Mitsubishi HC1500 DLP Home Theater Projector Review

HC1500 Black levels and shadow detail

Unlike its more expensive sibling, the HC3000, the HC1500 home theater projector lacks a dynamic iris, and this results in a lower contrast rating (2500:1). Until all that AI, and dynamic irises and lamps, the contrast rating was a pretty consistent indication of black levels, but that is no longer true. 2500:1 is typical of DLP projectors using the Darkchip2 DLP chip (virtually every DLP projector shipping in the US for less than $2000).

After providing you with all that background, let me say that the HC1500 would have surprised me in its overall performance relating to black levels and shadow detail, except of course, for my familiarity with the HD1000U. Black levels were good overall, whether or not the scene you would be watching has bright areas or not. (Bright areas affect all those fancy adjustments). Not stellar, but perfectly acceptable for most people. Matching it with the right screen takes black level performance up a notch, for those who want to focus on this aspect of the picture.

More importantly, the shadow detail was excellent. In this case, it definitely beat out the more expensive Panasonic. If you go back to the comparison image above, and click on the larger view, look to the dark areas for detail, the HC1500 will reveal slightly more than the PT-AX100U.

I have some additional comparison images, so I’ll start with another comparison with the Panasonic. We will look at space scenes and star fields, always a challenge in terms of black levels and shadow detail. Again, the Mitsubishi HC1000 – representing the similar performance of the HC1500, is on the left. The image is intentionally slightly overexposed, to bring out maximum stars, as well as in the letter box area, show you any differences in black levels.

The image above from Lord of the Rings is inherently extremely dark. The HC1500 does a very good job however. Clicking on this image, will bring up a much larger closeup of the lower right portion of the screen. That image is also intentionally overexposed to reveal what my digital camera can’t capture with a normal exposure. Very good, also you’ll note some colors in parts of the buildings – these are very dark, and often lost on other projectors.

This next image, shot using the HC1500, is from Space Cowboys (HD-DVD), and is extremely challenging because of the extremely bright space suit and all the detail in the portion of the space station on the left. Click on the image for a larger, cropped view, that is intentionally overexposed to show the details in the space station, lost on the “normally exposed” image, but perfectly visible when watching this scene with the HC1500.

From Space Cowboys (HD-DVD) this image of Clint Eastwood in an extremely dark room, with only light from a down pointing desk lamp, is a good test of shadow detail. Note the wall behind him for detail. Most of that wall should be inky black, and is on the best, most expensive models. Still, the HC1500 manages to pick up some details in the dark areas that some more expensive projectors lose.

The next pair of images are also used in most reviews. Since the camera cannot properly expose the projected image and still show any details in dark areas, the first image is “normally exposed”, while the second one is the same frame, overexposed. In the overexposed version, you can clearly see the level of details in the shed on the right and along the bottom. (Again, these are the older HD1000U images).

All that detail you see in the “dark areas” is readily visible when watching this scene on both the HD1000U, and the HC1500 home theater projectors.

As noted above, the kind of enhancements many projectors are using to improve black levels and shadow detail, are dynamic. Projectors using these techniques, can get great black levels on scenes lacking extremely bright areas, but those techniques mostly cannot affect images with a really bright area.

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