Epson Home Cinema 8350 Projector - Image Quality
These Home Cinema 8350 scene images below are either Blu-ray or HDTV. Consider that by the time these Epson Home Cinema 8350 projector images get to your eyeball, via digital SLR, software, browsers, and your monitor, there are definite color shifts, saturation differences, contrast differences... The Home Cinema 8350 images are here to support the commentary, but keep in mind these limitations when trying to compare images from the Home Cinema 8350 projector with other home theater projectors. Take them all, "with a grain of salt". Those images relating to black level performance and sharpness, however, are pretty reliable, color accuracy, getting to you (and dynamic range) are the tough issues.
Different projector technologies noticeably affect the pictures I shoot. I must say I'm not particularly pleased with this set, which is a bit dark in general and the color temp appears too cool - thin on reds (and also yellows) not sure exactly why this batch was off this much. Still, they don't look bad. I will reshoot some when a full production version of the Home Cinema 8350 arrives.
I think it's safe to for me to say that all home theater projectors, including the Epson Home Cinema 8350 definitely look better live, than in even the best looking images here would suggest. (If you have a decent screen, and good lighting control.)
10/5/2010 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 8350 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Very nice. The Epson Home Cinema 8350 is impressively good out of the box. Color temp (grayscale balance) is very close to 6500K. Not bad at all, in fact better than most projectors out of the box performance. What really surprised me though was Dynamic mode, which also defaults to 6500K. I'm pretty sure this is the best looking default Dynamic (or Vivid) mode Epson has produced. Living Room mode was a puzzle, with a default 9300 color temp, it's definitely off the mark, but not as devoid of red as I expected, so I imagine the individual colors have been tweaked for that setting.
Sports, unlike previous out of the box dynamic modes, doesn't suffer from a very significant shift to green. Green has always been a bit strong on most LCD projectors (at default) but it's pretty minor in this Dynamic mode. That is, you get some 1400+ usable lumens that look pretty good on sports and other HDTV. A little over the top at times, but, hey, what "brightest mode" isn't? Besides, a touch less color saturation will usually do the trick. The skin tones could be better, but those HD channels like Discovery HD, look really bright, and dynamic. Good stuff.
Epson Home Cinema 8350 Projector - Flesh Tones
There are plenty of our favorite skin tone images, and as you look through them, you'll have to admit they look pretty good, but, again, I note that the images came out looking a bit thinner on reds than the original projected image.
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:
From the DVE-HD calibration disc (digital source material, not film):
Men In Black:
Epson Home Cinema 8350 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
I must confess to be a little disappointed with the black level performance of this Epson. Please understand, that's not really a criticism of the Epson, but perhaps more about their contrast claims. As most of you know, once upon a time, contrast ratio gave a good indication of black level capabilities of a projector. Then, however, along came dynamic irises, and other "dynamic" features, including dynamic contrast, and so others.
Epson claims 50,000:1. Now, JVC projectors notwithstanding, that's a number not seen in projectors, unless they have a dynamic iris to enhance blacks on darker scenes.
The thing is, Epson was the first company to really offer superb black level performance in a consumer home theater projector, with the intro of their first UB (ultra black) projector, the Home Cinema 1080 UB, a few years back. Within the year, though JVC introduced over $5000 projectors that were better than the Epson, and they did it naturally, without a dynamic iris (which is a bit of a cheat, and has trade-offs).
That first Epson, had a 50,000:1 contrast ratio, if I recall correctly. I had expected the black level performance of this non-"UB" Epson, to rival that old 1080 UB. No such luck. The blacks are improved over the older Epson 8100, but still a good bit short of the UB.
What we end up with, therefore, is a projector with very, very good overall black level performance for under $1500, but a projector still just a bit shy of being a "cut above" - what I call - ultra high contrast projectors. This Epson has the spec, but can't quite deliver the performance to make that cut.
What is all this fuss about black levels?
It really comes down to scenes that are fairly dark. Let's consider two projectors, overall similar, but with different black level performance; this Epson 8350, and its more expensive sibling, the 8700UB.
Both should have a very similar look and feel to the colors and overall image, once calibrated. The 8700UB, however, is capable of blacker blacks that the 8350 just can't match. The 8350 blacks, by comparison will be a shade or two lighter gray. Not a whole lot, but enough to be noticeable.
On an average scene, perhaps a daytime, no sunlight shot, if there is supposed to be a true black area in the image, perhaps parts of a black car, in the shade, the 8350 will do a very good job. The 8700's black car will be a touch blacker, but you probably wouldn't notice unless seen side by side. In other words, the difference would be very slight.
Now switch to a very dark scene, such as the night train scene I use below for shadow detail comparison. All of a sudden the difference between the two projectors is pretty dramatic. The lower black levels of the 8700UB would make its image pop, and the 8100's seem dull by comparison. That's the story. The darker the scene, the more the blacks matter. Thing is, most movies have some fairly dark scenes, and even a significant percentage have some really dark scenes. Now don't forget that if you've got a 15 watt light on in the room, the difference would once again be insignificant. Therefore, the black level performance matters when watching dark scenes, in as fully darkened a room as you can manage. Let me also mention: Even if you have white walls (not a good thing) the difference in the projectors would still be there, although not quite as great a difference as with dark walls/floors/ceiling.
Still, how important is it? Well, if you are the person who wants a nice big image, but never bothered to adjust your LCDTV (probably still using the "demo/showroom" or vivid setting), I doubt you'll notice. But, if you get hooked on image quality (become an enthusiast), you'll crave a bit better blacks.
I'm a big proponent of projectors with better blacks. This Home Cinema 8100 isn't going to compete with the better, more expensive models, but it does a most respectable job for the price. With its iris it should - on darker scenes - be capable of holding its own with any other projector I've seen so far, in its price range.
Below, a satellite image from Space Cowboys. These are intentially overexposed to so that the differences in blacks (and shadow detail) are more visible. As you can see, the Epson and the Mitsubishi are particularly close (you have to compensate for the slight exposure differences). The HC4000 is a bit more overexposed, and the BenQ still more.
Epson Home Cinema 8350:
Epson Home Cinema 8100
Next, is the starship image from The Fifth Element. Again, we start of with a close to normal exposure, and one overexposed. That's followed by the same frame on a number of additional projectors. This time it's the Epson that's a bit more overexposed than most of the others.
Sony VPL-HW15 (LCoS projector under $3K)
Vivitek H1080FD ($899)
Consider two additional (digital) images which are good ones for observing black levels.
Next are some side by side comparison images. Since I've been talking about ultra high contrast projectors, we'll start with the 8350 going against last year's Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB (essentially the same as the Home Cinema 8500UB). The 8350 is on the left - sorry, this first pair could have been more overexposed so you could see the different black levels:
Home Cinema 8350 (left) vs. Panasonic PT-AE4000
Home Cinema 8350 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z4000
Here are a couple of other side by side shots I did with the Panasonic:
Shadow Detail Performance
Our main 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 8350, followed by the Mitsubishi HC4000, the BenQ W6000, then Sony VPL-HW15, the Sharp XV-Z15000.
I was very impressed with the shadow detail. I've never considered dark shadow detail a strength of the Epson projectors. As a result, I was most pleasantly surprised. The Home Cinema 8350 does reveal about as much detail as anything else out there.
Bottom line: The Epson reveals lots of the darkest shadow detail, more than I've seen in the past from Epson. I should note that the the UB's, to date, haven't done this well, so I'll be interested to see how the 8700UB does when it arrives for review. Be careful in the low range if you are customizing gammas, or you could lose some detail.
Epson Home Cinema 8350 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
OK time to wrap this long image section up (except for HDTV and sports).
Picture quality is very good. The color on this Home Cinema 8350 looks just great. Mike did a great job of calibrating it, but, the bottom line is that it almost always looks good. The Epson isn't quite as forgiving of poor quality content as some others, but I'm not talking great differences. On HDTV and Blu-ray, it impresses. Skin tones are really pretty good too, with red-magenta seeming to be a tad overdriven.
Here's the "crew" image from Space Cowboys - first one is the Home Cinema 8350, then, the Mitsubishi HC4000, followed by the more expensive BenQ W6000:
A mix of additional images to show off the Epson Home Cinema 8350:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
The two images below shows the difference in colors between the older 601 standard and the HDTV 709. (Don't expect the color to be correct viewed on your monitor, but you get an idea of the difference.)
Epson Home Cinema 8350 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
I really like this Epson for sports viewing. The picture is bright (Dynamic mode), colors are vivid, and, overall, the projector has a lot of wow factor! I also like that this year, the projector ends up with pretty good color even in its most pushed mode - Dynamic. It's got a definite improvement in color from last year's. The strong green seems pretty tame this year.
Epson Home Cinema 8350 Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports
Few projectors anywhere near the price of this Epson can muster up more lumens. One of the lower cost DLP projectors can dig up more lumens, but that one uses a 2x color wheel, which means everyone who's at all rainbow sensitive would see rainbows on that projector. If there are others brighter, near the price, then we're quibbling over a few lumens. I'm not talking about crossover business projectors that aren't designed for "theater".
What really matters though, is that the Epson's overall color and picture look great especially for the price, when you want lots of lumens. I'm talking about when a dynamic looking image up on your screen is more important than flawless reproduction of every nuance. If you want a system that looks downright bright on a medium sized screen, when your lighting is well controlled but not dim, that's pretty much exactly what this Epson is capable of. It performed "brilliantly" filling most of my 128" screen. With the lights off in my testing room, on a 1.4 gain Carada Brilliant White screen, it's almost blinding at times (well, maybe that's an exaggeration), when in dynamic mode. No matter how you slice it, the Epson works for me as a great (and low cost) projector for sports and HDTV in general.
For sports, I still wish it would have CFI for smoother motion. Alas, that's not a feature showing up yet on the around $1000 projectors.