JVC DLA-RS1 1080p LCOS Home Theater Projector Review - Image Quality
Wow! Dazzling! Eye-popping image quality!
Ok, that pretty much covers Image Quality, what's next?
OK, only kidding! Let's get started. To begin with, I recently reviewed the other major LCOS powered 1080p projector, Sony's Pearl, and was extremely impressed with its black levels in particular, and shadow detail. The Sony uses a dynamic iris to help out, so black levels are at their best are dark scenes without bright areas.
The JVC RS1, on the other hand, claims the same 15,000:1 contrast ratio (highest I have seen yet), as the Sony, yet, does not require a dynamic iris, so the high contrast is consistant regardless whether a scene has bright areas or not.
When it comes to black levels, the two projectors aren't even close. The JVC produces "blacks" that are quite literally twice as black as the Sony, and that's a dramatic, extremely visible difference, and that's saying a lot. The blacker the blacks, of course, if all else is equal, the more shadow detail that is revealed as well, and that is true here.
The black levels and shadow detail are the exceptional strengths of the JVC RS1 projector, that ultimately set the RS1 apart from all the direct competition. Further down in this section we'll explore the black levels and shadow detail handling with many images and commentary, however, I like to start the images in this section with conversation about the handling of flesh tones.
JVC RS1 projector: Flesh Tone Handling:
As usual, most of the analysis here is from movie content. As such, the projector is set in Cinema mode. With the JVC, Cinema mode defaults to a Color Temperature defined as Low, which I would normally expect to be D65 - as close to 6500K as possible. Just quick viewing demonstrated that the Low setting, however, was too low. Changing the Color Temp setting to Medium, however did the trick with overall color temperature measurements in the 6600K range (that's very, very close to the ideal 6500K in terms of accuracy).
With Cinema mode, Color Temp at Medium, and Gamma set for Auto1, the JVC produced excellent color balance, with very good flesh tones. Slight adjustment to the color (covered in the general performance section, reduced color temp even closer to 6500K, and those minor changes were in place for these images, although a shift of less than 150K is barely visible at all.
Let's start with the usual images, from standard DVD, from Lord of the Rings (Gandalf, and Awen), and The Fifth Element (Leeloo and Bruce Willis), and Will Smith from I, Robot:
On almost all of the images in this section, you can click to open a larger version.
Quicktip: A note on the limitations of these images. They are here to support the commentary, not the other way around. A good digital camera still can't capture the full dynamic range of the projected image. If a scene is exposed normally, significant shadow detail is lost, and often some highlight detail. Also, what I see when cropping the images, is slightly different then when those images are input into Dreamweaver (where I assemble the review), and look slightly different still when viewing on line in my browser. And, if I were to look at the same image on the three computers here, with their different displays, I again get variations, as you will on your computer monitor. Thus, the images are here to help, and should provide some guidance, by themselves, but are still secondary to the comments.
Overall, images posted online tend to be a bit more contrasty and saturated than appear on the projector screen, however I fear to "adjust" them, to avoid charges of tampering.
For comparison images (between two projectors), even there, there are limitations, for example, there is no good way to get the exposures identical in brightness, unless both measure the same. I do the best I can, but, overall, take the images with "a pound of salt." A grain of salt, just won't do it!
Those all look pretty good, but are all from standard DVD. The world is definitely fast moving HDTV (far superior to standard DVD in color handling as well as resolution), and hi definition DVDs (Blu-ray and HD-DVD). Let's look at some images now, from HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.
This first image is from Phantom of the Opera (HD-DVD - though also available on Blu-Ray):
By the way, since the JVC and Sony are similar, here is a side by side shot taken of this same frame with the JVC RS1 on the left and Sony Pearl on the right:
Here are two from Aeon Flux (HD-DVD):
A couple from Space Cowboys (HD-DVD):
For fun, I created a 2nd copy of the image above, reducing color to what should be closer to how it appears in my theater room:
Yep, much better.
Below, two images from Batman Begins (HD-DVD)
Here again, a side by side with the Sony VW50 (Pearl). The RS1 is on the left in all side by side images. I should note, that the JVC is the brighter of the two projectors in their Cinema modes, and you can tell that below:
Of course, for many, HDTV is almost or equally important for viewing as movies. Although I do not do the grayscale balancing for HDTV that I do for movies, the JVC, without adjustment also does a very decent job on HDTV sources. Of course, adjusting the grayscale would further improve the results. I spent a good deal of time watching HDTV content, and overall I was very pleased, and "eyeballed" some adjustments, although these images were from the default dynamic setting:
From M-HD channel (MTV high def) music videos Jen from Sugarlandimmediately below, and Pete Townsend (of The Who), from their Isle of Wight concert:
And one image from the last Superbowl, of Peyton Manning:
From X-Men: The Last Stand:
I think by now you are getting the idea. Flesh tones are overall excellent after only minor adjustments, and (as long as you select Medium color temp to pair with Cinema mode, the skin tones are still great without any other adjustments.
JVC RS1 1080p D-iLA projector: Black Levels and Shadow Details
OK, while the JVC seems to be pretty impressive at most things, as I noted before, when it comes to black levels, it seems to be a class of one. Certainly nothing has entered my testing room that really comes close enough to give the RS1 a run for the money.
I have taken far more images of dark scenes than usual, because of this, but I'll start with the usual "star field" scenes from those sci-fi flicks I like so much. Directly below, from Space Cowboys (HD-DVD), the blacks of the sky are deep and neutral with no apparent shift to any color. Thanks to the very dark black levels, more stars are revealed than with any other projector (with this exposure), by overexposing the scene far more stars become visible, but I have other images to demonstrate that in a bit. You'll find this image on just about all of the 1080p reviews to date (except the first - the Mitsubishi HC5000).
Next is the "starship" image from The Fifth Element, (standard DVD) that I have been using "for years". I normally show only one version, but in this case, I have provided a second image, overexposed slightly. Never before on any projector, have I been able to see this many stars, or even close:
If you compare this image above to the same on other projectors, you'll find that the starfield is most impressive, even though this image is a bit underexposed than others. But check this out below:
Like I said earlier - Wow!
In the last review I congratulated Sony on the great black levels of the VW50 - the Pearl. They claim the same 15,000:1 as the JVC, but, turns out, the Sony isn't even close when it comes to black levels, and here is the image that "shows all": I have partially cropped the side by side images.
Note these things: 1. The black background of the star field is much, much darker on the left (RS1). 2. Since the images are overexposed, the bright areas of the satellite are blown out (no detail), but you can just tell, that overall, the satellite is brighter on the left (JVC), as expected, because the JVC is the brighter of the two projectors.
You can easily see the black level difference in the leterbox area above the stars. You can also see what appears to be a bluish cast to the Sony, whereas the JVC is neutral black.
Lastly, in the enlarged image, you can also see more shadow detail in the darkest parts of the satellite, that the JVC reveals, for the Sony's brighter blacks wash out that detail. (Look hard!, especially in those vertical "veins" at the top of the satellite. On the JVC you can see almost the full length of all of them, while the Sony loses about half.
Taking this side by side image, I measured brightness (you can too, with a program like Photoshop), of a light gray area of the satellite, and found that on the same spot, the JVC was roughly a bit more than 20% brighter. I then measured the blacks and found the JVC measurement to be between 4 and 5% (of pure white), whereas the Sony was 9%.
Combine that data together, and the black levels of the Sony are almost 2 and a half times brighter than the JVC, or you could say, the JVC black levels are 60% lower. And that's a huge difference, especially between two projectors that both are already about as good as it gets.
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OK the next two sequences (from Phantom - HD-DVD, and Lord of the Rings - standard DVD), are designed to reveal shadow detail. In both cases, the first image is normally exposed, so shadow details are lost. The second image is overexposed so that you can see the details. In the Phantom pair look to the darker walls for subtle details, as well as the wall frescos and the horse. I call your attention to the very dark area on the right wall close to the right side. Look carefully, then look and you can see that it is a alcove or window of sorts, look further and you can see others, including the one in what looks to be the fireplace or larger alcove behind to the right, of the horse.
OK the overexposed frame:
This is the first and only projector that I could determine that these are insets into the wall. On all other projectors there just wasn't enough detail or depth to make it look like anything but an undefined black area, with one vertical straight line. Now, I've only had this frame up on the screen a hundred times in the last year, so it was startling to see new information!
here is the same image from the Optoma HD81 review:
Below is the side by side of the same frame with the Sony (JVC on left). Click for a larger image, and one that is overexposed so you can see more. That first small almost triangular dark opening is definitely more distinct on the JVC, and again, the Sony is less distinct, more like the Optoma HD81 (and BenQ W10000).
IThe Panasonic PT-AE1000U also performs similarly to the Optoma, coming up short too, compared to the RS1. (Refer to the Panasonic review for that image.)
When it comes to shadow detail, it's not all about really dark scenes, quite often it's about seeing details in darker sections of what are otherwise bright scenes. Here is a new image set, (from Space Cowboys HD-DVD), that I will be using going forward. For your consideration, I have shot this image set on both the JVC and Sony.
Now this is a nice bright frame. We are going to look, however, at the shadow detail in the part of the spacecraft on the left.
Click on the first image below for a large closeup of the JVC, and on the 2nd image for the Sony VW50:
In the darkest areas, you can see details on the JVC, just lost or too murky to make out on the Sony. On the side by side screens, the differences were even greater. Had I overexposed the images a bit more, more details should have been revealed! -sorry.
One last image regarding shadow detail - a new one, from Space Cowboys, that I expect to use in future reviews. As you look at the large image (click), note that the planet gets darker and darker moving to the right, and it gets harder to make out details. This should prove to be very good test, and many projectors will basically have most of the entire right 25% appear flat with no detail. The second image is overexposed so that you can see what detail the projector actually reveals.
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OK, I think I have made my point - that the JVC RS1 has the best black levels yet, in an under $10,000 1080p projector. In my opinion (pending the chance to work with the SIM2 models), the best period short of a 3 chip DLP (and I have no reason to believe they can do better.).
But I have more images, so here goes. The Lord of the Rings "watchfire" image, click on the small, normally exposed one, for the larger, overexposed one. Note the detail in the darkest areas, such as the post on the far left, or the upper areas in the shed.
One more shadow detail image, with comments, from Lord of the Rings, then it's time for Aeon Flux, the Table scene. Look to the details in the shadows on the table, etc. Beautiful!
I have often includes this image below, from Lord of the Rings - a night scene from Gondor. If you click on this image, this time you will get an overexposed closeup of the far left third of the frame. When watching this on the JVC, for the first time, I could make out more than the snow covered mountains, but could actually see the contours of the fields, as well as colors and detail in the walls. An epiphany, so to speak! Very revealing.
Another recent image you will see more of. This barely lit closeup of Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys reveals a good amount of detail in the wall on the right, and the upper part of his face.
Starship Troopers (standard DVD):
This review features a number of new images, as I have added to my HD-DVD collection, and also added a Blu-Ray player (Sony PS3, for now). Many of these will be used in future reviews, for comparison purposes, including those from Batman Begins and X-men: The Last Stand, as well as the new DTS-Blu-Ray sample disk.
Batman Begins (HD-DVD) JVC RS1 vs Sony VW50 Pearl:
Turns out X-Men The Last Stand, exhibits high production qualities that yield stunning images:
JVC RS1 projector, General Image Quality
A break from these dark images, to show you some of the capabilities of the RS1 on more typically lit frames. After you get a chance to peruse these, the last part of this page will deal with the JVC's image sharpness.
Enjoy the images - first some from HDTV:
And, back to movies:
As you can see from all the images above, the JVC DLA-RS1 simply produces stunning imagery. Colors are rich and fully saturated, shadow detail is all there, and the ability to produce the blackest blacks yet, combine to produce results that are dynamic, and feel three dimensional. Eye popping performance without an demonstrable weaknesses is perhaps the best way to describe the JVC RS1. Here is an image, just shot from the Blu-Ray DTS sample disk, two others are found on the Summary page:
JVC RS1 Sharpness
Traditionally, my experience has been that LCOS projectors are not exceptional at sharpness. Now part of this may tie to the fact that LCOS projectors have, for all practical purposes, invisible pixel structures - totally invisible at any normal seating distance. This, in itself, compared to DLP, or LCD, may give the feeling of a touch of softness, but the LCOS projectors may still reveal as much fine detail as the others, where the pixel structure is slightly visible, or just below visibility at normal seating.
Conjecture as I may, the JVC, overall had very good sharpness. I consider it to be almost identical to the Sony Pearl, in fact I can barely tell them apart in sharpness. Most of the time, when viewing side by side, I considered them a tie. (This when looking for differences in sharpness). Let's say it was a tie 65% of the time, then I felt that the JVC was sharper (by a tiny amount) 25% of the time and the Sony appeared sharper (by a hair) 10%.
In other words, a tie, for all practical purposes. Both the Optoma HD81 and BenQ W10000 to me, seam a little bit sharper. The Mitsubishi HC5000, seems the sharpest of them all, but it also has the most visible pixel structure (along, possibly the Epson, which hopefully will be under review next week). As a result, the Mitsusbishi gives the immediate impression of best sharpness, but doesn't really back that up with the ability to resolve finer detail, just the pixel masks impacting perception. (whoa - I sure hope that made sense -art)
Let's look at some favorite images for judging sharpness. The first image, from HD-DVD The Italian Job. Click to enlarge a cropped version, and look for sharpness, detail in the sign next to the lamppost, and in the columns:
From Space Cowboys, the "monitor".
Click on the first for a cropped closeup from the JVC . Click on the 2nd thumbnail for the same, from the Optoma HD81. The HD81 and BenQ W10000 are the two sharpest I have seen so far. As you can see, the JVC, is close.
From Aeon Flux, "the white eye" click for a larger, cropped image. It is another image I have started to use regularly in reviews:
Also from Aeon Flux, the Redhead. Look to details in her hair (front and wisps on the sides, as well as the "sparkle" in her eye.
OK, here is the Warner Bros. start up screen, click on the first thumbnail for the JVC, the second for the LCD Mitsubishi HC5000, and the third, for some perspective, a good 720p projector, the recently reviewed Epson Cinema 810.
Next, the closeup of the necklace from Phantom:
I should mention that one problem with comparing the sharpness of 1080p projectors is that my sources have all been 1080i. With many of the 1080p projectors, pausing (to photograph) a 1080i signal has the projector capturing only one of the two interlaced fields, thus adding jaggies to the image, and a loss of resolution.
Going forward that has been solved, starting with this review. The addition of Blu-ray capability lets me feed the projectors 1080p, solving the problem. To start I have two images which I not only shot on the JVC, but also the Sony VW50 before returning it to Sony. One is from the DTS Blu-Ray demo disk below, and the other, the monitor image from Space Cowboys (which I now also own on Blu-ray). One downside, is that Blu-ray lacks the bookmark feature so handy with HD-DVD, which allows me to always show you the same frame, from one projector to the next. Oh well, always trade-offs, right?
Here is a thumbnail of the full DTS screen. Click on it for a closeup of about 20% of the screen area. For your consideration, click on the second thumbnail for similar image from the Sony Pearl.
Sharpness summary: Overall the JVC DLA-RS1 produces a competitively sharp image for a 1080p projector. I consider it to be not quite as sharp as the two DLP's we've reviewed (the Optoma HD81 and BenQ W10000), and we consider it virtually identical to the Sony Pearl, with, perhaps the slightest edge. I'd also consider it about even with the Panasonic PT-AE1000U. The Mitsubishi HC5000 is sharper, but a "standard" LCD projector, it's pixel structure is still slightly visible on bright large areas at the closer range of normal seating, so some of the HC5000's sharpness is "perceived" but not necessarily producing more detail
And that's a very good point. The two LCOS projectors - the JVC RS1, and Sony Pearl, seem to resolve as much detail as the DLP's, but the DLP's give that slightly sharper feel. Personally, I'd like that extra sense of sharpness, but it is questionable if it is possible with a projector who's underlying pixel structure is much less significant than the DLP projectors.
That raps up the longest Image Quality section yet. If you made it down this far, congratulations, time for General Performance!