Mitsubishi HC4900, 1080p Home Theater Projector Review - Image Quality
Check out how the Mitsubishi HC4900 fared in our comparison report.
Overall, the Mitsubishi HC4900 (link to specs) does an impressive job in terms of overall image quality. It's achilles heel, however is black levels, which are not as good as the HC5000, or, for that matter, most of the competition. In fairness, though, color handling, and especially fleshtones are extremely good. You've got to figure that when you are buying one of the very least expensive 1080p projectors, that it is going to have some weaknesses.
Mitsubishi HC4900 Projector: Flesh Tone Handling
I like to start with images showing skin tones, because I'm always of the belief that if flesh tones look unnatural, you have a real problem. Understand, the images here are "best" representations of what I see on the screen (I bracket the exposures, and choose the best, but never edit the color, etc.), but there are so many compromises (the digital camera's capabilities, the monitor you are looking at (color shift, contrast), and so on. Right off the bat, you are probably looking at these images on a monitor with drastically inferior black levels and contrast compared to what the projector offers. So, take the images with a very large "grain" of salt. Overall, in this photo shoot, the images, as a whole, tend to be a little oversaturated. This is an issue relating more to the process, than the projector, and may not look that way on your computer.
Starting with my old favorites: Two images from Lord of the Rings, followed by two from The Fifth Element. All four are from standard DVD (SD-DVD). In the near future, I will start using Blu-ray versions of the Fifth Element images, and will do the same with the others, when Lord of the Rings finally makes it to Blu-Ray.
Now, I don't know what this image above looks like on your display, but it really looked extremely natural on screen, and this image captures that, pretty well.
Time to consider other aspects beside image quality. We'll next look at measured brightess, pixel visibility, remote control, menus, inputs, screen recommendations and more (not necessarily in that order) in the General Performance section.
OK! Switching to Blu-Ray and HD-DVD disks:
One of the most spectacular Blu-Ray movies I've seen is House of the Flying Daggers. While this disk will make almost any projector look great, the HC4900 images are stunning:
The next two images are from Aeon Flux (Blu-Ray):
I finally scored Pirates of the Carribean, on Blu-Ray, so I'm back to using this image going forward (similar to one I used on SD-DVD) for a couple of years).
One last image, but this time taken with a new digital camera. I finally "upgraded" and purchased, after much consideration (and trying several), the Olympus E-510 dSLR. I've been working with it for a couple of weeks, but still haven't found the ideal settings to do the job properly, although, I will!
The image below was shot with the E510, from Space Cowboys on HD-DVD, but as you can see, there is a color shift - their shirts should be gray, and are coming out too blue. Despite that, the skin tones aren't bad. It will be trial and error, but eventually, I'll find the right white balance setting or custom one, to make my new camera look as good as my old one:
OK, enough of these images, time to move on. The bottom line is that the HC4900, with minor tuning, produces really excellent flesh tones. Overall, it has the edge on the competition. The Panasonic is close, with the Epson Home Cinema 1080, they tend to look a little hard, and not quite as natural, and the Optoma HD81 (and I assume, the lower cost HD80), should be competitive, but will require more tweaking to achieve really natural skin tones.
Mitsubishi HC4900 Black Levels and Shadow Detail
If handling skin tones is a particular strength of Mitsubishi's HC4900 home theater projector, then black levels are its weakness.
From the first moment I had hooked up the HC4900 in my viewing room, I realized that the black levels were no match for most of the competition. In your environment, choice of the right screen, however, can really help. The gamma settings, though, on the HC4900 are excellent. While any shadow detail - "information,"- below the dark grays that represent black, are lost, detail is very good on information just above the threshold.
The first image is from Space Cowboys, on HD-DVD.
Below are two thumbnails. Click on the one on the left, and you will get a large version, normally exposed. You can make out the space shuttle's trail in the lower center. Detail in the dark areas to the right, however are lost, in part due to camera limitations. The second, identical, thumbnail (right) will show you the same large image, but this time significantly overexposed, so you can see what detail the projector actually reproduced. Performance is OK on this same, but hardly great. You can find similar images on most reviews done since early 2007.
The next image is from The Fifth Element (SD-DVD). This image of the starship does not produce a nice, really dark deep space, but, despite that the star count is very good, some other projectors, including some with visibly better black levels, still manage to show less stars in the image, although the best, show even more.
Aeon Flux (Blu-Ray) has an excellent scene - of this table. The counter is almost black but has texture, and the image overall, is a good test of the combination of black levels and shadow detail. Note the shadows cast on the table by the various plates and other objects:
Here's another scene from Aeon Flux. it's a very dark scene, and I wanted to comment, that while the blacks weren't as black as I would have liked, overall, the scene looked very good on my high contrast gray Stewart Firehawk when filling the entire screen:
Next is a scene from Lord of the Rings (SD-DVD), that I have been using for "years".
The first version is normally exposed, the second one, overexposed to show what shadow detail the projector captures in the dark areas in the shed, and along the bottom.
As I mentioned earlier shadow detail is especially good for a projector with the HC4900's black levels. You can make out detail in the wood posts, that many projectors with better blacks, just can't deliver.
Sin City (SD-DVD) is an especially dark movie, which tends to test projectors pretty hard. Here is a night image. While overall, the image looks very good. Details are definitely lost in very dark areas, such as the pavement underneath the back of the car, which shows more texture on projectors with darker black levels:
This next two images are also from Sin City:
One last image for this section. From Space Cowboys, the satellite. Again, good starfield, but blacks just aren't the "rich, inky blacks" that are ideal.
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Mitsubishi HC4900 Projector - Overall color handling and image quality
While the HC4900 excels at some aspects, and is a bit weak (black levels), on others, my conclusion is that the HC4900 produces an overall really good picture.
Below are a wide assortment of images for you to peruse. Give or take the limitations in capturing and displaying what the projector puts up on the screen, these should give you a good appreciation of the HC4900 projector's image quality abilities, which include rich, saturated colors, and an overall razor sharp feel.
First, here are a couple of images from the BBC/Planet Earth Blu-ray DVD:
The brighter images, such as the one immediately above, were particularly spectacular. I would go as far as to say, they have more punch (and sharpness), than my JVC RS1, which is twice the price. Overall, the Mitsubishi HC4900 produces rich, vibrant colors.
From the DTS Blu-ray test disk, consider these:
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From House of the Flying Daggers:
The image immediately below, is from Night At The Museum.
HC4900 Home Theater Projector - Sharpness
Wow! As with the HC5000, the image sharpness of the HC4900 is excellent. Overall, the image on the screen seems at least as sharp as any other projector we have ever reviewed. This is going to be key ability that will attract a large group of potential home theater projector buyers. (I only wish my JVC RS1 was this sharp.) Some could argue, that that the HC4900 isn't really sharper than the best of the competition, but rather, is in part, the result of the LCD pixel structure. I tend to agree with that idea. The HC4900 may not actually reveal more detail (which sharpness would imply), but rather it just seems sharper than anything else out there. One note: The default sharpness setting of 0, seems to oversharpen the image. I found that -3 or -4 to be better, removing "halos" around some objects. Doing that, however, doesn't change anything, in that the HC4900 still seems extremely sharp.
In the image immediately below, a very small section of the DTS test disk main menu, you can appreciate the sharpness. (You will also note misconvergence of the LCD panels with red along the top, and green along the bottom of the white areas. This amount of misconvergence is not visible at any, even remotely, reasonable seating distance.
Click on the left thumbnail (which, shows the entire screen, to give you an idea of how small an area the logo takes up), for a close up of the DTS logo.
For comparison purposes, click on the center thumbnail for a closeup of the more expensive JVC RS1, and the right one, for the price competitive Epson Home Cinema 1080.
Another image that really shows off the Mitsubishi, in terms of sharpness, is this one from Aeon Flux (Blu-ray DVD).
And, one more image, for your consideration, this one is a image from the Blu-ray DTS test disk. clicking on the full image will bring up a cropped, enlarged version for closer inspection.
OK! We're done here. Overall, excellent color handling, good shadow detail, excellent sharpness, very good skin tones, and mediocre black levels, is pretty much the story for the Mitsubishi HC4900. Of course, spending the extra $1000 plus for the HC5000, significantly improves black levels, although the HC5000 still isn't a world class performer, being no match for the JVC RS1 (best) Sharp XV-Z20000 (very close to the JVC), and the Sony Pearl (a bit below the other two, but better than the rest of the sub-$10,000 1080p projector field.
Time to consider general performance items like menus, remote control, brightness, projector screen recommendations, and more!