Runco Lightstyle LS-5 Projector Review
Runco LS-5 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
The LS-5 projector does very nicely in terms of black level performance. True, it can’t match the higher end and more expensive JVC projectors – the older RS25 and RS35, and newer RS50 (not reviewed), and RS60 (a partial review, limited look).
The LS-5 relies on a dynamic iris to achieve the blackest blacks like most home theater projectors. Runco’s iris, however is exceptionally smooth, rarely noticeable at all unless you are trying to detect its action., or perhaps I should say, the end result is an excellent compromise between really good blacks and really smooth iris operation. Either way, I had no issues with the black level performance. As I have said more times (in more reviews) than I care to remember, once you reach a certain level of black level performance, other things, (like exceptional color) start becoming more important. True, really dark scenes with minor bright lights won’t look as good as the top of the line JVCs, but, those scenes still look fine with a lot of “pop”. The LS-5 projector behaves in terms of black level performance more along the lines of the Sony VPL-VW90ES, and the Epson 8700UB. The 8700UB, by far the best blacks among the lower cost projectors, seems to best the LS-5, but its iris action is not as smooth, and therefore, on occasion, more noticeable.
In terms of similar projectors, the Optoma HD8600 comes to mind as another really good (and not dissimilarly priced) single chip DLP. In our original review of that Optoma HD8600, though we found the iris so noticeable, that we didn’t like using it. Almost a year later we got to review the improved iris, and it was far better, but still not near as smooth as this Runco projector.
In other words, I’ve watched almost 100 hours on this Runco, and I never felt a compelling need (even on the darkest of scenes) to switch back to my JVC RS20, which does do blacker blacks. Like that Optoma I just mentioned, the Sony VW90ES, and several other really good home theater projectors, the LightStyle LS-5 delivers really good black performance, that should satisfy all but the hardest core – must have a JVC for the blacks type person, disregarding other aspects of the projectors.
Before we start with our collection (from different projectors) of the Starship image from The Fifth Element, first some side by side comparisons shot directly between the LS-5 projector and the Epson 8700UB. While the Epson is less than 1/3 the price, as noted, few projectors (other than the higher end JVC’s (not the RS15 – nor their newer X3, RS40), unless they have significantly improved their blacks, and no reason to believe that!)
We’re used to the Epson outperforming everything but those two top of the line JVC projectors.
No surprise then, that on a number of very dark and mixed dark scenes, the Epson does just slightly better than the LightStyle LS-5 projector. When I say slightly, I mean, the Epson may edge out the Runco, but don’t expect the Panasonic, Mitsubishi, and other lower cost ultra high contrast projectors to beat, or even match the Runco.
Here are those side by sides – The Casino Royale night train scene, the Starship scene from The 5th Element, and one submarine image from Red October (I normally use clips of the submarines to determine which manufacturers know how to make dynamic irises that are smooth, and which come up short).
I should also note, that the Epson has two modes for their dynamic iris. Normal, which is almost, but just not quite as smooth as the Runco, and High Speed, which really doesn’t compare well on these very dark, slow scenes. I normally watch with the Epson set to Normal.
Ok, for those who like to stare and compare, here’s a whole bunch of projectors doing the starship image.
Runco LS-5 – slightly overexposed
Runco LS-5 – Extremely overexposed
Runco LS-7 (3 chip, 720p), extremely overexposed:
JVC DLA-RS25 - Extremely overexposed (note, the blacks don’t look darker than the LS-5, but note the pause icon (lower left), you can tell by comparing them, that the RS-25 is more overexposed, explaining the blacks not being quite as black.
Sony VPL-VW90ES - Extremely overexposed:
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB - Extremely Overexposed:
Runco LS-7, normal exposure:
JVC RS25 Slightly overexposed:
Next: These two all digital images images are good ones for considering black levels and dark shadow detail in mostly dark scenes but with some pure 100 IRE content. Look for the richness in the black part of some of the buildings and also, the sky, in the second image. Both of these first two, are digital hi-def images from the DVE-HD calibration disc.
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