Mitsubishi HC6500 1080p Home Projector Review: Image Quality
Mitsubishi HC6500: Image Quality Sections
Mitsubishi HC6500 Projector; Out of the Box Picture Quality
HC6500 Skin Tone Handling
HC6500 Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail
Overall Image Quality (post Calibration)
HC6500 for HDTV and Sports
Bottom Line Image Quality (and additional images)
I found the HC6500 (link to specs) to perform extremely well. It may not match the black level performance of several of the "top of the line" LCD home theater projectors (including Mitsubishi's new HC7000), but on the other hand, it provides an extremely watchable image, better than the less expensive entry-level 1080p projectors including the two recently reviewed. Those would be Mitsubishi's own HC5500 reviewed in August, and the Sanyo PLV-Z700 published last week.
Mitsubishi HC6500 Home Theater Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality
Not great, but then, very few are. In fact only a very few, mostly more expensive home theater projectors, are so good, out of the box, in terms of color accuracy, contrast and gamma, to not improve substantially with a calibration. As a result, we recommend you choose one the usual three options, to get the most out of your Mitsubishi HC6500 projector:
- Have the HC6500 professionally calibrated.
- Buy a good "end-user" calibration disc, and invest an hour or so of your time, basically following directions.
- Drop in the calibration settings we came up with (found in the HC6500 Calibration section of the General Performance page). Due to unit variations this solution will not be perfect, but should still be a rather significant improvement compared to out of the box settings.
Overall, the HC6500 is definitely watchable, but, when you consider that it is a significant investment, why not do one of the three above, and get more bang for your bucks.
Skin Tone Handling
Beautiful, at least, after calibration. In fact the Mitsubishi HC6500 really does an excellent job. Skin tones look extremely natural, and as always I wish the images provided could really capture how good they look. Unfortunately by the time the projected image makes it from the screen, to my dSLR camera, to the website, and finally onto your monitor, the image never looks as good as just sitting there and enjoying. Saturation and contrast definitely change, color balance changes slightly (a touch, to much green), and so on. Just remember, the HC6500 will look better! Definitely!
We start with the two standard definition (SD-DVD) DVD images of Gandalf and Arwen, from Lord of the Rings. Following those, all remaining screen images are from Blu-ray disc (or HDTV).
Please note, you can click on most "screen" images for a much larger view.
Next, the image of Leeloo, from The Fifth Element, on Blu-ray (remastered version):
Once again, here are three shots of Daniel Craig, as James Bond in Casino Royale, to demonstrate the different skin tones due to different lighting. First image is full sunlight, second one, fluorescent lighting (airport), and third one, filtered sunlight (shade). A really good projector not only produces a different skin tone on each, but each looks right for the type of lighting (as well as night time), incandescent lighting, and so on:
Here are several images from the movie Aeon Flux:
House of the Flying Daggers has rich saturated colors, and definitely a bit of color shifting to achieve the director's intent. As a result, they aren't 100% natural looking but impressive, nonetheless:
From Men In Black (looks great):
Mitsubishi HC6500: Black Level and Shadow Detail
Black Level Performance
In the good old days (what?), contrast stats were a good indication of black level performance, but with the advent of dynamic irises, contrast numbers don't tell you much at all. All we keep getting are higher and higher numbers, and in some cases they correlate to better black levels in other cases, not so much.
Consider the Mitsubishi HC6500 compared to their own HC5500. The HC6500 claims 15,000:1 contrast, compared to 14,000:1 contrast. Now a small difference like that - a few percent, really should indicate that black levels are basically the same.
As it turns out, that's not the case. The HC5500 did well enough - for an entry level 1080p projector, but the HC6500 is noticeably better.
For years, black level performance has been "the Holy Grail" of home theater projectors, since the old CRT projectors went away. In other words, when black level performance was much poorer than today, an improvement in that area was the biggest thing a manufacturer could do, to improve overall picture quality.
Today, some are truly superb, but more to the point, in the 1080p class of projectors, most of them produce at least very respectable black levels, which means you can also focus on other issues when looking for the home theater projector with the best overall picture.
In recently working with this season's two (so far) "entry-level" 1080p projectors I found them both to be acceptable, but hardly impressive, in this area. If budget is tight, most can live with it, but enthusiasts would likely be less than satisfied.
Not so the HC6500. It's just that much better than the entry-level models, including the HC5500, to, in my judgement, cross a threshold where they are good, not just acceptable. True, you can choose from other projectors that are even better in this regard, but, unless you are looking at those one magnitude better (the JVC projectors, or almost any other one claiming 50,000:1 or better contrast), you can rest easy, with black levels good enough that you can focus more on things like brightness, color accuracy, and so on.
For your consideration, first, my old favorite, the Starship scene from The Fifth Element:
For comparison, here's the same image from the less expensive HC5500. One can never get the exposures identical, and in this case the HC6500 is a definitely brighter overall, yet the blacks appear comparable - better black levels for the HC6500:
The two images immediately above are from the DVE-HD calibration disc. When viewing these scenes, the blacks in the buildings come out nice and dark. In the Times Square image, the sky and dark buildings in the distance, come across nice and dark and very reasonable amount of shadow detail comes out. The end result is a scene which has a rich, dynamic look. While blacks aren't as inky black as some more expensive models, dark scenes have a good amount of depth thanks to the contrast between brighter areas and the darkest ones. Projectors with lesser black level performance tend to give a flat, undetailed look to larger black areas. The HC6500 makes the grade.
Here's one more image. Just a good night scene, from National Treasure. Blacks in his tux, and background are nicely dark and rich:
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HC6500 Projector: Shadow Detail Performance
The HC6500 does very well in terms of shadow detail. There are others that do a bit better, but, for the most part, we're talking subtleties. In watching movies with very dark scenes, such as National Treasure, and Batman Begins, I found enough detail in large black areas to avoid that flat look, which comes when projectors are not showing up well, near black details in dark areas.
Our first image is from Lord of the Rings. Click on the thumbnail images below (they are all the same), for larger, more overexposed, and cropped versions. Look in particular at the details in the background on the right, below the mountains, and the darker areas of some of the buildings. Remember, the scene is intentionally, heavily overexposed.
Next, from Space Cowboys, is this very dark scene with Clint Eastwood, on Blu-ray. 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).
You really can see differences between the two Mitsubishi projectors above.
The re-entry image below, is a tough shadow detail test. Projectors with weak black levels and average shadow detail ability tend to generate an image where much of the right side of earth, looks to have that flat, lacking in detail look. All projectors pick up some of the brighter features on the right side, while better ones, pick up a lot more and usually have richer blacks as well.
On the left, is the HC6500, the middle, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and on the right, at roughly twice the price, is the InFocus IN83 which is about as good as it gets in shadow detail, although not up to, say, the Epson 1080 UB, in black level performance.
Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
When comparing, look at the detail in the roof (tiles), and also in the assorted trees and plants.
Mitsubishi HC6500 projector:
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)
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 pants and ground along the lower right. The HC6500 does very well on this image.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Mitusibishi HC6500, Sanyo PLV-Z700 in the center, and the right for the InFocus IN82.
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, while the second one is from the more expensive InFocus IN83:
As you can see, the HC6500 does well, but the IN83, a bit better.
Additional images widely used in our reviews for considering shadow detail, are found below.
In the image above, from the beginning of Casino Royale, look at the detail in the furniture along the back of the room.
The image above, is from Aeon Flux.
Above is a heavily overexposed image from National Treasure. Look at the very good shadow detail in the upper right. You'll find this image in most recent reviews.
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Mitsubishi HC6500 Projector: Image Sharpness
Top left: Mitsubishi HC6500, 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 to right HC6500, Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, Sanyo PLV-Z700, and BenQ W20000. Only the BenQ does a visibly better job. The HC6500 is one of the sharper 1080p projectors out there.
Mitsubishi HC6500: Bottom Line Sharpness
The HC6500 is just one more Mitsubishi 1080p projector that is very sharp. Small signs and words are easy to read, and the image looks very crisp, especially on HDTV from digital sources. Movies of course get a certain amount of inherent softness, in part due to the film grain.
Mitsubishi HC6500 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
Very nice. HDTV digital content, including sports comes across as very sharp and crisp. The primary weakness of the HC6500 relates to watching with ambient light, in that the HC6500 isn't one of the brighter home theater projectors out there.
The images below were all taken in the afternoon, with my blackout shades all the way closed, but, (without channels) they still leak significant light. In the first image you can see most of the wall around the screen, and get a good idea about the ambient light, during the shooting session.
Mitsubishi HC6500 Projector: Overall Image Quality
The HC6500 projector is one of those that just looks good. Yes you can find projectors that are superior, especially the higher end models, but the picture quality never offends. A good example would be comparing it to the more expensive InFocus IN83. The IN83's picture is sensational, although black levels aren't the very best. The Mitsubishi HC6500 isn't quite that good (or as bright), but like the IN83, it looks very good with almost anything you throw at it. It will satisfy a great many.
Here are an assortment of images. Some are from movies, other are all digital images.
The images above, from House of the Flying Daggers.
Overall Picture Quality: Bottom Line
The HC6500 is a well balanced projector. Particular strengths are the excellent skin tones, respectable black levels and a sharp image. Overall, its one of the most film-like 3LCD home theater projectors I've encountered.
As I've said several times: The HC6500 produces a very watchable, pleasing image. Black level performance crosses the threshold of being dark enough that dark scenes look very good, even if they would be better, with even better black levels.
The HC6500 has no significant flaws with its projected image, and only black levels could be improved significantly, and for that, Mitsubishi offers the more expensive HC7000.