Mitsubishi HC5500 1080p Home Projector Review: Image Quality
Mitsubishi HC5500: Image Quality Sections
Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector; Out of the Box Picture Quality
HC5500 Skin Tone Handling
HC5500 Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail
Overall Image Quality (post Calibration)
HC5500 for HDTV and Sports
Bottom Line Image Quality (and additional images)
When it comes to image quality, the HC5500 (link to specs) is a solid performer. Not the best, but trade-offs considered, highly competitive. Keep in mind that this is Mitsubishi's "entry level" 1080p projector, with another higher end model due shortly.
Mitsubishi HC5500 Home Theater Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality
Pretty good, but not exceptional, the HC5500 will definitely benefit from a good user calibration. Buy a disc like the AVIA, or the DVE-HD calibration disc, and invest an hour or so of your time, it will be worth the effort, or get it professionally calibrated for a few hundred dollars.
Skin Tone Handling
Once calibrated, skin tones are very good. I must note, as usual, that the combination of my digital SLR (Olympus E-510), and other aspects cause the images I take to come out oversaturated. I suggest you dial down your monitor's color saturation until the images are no longer oversaturated, to get the best idea of how the HC5500 really looks on the screen.
To start, the usual images of Gandalf, and Arwen, from Lord of the Rings, the Return of the King. These are both from standard DVD (SD-DVD):
Moving to hi-def, Blu-ray discs, consider these from House of the Flying Daggers:
Here are a pair of images from the Blu-ray version of The Fifth Element, as you can see, skin tones are very good, considering the lighting of the scenes.
Aeon Flux is always a good Blu-ray disc for considering skin tones, and these two shots really show off the HC5500's ability:
As I point out in most reviews, when considering skin tone accuracy, you must consider the scene lighting. The color of a person's face will be different out in pure sunlight, shade, florescent lighting, and incandescent lighting, not to mention very dark scenes. To demonstrate, here are images of James Bond - Daniel Craig - from Casino Royale, under different lighting:
Fluorescent lighting (airport):
One last color image for now. I'm playing with the National Treasure movies on Blu-ray, and plan to integrate a few images into future reviews, here's one of Nicolas Cage:
Finally, our "sepia-like" image of Nancy from the SD-DVD version of Sin City:
Black Level and Shadow Detail
Black Level Performance
Black level performance is pretty much what we have come to expect from most 1080p projectors in the under $4000 range. In fact most are pretty similar in this regard, with only the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, being rather significantly better than the HC5500 (and all of the others). Still, the black level performance is good enough, that it is "good enough", that other factors become equally important.
I like to start with space scenes, after all, there's nothing like the inky black of outer space, especially considering that it is computer generated.
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.
Next, also from Space Cowboys is an image you can find in just about every review in the last year and a half. As you can see, this image, which is not overexposed, reveals a good star field and a very black back:
For comparison purposes, here's the classic starship image from The Fifth Element. The first one is the HC5500. Direcly below it, are the same frame from the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, followed by the older HC4900, and the BenQ W5000. Note that there are more stars on the HC5500, than the Epson (which isn't quite as good in terms of shadow details).
Here's a new image, from the DVD-HD calibration disc. Expect to see this image in all future reviews: This dark and bright scene is handled very nicely by the HC5500, with the shot below beling slightly overexposed, yet there are good blacks in many of the buildings. The image looked just great on the screen!
Review continues below this advertisement.
Shadow Detail Performance
When it comes to shadow detail, Mitsubishi always seems to do at least as good a job as the competition. The HC5500 is no exception. The first image is a cropped scene of Gondor, at night, from Lord of the Rings. These thumbnail images are all the same, but click on them for the larger, cropped, and seriously overexposed versions so you can compare shadow detail in the buildings, and in the mountains and below them, on the far right. Also, note the subtle dark colors in some of the buildings.
Next is one of the toughest tests. This scene with Clint Eastwood, from Space Cowboys on Blu-ray, is extremely dark. The photos are heavily 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).
First image is the HC5500, followed by two much more expensive projectors, the similar Viewsonic Pro8100, and the Sony VW60. The last three in the sequence are t he Sanyo PLV-Z2000 (the only one less expensive),the older HC4900, and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB.
Note in particular the HC4900 vs. the HC5500, even though the HC4900 isn't as bright a image, its blacks are far lighter, and the the image looks washed out by comparison.
Below we have six "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:
HC5500, Epson - and Pro - Home Cinema 1080 UB, (first row), Sony VPL-VW60, and the JVC RS1 (second row), third row is the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, and the Sanyo PLV-Z2000
In the re-entry scene from Space cowboys, here's the HC5500 on the left, compared to the the Epson on the right. Again, the thumbnail images are the same, and more normally exposed, while the larger images when you click on the thumbnails, are seriously overexposed to reveal the detail in the right side of the planet earth.
Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
Mitsubishi HC5500 projector:
(Again, all five images below are the same. Clicking on each brings up the higher resolution, and overexposed versions that allows you to compare shadow detail abilities in the dark areas. Look to the roof tiles, and the trees on the left). The Mitsubishi does a great job in the shadow details, with the roof tiles very visible when watching the movie, whereas many projectors loose a lot more detail.
Sony VPL-VW40 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB projector:
InFocus IN83 projector: (a more expensive projector that I've been raving about)
Panasonic PT-AE2000U projector: (sorry, this one is a bit underexposed, compared to the others)
Review continues below this advertisement.
These next two images are found in almost all recent reviews. Click for large, and seriously overexposed, versions of the thumbnails. You can look to the dark areas of the shed on the right, plants along the bottom, and the wood structure on the left, to compare shadow detail.
Here are a couple of other images widely used in our reviews for considering shadow detail. In the first one, from Aeon Flux, look for the detail in the table surface, and the shadows. In the second image, also from Aeon Flux, this night shot, shows good detail in the almost black areas on the ground and in the building.:
This last image in the section, is from the beginning of Casino Royale. I normally post several comparsion shots from other projectors, but this image isn't as overexposed as the others. Still, you can make out the details in the furniture and other objects in the back.
Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Image Sharpness
Excellent! One of the best I've seen. And that means I don't have to spend much time showing you. Immediately below are the usual images for comparing this Viewsonic projector with some of the major competition.
Top left: Mitsubishi HC5500, Top Center, Sony VPL-VW60, Top right: Panasonic PT-AE2000U
2nd row left: Sanyo PLV-2000, middle: Optoma HD8000, right: InFocus IN82
Close up of a computer monitor, from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray), left is HC5500, right is Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB. There is a visible difference in sharpness, with the Mitsubishi having the advantage!
Bottom Line Sharpness: Excellent, I'm most impressed with the sharpness, and just a little jealous.
Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
Coming in a couple of days (including images from the Olympics).
Mitsubishi HC5500 Projector: Overall Image Quality
As stated previously, the out of the box color isn't bad, but treat yourself to a calibration disc, like the AVIA, or the DVE-HD calibration disc (Blu-ray), which we recently reviewed. All the images shown below, were after calibration. The HC5500 you will note, does a really good job on the colors of the U.S. flag. (BTW, the flag, and several other images below (including the picture with balloons), and also the "riot of flowers - the last picture on the Summary page, are from the DVE-HD disc).
The projector really is well balanced, with no particular weaknesses. Skin tones are very good, black levels average for today's 1080p projectors (which isn't a bad thing), and sharpness is exceptional. Add to that, more brightness in best mode than many other 3LCD projectors, and you have a very good, affordable 1080p projector.
Overall Picture Quality: Bottom Line
Definitely comparable to most of the other lower cost 1080p projectors. Of them, only the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB can significantly outperform the HC5500, and in that regard, only in black levels, but by a good amount.
Let's say that the Mitsubishi HC5500 is a very good consumer model. It may not appeal to the hard core HT enthusiast, but should please just about everyone else.