Optoma HD803: 1080p Home Theater Projector Review - Image Quality
Optoma HD803 Home Theater Projector: Skin Tones
Out of the box color accuracy is definitely off, as is true with most projectors. The Optoma needs some calibration to get the most out of it, and to get natural looking skin tones. The settings to accomplish that (at least on my review projector), are listed in the General Performance page.
Before we get started, I must point out (as usual) the limitations of the photography I do. As I like to say, the images support the commentary, but really can't be used stand-alone, to draw many conclusions. Here's a document I created to explain more about the limitations.
All the images shown (unless otherwise indicated), are after a basic grayscale calibration has been performed. Once that has been accomplished, the Optoma HD803 projector produces excellent skin tones.
The first three images are from standard DVD movies. The rest (unless noted) are all from hi-def DVD, using a PS3 and Blu-ray discs.
From Lord of the Rings:
From Sin City (a sepia like scene with spot color):
Moving to hi-def blu-ray images:
OK next, three from House of the Flying Daggers:
From Aeon Flux:
And three from The Fifth Element:
Bottom line: The Optoma HD803 can produce excellent skin tones, however, it will require some work to achieve them. As always, there's nothing like having a projector professionally calibrated, however, using a good calibration disk like AVIA or DVE really can make a huge difference. Alternately, you can use the settings I list in the calibration section, which many find work really well. Just remember there are a few limitations. First, I do my adjustments on basically brand new units, and there is some color shift as the lamp burns in, which is why some calibrators recommend waiting until there is a couple hundred plus hours on the lamp, before shelling out for a professional. Secondly, there is variation from unit to unit due to the lamps. Still overall, you'll find the numbers I provide should give you significantly better results than the default Cinema setting. (I don't spend much time on the other settings, so they are not as well tuned.)
Here's an image of Will Smith, from Hitch:
For our last series, consider these images from Casino Royale. As I like to point out, skin tones will look different under different lighting - sunlight, indoor incandescent lighting, florescent lighting, filtered outdoor lighting, etc. Here are three photos of James Bond, under different lighting conditions.
Optoma HD803 Black Levels and Shadow Detail
A year ago, considering the price of the HD803, I would have said that the HD803 provided extremely good black levels, but the bar has been raised since then. As it stands, the HD803's performance in this regard still has to be considered very good, and easily rivals most of the 3LCD based projectors (except the Epson 1080 UB).
From a spec basis, the HD803 is not quite as good as the HD80 or HD8000, but the difference between the 8000:1 and 10,000:1 contrast ratios should represent a very, very slight difference. Since I am using a different camera this time, the images can't provide highly reliable proof of the differences.
In the first set of images below, the first image is from the HD803, followed by the HD8000. As is typical, the exposures are not identical, with the HD803 image obviously being a little brighter.
The next image is the starship from The Fifth Element. This time, I have normally exposed the image below (but that means the camera is losing shadlow detail). Click on it for a large, slightly overexposed image that gives you a better idea of what it will look like on your screen:
Shadow Detail is definitely an important component of projector performance. Here you will see a number of images, a couple of comparisons, and images that can be compared with the same/similar image shot from other projectors.
Please keep in mind, these images are not, in their own right, able to guide you to best performance. They are here to support my commentary, not the other way around. Most of today's projectors have contrast ratios 5 - 20x that of the monitor you are using to view them. Your display, if LCDTV, is drastically inferior to what these projectors produce, so much is lost. (It's like trying to get a feel for what a big 65" screen TV is like when you see a commercial for one, and you happen to be watching it on a nice little 21 inch TV.) So, take the images with the usual kilo of salt. All that said, you can compare images, and you should find these photos helpful.
One last point, if you look to compare the images with those from the HD80/HD8000 review, expect differences. The HD80/HD8000 photos were done with my old camera, and this with my new dSLR.
Here's an interesting comparison, from an extremely dark scene in Space Cowboys.
The first image is the Optoma while the second one is the 3LCD powered Mitsubishi HC4900, one of the lowest cost 1080p projectors on the market.
While the gamma has different objects on the screen varying in brightness between the two images, and, the Mitsubishi image appears a little brighter overall, look to the shades. The Mitsubishi's shades appear less black, a bit washed out. The HC4900's blacks just don't have a rich inky black feel. The Optoma definitely has the advantage in black levels. The difference is definitely greater than any exposure difference, so I have to say that the Optoma has a definite advantage.
Next is a side by side shot comparing the HD803 to the Sony VW40. The Optoma is on the left:
Again, you can see a real difference in the dynamics caused by different black level performance. This time the Sony has the advantage over the Optoma, as the Sony's blacks look darker and richer.
And one more pair, this time, the Optoma compared to the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, which so far has provided the blackest blacks of anything under $4000.
In this comparison above, you can clearly see a big difference in the black levels and the resulting more dynamic image from the Epson (right).
OK, one more side by side, this time it's the Optoma (left) vs. the Sony VW40 again. In this case I simply captured a fully dark frame - a fade between two scenes. The image is overexposed. You can clearly see that the black levels of the Optoma HD803 are much lighter than the Sony. They are still good black levels, but the Sony does better.
Optoma HD803 Shadow Detail
Even though some projectors have blacker blacks than others, it doesn't mean that the same projector will do better on shadow detail. There are a number of factors that come into play, including the gamma. As a result a projector with good, but not great, black levels can provide more shadow detail.
In the following images, we concern ourselves only with shadow detail performance. The first image is from Space Cowboys, the re-entry scene. The first thumbnail image, when clicked on, shows the HD803 significantly overexposed to reveal shadow detail on the right side of the planet.
The second image is from the Optoma HD8000, but was taken with a different camera. The exposures are also slightly different (as is the frame itself), however the shadow detail is rather similar.
The third thumbnail, when clicked upon is from the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB. If you put them both up on your screen (HD803 and Epson), note the following. The Epson is more overexposed, and you would expect it, therefore to reveal more detail in the darkest areas, yet, the HD803 actually shows more. (Remember I was not using default gamma on the HD803 because I thought it was giving overly dark looking images, and that too may have come into play.)
Still, based on these images, I have to give the Optoma a slight advantage. On the other hand, look at the black of space on the left side. Even with the Epson being overexposed by an obvious amount, the blacks on the Epson are still just a slight bit darker.
Here are two pair of side by side images. In the first, it is The Optoma on the left, and the Sony VPL-VW40 on the right. On the second pair, the Optoma is again on the left, but the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB is on the right.
In this image, we are primarily interested in the shadow detail in the roof. At normal exposure my camera can't begin to capture the roof at all, so by overexposing we get a look at what appears normally on my screen, in terms of roof detail, but the buiding itself is badly overexposed.
Sorry, the image below turned out to be out of focus, still you can still determine that the Epson (right side), in this case is doing a better job on shadow detail
Why can this vary from one scene to another? Primarily due to the use of the dynamic irises. Each projector will handle a scene differently, depending on how bright the brightest areas are, as they analyze the scene and apply their algorithms to improve black levels.
This image below is the table scene from Aeon Flux. The HD803 does well in revealing dark details. Look to the various shadows cast (on the table), as well as the table top itself. Again, the HD803 as set up, is performing very well indeed!
One of more practical and best images I have been using is from Space Cowboys. I've been working with this slightly cropped image of the white suited astronaut (Clint Eastwood) next to part of the satellite. With a normal exposure, you can't see any details in the satellite on the left, but with the over exposed image, you can see what I see on the screen, when watching the Optoma HD803 home theater projector.
Top Left: Optoma HD803
Top Right: InFocus IN82 (DLP)
Bottom Left: JVC RS1 (LCOS - D-iLA)
Bottom Right: Epson Home Cinema 1080 (LCD)
Note, of the three other projectors, all but the Epson, sell for at least $2000 more.
As you compare these, you'll be looking at all the details in the satellite. Note that the overall exposure varies a bit. For example, the HD803 doesn't reveal data that the JVC RS1 does, despite the RS1 exposure, overall being less overexposed.
Although the brightness of each image is a bit different (IN82, the most overexposed, then the HD803, the Epson, and finally the JVC), all reveal very good detail, with (relative to the exposures), the JVC considered slightly better than the other three.
You have also almost certainly noticed the significant shifts in color between one projector's image and another. Again, any subtle shift in color found normally tends to be drastically accentuated when intentionally overexposing images to reveal black levels or shadow detail. In this case, the overall scene has probably been overexposed by at least 2 full f-stops.
Another good image found in many recent reviews, this time a cropped image from Lord of the Rings, a Gondor night scene. Note the details in the upper and middle left - you can make out mountain tops, and a bit of detail below it. You also should spot some colors in the buildings, which is often lost (remember this is also a very overexposed image). Click on the (generic) thumbnail image for an enlarged closeup from the HD803 projector.
Here are a two additional very dark images, this time from Sin City (standard DVD):
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Optoma HD803 home theater projector: Sharpness
This Optoma, like the others, offers a sharper than average image among the current crop of 1080p projectors. You can see here, that the Optoma and the Sony VW40 look pretty much the same, and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, comes across looking just a little softer. Certainly no complaints here, in terms of the HD803's sharpness performance.
This next image is from Aeon Flux, on Blu-Ray. Note the sharpness in her eyes, and in the lose strands of her hair:
One more: A cropped view of a computer monitor from Space Cowboys on Blu-Ray. Again, a similar image is found in most reviews, so you can compare. Readability of the type on the computer screen is the key, and the HD803 performs extremely well.
Click on the left thumbnail for a large version, and on the right for one from the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB. Again, you can see a very slight advantage in sharpness on the Optoma.
Bottom line: The HD803, comes across one of the sharpest of the low cost 1080p projectors (along with it's HD80 and HD8000 siblings).
Optoma HD803 Overall Picture Quality
It's pretty much just what I said about the HD80, HD8000. The HD803 colors are richly saturated, black levels are most respectable, and shadow detail is good. Default gamma seems a little dark in the darker areas, but this is easily adjustable, and I did so before taking any of these images. Overall, the Optoma offers rich colors, good depth and a generally film-like appearance. In regards to film-like, I have to say, I give it the advantage over the Epson, after watching the two, side by side. The Epson is a touch "harder" looking, but we are talking about small differences, just as are sharpness, shadow details and so on. The hard part is to consider the whole, each projector's strengths and weaknesses in terms of image quality and figure out which to recommend, and how to best present it.
Two photos from House of the Flying Daggers - Blu-Ray DVD. It's hard to find movies that offer richer, or more spectacular colors than this movie, and the HD803 looks great showing this movie.
From the DTS Blu-Ray test disk:
From Aeon Flux on Blu-Ray:
From Planet Earth BBC / Discovery
Space Cowboys - Blu-Ray edition:
One more SD-DVD image, from Sin City:
And here's two side by side comparison images. The first pair, Optoma (left), Sony VW40 (right), and the second pair Optoma (left), Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB (right). Since the projectors are never the same brightness, of course, you can see brightness differences, that you will have to mentally compensate for, otherwise, you are most likely to prefer the slightly brighter image.
For comparison purposes, I've been concentrating on the Epson and Sony, since I have had both here, while reviewing this Optoma. The other reason is that they represent perhaps the two best of the lower cost 1080p projectors.
There are, however several other really good projectors out there, so here's one more image from the HD803, along with the similar (not the same) frames, from the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 (next one down), and the Pansonic PT-AE2000U, below it:
Please note, the Panasonic (and to a lesser degree, the Sanyo) has a more pinkish shift in its colors, although the differences in these images is far greater than what you would see on the projectors, side by side. Also, you can easily see, that the Optoma image is noticeably darker.
HD803 Projector Image Quality: Bottom line
After watching the HD803 for a period of time, I appreciated its "film-like" qualities, and that it is a well balanced projector in terms of image quality. That said, it faces some really serious competition from the best of the 3LCD (Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB), and LCoS (Sony's SXRD VPL-VW40. Although I found the Epson image a little less film-like, I favored its significantly better black levels that really made a difference on dark scenes. The same was true for the Sony VW40, which is also more film-like than the Epson, and fits very neatly between the Optoma HD803 and Epson in terms of black level performance.
Because of the black level advantages of the Sony and Epson, the Optoma is going to compete more directly with entries like the Sanyo and Panasonic.