Epson MovieMate 60 - Image Quality
12/22/2009 - Art Feierman
MovieMate 60 Picture Quality - Out of the Box
The MovieMate 60 performs well out of the box. Rather, it performs extremely well, as far as our expectations for a low cost all-in-one projector. This is a good thing, as the MovieMate doesn't really have a lot of ability to adjust color, beyond color saturation and tint.
The good news is that all the modes we worked with, from Theatre to Dynamic had pretty good color. Theatre did very well. LivingRoom and Dynamic both tended to be somewhat oversaturated, but that's an easy adjustment. It's not surprising for "brightest" modes like those to default to a bit too much saturation. The assumption is you are using those modes when some lighting is present, and that lighting would wash out the colors somewhat. Dial down the saturation, as needed.
One of the strengths of LCD technology is generally very good color. The Epson offers up that good color, resulting in very good skin tones. Gandalf, and Arwen, below, from Lord of the Rings exhibit quite believeable skin tones. The same is true for skin tones off of Blu-ray disc and HDTV!
The Arwen photo above was a scene deep in a forest with lots of green, which softens the skin tones. The MovieMate 60 picks up on that shift to green nicely, especially where it is more evident toward the top of her face.
A few additional images for your consideration:
From Aeon Flux 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 home entertainment solution! 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.
MovieMate 60 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
The 3000:1 contrast claim for this Epson (and yes, it does have a dynamic iris), is a low number by today's standards. While a high contrast number is no longer a really accurate indicator of black level performance, in this case, the relatively low number is.
LCD projectors do start out at a deficit compared to DLP projectors when it comes to natural contrast, and basic black level performance. Business LCD projectors, for example have very poor black level performance, as a group. This Epson does better than that, but mostly by the addition of a dynamic iris. The blacks are still weak, compared to any of the better 720p projectors and likely every 1080p model. Basically they are a moderately dark gray, but a long way from black. The typical entry level DLP projector will definitely do a bit better, although not drastically so. The better, more expensive DLP and LCD home theater projectors, however, will do far better. Is that important? To an enthusiast - absolutely. To a kid, or teenager, they couldn't care less, for the most part.
It's important, though, to keep in mind, that, in a family room or bonus room environment, with some lights on, or some light coming in from windows, black level performance of all projectors goes to hell.
While there is still a difference between excellent and medicre, the relative difference is minor with all but the most minimum amount of ambient light hitting the screen.
For this type of product, sure, better blacks would be nice, but, its hardly a disqualifying issue, considering the type of usage intended.
We'll start with the The Fifth Element image of the Starship. As you can see, the exposure is fairly normal yet you can see that the blacks of the background are not as black as some other images below. The best one to compare to is probably the last one, the Mitsubishi HC1600, a 720p DLP projector that had particularly good black level performance among lower cost 720p projectors. The MovieMate 60, though is a touch underexposed, compared to the HC1600, so you don't see as many stars. Don't worry about that. They are there, as you can see, in the overexposed version.
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:
For comparison, here's the same image from the Epson Home Cinema 700:
And here's the Mitsubishi HC1600 another low cost 720p DLP projector:
I mentioned that the Epson uses a dynamic iris to darken blacks when it can. The iris action is slow, and very hard to notice. On very dark scenes, it may take a few seconds but those blacks get blacker. The end result is still as we describe, but the iris helps compared to not having one, and it's action is smooth and rarely noticeable.
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:
Another space scene from Space Cowboys below. The space looks pretty dark, but blacks just aren't as black as you will find on some not too much more expensive stand alone projectors.
Shadow Detail Performance
Black level performance may not be great, but with that, comes a benefit, which is very good shadow detail You don't get the pop and wow factor of deep blacks you you will easily see that which was intended to be scene in dark areas.
Left: MovieMate 60, Middle: Panasonic PT-AX200U, Right: Optoma HD71
From Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. the right side, is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The Epson (top left) provides very good detail in the dark areas of the satellite. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson MovieMate 72 - their flagship all-in-one projector system, with 720p resolution. On the next row: the Home Cinema 720 and the Optoma HD71.
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.
MovieMate 60 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
All considered, the MovieMate 60 puts a pretty good looking image up on the screen. It's colors are rich, and very reasonably accurate, and shadow detail is very good. Black levels are the projector's weakness, but I'd say that black level performance is rather reasonable for a familyroom, bonus room, backyard type projector. Skin tones are actually very good. Perhaps the biggist issue is the projectors relatively low resolution, which means slightly, but definitely visible pixels at normal seating distances. For the last few years, only with all-in-ones, have we encountered any resolution below 720p among the home theater projectors.
Here are a variety of images, that 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):
Back to the movies:
MovieMate 60 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
The MovieMate 60 is actually brighter in its best (and dimmest) mode, than most home theater projectors can do at their brightest. Put it in Livingroom mode and its brighter still. There's also Dynamic mode, but the color is better in Livingroom mode, and Dynamic isn't that much brighter. Overall, color is very good, and the picture has a good deal of "pop and wow".
In other words, it's a great, inexpensive projector for sports viewing!
In the two images above, you see the back, and the front, of our "testing" room. Each has a pair of 65 watt recessed lights (CFLs - dimmables). You can see in the second image, that even with a bright projector like the MovieMate 60, having a pair of bright lights only a couple feet from the screen, takes a definite toll. For the images below, only the rear two lights were on - nice controlled lighting, and the picture looked great.
Below, taken with both pairs of room lights on. The first image, is in Theatre mode. The image below it, was taken in the much brighter Livingroom mode, which has far less trouble handling a lot of ambient light.
Considering all the room light, these images arn't bad at all! Lots of lumens for handling a fair amount of ambient light make the MovieMate 60 a lot of fun for sports and TV. The downside is the relatively low resolution compared to today's 1080p projectors and even the 720p models. On the bright side, resolution isn't really all that low, considering it's higher than a standard DVDs.