Optoma H78DC3 DLP Home Theater Projector: Image Quality
For the first sequence of images below, the Optoma projector was calibrated using the Avia Pro test suite, and the images are from Lord of the Rings (Return of the King) and Men in Black II). For the comparison images below them, I had not yet calibrated the projector. All together I shot over 200 images - over half, the side by sides - of the H78DC3 compared against the BenQ PE7700 and the Marantz 12S4. (I can't do a 3 way, so first - compared to the BenQ, then to the Marantz). Most of the images selected are of dark scenes or include a great deal of shadow detail, as faithfully displaying the dark areas, is the biggest challenge for today's "fixed pixel" projectors.
The image of Gandalf above demonstrates excellent flesh tones and that the Optoma projector is handling the whites and near white datawithout "blowing out" the near whites, thus the details in his hair.
The H78DC3 home theater projector has three picture modes: Cinema (which I used), Normal, and Bright (menu option). (They are labeled differently in the manual.) Also I have shot the Optoma H78DC3 projector, in the Normal , not the Bright power mode (menu option). The Normal mode shows Brightness setting of 0, and same for contrast. By comparison, Cinema is +10 on Brightness, and -25 on contrast- interesting setttings. After calibrating it doesn't really matter which mode you use, the final settings are what counts. After calibration Brightness was still +10, and contrast, -23.
The dual projector images I am posting are 480 wide - about as wide as I can use with my site's layout. I realize they are still small, so you may have to put your nose close to the screen to see details. Later I hope to link to larger versions of the same image - at least on a select few images (huge file sizes).
Mount Doom (left) from Lord of the Rings. Shadow detail is excellent - far better than any of the HD2+ DLP projectors I have worked with, including my own BenQ PE8700+.
Overall, Image Quality of the Optoma H78DC3 is impressive, with performance far closer to the Marantz VP12S4 home theater projector than the BenQ PE7700 home theater projector. With one note - the greenish hue in the uncalibrated images.. After calibration, with new settings for R, G, B brightness, and R, G, and B contrast, fleshtones became excellent.
And that means that the H78DC3 projector - for those with sufficient budget, should easily be worth the approximate $1300-1600 selling price extra over the BenQ PE7700 home theater projector (as of this writing).
Although it is hard to see it online, the image on the left captures the full detail of Tommy Lee Jone's black suit in Men in Black. A close inspection shows details in the lapels, buttons, pockets and shadows cast across the suit.
Quicktip: Other notes: For these images from DVD, the DVD player is set to output interlaced. For Hi-Def, I'm using a component input from a JVC D-VHS deck. The screen used for the side by side, is the custom Stewart screen with matte white surface - it does 2 side by side 96" diagonal images. The images shot from my home are on a 128" Firehawk. So far I am very inclined to recommend the Firehawk or other high contrast (light) gray - or white surface. Unless you go with a small screen (92" diagonal max, but probably smaller, then you might want a Grayhawk (dark gray high contrast) as you may have too much brightness in a fully darkened room.
The image of Arwen from LOTR is natural looking - with good shadow detail, and no sense of over contrast.
Next, the image of Aragorn - from LOTR, in a more natural lighting setting, reflects the well done flesh tones.
In all side by side photos below, the Optoma H78DC3 projector is on the left!
Comparison Let's start with images from Star Wars Attack of the Clones:
Above you can see both home theater projectors (Optoma on left) in Cinema mode. As you can see, the Optoma H78 projector has far more stars in the starfield. The BenQ is crushing them. The BenQ, however does better in Home Theater mode, than Cinema mode, on this type of shot, so the image below, instead has the BenQ PE7700 projector in Home Theater mode. Even there, the Optoma displays more stars, and less distortion around the stars (I attribute this to the BenQ using contrast enhancement in the home theater mode.)
(Don't worry about the slightly greenish caste on the Optoma - that went away with the calibration.) Even with the BenQ projector in Home Theater mode, the Optoma projector does a better job.
Next, also from Star Wars - a view of the Jedi chamber. The first image is from the Optoma projector, the second, is the BenQ projector. Please look at the detail in dark areas, such as the trim around the top of the wall. The Optoma H78DC3 shows far more detail. (sorry - shot these images a bit dark)
Ok, and now the BenQ PE7700 projector - same shot:
It is quite apparent that the BenQ is more contrasty, and the detail in most dark areas is gone - compared to the Optoma H78DC3.
Moving right along: A close up of the star fields around the spacecraft. Here I have zoomed in to about 10% of the image, and shot both projectors separately. The first is the Optoma H78DC3:
And the BenQ PE7700: projector - same shot.
One thing I noticed almost immediately, is that the Optoma H78DC3 produces a visibly sharper image (slighly) than the BenQ PE7700. Whether this is better optics, or due to some other reason, I will not speculate at this time other than to say it is more noticeable on DVD sources than Hi-Def 1080i. I have a side by side here, also from Star Wars - Attack, that you should be able to see the difference (also look a the shots above in the Jedi meeting Chamber).
And below, the BenQ PE7700 home theater projector:
OK, we've beaten Star Wars to death, let's look at some Hi-Def images, again Optoma H78DC3 home theater projector on the left, and the BenQ PE7700 on the right. On individual shots (not side by sides), the Optoma H78DC3 projector is always first.
The primary differences on the image above and below, relate to contrast. The Optoma H78DC3 on the left looks a bit better. Overall, the Optoma does a better job on "sunny" shots, that is the BenQ PE7700 while overall, excellent for the price, never really gives you a "bright sunny day" look, rather, sunny days appear more hazy.
Note the difference in contrast on the face. Also the more defined difference in the background grays.
Although both of the images above are a little dark, you can again see that the Optoma H78DC3 DLP projector does not exhibit the over contrasty look in her face.
Note the detail in the castle on the left, that is lost on the BenQ PE7700 projector on the right.
Again, the image on the left seems "sunnier".
On the above shot, the Otptoma H78DC3 projector (left) brings out the colors of dusk, unlike the BenQ PE7700 projector, which looks more like night time. This is the same difference - but not as great, as you may have seen in the same side by side shot of the Marantz VP12S4 projector vs. the BenQ projector in the Marantz review.
Had enough yet? Here's the last side by side for now:
Optoma H78DC3 DLP Home Theater projector vs Marantz VP12S4 DLP home theater projector
The Marantz VP12S4 is the only other Darkchip3 projector I have available at this time for comparison. Considered one of, if not the best of the single chip DLP projectors out there, it is not unreasonable - considering its $14,499 price - to expect it to outperform Optoma's H78DC3 projector, which sells for less than 1/3 the price!
In many instances the Optoma projector is much closer to the Marantz projector in performance than the BenQ projector.
While I took almost as many comparison shots between the Optoma H78DC3 and the Marantz VP-12S4, I have posted only a few. They make the point!
Note, reminder, neither projector was calibrated before these comparison shots. The Marantz projector leans towards red out of the box, and the Optoma H78DC3 projector towards yellowish green. The final calibrated Optoma as seen in the first images above, corrects for the greenish tint, and would have made the comparison shots against the Marantz far more similar in terms of color handling.
The differnece is mostly the color shifting above. Note slightly more contrast look on the Metlife building.
Shot at dusk, the Marantz (left) shows more of the dusk reddish colors, but that may be more due to the Marantz favoring red and the Optoma H78DC3 projector favoring yellow/green.
Again, the color balance is the primary difference. The Optoma projector is overly yellow green, and the Marantz a bit heavy on the reds.
Interesting shot above. Besides the color shift, the Optoma shows more stars than the Marantz. Both have whites blown out, but that is the fault of my digital camera's range, not either projector. There was plenty of detail and color in the bright white areas on the lower right of the planet when viewed on the screen.
Well the Optoma has a bit more contrast - but both projectors make you want to be there on the beach...
The whites again appear blown out on the Marantz - but this is a camera issue. On the darker versions I shot the stage looked fine. Again, color balance is the big issue.
The redish walls look muted - that improved with calibration. (Optoma H78DC3 above).
Note detail in pillars and wall trim. Sharpness of faces.
Both projectors pull out plenty of shadow detail. The Optoma - actually looks a touch sharper. The Marantz projector (immediately above) still looked fantastic on the screen.
A touch more shadow detail on the Marantz (right), but the Optoma handles the brights very well - and the "blinding lights" more vibrantly.