LG CF181D Projector - Image Quality
LG CF181D images below are from either Blu-ray, or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). These images are not overly accurate compared to the image the CF181D projector projects on the screen. There are color shifts (too much yellow, in this case), saturation differences, etc.
These images are provided to support the commentary. In reality, the projectors always look better than the images in our reviews. From a color standpoint, my dSLR camera still adds a very slight green shift to some photo shoots that I have not been able to completely remove in most cases. I now visually attempt to adjust all the images to correct for major abberations in color between big screen and computer screen. In other words, while we can demonstrate differences in black levels and shadow details of the CF181D, the photos are only approximations of skin tone and color accuracy.
2/20/2010 - Art Feierman
LG CF181D Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality
The LG CF181D is pretty good, right out of the box. The color overall, of the "best" mode, Cinema, is just a little cool, so a touch more blues than reds. Overall, though, skin tones looked pretty good, but just lacking a bit of red. Calibrating the projector took care of that.
The most notable thing, out of the box, is that Cinema is defaulting to a manual iris setting of 3. That makes it dark for the LG's maximum "best" mode brightness, but still average compared to the competition. I suggest the first thing you do, is to switch the iris to Auto 1 mode, for better blacks and more brightness both.
The brighter modes of the CF181D are all very, very cool. Change the color temp to a warmer one for immediate color improvement with no dramatic loss of brightness.
The image immediately below is from Star Trek, on Blu-ray.
Great skin tones. I am extremely pleased. I've watched tons of hours of Olympics with the LG, as well as at least 20 hours of movies. The LG has some of the best skin tones I've seen. Not the very best, but up there. I still give my own JVC the advantage, after calibration, but, I found the LG has no problem taking on projectors like the Epson (which exhibits just a touch of yellow green in skin tones), or the Sony HW15, with its just a touch too strong reds. It's probably comparable to the PT-AE4000, but the LG is just so much brighter, that I really couldn't quite tweak the LG to be as dim as the Panasonic, even with the lamp on low, and the iris on manual 3, never mind iris on Auto 1.
The skin tones are why I consider the LG one of those particularly pleasing to watch projectors. In "best" mode, the LG seems to be rather forgiving - looking good over a wide range of HDTV and Blu-ray content.
The two images (immediately above and below) are from Lord of the Rings, from standard DVD. The LG handled looked great on both scenes.
Below are a wide assortment of images to demontstrate skin tones. Remember, the same face will look markedly different under different lighting scenarios, such as full sunlight, filtered sunlight, gray overcast, nighttime, fluorescent lighting, and so on.
Next are images from the sci-fi flick, Aeon Flux:
From Men In Black:
From the DVE-HD test disc (digital images):
Mr. Lau, from The Dark Knight:
While there are a few projectors that are able to best the LG in terms of skin tones, it's never by much. The "best" mode abilities of the LG are very, very good, when it comes to natural looking skin tones.
LG CF181D Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Depending on the day of the week, sometimes I think the LG is a "ultra-high contrast" projector, other times not quite. All considered, it's on the cusp, but not quite there. It's not a match for the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, as you can see from the images. It also can't quite match the Panasonic PT-AE4000. With those being the only two ultra-high contrast projectors I have here for comparison, to better position the LG, I also put it side by side against the $1395 Mitsubishi HC3800, my favorite lower cost projector. The Mitsubishi can't quite match the blacks of the LG. Basically, I'll place the LG about half way between the HC3800 (which has the best overall black performance of any entry level projector under $1500).
When I was being particularly critical when watching in my main theater, filling the 128" Firehawk G3 screen, and with the room in "cave" mode, the blacks were "respectable". Sure, no match for the JVC's or Epson's blacks, but paired with a high contrast gray screen, when I hit a lot of my favorite dark scenes, the LG did have respectable blacks. I could live with them on those darkest screens, though I, personally will always want blacker blacks still. The Mitsubishi HC3800, on the other hand, although it easily bests most other projectors in its lower price range, on those same scenes, is just too flat - those blacks cry out to be blacker.
So, no greatness here, for the LG, but, it gets close enough that a black level fanatic like me, just might buy one, if I needed all those lovely lumens the LG spits out.
Image time: We start with the starship image from The Fifth Element. The first photo is way overexposed to show the blacks in the letterbox as dark gray. As you can see, to lift the blacks that much, the starship itself is terribly overexposed. In the image immediately below that, you are still looking at the same image, but only slightly overexposed.
For comparison, here's the same image from the almost 3x the price JVC DLA-RS25 (the image is a touch less bright, so less stars are visible in the photo).
And below is the Panasonic PT-AE4000, which, overall is a touch better overall, but it varies by scene, since they both use dynamic irises:
I've even got a couple of side by side images for you, all are comparing the LG CF181D (left) to the Epson 8500UB/9500UB (right). The second side-by-side is the same image, just overexposed to make the black level and shadow detail differences easier to spot:
Meantime, you can easily see that the Epson has no problem putting out noticeably blacker blacks. In the daytime, and with average scenes, that may not even be noticeable, but, many movies have some really dark scenes, and that's where the LG comes up a bit short.
These two all digital images images below are good ones for considering black levels and dark shadow detail. Look for the richness in the black part of some of the buildings and also, the sky, in the second image. Both of these first two, are digital hi-def images from the DVE-HD calibration disc.
Shadow Detail Performance
The LG CF181D definitely performs when it comes to black levels. I won't conjecture if any others reveal more, but I can say, that it definitely outperforms those projectors that I find come up a little short (like the Epson UB projectors).
Below, Epson on the right, LG CF181D on the left. For shadow detail, look into the brown area in the lower left of the satellite, also some of the dark areas top center. I consider the Epson to be a little below average, but then, the LG does best it.
The first set of individual images for comparison is from Space Cowboys. This is a very dark scene with Clint Eastwood on Blu-ray disc. The photos are intentionally way overexposed. Look for the blacks in the shades, and the details in those shades in the form of the white trim. (At this level of overexposure, don't even worry about the skin tones, as in these types of overexposed photos they always look terrible).
First image is the CF181D, followed by the JVC RS25 and the Mitsubishi HC7000. Next is the the Vivitek H9080FD, and extremely expensive LED light source DLP projector. The last two in the sequence are the Panasonic PT-AE4000 and the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB.
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The CF181D (top left) shows very good shadow detail in the dark areas of the satellite. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson 8500UB/9500UB. Then come the JVC DLA-RS25 and the PT-AE4000 (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC7000 (left), and the Sony VPL-HW15.
Next is a frame from the last Indiana Jones movie. You'll see this one in other recent reviews. The details still found as the walls and fixtures darken toward the top, are a good way to compare shadow detail.
On the left, is the CF181D, the middle, the Epson 8500UB/9500UB, and on the right, the JVC DLA-RS25. The exposures are all a little different, but you should be able to appreciate the combination of shadow detail and dark blacks
Below, is the night casino image. We're using the same smaller image for all samples, click for the larger version for the respective projectors.
LG CF181D projector:
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB:
JVC DLA-RS25 projector:
Panasonic PT-AE4000U projector:
Sony VPL-HW15 projector:
InFocus IN83 projector:
Mitsubishi HC7000 projector:
Click on left thumbnail image for the LG CF181D, Epson Home Cinema 8500UB in the center, and the right for the PT-AE4000U.
In our dark train scene, the CF181D performs about middling. Look to the shrubs and trees on the right, especially those on the other side of the rails. The shadow detail is really very good. But, the not quite "ultra high contrast" blacks (even with the Auto Iris on 1).
Below, the LG, doing the Bond night train scene from Casino Royale.
Above, LG left, Epson on the right. The LG has slightly better shadow detail, but the Epson's blacks have the Epson image looking rich and dynamic. The LG's "ok" black level performance results in the same scene, but looking dull and undynamic.
Below, Optoma HD8600 Projector:
Below, JVC DLA-RS25 Projector:
Below, Epson Home/Pro Cinema 8500UB/9500UB Projector:
Bottom line LG CF181D Blacks and Shadow detail:
The CF181D combines excellent dark shadow detail combines with good, but hardly spectacular, black levels make this projector better in these areas than average projector but still visibly short of any of the better ultra-high contrast projectors.
Overall Color & Picture Quality
Oh boy! I may beat up the LG a bit for its only ok (good) black level performance, but when you look at the whole package, the vibrant and bright colors, with very good skin tones and tons of lumens, make the LG one of the better overall home theater projectors in its price range. Until you hit some of those really dark scenes, the LG definitely produces a picture quality that would be the envy of most of the competition.
I should also point out that the dynamic iris action of the LG in Auto 1, is pretty smooth - one of the best ones around. If you could drop this dynamic iris, say, into the Optoma HD8200, that would turn the HD8200 into some serious competition, but, alas, Optoma has been hurting itself for a few years, with dynamic iris issues.
A mix of additional images to show off the CF181D:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
Back to movies Aeon Flux:
And here are a few more images, three more from Dark Knight, followed bya variety of additional assorted scenes from movies and digital video sources:
On a dark scene like the one, right above from Lord of the Rings, the image is all pretty dark, but blacks aren't critical. The LG handles a scene like this very well.
LG CF181D Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
If the LG CF181D is pretty impressive for movies, it truly shines for sports. Oh, it's still a 3 chip LCoS projector, and "3 chippers" are always a touch softer image than the sharper single chip DLPs. Forgetting that slight difference though, the lumens and the dynamics of the LG are killer for sports. Watching the Olympics on the LG projector has been great. I can only think of a couple of projectors I would prefer for sports viewing.
For the images below the rear room lights (two in ceiling 65 watt floods), were dimmed down about 50%. The front of the room remained fairly dark. Screen size, approximately 100" diagonal.
The one example that immediately comes to mind is the InFocus IN83. a bright, Darkchip 4 DLP projector that was over $5000 before it was discontinued this past year. The IN83 was also bright, had the very best color, and was razor sharp. Perfect for sports. (The IN83, though had weak black level performance, not even as good as the LG.)
With almost 1400 lumens in brightest mode, the LG has tons of lumens for smaller and mid-sized screens, or, it can handle a decent amount of ambient light, even on some larger screens like mine. And, the LG still has pretty good color, much better than the one brighter projector it competes with, the BenQ W6000. (When both are in modes doing about 1100 to 1200 lumens, then the two are roughly comparable in color).
Now, we must all realize that if this was a bright sunny day, with sunlight coming in that window, the results would be completely different, it would be unwatchable. Having said that, with just over 1150 lumens, the CF181D is definitely one of the brighter home theater projectors around without getting up into the big bucks for a 3 chip DLP. Brighter, although not sensationally so. Just a good bright projector. Not quite as bright as, say the Epson UB projectors, but about half way between them, and the average home theater projectors.
The LG CF181D image is very sharp. And the color and skin tones, even in "brightest" mode, with some ambient light, looked reasonably great.
My wife and daughter remind me that a lot of people watch sitcoms and "regular programming", and that most women are not interested in space scenes, but more into Gossip Girl, American Idol, the Oscars, and Vampire Diaries. So, here's a couple for the wife and daughter. The one right below, from Gossip Girl, and below that, one from Wall-E.
Bottom line on HDTV and Sports - Excellent. While watching the Olympics, I switched from the LG several times to my RS20. The RS20 has slightly better skin tones, and far better blacks, but I never watched it for very long. With my JVC having over 900 hours on the lamp, it's probably no longer even half as bright as the LG's 1380 lumens, at this point. What a brightness difference! I am so jealous!
Of course, I cheer myself up by remembering that if I'm watching a movie, off of Blu-ray, or HDTV, that my JVC (at 3x the price of the LG), blows it away in terms of blacks, and, in general for overall movie viewing.