HD700 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Cinetron HD700 images below are from either Blu-ray, or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD).
These HD700 images are provided to support the commentary. In reality, the projectors always look better than the images in our reviews. From a color standpoint, my dSLR camera still adds some color shifting to some photo shoots that I have not been able to completely remove. In other words, while we can demonstrate differences in black levels and shadow details of the HD700, the photos are only approximations of skin tone and color accuracy.
Here, first are a pair of images from my favorite movie not available yet on Blu-ray: Lord of the Rings, played from standard DVD. (Note; all these photos show a bit more red than the projector itself does.)
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.
Lau, above, from The Dark Knight looks really good, in terms of skin tones!
Bottom line on skin tones: Impressive. A calibration, (or try our calibration numbers), definitely makes a significant difference compared to "right out of the box". That said, "out of the box" basically is a bit too cool (slightly strong blues, slightly weak reds), although it looks pretty good. After calibration though, the numbers and the balance between red and blue, become very, very good.
While the Cinetron HD700 doesn't have the most perfect color accuracy around, it certainly is very competitive. I did a fair amount of switching between the HD700 and my JVC RS20 - a projector roughly 3x the price. While the skin tones never looked as good as my JVC, I must admit, that, compared to the JVC, they always looked at least respectable, which is more than I can say for at least a few other projectors from some big name brands.
HD700 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Good news and bad news.
The good news is easy: The Cinetron HD700 has very good shadow detail, better than most, but, that ties to the bad news:
Projectors with relatively poor black level performance, tend to be very good at shadow details as, those shadows are inherently brighter, making it easier to pick out those details. That can be really tough, for example, with my JVC and its black level performance that is a couple of magnitudes better than the HD700.
Black Level Performance:
Not good. Actually, in the first days of testing, where I only watched the uncalibrated HD700, I immediately noted the lack of a dynamic iris, but also the unspectacular black performance. Still in watching the HD700 fill all of my 128" Firehawk, I found the projector to be enjoyable to watch, despite the blacks.
It wasn't until after Mike calibrated it, and I started doing some side by side viewing that it became clear as to how the HD700 positions in terms of black level performance. The only phrase that need be applied, is "strictly entry level blacks".
I did some side-by-side viewing in the testing room, against the Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB. The Epson was far superior - not even close. Switching to the Panasonic PT-AE4000, I had briefly hoped that the HD700 might at least be fairly close to the Panasonic, but that too, was not to be. The HD700 is not only not, what I define as an "ultra-high contrast" projector, but it's not close.
Next I put the similarly bright, $1399 Mitsubishi HC3800 DLP projector side by side. Sadly, the HD700 still couldn't match the Mitsubishi either (neither have a dynamic iris). It's possible that the HD700 is slightly better than the three $999 1080p home projectors, including the BenQ W1000, Optoma HD20 and Vivitek H1080FD, but that's besides the point.
The point is, that if this projector is to be successful, selling in the $2000 to $2500 street price range, it better have a couple of great things going for it, to offset the inherent black level performance weakness.
Oops, more good news - the HD700 does have a couple of things going for it, so read on...
Image time: From The Fifth Element, the starship. First image is intentionally overexposed. you can see the bit of the letterboxing that is visible has been overexposed to be a darkish gray. If you were to look at a similar image from a projector with outstanding blacks, by the time the letterbox got this "light" the whole starship would be mostly white with very little detail left. (you might check out any of the JVC reviews of their RS2, RS20, RS25, to illustrate this point).