Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Projector - Image Quality
These Home Cinema 8700UB home theater projector images below are all taken using Blu-ray or HDTV sources. By the time these Epson Home Cinema 8700UB projector images get to your eyeball, via digital SLR, software, browsers, and your monitor, there are definite color shifts, saturation differences, contrast differences... We attempt to have the images as close as possible to what was on the projector screen, but even then, I'm trying to match on the display of a MacBook Pro. Your setup will likely look different. The Home Cinema 8700UB images are here to support the commentary, but keep in mind these limitations when trying to compare images from the Home Cinema 8700UB projector with other home theater projectors. Take them "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.
All these images, unless otherwise noted were taken using the pre-production 8700UB I received first. Due to slightly lower than expected measured brightness, we asked for, and just received a full production version. That said, we will only use that one for brightness measurements, we won't has the second one fully calibrated.
Let me say that all home theater projectors, including the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, definitely look better live, than in even the best looking images here would suggest. (If you have a decent screen, and good lighting control.)
11/1/2010 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Out of the Box Picture Quality
Wow! I am impressed. Of the projectors I've reviewed, in recent years, perhaps the only projectors that have looked as good as this Epson - right out of the box, without any calibration or adjustment, have been the JVC models that have also have a THX mode.
Now those JVC's aren't much brighter, in "brightest mode" and are also very good at that. With the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, there's a huge difference in brightness, and the Epson color filter is moved out of the way (thus the more than doubling of brightness). Even so, this Epson is sporting the best looking Dynamic mode I've seen from Epson, and other than reducing color saturation (if you aren't fighting a lot of ambient light), it looks great for a bright mode.
The THX mode is gorgeous! No adjustments necessary to fully enjoy a good picture. After Mike's calibration it's a little better still, but hey, if you aren't an enthusiast, and just want something that looks great (though perhaps not as perfect, but great), the THX mode is all you need. Just adjust your brightness and contrast settings slightly so as not to crush whites or blacks, and you are all set. If you are more of a perfectionist, calibrate the CMS - the individual primary and secondary colors. Unlike previous UB projectors from Epson, this one allows you to adjust the CMS - in THX mode! Thank you. (BTW, JVC was allowing that ability last year, but first time for Epson).
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Projector - Flesh Tones
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. All look pretty good!
More images we like for considering skin tones:
From the DVE-HD calibration disc (digital source material, not film):
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Black Levels & Shadow Detail
The Home Cinema 8700UB replaces the projector with the best black levels of any projector under $3500 (actually higher). Not surprisingly, the 8700UB also has superb black level performance for the price. In fact, unmatched by any other projector around its price, except for the older Epson, and the Pro Cinema 9700UB version. While a few others in the price range can come fairly close, the Epson still has a distinct advantage (some of those that are close, include the Panasonic PT-AE4000, Mitsubishi HC7000, and not even that close, the Sanyo PLV-Z4000, although it too is good enough at blacks to be considered an "ultra high contrast" projector). While I could detect no improvement over last year's 8500UB, the Epson remains solidly ahead of everything else that's direct competition.
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; the recently reviewed Home Cinema 8350, and this Home Cinema 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's blacks, by comparison will be a shade or two lighter gray. Not a whole lot, but enough to be very noticeable in a side by side, as the images I will post shortly, will demonstrate..
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 lower cost 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 quite dramatic. The lower black levels of the 8700UB would make its image "pop", and the 8350's image will seem rather dull by comparison. That's the story - short version.
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, it would throw enough ambient light, that the difference between projectors would be insignificant, yet still there.
The black level performance matters most 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 8700UB offers extraordinary black level performance, especially considering the price. If I think of all the existing and newly announced home theater projectors under $3500 (our normal cut-off for mid-priced projectors), only one projector looks to be able to give the Epson a run for the money, and possibly outperform it, and that's the new JVC HD250 projector at $2999. We shall see, when one arrives for review. We'll review that JVC soon enough (as soon as they have one for us), but, At almost $1000 more, its competition for the newly announced Epson R series - including the $3099 Home Cinema 21000, which we'll review late November. That Epson claims even better blacks than the 8700UB - can't wait to land one in my theater.
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 8700UB - offers great black level performance, better than all but a few projectors selling for 3 times the price.
BenQ W6000 (DLP) - a direct competitor:
Next, is the starship image from The Fifth Element, intentionally overexposed. That's followed by the same frame - overexposed - on a number of additional projectors. When looking at those, note the level of brightness of the background space, and the letterbox area. If two projectors' images have their background space and letter box at the same brightness, then the image of the starship that is the most overexposed is obviously, the one with the better blacks! Not so obvious? OK, consider, if two starships were identical in exposure, and one had obviously blacker space, etc., then, if we lightened up that one, until its space was the same as projector #2's then its starship would be more overexposed.
I hope that made sense! For example, below compared the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB projector to the Mitsubishi HC4000. The backgrounds are pretty similar, but the HC4000's starship is less overexposed. If we darkened the 8700UB image until the starships were equally exposed, then the space background of the 8700UB would be blacker. Thus - "blacker blacks!"
Sony VPL-HW15 (LCoS projector under $3K):
Consider two additional (digital) images which are good ones for observing black levels.
Below, the same scene a couple seconds a part. As the shuttle enters the image, it's bright, it causes the dynamic iris to open a bit more, so the background space gets a little lighter in the second image. Look at the difference in the pause bars - more overexposed in the lower image. Because of the increased bright areas, the Epson's more open iris makes all the brightest objects brighter, but the blacks increase equally. (That's the drawback to a dynamic iris, it can't lower blacks while maintaining maximum white on other parts of a frame).
Home Cinema 8700UB (right) vs. Epson 8500UB/Pro Cinema 9500UB:
Shadow Detail Performance
I really am not sure what Epson's been up to, in terms of handling dark shadow detail.
Those of you who are regular visitors and serious enthusiasts, who have read lots of reviews, almost certainly are aware that for years, while I've been praising the Epson UB projectors great black level performance. That said, almost in the same sentence, I've mentioned that those same Epsons have not been quite as good as the competition when it comes to shadow details. I've always felt the Epson's crush just a little of the darkest detail.
That's not the case with the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, and therefore also the Pro Cinema 9700UB. The dark shadow detail performance is excellent. I have to admit I was truly surprised. After years of light criticism, I've got nothing to complain about with the latest UB projectors.
I say light criticism, because, personally, I believe that superior black levels and less than great dark shadow detail, makes for far better viewing that great dark shadow detail, and merely average to good black level performance.
This Epson's got both nailed!
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 8700UB, followed by the Home Cinema 8350, the Mitsubishi HC4000, the BenQ W6000, then Sony VPL-HW15, the Sharp XV-Z15000.
I am impressed with the shadow detail. As I've never considered dark shadow detail a strength of the Epson projectors, it truly is a pleasant surprise, in that here's a manufacturer who seems to successfully have corrected one of it's minor performance issues. . The Home Cinema 8700UB does reveal as much detail as anything else out there, that I get to work with.
Bottom line: The Home Cinema 8700UB is, for its modest price, excellent at both black level performance, and, now, we're pleased to say, also dark shadow detail. At black level performance, it has no equal near its price. It does rely on a dynamic iris for those superior blacks, but then, so does all the serious competition, except for the more expensive JVC projector.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB - Overall Color & Picture Quality
OK time to wrap this long image section up (except for HDTV and sports).
The Home Cinema 8700UB - and, therefore, we can also conclude, the Pro Cinema 9700UB - while seemingly just updated versions of last years projectors, have made some serious advances:
Color handling has improved. On the bright side, although the Dynamic mode doesn't measure quite as bright as last year's the overall color (unadjusted) of the Dynamic mode is much improved. There's less green dominance, almost to the point of not noticeable at all (yellows still come through a touch strong). As a result, this year the Dynamic mode, is downright watchable. With some minor adjustments as recommended by Mike, our "quick-cal" of Dynamic costs only about 8-9% of brightness and makes for even better color. I've actually watched content with too much light in the room, in Dynamic mode, instead of THX, and been surprised and pleased by the picture.
As noted above, dark shadow detail has also improved.
Finally, THX starts out as the best mode, and, thanks to Epson and THX allowing access to the color management system, fine tuning the projector based on the starting THX mode makes for the most natural color and skin tones yet, from an Epson projector. I definitely believe that the color (after Mike's calibration of THX as "best" mode), is a touch more natural than previous models. Mike has always had a bit of difficulty in getting the slightly overdriven greens in line with the rest, on previous Epson UB projector calibrations, but not so this time. For the first time ever, I'm not going to describe Epson's skin tone performance as being a little less natural than some other projectors. I do believe this UB, is ready to take on a couple of DLP's and LCoS projectors in terms of a natural looking image.
Apparently a few small changes, done right, can take what seems to be a minor update, and turn it into a really improved projector. NO, those of you with 6500UB's and 8500UB's, you don't need to replace your projectors. This is a small improvement, but one that will really appeal to those most enthusiastic about their home theaters.
Above, Pippen, from Lord of the Rings
Here's the "crew" image from Space Cowboys - first one is the Home Cinema 8700UB, then, the Mitsubishi HC4000, followed by the BenQ W6000.
A mix of additional images to show off the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, but don't forget, HDTV and Sports section is below:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
While this year's Home Cinema 8700UB measures a little less in its Dynamic mode, the loss of less than 100 lumens, is minor. What's improved is the color. The 8700UB looks better doing sports as the greens are less overdriven than previous models (most LCD projectors overdrive green naturally), but most manufacturers set up their brighest modes with too much green as a way of getting more measured lumens. Don't get me wrong, Dynamic isn't perfect, by any means, but for most folk, it looks just great.
Because of the stronger green push of its Dynamic mode, last year, we did our quick-cal using Livingroom mode, and ended up with 1168 lumens, so we actually end up with 26 more lumens this year (our quick cal of Dynamic works out to 1194 lumens). True, last year Dynamic mode could pump out 1309 lumens, but rest assured, you'll like this color - you'll like your sports and HD digital content a lot better with the 8700UB only down about 8% of brightness.
I have Monday Night Football on, as I write this. The Colts blue uniforms look great, the field looks great, even the fans look great. (The announcers - not so much, but then they're mostly really old. As a hard core football (college and pro) fanatic, I'm happy! (Not so happy, though, that I got destroyed in Fantasy Football this week.)
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports
You can never have too many lumens for watching sports with some lights on, and from that standpoint, sure, this Epson would be a better sports projector and family room projector, if it had twice the brightness. Well, folks, it doesn't, but then, neither does any projector I've ever reviewed under $10,000. Only a couple of InFocuses could come close (to double this Epson), and only when they were positioned for maximimum lumens. When I look at all the home theater projectors, it still seems that 1000 lumens is about average in "brightest mode", with most LCoS projectors limited to 600 - 900 lumens maximum, with DLP's often having over 500 best mode lumens, but very few as bright or brighter than this Epson in brightest mode (except for some of the entry level DLP projectors which are more "crossover" projectors, than true performance home theater projectors).
Yes, you can find a few more lumens, near the price. The BenQ W6000 comes to mind. It has a lot more lumens, but, the color is dominated by greens in its brightest mode. Knock down the mode so that the BenQ has pretty good color, and it's no brighter than the 8700UB.
With the improved color handling of the brightest modes, the Epson is now a much better projector for high quality HDTV content (and other digital content as well). I'll be moving this week to the new house/facility. If I get my rooms set up in time, and hook up the Home Cinema 8700UB for this weekend's football, then, I'll make one prediction: As I watch my fantasy football players, Randy Moss'es uniform will almost certainly look great, and that's without knowing which team will pick him up between now (Vikings just released him), and Sunday!
The Epson has done a great job filling all 128 inches diagonal of my screen, this weekend, with plenty of different lighting scenarios. Put this projector on a positive gain (say 1.4) 100 inch screen, and it's going to start looking almost LCDTV bright for your sports...
Here are a series of images to show relative brightness in different modes, and different ambient light situations. Using the same image as above, below are Dynamic, Livingroom, and THX modes, using the same exposure, so it shows you relative brightness differences.
For these pictures the room lighting was low - one of the shades only open about a foot, (as seen to the right) letting sunlight in,, plus shutters to the right of the screen partially open, plus the usual leakage around each of the shades. In reality the room isn't that dark. I could sit in my chair there, and read a newspaper, though more light would be better (for the screen image to not be blown out, the correct exposure makes the room much darker than it is.:
Home Cinema 8700UB Dynamic Mode:
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Living Room mode:
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB THX mode (best movie mode):
Let's throw most of the "kitchen sink" at the Epson, by opening up more windows to let more sunlight in.
Opening one door shade most of the way, and the other partially, lets in a lot of light, with sunlight running across the medium light carpeting:
The Epson's image (filling the full 128" inch diagonal), is significantly washed out (below) by all that ambient light. Oh, it's still watchable - but only if you have no better choices. Closing the more opened shade to to be open as much as the one next to it, though, provides a more than sufficiently good looking image. Her'es the image with the windows as shown above:
That's a pretty impressive drop in brightness from the two bright modes to "best" movie mode. (It's more of a drop than most projectors, because Epson places an color filter into the lightpath in best mode, for better color, but less lumens.
I should advise you that the Epson has three modes of creative frame interpolation, for motion smoothing. I always use the low setting for sports. It's fine, and works! I don't play with the higher settings. I'll leave that to you. Start with the #1 setting. Try 2 and 3. If you like the additional affects, go for it.
I have been very pleased with the Epson for both sports and high quality digital content. All together, I've now spent about 40 hours with the Epson, and it has been most satisfying!