Epson Pro Cinema 4030 Projector – Review

PRO CINEMA 4030 IMAGE QUALITY 2

Black Level Performance

Let’s take a look at a variety of dark scenes.  In general there’s a good deal of pop to them, that is they don’t seem flat especially in larger very dark areas.

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Pro Cinema 4030 Black Levels - Dark Scenes

Rivendell from The Hobbit

A very dark overall scene, that was handled really well

From The Fifth Element - Deep Space

Again, this is definitely an "ultra high contrast" projector.

Below you can consider how well the Pro Cinema 4030 does on blacks and darks shadow detail compared to a variety of home theater projectors that run from about half the price to at least double! Understand, I do not make my subjective “judgement” calls on how good a projector’s blacks are, by looking at a couple or three comparison images.  Dynamic irises vary so much in their performance, that a projector can be better at blacks in 5 scenes, but worse in 2 others, compared to the same other projector. Ultimately my final decisions are based on watching way too many hours of programming on each projector, and looking at a great many scenes. Below, a few more images from the Epson Pro Cinema 4030 to help you get a good understanding of its black level performance across a variety of dark scenes.

Black Levels: Pro Cinema 4030 vs. Competition

Pro Cinema 4030: Very good black levels!
BenQ W1070 about 1/2 the price, no match in blacks, dull by comparison
Sony VPL-HW50ES - is $1000 more, but only slightly better
Epson's less expensive Home Cinema 3020
Optoma HD8300 a more expensive DLP projector - darker image, no better
Panasonic PT-AE8000U - I think the 4030 has the edge
Pro Cinema 4030: We overexpose the Starship image from The Fifth Element
Panasonic PT-AE8000U - these two are close
Epson HC5020UB - last year's more expensive projector is slightly better
JVC DLA-X35 Has more dynamic range but is it blacker?
BenQ W7000 - Image is darker, overall 4030 should have slight edge
Optoma HD25-LV costs less, roughly comparable

Shadow Detail

Shadow detail is really good as we’ve come to expect from Epson in the Pro Cinema series.  Use the same night train scene image above, if you would like to compare the Pro Cinema 4030 with several competitors.  See how much detail and shrubs you can see behind the tracks on the right.  And look into the darkest part of the woods for signs of some slightly lighter detail.

I only wish Epson would calibrate its brightness control a bit finer.  It seems like we could find a tiny bit more dark detail without sacrificing blacks just as slightly, if there were two or three steps between each of the current numbers, such as between 0 and 1.  I’m being  a bit picky here.

Overall Picture Quality

Whether you are running in Natural or Cinema mode, there’s a reasonably well balanced picture in terms of color and saturation, that most would find to be more than satisfactory.  With a little tuning (try our settings), color accuracy gets really good.

With the dynamic iris on, the Pro Cinema as previously noted, does really well in terms of black levels, ready to slug it out with DLP and LCoS projectors costing more.  For a $2500 projector (and you get lots of accessories with it for the price), it”s a great picture.  The more expensive PC6030 UB, and HC5030 UB, can beat this projector, by virtue of more features and a slight edge in black levels, but the Pro Cinema 4030 should hold its own in overall picture with any of the competitors.  I’m not factoring in aspects such as the “look and feel”.  Some folks just find the DLP look and feel to be better.  And LCoS has a significantly finer pixel structure, which isn’t visible at normal seating, but does provide a touch more of “film-like”.  If LCD has it’s own “thing” it’s a bit more “pop”.

On the other hand, the Pro Cinema packs a good punch in its brighter modes.  We measured about 1500 usable lumens (wide angle on the zoom) after Mike tweaked Dynamic mode to tame the greens a little.  It’s a picture that just rocks for my sports viewing.  The Pro Cinema 4030 can tackle a fair amount of ambient light – my 7 rear ceiling down facing lights on, and window shutters half open on a sunny day.  True, my room surfaces are pretty dark, but the point is, in a dedicated home theater, or in more of a living room environment.  Just pair this Epson with the right screen, in those less than perfect rooms.

3D Viewing with most projectors is a challenge due to brightness. With 3D effectively losing about 60-70% of 2D brightness, I found 3D Dynamic suitable for virtually all my viewing.  Pushing out to 120″ was borderline dim.  At 100″ diagonal I found the viewing perfectly acceptable if still a little less bright than watching a calibrated image in 2D with this Epson projector!

HDTV and Sports

Although not quite as bright as its Epson UB projector big brothers, the Pro Cinema 4030 brings plenty of punch to more general viewing.  I watched tons of sports, probably 20+ hours of football at least, and Lori and I have watched a good bit of TV as well (all HDTV).  From The Blacklist to Jools Holland, to The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams, lots of viewing time.  For sports it’s always Mike’s tweaked Dynamic mode.  If the rear lights are on, and we’re letting any light in the windows, it’s Dynamic mode for other HDTV, but more typical is to watch shows like Blacklist in our calibrated Natural mode.

The better than average brightness with good color, makes the 4030 at home in either theater/cave or family room with the proper lighting control.

In these images, all the football images were taken daytime with shutters half open rear lights on.  The other of the HDTV images were taken with shutters only slightly cracked, and rear lights off in this case.

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