Optoma HD81-LV Home Theater Projector Review: Overview
Colors are richly saturated, black levels inky black (but not the best), and shadow detail is very good. Default gamma seems a little dark in the darker areas, but this can be adjusted, and overall, the HD81 produces a beautiful image, and one that is far brighter than the competition. For your consideration, here is a batch of images, from SD-DVD, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, and HDTV, with an occasional comment thrown in. Here goes:
Two photos from House of the Flying Daggers – Blu-Ray DVD. Very few movies offer richer or more spectacular colors than this movie, and the HD81-LV has the colors jumping off the screen. Wow!
You have to see the Planet Earth Blu-Ray DVD to believe it. The HD81-LV produces spectacular imagery on this disk. Not being a traditional movie, the Planet Earth scenes fully appreciate the far greater brightness the HD81-LV can deliver.
Bottom line, the HD81-LV produces bright, rich, and saturated images, with deep blacks and good shadow detail. I seriously doubt any friend you invite over (except maybe a professional calibrator, or a Hollywood colorist), will believe that they will see anything in a modern movie theater, that can rival the imagery that the HD81-LV puts up on your screen. And, that, truly, is the bottom line!
Time to consider general performance items like menus, remote control, brightness, projector screen recommendations, and more!
Optoma HD81-LV with Optional Anamorphic Lens
Optoma offers an Anamorphic Lens, with motorized sled option for $3999 additional, for those planning on a 2.35:1 (Cinemascope) shaped screen.
When using the Anamorphic lens and matching screen, the placement difference and screen size, of course, are different than using a 16:9 screen without the optional lens.
When using the Anamorphic Lens, one selects the LBX aspect ratio option from the remote control, or menus.
The actual result is a wider image, and the projector stretches the vertical, so every pixel is used, and there is no letter box at the top and bottom. This also means a brighter overall image, since all pixels are in use.
I may be a reviewer, but I’m not much of a DIYer (do it yourselfer.) The Lens and sled come with directions, mounting plate (for ceiling mounting), lots of screws and chains. Truth is, I just didn’t feel that ambitious, so I set up the lens in front of the projector’s lens, without using the motorized sled. As a result, I can’t report on how well the motorized sled system works. On the other hand, Optoma has been offering the anamorphic option on the HD81 for quite some time, and word is, it works fine.
Viewing the projector in 2.35:1 with the anamorphic lens, produced an image that seemed as sharp as without the anamorphic lens. I did notice a slight increase in the bowing of the image (i.e., the top center of the image is a little lower than the top corners). This bowing (a slight curvature of the image) is primarily the result of the projector’s significant lens offset, and the anamorphic solution does exaggerate that slightly, as would be expected. This is a minor issue, and to get the top center at the edge of the top of the screen, by the time you get to the top corners, they will be a bit higher, and overlapping the screen’s border. This can’t be helped.
According to the manual, the Optoma is smart enough when properly set up with the lens and sled plugged in, to know the aspect ratio of the source, and adjust automatically. Thus, if the source is 16:9 HDTV, the sled should automatically move the anamorphic lens out of the way, and switch from the LBX setting to 16:9, and so on.
All that brightness, and the anamorphic lens, make the HD81-LV ideal for a first class, huge screening room. I can imagine those with the budget and room size will take avantage, and create a theater environment with screen sizes up to 160″ diagonal in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and that means about 12 feet of screen width – huge!
This Cinemascope option is not for those with limited budgets (a fully motorized, masked, and curved Cinemascope screen can cost up to $20,000). However we are starting to see any number of very affordable fixed anamorphic screens, at very reasonable (if slightly higher than 16:9 screens) prices.
If you are going 2.35:1 with the anamorphic lens, remember to pull the proper screen dimensions and throw distances to figure out where the projector needs to be placed.
If I were rich, and doing my theater all over again, I would seriously consider this option. My JVC, incidently, does not support Cinemascope, unless one purchases an outboard processor, bypassing the internal processing, since the JVC’s processing lacks the necessary stretch mode for Cinemascope. If I were to go that route with the JVC, the JVC would end up costing a couple thousand more than the Optoma, similarly capable.
Optoma HD81-LV Projector: Menus
Overall the HD81-LV Menus are fairly logically though out, although there are a lot of levels for some of the advanced features. For example, from the main menu system, switching lamp brightness or controlling Iris settings are two levels down, three if you count the top Main menu.
Let’s take a look. Note: The menus seem to be identical to those of the Optoma HD81, although that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Pressing the Menu button on the remote or the Outboard processor, you will see the menu to the right: Image Menu. On the left side, you can see the three other primary menus as well: Display, System, and Setup.
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