Samsung SP-A600 Projector - Image Quality
The Samsung SP-A600 images below are all from either Blu-ray or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). Note: By the time these Samsung SP-A600 projector images get to you, through digital camera, software, browsers, and monitor, there is definitely some color shifting, saturation differences, etc. The images are to support the commentary, but keep in mind the limitations when trying to compared images from the SP-A600 with other home theater projectors.
Remember also, that the projectors themselves look far better than what you see in these photos
8/10/09 - Art Feierman
SP-A600 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Very good. The SP-A600 does a very nice job out of the box. The original engineering sample we had received of the SP-A600 projector did not look good "out of the box", with way too much reds noticable in skin tones. Still, even with the newer SP-A600s there is a slight overemphasis in the reds, just noticeable in skin tones.
All considered, there is definitely a little room for improvement. A professional calibrator can definitely improve the picture quality. I realize people spending under $2000 for a home theater projector, unfortunately are not likely to spend the few hundred dollars more to have it calibrated. With that in mind, I suggest you try our settings found on the Calibration page of this review.
In the side by side photos immediately below, the left side is the SP-A600 after calibration, and the image on the right is from an uncalibrated SP-A600 (Samsung sent me two projectors, which with both uncalibrated appeared essentially identical.)
The image below was taken with the calibrated Samsung SP-A600 projector:
Samsung SP-A600 Projector - Flesh Tones
As I noted above, color accuracy was pretty good even before calibration. Post calibration, skin tones are very impressive!
That said, after Mike calibrated the grayscale, there was still a bit of red emphasis in the skin tones, actually a touch more than appears in these photos, (at least as I ook at them on my MacBook Pro's screen. My digital camera tends to add a touch of green (as I frequently mention), which in this case plays down the red emphasis a bit.
All considered, I was most pleased with the skin tones although there was still room for slight improvement if viewed critically. OK, check out the images:
Above, Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings, Below Arwen, same movie.
Below are the usual three images of Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Casino Royale, under different lighting conditions. As I always point out, Skin tones should look different under different lighting conditions. You can expect significantly different looking skin tones, when switching from bright sunlight, to nighttime, flourescent lighting, incandescent lighting, or even lighting in the shade, or a cloudy day. Consider these three imagfes, the first, in direct sunlight, the second is a scene with flourescent lighting, and the third, a sunny day, but Bond is sitting in the shade - indirect lighting.
Two from Aeon Flux:
Men In Black:
From the DVE-HD calibration disc (digital source material, not film):
and finally one from Quantum of Solace (Bond)
SP-A600 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Black Level Performance:
Black level performance comes up a bit short. That's not surprising for a sub-$2000 1080p projector. The Samsung relies on its DLP chip for its black level performance. It does not have a dynamic iris to lower black levels beyond what the DLP chip/projector can inherently do. In this regard, black level performance is typical of entry level DLP projectors, and for that matter, most entry level 3LCD projectors.
Immediately below: From The Dark Knight:
The two side-by-side photos below, have the Samsung SP-A600 projector on the left, and the more expensive Epson Home Cinema 6500UB (best black levels of any under $3500 street priced projectors) on the right. In the second image you can easily see the darker starfield on the Epson, and if you look in the letterbox areas at top and bottom, you can also see the black level difference there. It is rather significant.
While I may refer to the black level performance of the SP-A600 as entry level, it is comparable to most, far more expensive projectors of just a few years ago.
Even with that in mind, for those of us who really appreciate the deep blacks of the more expensive "ultra-high contrast" 1080p projectors, its a significant, and important difference.
The next image is "our" Starship image from The Fifth Element.
BenQ W5000: (this photo, and the same one from the Mitusbishi HC5500 below it, were taken over a year ago, note that their images are darker than the rest)
The Panasonic PT-AE3000:
Next is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB:
Below, a side by side (overexposed) against the Epson 6500UB (right). Although overall, the Epson is the slightly brighter image, it still manages to have visibily blacker blacks, and a resulting more impressive image.
Consider two additional (digital) images which are good ones for observing black levels.
The image immediately below is from The Dark Knight. I've intentionally overexposed it to make a point. This is the type of scene where the difference in black level performance makes a huge difference. Because the outside areas of the scene, and for that matter the men's jackets are pretty black, with little detail at all, projectors with just "good" black levels look very flat - I've achieved that effect here. The SP-A600 comes up short in this image (say compared to the recently reviewed Sharp XV-Z15000. Even the Sharp, with its deeper blacks can't match the even more expensive JVC RS10 and especially the not the RS20 with its stunningly black blacks. The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, is definitely a dramatic step up in black levels and Because the bright area of the image is of moderate brightness, projectors like the Sharp or the Epson, can't even get to their blackest blacks, whereas the JVCs, which do incredible blacks without an iris, would look drastically better.
Shadow Detail Performance
The SP-A600 does well in terms of shadow detail. It is in the same class as most of the better sub-$3000 projectors, and does reveal a touch more dark shadow detail, than say the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, which, while exceptional (for its price) in terms of black levels), comes up a little short on dark shadow detail. While dark shadow detail is pretty good, and slightly better than the Epson, it still isn't quite as good as some oe of the competition.
Update 8/28: We are finishing our review of the first sub-$1000 1080p projector, the Optoma HD20. The Optoma definitely bests the SP-A600 in terms of revealing dark shadow detail (although it can't match the Samsung in terms of black level performance). FYI -art
From LOTR: Lleft: SP-A600, Middle: Panasonic PT-AE3000U, Right: BenQ W5000:
In the night train scene (heavily overexposed) from Casino Royale, you can see that that the Samsung (left) is revealing a bit more shadow detail (than the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB) in the trees and bushes above the railroad tracks on the right side. That's a good thing! On the other hand, you can also see that while the Epson image is at least as bright overall, it is producing much blacker blacks than the Samsung projector. The end result is a far more dramatic and better looking image. While one hates to lose any dark detail, let's face it, generally the darkest detail is not what your eyes are focused on in a scene. I'd much rather have much better black levels than slightly better shadow detail. (And that, folks, is why the ultra-high contrast projectors are more expensive!
Below our usual sequence of images of Clint Eastwood in a very dark room/scene. Look to the blinds and, in general, the upper right, for shadow detail differences between these many projectors. The first image, of course, is the Samsung SP-A600 projector. It is followed, in order by: Epson Home Cinema 6100, Sanyo PLV-Z700, Sharp XV-Z15000, Optoma HD8200, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Sony VPL-HW10, BenQ W5000, and Panasonic PT-AE3000
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The SP-A600 (top left) has good shadow detail in the dark areas of the satellite, note though, that those areas look darker than on some others. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, Those images are followed by the Sharp XV-Z15000 and the PT-AE3000U (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC6500 (left), and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 on the right.
The following images are both the same frame, from Space Cowboys. The first one is slightly overexposed, and the second one, dramatically so. Look in the brown area of the satellite on the left (and elsewhere). The SP-A600 does a very good job. The SP-A600 definitely does a solid job when it comes to shadow detail
Below is a heavily overexposed scene from Lord of the Rings. The overexposure lets you see all the details in the shed on the right, the structure on the left, and the plants and ground along the lower right. The SP-A600U performs very nicely.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Samsung SP-A600, Optoma HD8200 in the center, and the right for the PT-AE3000U.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Samsung SP-A600, second is the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, the third is the Optoma HD8200, and the last one is from the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
(Please note, the Panasonic image above is a little blurry, must have bumped the tripod. Sorry! That shouldn't affect your ability to see the shadow details. -art)
Another very good image for observing shadow detail is this very dark scene from the first National Treasure film. The SP-A600 does do a good job of revealing details, especially if you look to the top right, or the left center.
A few more images for looking at black levels and shadow details:
SP-A600 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Bottom Line for Overall Picture Quality and Color Handling: Very good, and particularly good considering the low price of this Samsung projector. That said, it's black level performance could use some definite improvement. I still feel that superior black levels are key to a superior picture. You might not appreciate the difference on typical daytime or indoor scenes, on those dark scenes, be they night time, or outer space, or an unlit room, better black levels make a crucial improvement! The lack of those more impressive black levels leave the SP-A600's performance strictly in the 1080p entry level category. Of course that's where its priced.
The other issue is gamma. Default for Movie 1 gamma is Film which should measure 2.2, but comes in at a very high 2.56, which makes the mid-brightness areas too dark. Switching to the Video gamma helps, but goes too far the other way: 2.04. Still I suspect most folks will, for most movies, prefer the Video setting, although it means images will likely appear a little less dynamic looking.
I want to briefly mention Movie 2 mode. Seems like its intended for viewing black and white movies, for which, I believe the optimum grayscale temperature is 5800K. Movie 2, however, is well below that, at just over 5000K. If you want to get Movie 2 to be ideal for those black and white movies, calibrating it a bit will definitely allow you to up the color temp.
If you are a first projector buyer, keep in mind my reviews are pretty critical, most folks seeing this projector in action will be very impressed. Thing is, many people quickly go from first time buyer to enthusiast, and that's when these criticisms are helpful, as those people demand more perfection.
We'll finish our look at comparative images of entry level 1080p projectors with the crew image from Space Cowboys. First is the Samsung, then the Epson Home Cinema 6100, followed by the Sharp XV-Z15000:
A mix of additional images to show off the SP-A600:
From the DTS Blu-ray test disk, consider these:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
Samsung SP-A600 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
The Samsung projector does very well on HDTV. No specific issues noted, and in general, the Samsung is brighter than most projectors when in "best mode" so many may choose to have the "best" overall picture quality while enjoying sports and general TV and HDTV programming, whereas most of the competition has to move up to brighter and more compromised modes. When you need maximimum lumens and punch to cut through ambient light, the Samsung SP-A600 has a really tricked out Vivid mode (a bit over the top). Interestingly, the Samsung's Dynamic, and Standard modes didn't measure as bright as our calibrated Movie 1 mode (saved as User 1).
A few images for your consideration, off of HDTV:
The images above are from a Moody Blues Concert that has been broadcast in HD, and is also available on Blu-ray disc. These two photos were taken with minimal ambient light present.
The two images below were taken with full lighting (two 65 watt recessed lights) on in the back of the room. You can get a good feel for the lighting in the small images below them. For those football images, the projected image size was 100" diagonal, using a 1.4 gain Carada Brilliant White screen.
In the Olympics image above, skin tones look excellent. This image was taken in User 1 (calibrated Movie 1) with gamma set to video. Below are generic shots of the back (left) and front wall of my testing room, to show the ambient light. (The one on the right was taken with a Sharp projector, that was just starting to power up (nno wheres near full brightness).