The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Defocus time again – Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, et. al.

Greetings everyone!

OK, time to weigh back in on the Epson, and for that matter general issue of projector focus.

I’m about ready to bury this issue.  For Epson owners and those considering – they have a fix.  How good, I don’t know, as I haven’t seen one, but I’ll take their word that they have reduced the issue to what should be relative insignificance (by my standards).  Below I’ll discuss two things – defocusing and also edge to edge focus.  Then I’ll get back to the Epsons.

First things first.  I’ve had a chance to view a half dozen projectors, in addition to the Epson 6500UB and 6100, in the last few weeks.  All but two show some visible measure of defocusing. In none of the projectors (including the Epsons I have here) is the issue severe.  In no cases was the defocus obvious with casual observing.  If you are looking for it, yes you can spot it, primarily looking at menus up close, rather than normal content.

The projector that showed the least defocusing turned out to be a Panasonic PT-AE3000, but up close, even that projector showed a very small amount.  The Sanyo PLV-Z3000 showed more than one of the Epson’s I have here, and just a little less than the other.  And so it went, with projectors including the Sony HW10, the JVC RS20 (2nd least amount of de-focus).  The InFocus IN83 is perhaps the sharpest projector here, but even it defocused very slightly (but still appears sharper than any of the others).

The two Epsons I have here (6500UB and 6100) show different amounts of defocus.  I have found the amount of defocusing on the 6500UB to be very minor, and a non-issue.  The 6100, by comparison exhibits more, but still less than most people would ever notice except when looking at a menu, or some digital signage. Still, it is enough that a few might object.  There have been other folks (including Evan), with units noticeably worse than the two I have (we have compared images).

One thing I’d like to mention is this.  In most cases, more significant than defocusing is the evenness of focus across the entire image.  You can pick any of the projectors I’ve mentioned so far, do a perfect focus in the center of the screen, and then look at the sides and corners, and you will always see some softness, typically more than any defocusing causes. Those that mount their projector relatively close to the screen will have even more difference in sharpness across the screen.  (We recommend that you set your projector’s focus to be at it’s sharpest about 1/3 out from the center, for the best overall focus across the entire screen.)

I guess the point is, that one should consider overall sharpness, rather than individual aspects.  Some will be better than others, but with most 1080p projectors, the image you get still is going to look nice and sharp.

OK, back to the Epson projectors, since this is where the whole discussion started.  Epson tells me that their new projectors turn out to have had an internal hot spot in terms of heat, and when they warmed up, it was causing the lens assembly to be affected.  A few days ago they advised that they have modified one of the components (a flange of sorts) around the lens, and that nicely deals with the problem.  By the time you read this, Epson should already have the modified design in most dealer’s inventories.

Whether this makes the issue go away completely, or simply reduces it to a level where it is no longer worthy of any consideration, I don’t know.  We’ll see, as the newer units end up in people’s hands, and I get more feedback from owners.

Perhaps most important to those of you who have already bought an Epson or are considering one:

Epson management was very clear in that they will take care of any owner who is not satisfied.  I don’t know how they are handling things specifically, but they do have their replacement program, and knowing them, any unit they send out as a replacement will have that flange (or whatever it is) upgrade implemented.

Bottom line:  If you do buy an Epson, and should it have a de-focus issue of enough significance that it bothers you, Epson intends to take care of the problem.

OK, enough!  Any readers that have a significant defocus problem going forward from now, let me know how Epson handles it.  Thanks -art

News And Comments

  • Michael

    Thanks Art! Thank you for following up on this and working with Epson on this issue. I have the Defocus problem but it is not to the point where I would have to have the unit replaced. I have about 175 hours on the projector and to be honest, the issue actually seems to be less evident to me. It may be that I am “used” to it or that it has gotten better. Either way thanks again for addressing this issue with Epson and reporting your findings!

  • Patrik

    Hi Art,

    To inform you Epson Sweden is handling this issue very well, they will either update my existing unit with as per today 2 fixes (defocus issue and a new FI software more equal to the Panny’s which is good)or the will replace the unit. They are currently waiting on info from Japan on which route to take. Either way the will pick up the projector at my place and return it at my place in order to prevent it from getting home sick :) so all good.

    /Patrik

  • Jason

    Art – are there specific serial numbers that we should be looking for so that we know which Epson projectors have been modified? Just in case some dealers do not have the updated models yet.

    Thanks
    Jason

    *************
    Hi Jason,

    I don’t know the serial numbers. A call to Epson support MIGHT be able to help you out. At this point, I figure the larger online dealers will have nothing but the new ones, as they likely take fresh product in every week or two. Ask the dealer. Be clear that you only want one of the new ones, and if they send you an old one, you expect them to replace it, including all freight costs, with a newer one. If a dealer hedges, well, take that into your consideration. I know a few dealers have told me more than a week ago, that they have nothing but the newer ones.

    I will email Epson to ask for info on which serial numbers are which, but it may take days or even a week or three for them to release it. On the other hand, the individual dealers may know, because they will know which are the new ones.

    PS. small dealers that only sell a few units a month are the ones most likely to have old inventory. Also because they buy from distributors, and not directly from Epson.

    Either way, Epson seems to be fully determined to take care of everyone. I have received a few emails from folks that have already had their older units replaced (whether by new units, or other older ones that now have the same modifications, I don’t know, but it shouldn’t matter). -art

  • Scott S.

    Hi Art,

    I noticed you compared the 6100 to the 1080UB, but how does it compare to the Epson 1080 (non UB) model? The 1080 is $1349 after the $300 rebate and comes with an extra bulb. The 6100 is $1899 with no extras. Is the 6100 worth the extra $550? I am most curious how it compares to the 1080′s black levels and contrast.

    Thank you!

    **************************

    Good question Scott!

    Well, the short version is – the older 1080 is definitely the better value. The 6100 isn’t significantly improved over the 1080. I had a 1080 in my Ensemble HD (now replaced with a 1080 UB), so I hadn’t pulled it down for a side by side, but, given the price spread, I’d definitely have to go with the older unit. There’s a small improvement in black level performance, but insignificant, compared to either the standard 1080, or the 6100, when compared to the 1080 UB or 6500UB.

    Oh, the iris is a bit noisier on the 1080, but that’s about the only downside I can think of, except that (without looking), the 1080 is probably old enough that it’s hdmi is probably 1.2 not 1.3, so no deep color. I really wouldn’t worry about that, however, especially if you are the type that thinks that you might want to move up significantly in performance in a couple/few years.

    I would have thought the 1080′s were all gone (the 1080UB’s are history), but obviously not. -art

  • Scott S.

    Thank you very much Art. I am going from a Planar PD7130, to it looks like the Epson 1080. Will the black levels be a worse than the Planar DLP? Epson’s site says the 1080 has HDMI 1.3. Are there issues with 24fps, some people say they have issues with the 1080 and 24fps? Does the 1080 have the same “POP” as you described the 1080UB as having? One last question about brightness, how much brighter is the 6100 over the 1080? I do deal with ambient light during the day, but not a huge amount.

    I sold my Planar, because it would not work with the layout of my new townhouse. I went and bought a 50″ Sharp Aquos 1080p LCD (big mistake). We sat down and watched it that night, the next morning we knew it wasn’t right, we had to get a projector again. I knew we had to go with a LCD for placement flexibility. I just hope it isn’t too much of a shock going to LCD.

    *******************
    Hi again,

    First, as I said, I wasn’t sure about which HDMI, without looking it up. (I’d never get through all the blog responses and email responses if I didn’t rely on memory, and had to look everything up.) So, anyway, good that it has 1.3 though hardly a critical thing.

    Next, issues with 1080p and 24fps – Not that I’m aware of. I put over 400 hours on my HC1080 (in my Ensemble HD) before replacing it with a 1080 UB. Probably 80% of all viewing was movies, and probably 2/3 of that Blu-ray titles in 24fps. I noticed no issues.

    Brightness – the 6100 isn’t significantly brighter than the 1080. I’d say that a 1080 is brighter in full lamp power than a 6100 in low lamp – so within 20%.

    I’d expect the black levels to be roughly comparable. The 7130, though I never reviewed it, or got a close look at it, (a pitch black screening room at a trade show isn’t any kind of guide), has a Darkchip3, so it’s black levels are going to be pretty good. That said, on dark scenes most 3LCD projectors (excluding the newer ultra high contrast ones like the 6500UB, PT-AE3000…), are very comparable to Darkchip3 projectors. The Epson might even do better on a very dark scene without any really bright areas, but the Planar might have blacker blacks on mixed scenes with a fair amount of very bright areas, as that’s when the iris’es can’t do their thing. However… the “thing” is, on that second type of scene, the eye is always drawn to the large bright areas, so you are less likely to notice even a significant difference.

    So, tough call. Certainly any of the ultra-high-contrast 3LCD projectors should be able to produce far darker black levels on dark scenes than the Planar.

    Lastly, no, you won’t get the same “pop” with the 1080. The higher contrast/black level performance adds to that. Forgetting those almost all dark scenes, though, the 1080 does a pretty good job. If you want significantly better, you’ll have to go “ultra-high-contrast”. -art

  • Scott S.

    Hi Art. I ended up pulling the trigger on the 6500UB. I had a budget, but then I considered how disappointed I would be, knowing I could have had something better. The $500 rebate, along with me finding the 6500UB for $2695 before the rebate made it impossible to refuse. I am very excited to get this projector. FI isn’t important to me, so those problems don’t matter to me. Thanks again for the help.

  • Scott

    I was wondering if you have heard anything from Epson as far as the FI firmware update (if any) for the 6500UB? Thanks!

    *********************

    Hi Scott,

    I just got an email from Epson, indicating that they now have, inhouse, the final version of the “upgrade”. I expect we’ll hear of how they will handle in the next week or so (hopefully).

    I’ve asked for a “beta” to check out. Haven’t heard back on that, but I have a 6500UB sitting here, just waiting. -art