Epson Pro Cinema 4030 Projector – Review

PRO CINEMA 4030 IMAGE QUALITY

Pro Cinema 4030 - Out of the Box Picture Quality

For those folks just looking for a really good looking picture, not concerned with a near perfect calibration, we consider the “Out of the Box” picture quality to be of real importance.  True, we publish most of our calibration settings (for free) and provide the individual colors calibration for our members, but we don’t really believe that most folks will get around to trying them.

 

So here we just want to tell you that most of you will be perfectly happy with Epson’s unadjusted color and settings.  Brightness and Contrast in Natural are essentially dead on for the best black and white level performance without any adjustment.  Color tends to be on the cool side a bit, (stronger on blues, thinner on reds, but not drastically so).  Very watchable, but also very improvable for someone who is considering calibrating.

I would definitely suggest trying our settings out. As they say, “it can’t hurt.”

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Pro Cinema 4030 Skin Tones

Skin tones may look pretty good out of the box (although a touch thin on warmth (red), but tune (calibrate)  the Epson Pro Cinema 4030 projector and skin tones dial in beautifully.

With past Epsons there was always it seems a very slight lean to green (just as Sony would have a very slight lean toward red, post calibration), but not so with the Pro Cinema 4030 (or its big brothers – the 6030UB or the Home Cinema 5030UB).

In our gallery here, I’ve selected a number of photos to demonstrate how good faces look in different lighting settings from different movies and HDTV sources.

For example, there are multiple photos of Daniel Craig as Bond, from different lighting environments i.e. direct sunlight (by plane), filtered sunlight, nighttime, and fluorescent lights (the image with the bright yellow sign).

Of course, you would not expect the color of his face to be the same under each of these lighting scenarios, since the “color temperature” of the lighting in each is very different.

The point is, those skin tones are different, the question is:  Do each of them look right?

The answer, in this case, is:  Uncalibrated – they look pretty good.  Calibrated, they do look very right!  Pretty natural looking!

4030 Black Level and Shadow Detail

It’s Black Level performance (primarily) and the ability to reveal dark shadow detail that essentially separate great projector picture quality from ok, or good picture quality.

Take this Pro Cinema 4030 for example.  One could compare it to Epson’s own, less expensive Home Cinema 3020.  The hardware and features are very different, but I’m talking image.

On bright and medium bright scenes, both of these projectors – with their similar brightness, will look very close to each other.  Oh, the 4030 will have darker blacks on those scenes, but you likely wouldn’t notice unless you really were comparing side by side.

On the other hand, switch to a really dark scene and there is a real difference:  As we all know dark scenes are very, very, common. Try to find a movie without some – good luck!

Basically, the Epson 3020 is just dandy, with little image difference compared to the 4030 on average and well lit scenes, but not those dark ones.

The 3020 can look, compared to the Pro  Cinema 4030, very washed out on a scene like the Bond night train scene we show in every review.  Dramatic difference.  That folks is why you spend the extra net of $400 or $500 for the Pro Cinema 4030.  If you don’t care, or your room is never darkened, the difference is mitigated, but otherwise, that Bond train scene, the 5th Element Starship scene, and the Hunger Games sleeping in the woods scene, as they say, are the money shots!

Mind you, move up to the more expensive Pro Cinema 6030 UB, and it’s even better at blacks, but the difference is a lot less than going down to the 3020!

Time to take a close look, let’s start with Black Level Performance.

Black Level Performance - Projectors Side by Side

I had the opportunity to do some side by side shots with the Pro Cinema 4030.  I was able to do them with the now discontinued Epson Home Cinema 5020 UB which we used as our reference to compare all other projectors to for this last year, for blacks.  (No, the Epson 5020UB  isn’t/wasn’t the best, but excellent, especially for the price).  We used it as a “reference”  because it was here  for a whole year, so there’s a whole library of comparison images with other projectors.

Now I’m sure you are staring at these two images (4030 on the left) going:  they look almost identical.  Folks they are close.  Now I use a computer colorimeter so I can measure differences in an image like this.  I can tell you that in the letterbox areas, the 4030 measures about 70% brighter than the 5020UB (that’ not a huge difference, less than “3 db”, but it is a visible one in the real world).  The near bright areas are, by comparison, almost identical, that is, overall the images look about the same brightness with blacks a little better on the old 5020UB!

 

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Here’s another comparison, this time with The Pro Cinema 4030′s new big brother, the 6030UB.  The 6030UB is the Pro version of the new 5030UB (the replacement for 5020 UB above).  Both 5030 UB and 6030 UB should have identical black level performance, and both slightly better than the older 5020 UB.  As a result, there still isn’t a big change going from the Pro Cinema 4030 to the Pro Cinema 6030 UB – or the 5030 UB!

The gamma, and brightness, between these two images is a bit different so it’s harder to tell, but as expected, there’s only a small improvement between the 5020 UB and 6030 UB.

Let’s take a closer look at black levels on the next page.

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