Mitsubishi HC-3000 Projector Review - Image Quality
The Mitsubishi HC3000 (link to specs), to out of the box, did not have overly accurate colors, and definitely can be improved by a simple (end user) calibration. With just a little tweaking, however the image quality, overall, becomes truly excellent. The need for a bit of color adjustment, is more common than not, with home theater projectors. The average user would probably find the out of box color to be enjoyable, but after properly adjusting it, it will simply be a better viewing experience!
I'll discuss some of the settings below in the calibration section, but for now, we'll start with images. These were shot with my digital camera, bracketing the exposure, then manually selecting the one that should (on computer screens) best reflect what the image looked like in my testing room. The room uses a Carada Brilliant White screen, an Oppo DVD player, a Toshiba HD-DVD player, and a JVC D-VHS HD tape deck. For all testing except from the JVC deck, the images were output digitally to the projector (HDMI or DVI, depending on the source). For the D-VHS deck component output was used. The Oppo was set to output 720p, the Toshiba and JVC - 1080i. As a side note, high quality Ultralink HDMI/DVI cables were used, and for side by side images, a Gefen HDMI splitter was used. Of course that is more than some of you really wanted to know, so let's get started.
Mitsubishi HC-3000 Color Accuracy and Flesh Tones
I've always believed that getting the flesh tones (skin tones, whatever) right is about the most important thing in terms of good color accuracy. If you have a bit too much yellow, you might have pale, sickly look, etc. After the basic calibration, the Mitsubishi HC3000 did a very good job on flesh tones as seen in these images.
From Lord of the Rings - Return of the King, shots of Arwen, and Gandalf:
Clicking on the above image of Gandalf, will bring up a large version of the image.
Below, Will Smith from I, Robot
Two images rom The 5th Element:
Finally, a pair HD images from Phantom of the Opera:
Click on the image above, for an enlarged version.
Black Levels and Shadow Detail
I often refer to great black levels being the "holy grail" of home theater projectors. The closer a projector can get to faithfully producing blacks and near blacks, the more shadow detail, richness, and depth a projector seems to produce. Note, having great black levels, doesn't guaranty great shadow detail, as other factors come into play. If a projector can't get close to reproducing black, all dark areas that are supposed to be darker than the best black a projector can do, are lost.
The Mitsubishi HC3000 does an exceptional job on black levels for a projector using TI's Darkchip2 DLP processor. Generally, there is a substantial difference in black levels between the Darkchip2, and the Darkchip3 found in more expensive DLP projectors. In this case, however, the Mitsubishi does a visibly better job on blacks than, for example, the Optoma HD72, which uses the same Darkchip2 processor, and Brilliant Color technology. I was surprised that the difference between the two, turned out to be as significant as it was.
Shadow detail appeared to be very good as well. I'll start off with a few images, most used in other reviews, and also have some side by side images comparing the Mitsubishi HC3000 with the Optoma HD72.
First, are two images of a starship from The 5th Element. The first one is a "normal" exposure, but, since my digital camera cannot capture the full dynamic range of the projected image, the 2nd one is the same frame, overexposed, to bring out the darker details, at the expense of the brighter areas being overexposed.
I certainly haven't seen as much detail in terms of number of visible stars on any other Darkchip2 DLP projector, and as noted, it comes close to the performance of some of the Darkchip 3 projectors (with the exception of the currently under $3000 Optoma HD7100, all the other Darkchip 3 projectors seem to be selling from just under $4000 to $15,000+, at the time of this review (July 06).
Here's a new image, I haven't used before, from the movie Sin City. Again, the first one is normally exposed, and the second shot, is the same frame, overexposed so you can better see details in dark areas otherwise lost by my camera:
You can make out details in the bricks in the lower left, her jeans, his jacket, and their hair, that are there when you watch the HC3000, but lost by my camera, normally.
In the next two images, from HD-DVD - Phantom of the Opera show the Mitsubishi HC3000 (left) compared to the Optoma HD72 on the right. The Optoma is the slightly bright projector, which does make comparing the images less than ideal, however, on the first image, of a very dark hallway, I have overexposed slightly. Note that you can see a real difference in the black levels in most of the dark part of the image and the surrounding letterbox area. The Optoma cannot match the blacks of the HC3000. You might need to brighten your monitor or darken your room a bit to see the difference, but if you do, it's very noticeable.
In this second image below (again, Mitsubishi HC3000 on the left), black levels and possibly gamma, and contast come into play. Please note the chair in the background, left of center, and also the trim on the walls. In this small, slightly overexposed image you can make out a little difference, but if you click on the image you will bring up a larger one, that is also a little more overexposed. There you should not have a problem spotting differences. The horizontal trim on the walls is more distinct and overall, a bit more contrasty. You can see the brighter black levels in the letter box area on the Optoma. Again the Optoma is the brighter of the two projectors, but not enough to have that much lighter a gray where black should be.
Lastly, you can note some other differences between the two projectors. Look at the greenish drape. The Optoma HD72 offers up a more saturated, richer color. Please note, on all side-by-side comparisons with the HD72, due to the way I had to set up, the right most side of the HD72 image is cut off. (Just in case you were wondering!)
For our last pair of images, we explore shadow detail in this frame from Lord of the Rings. The first image is normally exposed, and the following one overexposed so that you can see the level of detail in the dark areas on the left and bottom. You will find this same frame on most reviews done this year.
The shadow details do come out very nicely!
Directly below is the same, overexposed frame, shot on the Optoma HD7100 with Darkchip3.
Fortunately the exposures are very similar, although the HC3000 seems to be just a touch more overexposed. There are subtle other differences, but you can see in the dark areas, especially in the lower right, that they are very close, even if the more expensive HD7100 has a slight edge. I would say that the Mitsubishi HC3000 comes closer to the Optoma HD7100 than the less expensive HD72, in this regard.
HC-3000 Overall Image Quality
Below are a number of images covering a wide range of scenes:
Here are a couple of additional HD-DVD images:
More HD-DVD - from the sci-fi movie Serendipity (hey, there just aren't many HD-DVDs to choose from yet)! The production quality on this HD-DVD seems to be pretty good from a color handling standpoint.
The HC3000 does an excellent job of capturing the colors of dusk, in this HD image above (one that is used on most of our reviews).
Click on the image above to enlarge it.
Lastly, here are several HD comparison images, again, with the HC3000 on the left, and Optoma HD72 on the right. I again, remind you that the Optoma is the lightly brighter projector:
Here are two sets of images that were shown above. In this case, however you now have the side by side comparisions.
And you can enlarge both by clicking on them.
Ok, to summarize, with a basic calibration, the Mitsubishi produces extremely good flesh tones, dynamic looking images (if a little less saturated than the HD72, although Brilliant Color adjustments do affect that. Black levels and shadow details are exceptional for a projector in it's price, with only the slightly more expensive HD7100 doing a bit better.
From an image quality standpoint, the HC3000 has the advantage over the slightly brighter, and less expensive HD72 Optoma. This creates an interesting choice for you, depending on your budget. If you are very tight on dollars, the HD72, is probably the way to go, between the two, but the HC3000 is worth some extra. On the other hand, the Optoma HD7100 for the few hundred dollars, may be worth the difference to you. Note: If you are not using the projectors in a fully darkened room, the differences between black levels and shadow detail will likely be lost, between these three projectors).
Time to move on to General Performance, where we will consider, the Mitsubishi HC3000 projector's menus, remote, brightness, lamp life and a number of other non-image quality performance areas. It will also address the calibration measurements I came up with.