Panasonic PT-AE7000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 5010 Projector Comparison
11/25/2011 - Art Feierman
2D Brightness - Epson HC5010 vs. Panasonic PT-AE7000
The Epson has the advantage here. No matter how we measure, the Epson is brighter. After normal best mode calibration, the Epson Home Cinema 5010 comes in at 630 lumens compared to only 442 lumens for the PT-AE7000. That makes the Epson 42% brighter. For those of you concerned about the audible noise (the Epson is noisier) of the projectors, the Epson is brighter in best mode, when running low power eco-mode, than the Pansasonic is, when running at full lamp power.
Below, from Narnia: The Dawn Trader - PT-AE7000 in "best", lamp on full power (left) vs. Home Cinema 5010 in "best", lamp on eco (low) power:
When comparing brightest mode - after our quick-cal - tuning of their Dynamic modes, the Panasonic produced 1355 lumens, while the Home Cinema 5010 still managed 1660 lumens, which is over 22% brighter.
Bottom line, no contest. The Epson Home Cinema 5010 is brighter, noticeably so. Over the years the Epson's have always been the brighter of the two. Whether it's lamps, optical engine, or other aspects, that doesn't seem to matter. Simply stated, on any size screen you choose, the Epson will be brighter. When in best movie mode, it will even be brighter when running in low (eco) power, where the lamp lasts a bit longer and you save on electricity, than the PT-AE7000 has at full power.
3D Brightness: Epson HC5010 vs. Panasonic PT-AE7000
Not so clear cut here. The Epson has two modes - 3D Cinema and 3D Dynamic. The Panasonic, on the other hand allows you to use your settings for any of the 2D modes - for 3D.
Considering one loses a good 75% of brightness, the Epson really does have an advantage if you want to run 3D based on a 6500K grayscale calibration, you won't have a whole lot to work with with the Epson, and even less with the Panasonic. I've been saying since last year, that if you really want to watch 3D on anything as large as a typical 100" screen, 600 to 800 lumens (2D measurment) s is going to leave you wanting more brightness.
Above, Lady Gaga on the Panasonic, below, a different photo of Lady Gaga, this time on the HC5010.
The basic difference then, is that the Epson can do a respectable job with 3D, on under 100" screens, while the Panasonic still comes up short, even on the smaller screens. Neither projector in "best" mode, without a high gain screen, is going to make everyone happy in your home theater or family room, if you choose a large screen, but the Epson has enough extra to do nicely on a 92" screen, where the Panasonic wouldn't be quite that bright on an 82".
In brightest mode, however, using settings Mike came up with for our "tuned" "brightest" modes, the 20+% isn't really very noticeable. I'd have to say both seem about the same. I do know that the Epson is pre-production while I'm not sure about the Panasonic (it was an open unit, but retail product was already shipping.) Pre-production units often measure a bit lower, but let's just say that the Epson, despite the higher lumen claim, didn't seem to be really brighter in 3D. It didn't matter whether I was comparing when using the Epson 3D glasses, the Panasonic 3D glasses, or Sony's "Offical" Playstation 3D glasses. They all appear to perform about the same. Because the Epson projector is pre-production, if previous years are any indication, Epson will want to swap out this one for a full production one, and ask me to remeasure.
Bottom Line on 3D brightness. In a calibrated mode, for those who don't mind the image being what I consider a bit dim, the Epson has a significant advantage, but any advantage in brightest mode is minor, based on my side by side viewing. That minor difference does favor the Epson, but in it's own right, not enough to be a key decision point.
Panasonic PT-AE7000 vs. Epson HC5010 - Shootouts
Black Levels and Shadow Detail in 2D: Epson HC5010 vs. Panasonic PT-AE7000
With very few exceptions, a dynamic iris is the key to achieving deep blacks. Dark shadow detail is determined by several factors, so we rely on viewing dark images, to deterimine shadow detail
In 2D, the annual shootout between the Panasonic and Epson has been consistent. Epson, year after year, demonstrates the better black performance. Whether on our night train scene from Bond, or the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter, the Epson has a very visible advantage.
Image above, Panasonic PT-AE7000 on left, Epson Home Cinema 5010 on the right image from Casino Royale
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 is certainly no slouch, it is an ultra-high contrast projector, it simply, once again, isn't a match for the Epson at blacks.
Above, from Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix. Both taken in "best" calibrated mode, however, the Epson (right, is in Eco-mode as full power would appear much brighter than the Panasonic. As it is, the Panasonic's full power is slightly brighter than the Epson's Eco-mode, in the shot above...
In the image above, you can see that the blacks on the Epson (right) are slightly darker than the Panasonic, while the overall image is brighter. On scenes like this, the HC5010 projector really pops compared to the PT-AE7000.
The difference in blacks is significant for those of us who appreciate vivid, rich dark scenes. As a guy who watches a lot of sci-fi, and action, I don't want to sacrifice any black performance.
Epson's iris offers two speeds, compared to the Panasonic's single speed. Both have good iris action, rarely noticeable.
Epson's blacks are perhaps the key reason I've been a huge fan of the Epson UB projectors we've been reviewing for the last 4 years. While Epson claims no improvement (same 200,000:1 spec), Panasonic did improve their spec to 300,000:1, but I don't see any improvement in blacks from the old PT-AE4000 to the new PT-AE7000. Too bad.
Shadow detail also favors the Epson, but not by a great amount. My take is blacks are more important than differences in shadow detail among good projectors in this price range. Either way, though, the Epson Home Cinema 5010 has a distinctive advantage in this critical image aspect.
Overall Winner: 2D Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail: Epson Home Cinema 5010!
3D Black Levels and Shadow Detail: Epson HC5010 vs. Panasonic PT-AE7000
Here comes a major role reversal. Switch to 3D and the Panasonic now easily beats the Epson Home Cinema 5010 in terms of black level performance. The Epson still maintains an advantage at dark shadow detail
Why the reversal? Epson does not offer use of their Dynamic iris in 3D modes. I can't say I approve, and I can't think of any other 3D capable projectors that doesn't allow the iris to work, so it is dissapointing.
No doubt Epson's logic, is that a dynamic iris not only drops the black levels, but also the overall brightness of darker scenes. With 3D inherently being limited in brightness, that can make sense. But why not let us users make the choice.
Ultimately, watching really dark 3D scenes, the Epson does well enough - this is an ultra-high contrast projector, and even without the dynamic iris, it has good blacks - about as good, for example as Epson's less expensive HC3010 when it uses its iris.
So, sure, watching 3D content, is darker, but anyway you consider it, the Panasonic does offer the blacker blacks on 3D. Myself, like most of you will, due to the brightness differences between 2D and 3D, consider black performance on 2D to be far more important, expecially since most of what we all watch is 2D.
None the less, this catagory is a split between the PT-AE7000 with it's black advantage, and the Epson Home Cinema 5010 with more shadow detail.
Overall Winner: 3D blacks and shadow detail: PT-AE7000.
Final comment: Blacks and Dark Shadow Detail: 2D vs. 3D:
As stated, since 3D is never overly bright, so black levels are going to be less critical for 3D viewing. Of course, it will be several years, before we are watching as much 3D as 2D, by almost anyone's measure.
Shadow detail favors the Epson in both 2D and 3D. The advantage in 3D may well be due to the lighter blacks and the darker image. Ultimately though, dark details is an Epson strength.
Bottom line overall, in terms of black levels (2D and 3D) and shadow detail has to still significantly favor the Home Cinema 5010.
I conclude this, based on the Epson's dominence in 2D, and the lower "return on investment" with blacks in less watched, and less bright 3D.
2D Image Quality - Color: Epson HC5010 vs. Panasonic PT-AE7000
Both projectors calibrate well. Both have good out of the box modes. Panasonic recommends it's Rec 709 mode as best for calibrating. Epson said (after the fact) the same for their Natural mode (their Rec 709), although Mike calibrated the Epson's Cinema mode, not Natural.
Images below: PT-AE7000 left, HC5010 right, for your consideration - These are 2D images, the Epson was placed into eco-mode to reduce brightness. The end result, is that the Panasonic appears a touch brighter (instead of significantly darker).
Overall, consider these two projectors to be able to put up an excellent calibrated final image when it comes to color. Based on Mike's work, I'll give those Rec 709 modes the slight advantage in natural look and feel, but Mike's calibrated Cinema definitely adds some additional "pop" to its picture.
Bottom Line: It's roughly a tie between these two, with the real difference likely to be the calibrator and the calibration itself. Strictly on the basis of color, let's call these two a tie.
3D Image Quality - Color: Epson HC5010 vs. Panasonic PT-AE7000.
Neither projector in 3D has as accurate color as in 2D. Let me clarify, that's based on viewing calibrated 2D on both "best" modes. We didn't actually calibrate 3D performance - don't have the tools. The Epson ran in default 3D Cinema, vs. the Panasonic using the calibrated REC 709, but running it in 3D where other factors may be changing the color balance (including the glasses). Both did a nice job, that didn't look as good as 2D.
In brightest 3D modes, after Mike's tweaking for improved picture/color in Dynamic mode, the Epson had the slightly better color of the two:
The 3D version of the same image used above, from Legends of Flight (Blu-ray 3D). Both are in brightest mode. PT-AE7000 on the left.
Below, in 3D, Panasonic on the left: This side-by-side pair is with both in "brightest" 3D mode. Belo
Above: Panasonic, REC709 + 3D. Right, Epson, at full power, 3D Cinema. Both are running "best mode" at full power, making the Epson image much brighter. (The camera makes more of the extra 40% in brightness of the Epson, than our eyes do, but, it's still a significant brightness difference.