Planar PD8150 1080p DLP Home Theater Projector Review: Overview

Planar PD8150 Projector: Brightness

Very interesting to measure the PD8150. It’s actually been measured twice. Before I get started, Planar publishes a spec of 1000 lumens calibrated for D65 color temperature.

On the first pass, we did the usual out of the box measurements, then calibrated the projector and again measured for “best” and “brightest” modes. For brightest mode, that includes having Brilliant Color on.

There was a rather limited increase in brightness from best to brightest, making the PD8150 a definitely brighter than average projector in best mode, and well less than average in “brightest mode”.

However, upon watching the PD8150 projector extensively, as usual, I play with the various controls. Planar has one called Adaptive Contrast.

Seems like Adaptive Contrast is the trick needed to cut through ambient light. More on Adaptive Contrast, at the bottom of this topic, including some comparison screen images.

Here are the numbers – first “out of the box” brightness. With Gamma set to Film, Lamp on Standard (full power), Brilliant Color off, and Color Temp at the 6500K setting (which was very accurate), the PD8150 measured 627 lumens.

Only Native of all the other Color Temp settings, was higher, and even then, only 650 lumens, a relatively insignificant increase of less than 4%.

Dropping the projector down to Economy mode (low lamp), the projector lost approximately 26% of its brightness, netting 462 lumens.

Before discovering the Adaptive Contrast setting, we got our highest lumen rating with Native mode, and Brilliant Color turned on, of 814 lumens, hardly anything to write home about. Native color temp, with Brilliant Color on, wasn’t quite as accurate from a color temp standpoint, but produced a very watchable “brightest mode” picture. I’ve already discussed the impact of Brilliant Color, and Adaptive Contrast, in the Image Quality section.

OK, let’s talk Adaptive Contrast. After playing with it, my first impression is that it is significantly brighter. Actual measurments though (with both Adaptive Contrast and Brilliant Color both turned on), showed only the slightest increase – from 814 lumens to 842 lumens. Not enough to get anyone’s attention.

But, as I said, it really cuts through the ambient light, far better than just using Brilliant Color. Here’s what’s going on.

Adaptive Contrast definitely causes a significant degradation of image quality, if you are looking for that “best” performance, but that’s not what it’s there for. It functions best when fighting more ambient light than the PD8150 is otherwise comfortable with.

What it is doing is ramping up the contrast and seriously affecting the gamma. We didn’t do the gamma measurements but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a jump to the high 2′s or maybe 3.

From a practical standpoint – white remains virtually unchanged in brightness, but not so near whites. We measured 80 IRE, which should normally be about 64% the lumens of white (100 IRE), but instead found it to be more like 94% of the brightness of white. When viewing, as you can see in these images, having both on crushes the whites and blacks. That is, near white objects go completely white, not that white objects (light gray – 80 IRE) are almost completely white.

That means you are losing all that highlight detail, and the same is true on the bottom, with near blacks coming out black, and so on. And you are losing a significant amount of that detail

So, lots of detail loss on both ends of the spectrum. The thing is, though, no big deal. ambient light is going to cost you most of that shadow detail regardless, and will also take a significant toll on highlight detail.

It therefore comes down to what the end result is. In ambient light situations, the overall picture is much easier to watch and just looks much better. I had a football game on, with just Brilliant Color engaged, and there was no way I could enjoy it filling the full 128″ diagonal of my screen. Even at 110″ (approximate), it was a little weak.

Kicking on Adaptive Contrast as well, made a huge difference. Now 128″ was definitely watchable, and looked reasonably good, while at 110″ it was downright excellent to watch.

Overall color accuracy does not seem to be affected to any significant level. I even put on Iron Man in a dark room and watched segments both ways. If you don’t worry about that loss of highlight and shadow detail, watching with Adaptive Contrast on, provides a perfectly enjoyable viewing. Yes, turning both it and Brilliant Color off, makes for a more natural, more perfect image, but with it on, the average consumer will just go “wow”. With just a quick glance the overall effect of using these controls is that you have a brighter = better, picture. Those of us seeking the best, most faithful image reproduction will, however, not want to give up those details, so most of us will save those features for ambient light situations when it really makes a dramatic difference.

In the images below (click for larger versions), the first one is shot with both Brilliant Color and Adaptive Contrast turned off.

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