Mitsubishi HC7000 - Image Quality
11/19/2008 - Art Feierman
Mitsubishi HC7000 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Picture quality is respectable, but hardly great, out of the box. In that regard the HC7000 is probably about typical. Very few projectors offer excellent out of the box color accuracy.
The color temperature (Warm setting), is a bit warm, averaging a little less than 6150K instead of the ideal 6500K. The other Color Temp settings are all signifcantly off, on the cool side (stronger blues, weaker reds). A basic calibration is recommended, whether you buy a user calibration disc, or hire a professional. I suspect that most of the dealers selling the HC7000 (link to specs) either will have a calibrator on staff, or can recommend one. The third option is to plug in the settings we list in this reviews Calibration page. Due to lamp variation, each projector calibrates a bit differently, but our settings should get you very close to where you want to be.
HC7000 Flesh Tones
Pre-calibration, skin tones tend to be a little too redish. This is most noticeable in darker scenes when faces aren't well lit, as the color temp dips to around 6000K in the darker ranges.
Post calibration, flesh (skin) tones are excellent. I found the HC7000 to really look good on all types of skin tones, in a wide variety of movies and other content. You can tell from our images that these skin tones do look good. Remember, there are a number of reasons why our photos are not fully accurate, making it difficult to make a direct comparison. Those reasons include the slight shift in color brought about our digital camera, the limited contrast of your monitor, the fact that monitors - yours and the one I use, are not color calibrated. Bottom line, the images are helpful, in supporting commentary, but have limitations. Take them with the proverbial "grain of salt" (or more).
As is usual in our reviews, these first two images are from standard definition DVD, from Lord of the Rings. The first is Gandalf, followed by Arwen.
The rest of the images in this section are movies and other content on hi-def Blu-ray disc. We start with the three images of Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Casino Royale. Scene lighting, and the director's intent (intentional changes), means that skin tones will vary, depending on the type of lighting, such as full sunlight (first image), fluorescent lighting (2nd image), and filtered sunlight - shaded on a sunny day (3rd image), as well as night time scenes, incandescent lighting and so on. In all three images here, the HC7000 provides realistic skin tones.
Next are images from the sci-fi flick, Aeon Flux:
From Men In Black:
HC7000 Projector Black Levels & Shadow Detail
I am most impressed. The HC7000's black level performance puts it into that select group of projectors where I consider the differences to still be there, but all have good enough black levels that the differences between them, for the most point, are very secondary, when deciding between them. Other factors - brightness, color accuracy, etc., are more critical for most buyers, than the small differences in black levels. The other projectors in this group (of excellent black levels), which also includes the old Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and almost certainly the soon to be released Home Cinema 6500 UB, and Pro Cinema 7500 UB, the Panasonic PT-AE3000, and the Sony and JVC LCoS projectors. The JVC's are still the best, but, all of these others are close. Of the best, the JVC RS2 and soon to be released RS20, are still a step up from the rest, but unless you are a fanatic, that can't live with black levels any worse that the JVC RS2, any of these should make you very happy.
Note, of the projectors mentioned above, the one with the least great black levels is the Panasonic PT-AE3000. Below you'll see a side by side, between the Panasonic and this Mitsubishi.
We start this group of images with the starship image from The Fifth Element. First, is the Mitsubishi HC7000. With the HC7000 image, I have decided to overexpose enough so you can make out the letterbox above and below, and on the bottom, you can also see the "real" black of the screen frame, below the letter box. Going forward, I'll try to have the letterbox area have the same amount of gray, on all projector's version of this image. That way, the more overexposed the starship itself, relative to the same level in the letterboxes, would indicate an improvement in black levels.
To keep things in perspective, for this review, though, here is the same image but at a faster exposure so it appears more similar to the other images below.
For comparison, here's the same image from the Mitsubishi HC6500.
And here's the JVC DLA-RS2, which has set the standard for black level performance when introduced last year:
The JVC RS2 still reigns supreme, but by comparison, the HC7000 isn't bad at all.
OK here's what many of you have been waiting for, side by side images for comparing black levels. I had the opportunity to shoot the HC7000 against the PT-AE3000, and that image is shown below. For further comparisons, try the PT-AE3000 review, same section, for side by sides between the Panasonic and other projectors.
The image below is intentionally overexposed. The HC7000 is on the left, and the PT-AE3000 on the right.
Next is a side by side shot, again, HC7000 left, and PT-AE3000U right. This was a fully dark screen, and the HC7000 looks dramatically better. In a case like this, however, the HC7000 is closing the iris more than the Panasonic. Since normal dark scenes don't allow for a drastic shut down of the iris, I would say that under normal viewing of dark scenes, the difference isn't this great. Further, the Panasonic, as reported at the time, was a pre-production unit and does exhibit a bit of hot spotting in the lower left and upper right corners. Another reason why a production PT-AE3000 is likely to be closer to the Mitsubishi in black level performance. Anyway that you figure it, though, the HC7000 comes out ahead, though slightly. Confirming my comments about the iris on a black scene, look at those pause icons in the lower left. Under bright scenes they look the same. Here, the Panasonic is far more overexposed, indicating that it's iris can't, or won't close down as far, on a fully black screen.
Below: Panasonic on the right, Mitsubishi HC7000 on the left.
Here are two more images which is a good one for considering black levels. Look for the richness in the black part of some of the buildings and the sky in the second image. Both of these are digital hi-def images from the DVE-HD calibration disc.
Bottom line, on black levels: The HC7000 is excellent by today's standards, but still a bit down in performance, compared to the very, very best. Still, it is close enough to all, but the JVC champ, to make differences minor. If everything else in your decision process works out to a tie, between two of the best black level projectors I have mentioned above, then, certainly consider the subtle black level differences.
Shadow Detail Performance
The HC7000 exhibits very good shadow detail. Not the best, but no issue to speak of here. Because projectors with great black levels have a lower threshold for details, it also means that the darkest of those details is also darker to the eye, and can be harder to make out than projectors with more average shadow detail abilities, as their darkest details may well be intentionally lightened to be visible above their black level threshold. (I hope that made sense - the bottom line is, typically, projectors with weaker black level performance, often seem to have more dark shadow details visible. This though is offset by the lack of those richer blacks which make for a more stricking image.
The HC7000 is one of those with the very good details and the striking image, one of the reasons I like it so much.
Top left: HC7000, Middle: Panasonic PT-AE3000 Right: Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB
The next set of comparison images is 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 HC7000, followed by the Panasonic PT-AE3000U, the Mitsubishi HC6500. Then comes the the Sony VW60. The last two in the sequence are the Sanyo PLV-Z700 and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB.
The Mitsubishi HC7000's performance is very good, at revealing details in the window shades, in this very dark scene.
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The HC7000 (top left) shows a great deal of detail in the dark areas of the satellite. Again, not the best ever, but very good. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, Those images are followed by the Panasonic PT-AE3000 and the JVC RS1 (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC6500 (left), and the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 on the right.
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 HC7000, 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 terms of 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. The small images below (all are the same) show a slightly overexposed scene. Click on the images and the larger versions from the different projectors are far more overexposed, to allow a closer inspection of shadow details.
Mitsubishi HC7000 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB projector:
InFocus IN83 projector: (a more expensive projector that I've been raving about)
Mitsubishi HC6500 projector:
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 HC7000 performs very nicely.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Mitsubishi HC7000, PT-AE3000 in the center, and the right for the InFocus IN83.
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 HC7000, the second is the Panasonic, and the last one is from the more expensive InFocus IN83:
(Please note, the image above is a little blurry, must have bumped the tripod. Sorry! That shouldn't affect your ability to see the shadow details. -art)
The image above, from Space Cowboys revews some good shadow detail in the supports on the left and right.
In the image below, from Aeon Flux, look at the shadow details in the form of the table surface, shadows on the table, and dark areas in the foods and around them.
HC7000 Bottom Line: Shadow details
The HC7000 really does a good job, it manages to reveal lots of very dark details. In addition, the combination of the details and the black levels give the projector more "pop and wow" to the image than those that are just as good on shadow details, but can't match the black level performance.
Mitsubishi HC7000 Overall Color & Picture Quality
The HC7000 is an extremely well balanced projector, when it comes to overall Picture Quality! With great black levels, very good shadow detail, excellent post calibration color accuracy, and a dynamic looking (pop and wow) image (in part thanks to those black levels), I found the HC7000 one of the most enjoyable projectors to watch. That has been true whether I'm just kicking back and watching content, or when I'm being very critical in my viewing, looking for weaknesses.
The point here, is that the HC7000 has no significant weaknesses in any areas directly dealing with color and overall picture.
A mix of additional images to show off the HC7000:
From the DTS Blu-ray test disk, consider these:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
More movie scenes: A couple from Dogma:
Lastly, here are a pair of images from the latest Indiana Jones movie:
Mitsubishi HC7000 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
More images coming shortly.
Overall performance on HDTV was most impressive. The most critical weakness has to be the brightness issue. If you have that covered (smaller or high gain screen, great lighting control, etc.), consider the HC7000 projector to be excellent.
The rich colors, the dynamic image, and the extremely sharp image really makes the HC7000 shine on HDTV sporting events, and boy, does it look great on all that nature, concerts, and travelog type programming (Discovery HD, History Channel, Palladia HD (the old M-HD MTV music video channel). It really does make you think, for a moment, like you are looking out of a large window. Excellent! If only more lumens.