The Art of Home Theater Projectors

CEDIA 2009 – New Home Theater Projectors – Part 2 Epson, Mitsubishi, Sharp, Sony, more…

I’m back with Part 2. Sorry for the delay, had to run to the Apple store due to my MacBook overheating. Life is good again.  And I had to finalize and post two biz projector reviews.

Below:  (note, I’ve already blogged on a couple of these, having seen them before the CEDIA show).
Epson Home Cinema 8100, Home Cinema 8500UB, Pro Cinema 9100, Pro Cinema 9500UB projectors
Mitsubishi HC3800 and HC6800 Projectors
Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector
Optoma HD20 and HD8600 Projectors
Sony VPL-VW85
JVC DLA-RS15, DLA-RS25, DLA-RS35, DLA-HD550, DLA-HD950, and DLA-HD990

I’ll do one more blog, in a few days, where I’ll touch on some of the higher end brands including new models from projectiondesign, Digital Projection, and maybe even a Runco or two.

The Home Cinema 8500UB may appear identical to the 6500UB, but claims 200,000:1 contrast!OK, Let’s start with Epson.  I already blogged about
their new projectors last week so I’ll sort of summarize.  The line is split in two again, with two new Home Cinema series and two Pro Cinema series.  The Home series gets a two year warranty with overnight replacement program, and the Pro gets three.  The Pros also support anamorphic lenses, are ISF certified (two additional, and lockable savable settings – they all, otherwise have 10 user savable settings), and a couple of the preset modes are different.  The Home series is sold online and local dealers, the Pro by authorized local installing dealers.  The Pro versions typically cost up to $1000 more (at retail) but come with a ceiling mount and spare lamp.  Hard to say, as Epson hasn’t set the price yet on the Pros.

Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector

A $1599 MAP price starts it out $300 below its predecessor, but, more to the point would seem to be an aggressive price for what you get.  A new dual layer iris, doubles contrast to 36,000:1 (a doubling, visually, should be only a small improvement).  Brightness should be the same as the old 6100, which means it should test out around 500 lumens in best mode, and provide a usable 1500 lumens with respectable image quality when you need maximum brightness.

Epson Home Cinema 8500UB Projector

Physically it’s almost identical to the 8100, but has slightly different end caps on the case.  This Epson claims a whopping, 200,000:1 contrast ratio.  And blacks are indeed, excellent, but from my two looks at it, still not a match for, say the JVC RS20 which claims only 50,000:1 (but no dynamic iris).  The creative frame interpolation seems to have been improved upon in a number of ways, and is much smarter. And there’s a cool split screen feature so you can see what it’s doing.  (Geez, is that going to make my life easier!)  I’ll really need to get the projector in, to translate that into a practical user experience.  Brightness should be essentially the same as the 8100, as well as the older 6500UB, that the Home Cinema 8500UB replaces.

All in all, the Home Cinema 8500UB seems to be an evolutionary upgrade from the current model, but the new CFI and a couple of other features could yield a surprising amount of improvement.  We shall see.  As a big “UB” fan, I will definitely like it.  My first two looks at it – at Epson, and Cedia, were promising.  When I saw it at CEDIA I thought the skin tones were better a tad more natural than I associate with the Epson’s.  (They’ve always been good, but others are better.)

Next up: Mitsubishi HC3800 Home Theater Projector

Mitsubishi offers up the HC3800 which I also have seen here, and blogged about.  The unit I had, was in the booth at CEDIA, and returning here in a couple of days so I can finish the review.  In short, here’s a really sweet DLP projector to do battle with the Epson 8100, and lower cost DLP projectors as well.  It’s planned to launch at $1499, and don’t be surprised if it ships in late October with a small rebate – as that seems to be the trend these days.  (OK, that’s pure speculation on my part.)

Skin tones are excellent, and this projector has the classic DLP feel and depth.  Physically, the HC3800 has a limited range zoom, and no lens shift of this projector.  Contrast is claimed at 4000:1 and from working with it, it bests the entry level Optoma HD20.  It also should measure brighter in best mode than the Epson, by at least 20%.  The full review will post in the next two weeks.

Mitsubishi HC6800 Home Theater Projector

The HC6800 replaces the current HC6500.  This is another evolutionary replacement model.  As with the Epson 8100, the HC6800 gets a doubling of its contrast ratio, in this case, to 30,000:1  The Mitsubishi comes with the niceties – a power zoom and focus, an attractive case, and,  traditionally this series produces about as sharp an image as I’ve seen with 3LCD projectors.  MAP should be around $2395 (or $2295?)  The HC6800 supports an anamorphic lens.  It is rated 1500 lumens.  Most likely it’s actual measured lumens will be about the same as the HC6500 it replaces, so you can check out the HC6500 review for more insight.

No word of a replacement for the top of the line Mitsubishi HC7000, which is their best “ultra-high contrast” projector, and sold only though the local CEDIA channel.

Sharp XV-Z15000 Home Theater Projector

Sharp had no new home theater projectors.  Their most recent new model, the XV-Z15000 is months old, and we have done a full review of this under $2500 street priced DLP 1080p projector. Click here for the review.

Optoma HD8600 Home Theater Projector

Optoma’s new HD8600 Projector is sold through the local installing CEDIA dealer channel. Don’t expect to find this projector at your favorite online reseller.

The HD8600 offers frame interpolation, which they are calling PureMotion2 (waiting to find out if standard FI to 48 or 96 for 24 fps content, and if it takes 60 to 120).  Or, if it is a real CFI, I’ll advise on that as well.    I’ll update when I have a definitive answer.

The HD8600 uses a Darkchip 3 processor (.65″), claims 1600 lumens, and a 50,000:1 contrast ratio.  It sports a dynamic iris to get that high contrast number.  Unlike most projectors in its general price range, the HD8600 offers up three different lenses. The HD8600 comes with a standard, 1.25:1 zoom ratio lens, and optional long, and short throw zoom lenses.  The dynamic iris (Dynamic Black) sports a 9 step iris function.  Let’s see, what else is interesting.  Yes, it has lens shift.

In addition, it is ISF certified, and has a new color management system. The MSRP in the US, is $7499, so hardly a low cost projector.  Up at that price range, it’s competition looks to be the JVC’s, the newly announced Sony VPL-VW85, and the new InFocus Screen Play 8602, as well as others.  Should be interesting.  I’m trying to get this one in for review, as soon as possible.

Optoma HD20: Not exactly new news.  This is Optoma’s $999 1080p projector and, considering the price, not bad, not bad at all.  It won’t match the blacks of higher end projectors, but it does a very nice job, all considered.  I already completed the full review, so check it out here!

Sony VPL-VW85 Home Theater Projector

Ok, the VPL-VW85 was the first projector I got a look at, at CEDIA.

The Sony VPL-VW85 projector should prove to be one of the best under $10,000

The Sony VPL-VW85 projector should prove to be one of the best under $10,000

Extremely impressive.  The VW85 looks very determined to give the higher end JVC’s a real battle this year.  While the contrast spec is a dazzling 120,000:1, and the VPL-VW85 does use a dynamic iris, in casual conversation at their press conference at the show, some Sony person indicated improved SXRD panels are the key, and that without the iris, the contrast would be around 40,000:1.  If that’s the case, then Sony’s got LCoS panels now, that finally have contrast performance similar to the JVC’s.

The VPL-VW85 is rated 800 lumens (OK, Sony HT projectors are never the brightest guys on the block, but that’s ok for most.)  What should prove very interesting, is Sony’s use of black frame insertion as part of their MotionFlow frame insertion design.  That may also be part of getting that mentioned 40,000:1 (without dynamic iris).  Note, I could find no info to support the 40,000:1, and as noted, it really was just a bunch of us discussing expected black level performance after the press conference.

I also saw the VW85 in their fully blacked out “theater” in their booth.  Unfortunately mostly they were running animation, which is great for somethings, but not others.  Well, I can never make good determinations at a show, but IT DID LOOK REALLY GOOD.  I can’t wait for a review unit. Soon I hope!

The Sony VPL-VW85 is expected to launch in October with an MSRP of $7999.  I can’t wait to get my hands on this one, to put it through its paces, and also compare to my JVC RS20.  This Sony projector will be sold by local installing dealers.

Finally (for now)

JVC launches three new ones (geez, my RS20 just isn’t that old yet).  As usual, like Epson, JVC has two sets of projectors, the Pro group has the DLA-RS series, and the Consumer group, the HD series.  If JVC hasn’t changed their marketing, the two series will have essentially identical models, with the big difference being some minor cosmetic changes (ie. last year, the RS series had gold trim, the HD series, silver trim, both on black cases.  New for this year is JVC’s Clear Motion interpolation, which doubles 60 fps to 120 fps.  Past models have already been upping the frame rates on 24fps source material.

Another feature on all six models is their new screen adjustment mode which allows adjustment for different screen surface types.  That should prove very interesting. I’m assuming therefore it would modify the image one way, for working with a screen like a Firehawk G3, and differently for a screen like a Studiotek 130, or Carada Brilliant White, and so on.

Also new is their on-screen gamma adjustment which JVC describes this way: “Manual adjustment of the gamma curve via an on-screen display, allowing the viewer to adjust projector luminance levels by either increasing contrast in scenes that are too dark or dimming washed-out scenes to ensure precise brightness levels suited to individual preferences or viewing conditions. Up to three settings can be adjusted and stored for future use”

JVC DLA-RS15 and DLA-HD550 Home Theater Projectors

These twins are JVC’s entry level home theater projectors, if you can call any projector with an MSRP of $5000 – the HD550, or $5500 – the RS15, “entry level”.  From a spec standpoint, the HD550 claims contrast of 30,000:1 and 32,000:1 for the RS15.  Whether there’s a real difference in contrast, or it’s just a minor difference in marketing from the two groups, I can’t say.  Certainly a difference of 2,000:1 relative to 30,000:1 has to be so slight as not to be visible to the naked eye.  Sounds like black level performance of these two projectors will be essentially the same, excellent blacks as the older RS10 and HD350, but as mentioned above, there are a number of other image processing improvements.  The only really distinguishing “feature” (other than trim) between the two, is that the HD550 lacks a 12 volt screen trigger, and the RS15 has one!

JVC DLA-RS25 and HD950 Home Theater Projectors

OK, these two are the replacements for the RS20, and HD750.  Both claim 50,000:1 contrast, same as the older models.  Both the DLA-RS25 and DLA-HD950 are THX certified.  That’s something pretty new for under $10,000 projectors.  The first THX certified projectors were a few Runco’s about 2 years ago, and I believe they were all $35,000+.

These new models, like the lower cost ones, are improving on their successors, with a number of additional features, most mentioned in the general info on the JVC’s above.    Basically it looks like these two will simply have better overall processing and processing related features than the older models, including a further improved color management system, which now allows you to save three different sets of individual color calibrations of the primary and secondary colors.

The DLA RS25 and DLA HD950 have an MSRP of $8000.  Still have money burning a hole in your pocket, consider this pair:

JVC DLA-RS35 and DLA-HD990 Home Theater Projectors – The top of the line

Seems that basically these two projectors, are variations of the two above.  For the extra $2000 list price, you do get a third year warranty (instead of 2 years on the others).

The real news is that JVC is claiming a native contrast of 70,000:1 up from 50,000:1 on the RS25 and HD950.  What is interesting is how they provide this improvement.  (I should mention first that a 40% increase in contrast – all considered, should make for a slight improvement in black levels, not a really dramatic improvement.)  We shall have to see.  The blacks really did look great in their theater!

Per JVC, these two flagship, THX certified projectors are  “in part” (their words, not mine) better because they are using only the very best components, the best of the optical engines, the best of the panels, and are hand selected, and individually adjusted by JVC technicians.  JVC doesn’t say what makes up the “other parts” of the improvement.  Ultimately, it sounds like buyers of the HD990 or the RS35 are paying about $2000 extra for the extra warranty, and knowing that their particular projector is as good as quality control can make one.  Hmm, will that have some of the rest of us wondering if we got “inferior optics, etc.?”  (I doubt that, as I imagine that the HD950 will far outsell the HD990, and same for the RS25 vs. RS35.

I’m waiting to hear back from JVC as well, relating to exactly what their new interpolation offers – whether there’s any creative frame interpolation going on, and whether they are using any black frames (I suspect not, on the latter.)

And that concludes today’s blog, except for a closing remark or two.

For those who shop online in the sub $4000 price ranges, you will find fewer new projectors this year, as several brands are just going to run with last year’s models (hopefully with some “refreshing” of them – minor improvements through firmware, etc. but not necessarily new models.)  For those buying through local installing dealers, it’s a good year, no shortage of new models. Although the new top of the line BenQ, will likely be far more expensive than the W20000 it replaces, due to the LED light source.

For Panasonic fans in the US, who were hoping to see the PT-AE4000 come here – it  was launched in Europe at IFA two weeks ago, but not announced for US consumption at CEDIA, Perhaps  it’s time to shout at Panasonic and tell them you want the “new one”.  Don’t know whether it would help. But hey, email them, call them, twitter them, YouTube them. Power to the People!

OK, enough, I’ve got a BenQ W6000 review to finish – look for it this weekend, if I’m not too overwhelmed with college football (go Penn State) and fantasy football.  BTW, this past weekend was my first week ever in Fantasy football.  Everyone of my players had a lousy – to terrible day, but one, and that wasn’t so great either.  I think I may have set a Fantasy Football record for the worst start of any newbie in the history of FF.  Oh well, this coming weekend can only be better.  -art

News And Comments

  • steven

    Hi Art,
    Could enlight me what are the projector now , with built in anamorphic len.
    Thank You

    Steven

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Greetings Steven,

      In a practical sense, there isn’t such a thing. Although some very expensive higher end products may be sold with anamorphic lens and sled as bundled into the package (think companies like Runco/Vidikron, SIM2, etc. just might do something like that, in all cases that I can think of, (under $20,000), I can’t think of any products that do.

      That’s a true separate lens, we’re talking about.

      On the other hand, there’s what Panasonic does on their PT-AE3000 (and PT-AE4000 – which so far is only announced in the EU). They are “emulating” an anamorphic lens setup. They do this by simply designing the Panasonic to work with 2.35:1 screens instead of 16:9. To do this, they get the letterbox (which is still there) to hit above and below the screen.) The other half of the problem, is when a user wants to watch 4:3 or 16:9. Normally part of those pictures would also be off the screen. They solve this problem by zooming out the lens, creating an overall smaller image, that now fills the screen vertically, and for 4:3 or 16:9 creates letterboxes on the side.

      To make that work reliably, one needs:
      1. A zoom lens with roughly a minimum of a 1.5:1 zoom ratio. However, if that small, then the actual projector placement would have almost 0 flexiblity. Thus, with the Panasonic, and it’s 2:1 zoom, that still leaves some decent projector placement flexibility, though a lot less than for a standard 16:9 setup. Remember if working with the Panasonic, to look at the placement numbers when using that “emulation” to make sure placement will work. The regular placement numbers for 16:9 have far more range.

      2. The zoom needs to be motorized (want to get on a ladder everytime you want switch between a 2.35:1 movie, and a 16:9 football game?)

      3. The projector needs auto focus too. The truth of the matter is, that zooming in and out frequently, it is extremely unlikely that a projector will hold perfect focus, thus without auto focus – same problem, you might have to get on that ladder to refocus from time to time (or regularly).

      So far, I’m only aware of the Panasonic doing anamorphic lens emulation. I am aware of hobbyists doing it manually. Yep, getting up out of the chair, and adjusting the zoom and focus manually every time they switch content shape. It’s a pain, but will do the trick. Still need a lens with good zoom range, and the right placement to make it work.

      The Panasonic is an elegant solution, btw. it technically is inferior to actually getting an anamorphic lens and sled, for several reasons, not the least of which is that if your front wall is white, you’ll have no problem seeing the letterboxing overshooting that 2.35:1 screen. Another reason is that you still aren’t using 100% of the pixels (only about 80%). (same as with regular 16:9 viewing of 2.35:1 content. With a real anamorphic lens, you use 100% of the pixels. Ultimately that means a brighter, sharper image at the same size. -a

  • steven

    Hi Art,
    Thank You for the information regarding the anamorphic projector. it look like i have to buy a anamorphic lens. Thank Again.

    Regards

    Steven