Optoma HD8600 Projector - Image Quality
Optoma HD8600 images below are from either Blu-ray, or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). These images are not overly accurate compared to the image the HD8600 projector projects on the screen. There are color shifts (too much yellow, in this case), saturation differences, etc.
These images are provided to support the commentary. In reality, the projectors always look better than the images in our reviews. From a color standpoint, my dSLR camera still adds a very slight green shift to some photo shoots that I have not been able to completely remove in most cases. I now visually attempt to adjust all the images to correct for major abberations in color between big screen and computer screen. In other words, while we can demonstrate differences in black levels and shadow details of the HD8600, the photos are only approximations of skin tone and color accuracy.
12/6/2009 - Art Feierman
HD8600 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Right out of the box, the HD8600 really does look pretty good. Definitely not the best color performance but definitely watchable. Overall, the image in Cinema 2 mode ("best" for our purposes), is a bit warm - strong on reds, but not too much so. With the slight extra reds in mind, otherwise the skin tones looked pretty good.
Ultimately, folks, this is an $8000 projector, and in this price range, you will want to get the most out of it. I would definitely recommend a professional calibration. Failing that, try our settings. Our calibration doesn't calibrate as much (no CMS calibration) as most pro calibrators will, and there is color variation from lampt to lamp. Still, our numbers should provide visible improvement.
The image immediately below is from The Hunt For Red October, on Blu-ray.
Very nice. Post calibration the skin tones on this Optoma are expecially impressive. Some of the best I've seen. I still hold the InFocus IN83 in awe, in this regard, but the HD8600 comes close. In terms of skin tones, I do believe I favor the HD8600 over my RS20 (just by the slightest), and that's a pretty high complement.
The two images (immediately above and below) are from Lord of the Rings, from standard DVD. On the full screen both faces looked gorgeous - and right!
Below are a wide assortment of images to demontstrate skin tones. Remember, the same face will look markedly different under different lighting scenarios, such as full sunlight, filtered sunlight, gray overcast, nighttime, fluorescent lighting, and so on.
Next are images from the sci-fi flick, Aeon Flux:
From Men In Black:
From Hunt for Red October:
The Dark Knight:
Lau, above, from The Dark Knight, looks just about perfect, up on the screen, when it comes to believable skin tones.
I am most enthused about the HD8600's ability to reproduce excellent skin tones. After calibration, the HD8600 is one of the best I've seen.
Optoma HD8600 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Years ago, DLP's were the first projectors to produce high contrast and dark blacks. Over the years, though, the advantage has been lost. Today, JVC's LCoS design seems to be the best for black level performance, but other LCoS brands don't fare as well.
It seems also that a couple of the 3LCD projectors, while still not up to the JVC RS25 and RS35, are able to produce slightly better blacks than the best DLP's I've reviewed of late. Still, most of those better LCD projectors and the best DLP's (all using dynamic irises), are in the same overall performance class (ultra-high contrast). While the Optoma can be beat, it does perform very nicely, and should rival the Planar PD8150, which to date, has had the best blacks of the DLP projectors.
Image time: We start with the starship image from The Fifth Element. The first photo is way overexposed to show the blacks in the letterbox as dark gray. As you can see, to lift the blacks that much, the starship itself is terribly overexposed. In the image immediately below that, you are still looking at the same image, but only slightly overexposed.
For comparison, here's the same image from the JVC DLA-RS25 (the image is a touch less bright, so less stars are visible in the photo).
And below is the Panasonic PT-AE4000, which, overall is a touch better overall, but it varies by scene, since they both use dynamic irises:
I've even got a couple of side by side images for you, all are comparing the Optoma HD8600 (right) to the Panasonic PT-AE4000 (left). I chose the Panasonic PT-AE4000 because it represents very good quality black level performance, and excellent shadow detail. I had considered using the Epson 9500UB instead, but, overall, the Optoma is more similar to the Panasonic, and the Epson is definitely not as good on shadow details.
Here are two more dark scenes comparing the Optoma (right) and Panasonic (left) from Space Cowboys. To give you an idea of how different dynamic iris operations can affect different images, check these out. For example, in the first image, the blacks are virtually identical. In the second image pair, though, the Panasonic is doing the blacker blacks (that frame is just a couple of seconds before the first one, in the movie.) That brings us to the third frame, with the least amount of medium or bright areas, and now the Optoma's blacks are slightly better than the Panasonic's. Then, in the fourth image, again, about tie, but if there is an advantage, it would be favoring the Optoma.
These two all digital images images below are good ones for considering black levels and dark shadow detail. Look for the richness in the black part of some of the buildings and also, the sky, in the second image. Both of these first two, are digital hi-def images from the DVE-HD calibration disc.
Nothing like space scenes to show off great blacks. In the image below, however, this is the real thing - an image from the Hubble telescope, not something created in a computer graphics lab.
Shadow Detail Performance
The Optoma HD8600 definitely performs when it comes to black levels. I won't conjecture if any others reveal more, but I can say, that it definitely outperforms those projectors that I find come up a little short (like the Epson UB projectors).
Below, Panasonic on the left, HD8600 on the right. For shadow detail, look into the brown area in the lwer left, also some of the dark areas top center. I consider the Panasonic to be extremely good, and the Optoma is every bit as good, possibly better, than the Panasonic.
The first 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 types of overexposed photos they always look terrible).
First image is the HD8600, followed by the JVC RS25 and the Mitsubishi HC7000. Next is the the Vivitek H9080FD, and extremely expensive LED light source DLP projector. The last two in the sequence are the Panasonic PT-AE4000 and the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB.
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The HD8600 (top left) shows very good shadow detail in the dark areas of the satellite. Next to it on the first row, is the JVC DLA-RS25 and the PT-AE4000 (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC7000 (left), and the Sony VPL-HW15.
Next is a frame from the last Indiana Jones movie. You'll see this one in other recent reviews. The details still found as the walls and fixtures darken toward the top, are a good way to compare shadow detail.
On the left, is the HD8600, the middle, the Epson 8500UB/9500UB, and on the right, the JVC DLA-RS25. The exposures are all a little different, but you should be able to appreciate the combination of shadow detail and dark blacks
Below, is the night casino image. We're using the same smaller image for all samples, click for the larger version for the respective projectors.
Optoma HD8600 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB:
JVC DLA-RS25 projector:
Panasonic PT-AE4000U projector:
Sony VPL-HW15 projector:
InFocus IN83 projector:
Mitsubishi HC7000 projector:
Click on left thumbnail image for the Optoma HD8600, Epson Home Cinema 8500UB in the center, and the right for the PT-AE4000U.
In our dark train scene, the HD8600 performs extremely well. Look to the shrubs and trees on the right, especially those on the other side of the rails.
Bottom line: The HD8600 combines excellent dark shadow detail combines with very good black levels put this projector in the top tier, over all. This increases the importance of other areas such as skin tone handling.
Overall Color & Picture Quality
Dazzling! The HD8600 is bright, it has excellent skin tones, and color overall looks great. As an added bonus, the Optoma has an extremely sharp image. If you didn't know that a few projectors could do a bit better in the blacks department, you'd be hard pressed to find fault with the picture. I just happen to have on some boxing right now as I write. I'm seeing a truly gorgeous picture. You won't find better in any sports bar. It's evening so I can have moderately low lighting, I actually watched with the projector in "best" mode, and it was still nice and bright.
Watching movies, I again, immediately appreciate the lumens, the HD8600 has plenty of punch on my 128" screen, though, of course, it will lose some of that as the lamp gets old.
The picture is naturally vibrant, and that's without using their Pure Color, (their version of Brilliant Color, I presume). With Pure Color on 2, it will bring up the life in dull material. If you like that extra pop, without it being offensive, 2 should do it. I watched a lot of material at 2, and about the same on 0. I tried 4 and 5 both they were over the top. Maybe for animation?
The flaw of the HD8600 isn't overly serious, but it does detract from the overall effort. I speak of the dynamic iris action. Forget the Cinema 2 (iris) mode, its action is way too visible. The iris even seems to "cast a shadow" across some scenes.
Overall the iris is more noticeable on slow moving darker scenes, than many other competing projectors. I watched the scene in Superman: The Movie, with Superman and Lois on the roof garden. The iris softly bobs up and down as the scene slowly changes. It's not overly distracting, it's just more evident than on some other projectors. Similar action is visible in Red October, and for that matter, most movies. Of course, that's one reason why I love my JVC. It doesn't have a dynamic iris! (yet still has the best blacks). But, I digress.
An improved iris would make this an even better projector. It's not a disqualifier, for sure, but a disappointment to what otherwise is, well, dazzling! Well, for that matter, since the iris is only occasionally an issue, let's say the HD8600 is dazzling almost all the time!
A mix of additional images to show off the HD8600: August Rush
From the DVE-HD test disc:
Back to movies Aeon Flux:
And here are a few more images, the two from Dark Knight, followed by two from the movie August Rush, plus a few assorted scenes from movies and digital video sources:
The very bottom line on overall image quality and color: The HD8600 looks truly great. The dark scenes could, of course stand to have even blacker blacks but the HD8600 delivers perfectly good black levels for a premium projector.
Only the dynamic iris action, on some darker scenes, blemishes the overall image performance. And that's primarily a technical complaint as you'll only occasionally notice it, and very few likely to overly object. Great picture!
Optoma HD8600U Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
As I write this section I'm watching the College SEC Playoff Game between Florida and Alabama.
The grass looks great, not too much saturation, or too little. Skin tones are really very good for a "brightest" mode, the announcers look great, as do the occasional closeups on players. The picture is pretty bright. Unlike most days, it's cloudy out, so I've got the door shades open a bit, per the picture below. In addition I've got 6 recessed lights on, partially dimmed. The room lighting is fairly low, I wouldn't want to read with this lighting, but the image on the screen is sizzling. It's bright, filling about 116" diagonal of my slightly larger screen.
I even need to turn down the color saturation, which normally I keep set higher for sports with ambient light. Here's that same shot as seen in the room image above:
Being brave, I opened the shade on the large window by the screen. With the gray day outside, the projector still looked pretty darn good, with reasonably bright colors, The ambient light is washing out any blacks and very dark colors a bit, but still very watchable as seen in the photo immediately below:
Now, we must all realize that if this was a bright sunny day, with sunlight coming in that window, the results would be completely different, it would be unwatchable. Having said that, with just over 1150 lumens, the HD8600 is definitely one of the brighter home theater projectors around without getting up into the big bucks for a 3 chip DLP. Brighter, although not sensationally so. Just a good bright projector. Not quite as bright as, say the Epson UB projectors, but about half way between them, and the average home theater projectors.
The Optoma HD8600 image is very sharp. And the color and skin tones, even in "brightest" mode, with some ambient light, looked reasonably great.
While the HD8600 does offer creative frame interpolation (CFI), it doesn't apply it when receiving standard 60fps content like a nice football game. As a result, I do like turning on some CFI these days for sports, but, I got by just fine without, and would hardly consider getting rid of my JVC RS20, for example, for the HD8600, just to get CFI. So I put the lack of CFI for HD sports down as a "too bad" but it shouldn't be a deciding factor in the grand scheme of things. In fact, I'd rather watch the game now, on the Optoma without CFI, than on the JVC RS25 I have here, with CFI. I'd gladly have the Optoma's extra 250 lumens and the slightly sharper image.
We could wish for just about any projector to be brighter for watching sports, but within the limits of its brightness, the HD8600 is a great projector for HDTV, be your tastes run to sports, regular programming, or interest channels like Discovery HD, SyFyHD, Paladia or History HD. And on that note, I do watch a fair amount of those Discovery and Science channels. The HD is breathtaking!