Mitsubishi HC1600 Home Theater Projector Review: Image Quality
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Mitsubishi HC1600: Image Quality Sections
Mitsubishi HC1600 Projector; Out of the Box Picture Quality
Skin Tone Handling
HC1600 Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail
Overall Image Quality (post Calibration)
HC1600 for HDTV and Sports
Bottom Line Image Quality (and additional images)
You can click on almost any of the images below from the Mitsubishi HC1600 projector, to see a larger version, in a new window.
HC1600 Home Theater Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality
The HC1600 is OK when it comes to out of the box picture quality. Color balance is a little off (very typical). In the case of the HC1600, the color temperature is mostly low - too warm (shift toward red), especially in the darker areas of a scene. It's definitely watchable, but spending a few bucks on a user calibration disc (and roughly an hour of your time), will make a visible difference, and improve viewing pleasure. If you are too chicken to tackle that (it really isn't difficult, even for a non-techie), then I suggest you plug in the settings we provide in the calibration section below, based on our calibration of this Mitsubishi projector, into your HC1600. Each projector will differ slightly (mostly variation in lamp performance), but these settings should get you at least 80% of the way from "out of the box" to best performance.
"Out of the box", for those on the lookout for more detail, the HC1600 does a great job in terms of shadow detail. I'm talking about as good as it gets. Black levels are, on the other hand, very average. (This doesn't really change with calibration.)
Mitsubishi HC1600: Skin Tone Handling
We're now talking post calibration. Skin tones proved to be very good. There are times when it's less than excellent, but never worse than very good. I found skin tones, in both movies and in HDTV sources, to be pretty natural looking. Keep in mind when looking at all the images below, that what you see on your monitor is not going to be a great representation of what I see projected on the screen. There are many reasons - my dSLR's limitations, the fact that your monitor can't begin to match the color dynamics or contrast of a good projector, and so on. Still, if it looks great here, on the small screen, it's only going to look better in your room!
We'll start with the usual two standard DVD images from Lord of the Rings. You can detect a slight push (too much) red. Quite honestly, this is more the result of my camera than anything else. Figure on the screen, the skin tones look even more natural.
Moving to HD resolution Blu-ray dics, first are a couple of images from the movie Aeon Flux:
And here's the usual image of Leeloo, from The Fifth Element:
Keep in mind that when you consider how good color - or skin tones, are, you need to consider the lighting of the scene. Sunlight, incandescent lighting, or even, as is popular today, adding a definite color caste to a movie (The Matrix), or even different color emphasis in different parts of a movie (different lands in Lord of the Rings). Immediately below are three photos of James Bond from Casino Royale (Blu-ray DVD), under different lighting - pure sunlight, fluorescent lighting (in an "airport") and diffused sunlight (shade).
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A couple of more images - first, from House of the Flying Daggers, which has beautiful (if not completely natural looking) colors:
Check out Will Smith in Men In Black (also Blu-ray):
Mitsubishi HC1600 Projector: Black Level and Shadow Detail
HC1600 Black Level Performance
Alas, if the HC1600 has one particular weakness when it comes to picture quality, it is its black level performance. This projector's black levels are very so-so, and that's considering that it is an entry level 720p projector. The projector, on really dark scenes, just can't do blacks dark enough to give you that feeling of jet black, more of "pretty dark gray". As you can see in the images immediately below, first, of some space scenes.
This first Blu-ray image is from Space Cowboys - a nice dynamic, dark scene with a small area of bright white, and also bright red - a challenge for a dynamic iris.
This next image is from The Fifth Element. It is an image I use in all reviews. In this case, I didn't crop out the letter box area at the top and bottom. The image, as usual, is somewhat overexposed, to reveal the full depth of the starfield, but in this case the blacks are very gray, whereas on other projectors, the letterbox, and the space background are definitely darker:
Getting away from space scenes, here is another image, of a night scene from Aeon Flux:
Overall, on a scene like this, filling a 100" white screen surface (Carada Brilliant White screen), the blacks look pretty good, but they still aren't that black. The letterbox area is distinctly gray, not enough to ruin the enjoyment, but enough to occasionally notice. This is one reason why I recommend high contrast gray surface screens for this projector. It will lower that black level, and really helps, in my opinion. It is necessary, for those more critical of black levels, but most will be satisfied, overall, with the Mitsubishi's performance.
HC1600 Shadow Detail Performance
While black level performance could be better, shadow detail performance is truly excellent. Dark scene after scene, the HC1600 revealed as much or more detail than competing projectors, and many more expensive ones. I believe there is a bit of a trade-off, that the almost blacks can't get quite as black as other projectors, but that also makes them a bit lighter, and easier to make out the details. Whatever the finer points, you won't lack for details in dark areas.
Let's start with this extremely dark scene with Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys. This is an excellent example of both the excellent shadow detail, and the weaker (lighter shaded) blacks. Look to the details in the black blinds, and the white vertical lines. Below the image from the HC1600, are two additional images, one from the direct DLP projector competition, the Optoma HD65, and the third one, is the Panasonic PT-AX200U, a slightly more expensive 3LCD powered 720p resolution, home theater projector. (Keep in mind that color shifts tend to be much greater on these long time exposure, very dark images). Skin tones look far more similar in reality. Concentrate on shadow detail and blacks.
Optoma H65 (sorry, this image is a little underxposed compared to the others, so you'll have to mentally compensate):
Now, here's a fourth image, from the JVC RS1, which until a year ago had the best black levels, and very good shadow detail, and was widely considered the best 1080p projector at the time.
You can see the various differences in shadow details, but you can also see the differences in black levels.
Below we have four "thumbnails" of this cropped HD scene from Space Cowboys. Click on each for an overexposed version. Look to the satellite on the left for dark shadow details. By row, starting top left:
Mitsubishi HC1600, Optoma HD65
Panasonic PT-AX200U, Optoma HD71
In the night scene below from Lord of the Rings, look for shadow detail below the mountains in the back right.
Top left: Mitsubishi HC1600, Top right: Panasonic PT-AX200U
2nd Row left: Epson Home Cinema 720
In this re-entry photo, just one comparison, This time the Panasonic Optoma HD65 again, since it is the most direct competition.
Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
Again, we have seriously overexposed these images. The images you see below are all from the same projector with a normal exposure, but when you click on each, you will get the larger, overexposed image. Look for shadow details in the roof, and the trees. the Mitsubishi, again, really pulls out all the details for you to see.
Mitsubishi HC1600 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 720:
Some of you may be wondering why I haven't included any comparison images from the competing Sanyo PLV-Z5. The explanation is simple, almost all our images for the last 18 months have been from Blu-ray disc. The Sanyo Z5, is actually a two year old projector, as Sanyo did not replace it last fall. As a result, simply stated, I haven't had my hands on a Z5 for almost two years, and therefore none of the same images. Generally, I would give the Sanyo the edge on black levels, and the Mitsubishi the advantage in terms of shadow detail.
Click on the thumbnail for a larger, overexposed image. You'll find this image in almost all projector reviews. You can easily make out details in all the dark areas - the shed on the right, the plants along the bottom, and also in the wood in the structure on the left.
Mitsubishi HC1600 Projector: Sharpness
The Mitsubishi HC1600 does a great job on sharpness. Very sharp images is almost a Mitsubishi trademark, compared to most of the competition, and the 720p resolution HC1600 is no exception. While no 720p projector will provide as detailed an image as even the softest 1080p projector, when fed a 1080p source, the Mitsubishi comes across as sharp, even on my largest screen - 128" diagonal, even sitting reasonably close (less than 12 feet).
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I've got two sets of comparison images for you, the first is a close up of the DTS logo and text from their demo disc. The second is a closeup of a computer monitor from the movie Space Cowboys (both are from Blu-ray disc, 1080p resolution).
Top Left: Mitsubishi HC1600, Top Center: Panasonic PT-AX200U, and Top Right: the Optoma HD65. The second row has the Epson Home Cinema 720 on the left, the Optoma HD71 in the center, and for a change of pace, the Epson MovieMate 72, the only 720p all-in-one projector (with built in speakers, amp, and DVD player). The complete MovieMate 72, sells for a few more than the HC1600.
Below - the Mitsubishi HC1600 on the left, and the Optoma HD65 center, and the Panasonic PT-AX200U on the right. A quick comment on the Panasonic. They chose to implement what they call SmoothScreen technology, which makes the pixels virtually invisible, far less so than other 3LCD projectors and also far less so than DLP projectors. It does take its toll in sharpness.
Bottom Line Sharpness: The Mitsubishi is very sharp, although, these days, so are most of the competition. Still, it definitely at least equals the Optoma, and has a definite advantage over two of the three 3LCD projectors - the Epson Home Cinema 720, and the Panasonic PT-AX200U. The Sanyo PLV-Z5, however should be able to match the Mitsubishi, it has always been considered a very sharp 720p projector.
HC1600 Performance: HDTV and Sports
The HC1600 excels at general hi-def TV, and definitely HDTV sports. This is one area where black level performance is not an issue. After all, there aren't exactly a lot of dark scenes when watching a football game, or the Olympics, or for that matter most TV programs. At the same time, the HC1600 does a great job on sharpness, providing a crisp looking image. Add to that plenty of lumens when you need them, especially if you kick in Brilliant Color at a high setting (like 10 - the max), which really cranks up the lumens. With Brilliant Color all the way up, there is some sacrifice in overall picture quality, but, you are only likely to do that when you have a whole bunch of ambient light in the room, and having a bright enough image takes precedence over a littlle compromise in color accuracy, and natural contrast.
Below are several images from the Olympics, and a football game, shot under three different lighting levels, and with different Brilliant Color settings.
Mitsubishi HC1600 Projector: Overall Image Quality
As I have been trying to communicate, Mitsubishi has done a really good job overall, with only black level performance being a weakness. Sci-fi fans, and maybe horror film freaks (both are invariably loaded with a lot of very dark scenes it seems), may take some issue, but for most folks and most movies, plus TV and sports, the HC1600 provides very good, balanced performance. It's a nice, very sharp projector with very good color.
Below are a number of images showing a wide variety of scenes. All are from Blu-ray disc, or HDTV.
Overall Picture Quality: Bottom Line
Picture quality has come a long way in the last few years. That this is an under $1000 "entry-level" projector, is almost lost when one considers the picture. While I'm spoiled by watching some of the better under $10,000, 1080p projectors, I can still appreciate that this is a projector that many not willing to buy more expensive projectors, will be able to really enjoy.