma a little lower than I would use for movies (2.1 on the Epson for sports), the image looked bright, and well balanced. Black levels and shadow detail are not really a factor for this type of viewing, so the 8100 essentially should do about as well as the more expensive and soon to be reviewed, Home Cinema 8500UB.
I should note, though, on some HDTV content that's dark, including a number of music videos, one could appreciate better black levels, but few will really care.
All in all, the Epson Home Cinema 8100 proves to be a really, really, good projector for the bucks when it comes to HDTV viewing!
Also, keep in mind, that those of us heavy into sports viewing (or for that matter TV), put a lot more hours on our projectors (and the lamps) than movie only folks. Epson's 4000 hour lamp (at full power), further makes this a great HDTV viewing solution, even if that's not an image quality issue.