Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector - Image Quality
These HC3800 image photos below are from either Blu-ray or HDTV, with the one exception being Lord of the Rings (on standard DVD). Consider that by the time these Mitsubishi HC3800 projector images get to your eyeball, via digital SLR, software, browsers, and even your monitor, there are definite color shifts, saturation differences, etc. The images are to support the commentary, but keep in mind these limitations when trying to compare images from the HC3800 projector with other home theater projectors. Take them all, "with a grain of salt".
It's safe to say that all home theater projectors, including the Mitsubishi HC3800 definitely look better live, than in even the best looking images would indicate.
9/28/2009 - Art Feierman
Mitsubishi HC3800 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Very impressive color and overall picture right out of the box, and that's twice as impressive because this is an early engineering sample. Not only are there good looking preset combinations, but the minor color inaccuracies are easily corrected with a calibration. Now, it's possible that the final production HC3800 projectors will have different color tables. If that's the case, we'll update our recommended settings (on the calibration page) once we obtain a new HC3800 projector.
Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector - Flesh Tones
After Mike calibrated the HC3800 sample, skin tones proved to be excellent. While not the best we've seen, definitely better than most similarly priced 3LCD and DLP projectors. Skin tones are rich, accurate, and have that DLP "look and feel" which translates into intense without being oversaturated. Nice!
There are plenty of our favorite skin tone images, and as you look through them, you'll have to admit they look really good.
Below are our three James Bond images from Casino Royale. Each has a different lighting scenario, the first - full sunlight, the second image; indoor fluorescent, and finally, filtered sunlight in the third image. And as one would expect, that causes each image of James Bond - Daniel Patrick - to have different looking skin tones. All look pretty good!
More images we like for considering skin tones:
Three from Aeon Flux:
From The Dark Knight:
Men In Black:
From the DVE-HD calibration disc (digital source material, not film):
and finally one from Quantum of Solace (Bond):
Mitsubishi HC3800 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Unlike most of the home theater projectors hitting the market these days, the HC3800 projector lacks a dynamic iris to enhance black levels. Despite this, the black levels of the HC3800 are pretty good, just don't expect them to match the more expensive ultra-high contrast projectors with their 30,000:1 or higher contrast ratios.
Yes, in your hunt for the "holy grail" of projectors - great black levels, you can spend a few hundred more for projectors with noticeably better black levels, but, at it's price point, the HC3800 does really well. And, since the Mitsubishi HC3800 accomplishes this without a dynamic iris, which come with some minor baggage (such as image compression for less wow factor), and sometimes, visible iris action.
The HC3800 manages pretty good blacks without the dynamic iris, just don't expect miracles. Pretty good, is still a long way from great, or exceptional, but "not bad at all" for a low cost projector. It is better than the lower cost Optoma HD20, but looks to be not quite as good as the new Epson Home Cinema 8100, a direct competitor.
I need to point this out - a doubling of contrast should provide a small, but recognizable improvement in black levels. Thus, you should see about the same improvement going from 2000:1 to 4000:1 (4000:1 is the HC3800's off/on contrast claim), as going from 25,000:1 to 50,000:1 The HC3800 seems to have exceptionally high ansi contrast (based on a look, not a measurement, and this is probably why it delivers blacker blacks than some other similar DLP projectors without dynamic irises.
For your consideration, side-by-side images, comparing the HC3800 to the Optoma HD20, the Samsung SP-A600 and the BenQ W6000. That covers a range of DLP projectors from about 25% less in price to double the price. In our first image, the Optoma HD20 ($999) is on the left. You can see that the HC3800 has little problem delivering blacker blacks (though the Optoma image is a touch brighter).
For the second image, the Samsung SP-A600 is on the left, the HC3800 on the right. Finally for the last image pair, note first, that the HC3800 is on the left side. In this case, it's the HC3800 vs. the BenQ W6000 (almost exactly twice its price).
As you can see, above, the Mitsubishi HC3800 beats both the Optoma HD20, and the more expensive Samsung SP-A600 in terms of black levels, but comes up short against the BenQ W6000. The Mitsubishi seems to have the best black levels of any under $2000 DLP projector, and should give most (not all) of the lower cost 3LCD projectors a run for the money, as well.
Immediately below (first two images), are from Space Cowboys, the first image normally and 2nd one, overexposed so you can see the blacks as dark grays and see how overexposed the satellite is.
For reference, below that, are the same basic images on the more expensive W6000 for comparison. Then using the side-by-side, of the BenQ vs. the Epson 6500UB, you can interpolate how much better the Epson (the reigning black level champ under $3500) is, compared to the $1400 HC3800 projector.
First two: HC3800
Immediately below, is a side-by-side image of the same satellite. The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB (the reigning under $3500 black level champ) on the left, and the BenQ W6000 on the right (you can, of course, click to enlarge). The Epson was not in its "best" movie mode (because the BenQ is much brighter in "best" movie modes), which has some impact. As it turns out, in this photo, the Epson projector is a bit brighter. When you look at black levels though, and compensate for that brightness difference, you realize that the BenQ is close to the Epson. As noted elsewhere, it just depends on the scene, as the two manufacturer irises work a bit differently.
For general black level performance examples we'll start with my favorite, the Starship image found The Fifth Element. The first is the HC3800 followed by an overexposed version. Then comes the Sony VPL-HW15. Immediately below it, is the Optoma HD8200.
And below is the Panasonic PT-AE3000:
Next is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB:
Finally, here's the new BenQ W6000, which is costs almost twice as much.
Consider two additional (digital) images which are good ones for observing black levels.
The image immediately below is from The Dark Knight. I've intentionally overexposed it to make a point. This is the type of scene where the difference in black level performance makes a huge difference. Because the outside areas of the scene, and for that matter the men's jackets are pretty black, with little detail at all, projectors with just "good" black levels look very flat. Below the HC3800 sillouette image, is the same scene using the BenQ W6000, and then, the Sony VPL-VW15, both of which are definitely "step up" competitors.
The dynamic iris, with almost all projectors (JVC excepted, as they manage great black levels without a dynamic iris), of course, is a key, today, to enhancing contrast and improving black levels.
The Mitsubishi HC3800, as an entry level projector, manages its black level performance without a dynamic iris. Below is a "demontration" of one of the issues affecting the use of dynamic irises.
On the pair of images below (HC3800), taken several frames apart, you can see that the black levels remain unchanged. That is precisely unlike, the pair of images below it, taken with the more expensive BenQ W6000, which uses an iris.
With the BenQ, you can see how the background lightens when the credits are up. This type of visible shifting of the image due to iris action is not an issue with the HC3800. The trade-off - the HC3800 doesn't quite match the black level performance of most projectors with a dynamic iris. Before you ask, yes the second pair (W6000) are more overexposed, which was done to make it easier to see the difference between the blacks with and without credits on the projector with the dynamic iris. BTW, do not use these images to equate the black levels of the two projectors, the frames taken with the HC3800 were done without signficant overexposure, unlike the W6000 images.
Shadow Detail Performance
Shadow detail of the HC3800 is about as good as it gets. Most impressive. This shouldn't be surprising, previous Mitsubishi entry level 1080p projectors, the old HC4900 and HC5500 also had excellent shadow detail, if I recall correctly.
Here's a side-by-side dark scene from The Space Cowboys with the BenQ W6000 on the right On this overall, very dark image, the dynamic iris defiitely takes the BenQ to a different level, in terms of blacks. On scenes with more medium or bright bjects, you would see less difference:
The next set of comparison images, continues with a shot of Clint Eastwood 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 type of photos they always look terrible, and way oversaturated/too high contrast).
First image is the HC3800, then the BenQ W6000 followed by the VPL-HW15. After those, are: Sharp XV-Z15000, Optoma HD8200, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and the Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
The VPL-HW15 does extremely well in shadow detail on our Clint Eastwood dark scene from Space Cowboys:
The following images are both the same frame, from Space Cowboys. The first one is slightly overexposed, and the second one, dramatically so. Look in the brown area of the satellite on the left (and elsewhere). The two images below are overexposed versions from the less expensive Optoma HD20, and below it, the Sony HW15, which is about twice the price of the HC3800. Note that the HC3800 definitely produces blacker blacks than the Optoma, and the HC3800 image has a lot more pop and wow - a more dynamic looking image.
Below: HC3800 overexposed:
Below is a heavily overexposed scene from Lord of the Rings. The overexposure lets you see all the details in the shed on the right, the structure on the left, and the plants and ground along the lower right. The HC3800 offers a great amount of dark shadow detail.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Mitsubishi, Sony VPL-HW15 in the center, and the right for the Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Mitsubishi, followed by the BenQ W6000, then the Sony VPL-HW15, followed by the Sharp XV-Z15000, fourth is the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and the last one is from the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
All considered, the HC3800 reveals more of the dark shadow detail than just about any other projector we've recently worked with. Most impressive.
(Please note, the Panasonic image above is a little blurry, must have bumped the tripod. Sorry! That shouldn't affect your ability to see the shadow details. -art)
Mitsubishi HC3800 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
I can't wait to see what a full production version of the HC3800 can do. While I am extremely pleased with overall color handling, and skin tones, finalized color tables likely will allow for some further improvement. (I can't imagine there will be great improvement. I should note that he gamma for the HC3800 needs a bit of improvement. Mike's measurements ended up averaging a too high 2.37 gamma. In part, the average is due to a narrow spike in the near whites - at 90 IRE, where gamma spikes to 2.9!!! Factoring that spike out, the gamma averages 2.3, but that's still higher than the ideal 2.2 gamma. Mike didn't measure all the gamma modes, but that one is probably closest, so I'll be looking for an even better gamma. Also there is some control over the gamma itself. Neither Mike nor I really worked with it for this review.
All considered, though, even with the current gamma, the color handling and look and feel of the projected image of the Mitsubishi HC3800 is really very good. This is another of those "a pleasure to watch" projectors (many are of the DLP variety, but not all). I'm not sure that you can find a better performing projector, when it comes to color, in the under $2000 range, and I definitely can't think of one under $1500!
Here's the "crew" image from Space Cowboys - first one is the HC3800, then the more expensive BenQ W6000:
A mix of additional images to show off the Mitsubishi HC3800:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
The HC3800, at its brightest - a combination of Sports gamma, and High Brightness color temp, yields up almost 1150 lumens on this pre-production projector. That said, color accuracy is compromised for lumen output. For a better compromise, with some very respectable color, use the Video, Auto, or Cinema gamma, and Color Temp on Medium to still get over 950 lumens. Now, average brightness for 1080p projectors falls right about there - around 1000 lumens, so, for sports viewing, and dealing with ambient light, the HC3800 projector is only about average brightness.
Actually, for that matter, just about every combination of this projector except when selecting Cool or Warm color temperatures, yields upward of 900 lumens, and we can't think of a normal use for the Cool (way too cool) or Warm (way too warm) settings.
In other words you get average to slightly brighter than average output for your sports and general HDTV, TV viewing with some ambient light present.
Mitsubishi HC3800 Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports
Well, it could of course have more lumens. That's one area where, perhaps it's closest new competition - the Epson Home Cinema 8100 should have a noteworthy advantage. (We just received the Epson, and expect it, like its predecessor, to have about 1400 to 1800 lumens in its brightest modes. On the other hand, the Mitsubishi has the big lumen advantage in "best mode" with probably double the lumens of the Epson in that case.
Thanks to the really sharp image, sports look really good. I must admit to not having watched too much, though, as I've been rotating through four projectors - the HC3800, the BenQ W6000, the InFocus SP8602, and as of this weekend, the Epson Home Cinema 8100. Of this group, for brightest sports viewing, the HC3800, along with the InFocus, were the two least bright of the four. Other than the "it can always stand to be brighter", the HC3800 though looked really good on my football games, and high quality digital content (Discovery-HD, PlanetGreen-HD, Travel-HD, etc.) While not as bright as some, color is better than those guys, when they are pumping out their maximum lumens, but both the Epson and BenQ can muster up more lumens than the Mitsubishi, with the sacrifice of some color performance.