Vivitek H9080FD Projector - Image Quality
8/19/2009 - Art Feierman
Vivitek H9080FD projector images below are from either Blu-ray, or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). These images are not overly accurate compared to the image the H9080FD projector projects on the screen. There are color shifts (too much red, in this case), saturation differences, etc.
Picking up on the conversation about the poor color accuracy of the photos shot of the Vivitek H9080FD (and not of the Vivitek's actual color performance), I have a theory to explain the huge shift towards red. Because of the different type of light source (LED), I suspect that color/light not in the visible spectrum, is tripping up the sensor chip in my digital SLR. (I'm not an engineer or scientist!). In other words, it may be that there is more invisible infra-red hitting the screen, that the eye doesn't see, but it is causing the chip to record that extra, and it's showing up in the visible spectrum. Now, that's just my best guess for now. I'm exploring ways to improve the photoshoot for this projector, as well as future LED light source projectors. If I come up with a clean solution, I've already requested that Vivitek send me a unit back for a reshoot of many of the images.
H9080FD Out of the Box Picture Quality
Right out of the box, using the Film gamma, and Standard color temp setting (defaults), the Vivitek H9080FD produces good, not great color. The overall image is a bit on the cool side (too much blue), by about 600K color temperature average. That's not, by any means, terrible, but it is off. Still, the overall picture looks very good, and is very watchable. Correcting the color temperature, however, does provide a real improvement. Your dealer is probably planning to calibrate the projector for you (and most likely charge for it), and for a projector of this calibre, that makes good sense. In a pinch, try our recommended settings on the H9080FD calibration page of this review.
There is another issue as well. The brightness setting is off, too low. As a result, there is a fair amount of crushing of near blacks, and a loss of dark shadow detail. This was a concern when I initially viewed the Vivitek, pre-calibration. You'll note that we recommend changing the brightness setting from default 100 to 106. This solves the problem. There are further black crush issues with the dynamic iris engaged, as several of those settings also affect contrast. Turning on the Adaptive Contrast, really starts crushing the blacks. More on that elsewhere in this review.
Bottom line, for out of the box performance. Overall color and skin tones are good to very good, but definitely visibly improvable.
Once calibrated skin tones turn out to be excellent. For reasons explained above, unfortunately, the photos do not reflect those excellent skin tones. Even in this Ganalf image from Lord of the Rings, where I increased the green, and dropped the red in my camera, there's still too much red compared to the other primaries.
I imagine you'll just have to take my word about the great skin tones, at least until I figure out how to compensate for the color shift in the photo shoot process. If (big if) I can come up with a good solution, I will try to get the Vivitek back in house, and at least reshoot a number of images, to show what the Vivitek more closely looks like.
Perhaps the best way to put the color shift in the images in perspective, is to look at this next image from Casino Royale. It's a side by side, with the Vivitek H9080FD on the left, and the InFocus IN83 (best skin tones I've seen), on the right.
Now, here's the thing: On the screen, the two images were near identical, with very little difference in the colors (though I would give the InFocus the slight advantage. In this image, however, the skin tones are radically different. (Bond's gray suit looked gray, not pinkish gray, when viewed on my screens.
Next are our usual three images of Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Casino Royale, under different lighting conditions. The point here, is that correct skin tones vary, depending on the lighting. You can expect significantly different looking skin tones, when switching from bright sunlight, to nighttime, fluorescent lighting, incandescent lighting, or even lighting in the shade, or a cloudy day. Consider these three images, the first in direct sunlight, the second is a scene with fluorescent lighting, and the third, a sunny day, but Bond is sitting in the shade - indirect lighting.
Sadly all three still show too much red, but you can see the difference lighting has on skin tones. Incandescent light would have still another look ot the skin tones.
Below are a number of images we use for viewing skin tones, from a variety of movies.
Next are images from the sci-fi flick, Aeon Flux:
From Men In Black:
Bottom line: The Vivitek H9080FD does a great job on skin tones. Not the very best I've seen when reviewing, but right up there. I grabbed the InFocus IN83 for comparison viewing, because the Vivitek was excellent. Sorry the images don't reflect the reality.
Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Vivitek H9080FD Black Level Performance
Overall, the Vivitek's black level performance is very good, but not exceptional. It's definitely an ultra high contrast projector (contrast claimed to be 100,000:1), but in comparing with other projectors I've concluded it isn't a match for the JVC DLA-RS20, the reigning champ), or for that matter, the less expensive JVC RS10.
Overall, black level performance with iris off is not impressive, still limited by the DLP chip, even if the light source offers real, potential performance improvement over conventional lamps.
Almost certainly, for movie watching, people will use the dynamic iris. When using it, black level performance becomes very respectable. I would, overall, put it in the performance range of the Epson Home (or Pro) Cinema 6500UB (the champ of the under $3500 projectors). It may not quite match the Epson, but is in the same class. That should also mean that it is comparable to Sony's VPL-VW70, and better than their VPL-HW10.
As is normal for dynamic iris projectors, there's a price to pay for the better blacks, and that falls into two categories. The first, is some compression of the image, the second, iris action is sometimes noticeable (and annoying). Let's start with the second point. There are three dynamic iris modes, but they apparently differ, not in the iris action, but some additional contrast enhancement on two of those modes.
There is compression, of course. Before we get started with the usual images, Let's look at some side by sides done compared to the InFocus IN83 - which I often describe as a great projector - superb color, but so-so black level performance. The InFocus does not use a dynamic iris (nor do the JVC's I might add).
In the first image, you are looking at a star field (overexposed, of course to bring up the "blacks". The Vivitek is on the left side. I've gotten the brightness of the two projectors as close as possible using the InFocus'es manual iris. That, however was set using a bright image. When the Vivitek's iris stops down, the maximum brightness also decreases, and you can spot that in this image, but the main point, is that the Vivitek's space background is definitely darker than the InFocus.
Now, in the next image, credits (white) come up on the screen. As a result, the iris on the Vivitek has to open up a good bit. This raises the black levels which, in this second image are now roughly comparable to the InFocus and actually a little worse:
While it's hard to see in the image above, the measured the text was brighter on the InFocus by a small amount as well. In other words, on a mixed scene like this, the InFocus matches or slightly beats the blacks of the H9080FD, while also being brighter on the bright areas.
Keep in mind, however, when you have something like this - the bright text, the eye is not likely to notice the difference in blacks. Ultimately, therefore, the dynamic iris of the Vivitek H9080FD is very effective. It lowers the blacks very nicely on the darker scenes where it is most appreciated.
OK, let's start with one of my favorites, the starship image from The Fifth Element. The first one is heavily overexposed, lightening up the letterbox as well as the starfield. You can tell, though that blacks are pretty good, because to get the letterbox to be fairly visible, it had to be overexposed a good amount. Some of the brighter areas of the starship have gone "all white" but a fair amount of detail remains.
Right below it is the same image also heavily overexposed, but taken with our black level champ, the JVC RS20. In that shot, I had do a still greater overexposure (to make the letterbox visible), and the letterbox area still isn't as bright as on the Vivitek. With the JVC, though almost all the detail in the starship is gone very badly overexposed, as it turns mostly white. Bottom line, this translates into the JVC having significantly blacker blacks.
Below those two images, is the same image (Vivitek), but only moderately overexposed, as are the comparative ones from other projectors, below that photo.
A less overexposed version of the Vivitek:
For comparison, here's the same image from the Mitsubishi HC6500. It's no match.
And below is the Panasonic PT-AE3000, which also can't quite match the Vivitek H9080FD:
Immediately below is the starship image from the InFocus IN83:
Consider additional images which are good ones for considering both black levels, and shadow details Look for the richness in the black part of some of the buildings and, also, the sky, in the second image. Both of these next two, are digital hi-def images from the DVE-HD calibration disc.
There's nothing like a real image of the night sky to show off black level performance. I believe this one above, is from the Hubble telescope.
Shadow Detail Performance
Lets start with a couple more comparsion images with the Vivitek and InFocus:
The first is the night office scene at the beginning of Casino Royale. Due to the color shift discussed earlier, and since here we are interested in blacks and shadow detail, not color, I've removed all color to limit the distraction. While the gammas are a bit different, the overall dark shadow detail is very comparable:
Overall, the Vivitek's shadow detail performance is very good post calibration. Pre-calibration, however, due to the default brightness being too low, the projector crushes a fair amount of near black detail. (That was very evident when I first looked at the uncalibrated H9080FD.)
I should note that the Adaptive Contrast feature adds a lot of wow factor to most images, but is usually over the top, crushing blacks and near whites as well, when engaged. It will be a helpful feature if you have some ambient light, to add more punch to the image, but can severely limit the dark shadow detail in particular.
Consider these two images, from Casino Royale. The first has Adaptive Contrast turned off, the second, the same exposure but with it turned on.
Note the areas to the left and right of the window the sillouetted men are standing behind. With Adaptive Contrast turned on, parts of what is probably the frame of the window vanish, whereas they are very visible in the first image. You can also see the near whites get crushed in the lower image with it on. The fluorescent light is fairly well defined in the first image, while the whites have spread significantly, in the second one (and bright detail lost). As I said, more punch, but Adaptive contrast is very destructive to near blacks and near whites.
General images relating to shadow detail are next.
From Lord of the Rings:
Top left: H9080FD, Middle: Sony VPL-VW70, Right: JVC RS10
The next set of comparison images is from Space Cowboys. This is a very dark scene with Clint Eastwood, on Blu-ray disc. The photos are intentionally way overexposed. Look for the blacks in the shades, and the details in those shades in the form of the white trim. (At this level of overexposure, don't even worry about the skin tones, color accuracy or contrast, as in these types of overexposed photos they always look terrible).
First image is the H9080FD, followed by the JVC DLA-RS20. Next comes the InFocus IN83 and the Mitsubishi HC7000. Then, the the Sony VW70. The last two in the sequence are the Panasonic PT-AE3000 and the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB.
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The H9080FD (top left) shows very good shadow detail in the dark areas of the satellite. Next to it on the first row, is the JVC DLA-RS20, Those images are followed by the Optoma HD806 and the PT-AE3000 (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC7000 (left), and the Sony VPL-HW10. Apologies, the JVC image is a little blurred, but you can still see the details.
The Space Cowboys re-entry scene is a tough shadow detail test. Projectors with weak black levels and average shadow detail ability tend to generate an image where much of the right side of earth looks to have that flat, lacking in detail look. All projectors pick up some of the brighter features on the right side, while better ones pick up a lot more and usually have richer blacks as well. The JVC does a great job, rich dark blacks, plus good shadow detail.
Next is a frame from the last Indiana Jones movie. You'll this one in other recent reviews. The details still found as the walls and fixtures darken toward the top, are a good way to compare shadow detail.
On the left, is the H9080FD, the middle, the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and on the right, the JVC DLA-RS10. The exposures are all a little different, but you should be able to appreciate the combination of shadow detail and dark blacks
Below is the night shot of the casino, in Casino Royale.
When comparing, look at the detail in the roof (tiles), and also in the assorted trees and plants. The small images below (all from the same projector) show a slightly overexposed scene. Click on the images and you will find larger images, but of the different projectors. The large images are far more overexposed, to allow a closer inspection of shadow details.
Vivitek H9080FD projector:
Epson Home Cinema 6500UB:
Sanyo PLV-Z3000 projector:
Panasonic PT-AE3000U projector:
Sony VPL-VW70 projector:
InFocus IN83 projector:
Mitsubishi HC7000 projector:
Mitsubishi HC6500 projector:
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 H9080FDU performs very nicely.
Click on left thumbnail image for the Vivitek H9080FD, Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB in the center, and the right for the Sony VW70.
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 Vivitek H9080FD, followed by the JVC DLA-RS20. The third one is the Mitsubishi HC7000, and the last one is from the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
The Vivitek does produce very good shadow detail, although you can also tell that blacks are not as dark as on the JVC RS20.
Next is a side by side - JVC H9080FD this time, is on the Right. the InFocus IN83 to the Left. This scene is from Casino Royale:
Another good image for observing shadow detail is this very dark scene from the first National Treasure film. The H9080FD performs more than well enough. This image is dramatically overexposed to allow you to view the darkest shadow details. Look to any dark area in the frame, but especially in the upper right steps. It handles those particularly well.:
Overall Color & Picture Quality
If you can forget about the significant color shift in these images, then you can share my enthusiasm for the H9080FD's overall excellent picture quality. While the Vivitek, cannot match a very few projectors are dark scenes (looking a little flat by comparison), that offer better black levels, it's black level performance is very respectable, and right up there with the best other single chip DLP's we've looked at.
Shadow detail is also really very good, as long as you stay away from Adaptive Contrast, and at least one Dynamic Iris mode which adds contrast, with both crushing sharp shadow detail (the Adaptive Contrast is the more destructive of the two. Actually, the contrast adjusted dynamic iris modes still work very well, and only affect dark shadow detail slightly. Reminder, the default brightness is too low (100) we recommend 106. With it set for 100, the Vivitek definitely crushes shadow detail.
Skin tones, are truly very good. Not the best but up there. All considered the Vivitek is a well balanced home theater projector, without any real weaknesses. Strong on blacks, detail and color accuracy. The LED light source definitely adds punch to bright colors making them more intense than I've seen on "conventional" projectors. I've never seen "candy apple red" look so good as on the H9080FD.
So, excellent in mid and bright scenes, very good in dark ones, and very good color throughout. I've logged perhaps 25 hours now in my theater, just watching the Vivitek (at about 90" diagonal, the largest I could get with the standard lens, from where I have to place the projector). It's killer on such a small screen size. Even my usually "obivious" to different projectors, said, "which one is this, it really looks good".
A mix of additional images to show off the Vivitek H9080FD projector:
From the DTS Blu-ray test disk, consider these:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
Back to movies - here's a couple from Dogma and one from Aeon Flux:
And here are a few more images, the two from Dark Knight, followed by a few assorted scenes from movies and digital video sources:
Vivitek H9080FDU Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
Only two issues relating to watching HDTV: The firt is the Vivitek's limited brightness. As a result, unless you go with a small screen, you just don't have the lumens to deal with anything but minimal ambient light. With the average brightness of 1080p projectors in the 1000 lumen range, and the brighter ones with modes that can get up to about 1500, the just over 500 lumen best of the Vivitek projector is definitely a bit weak. (Don't forget, though, it won't get dimmer over time, as will projectors with traditional lamp light sources.)
The other issue relates to occasional breakup artifacts I encountered while watching HDTV material. Since this projector is pre-production, that issue may well be solved with full production units. The problem was only spotted a few times, but, with the content recorded, my RS20 was able to show the same sequence where at least one of the visible artifacts seen on the Vivitek, was no where to be found with the JVC.
I got to watch some pre-season football with the H9080FD, and, overall, except for the desire for a fair amount of additional lumens, I was most satisfied. The image is very sharp (though not as sharp as the IN83), and definitely a touch sharper than my RS20.
With the high price tag of the Vivitek, it will almost certainly end up in dedicated home theaters, where really well designed lighting should be able to maintain a decent level of brightness in the room for partying - while watching, even if the projector isn't as bright as I would have liked to see, for general viewing without making the room too dark for the desired ambience when friends are over.
The image above was taken with low to moderate ambient light (room recessed lights on, dimmed). The one below, was taken with the room lighting purely minimal (very modest).
Next, an image we regularly use, from the last Olympics - the first one with modest ambient light, the second with purely minimal lighting. You can see the better overall contrast and dark areas in the lower one:
All considered, the picture quality for HDTV, TV, and sports viewing is very good.