Cranking up the Epson Cinema 400 Projector
One of this Epson's strengths is sheer "horsepower". It is certainly one of the brightest home theater projectors I have tested. The older Epson Cinema 550 was also bright and this one claims an extra 100 lumens (rated 1500). Unfortunately, a year ago, I wasn't measuring brightness of home theater projectors in their brightest modes.
First of course I measured the Epson in its best mode - Theater Black 1, and a very healthy 468 lumens (up about 10% from the 550). What the Cinema 400 really has going for it, is that, at 1500 lumens, it's conservatively rated, making one of the brightest (if not the brightest) under $2000 home theater projector on the market. Optoma's HD72 measured more lumens in its best mode (just over 500) but can't match the Epson in its brightest modes - Living Room and Dynamic.
The important point, is that all are shot with the same exposure, so it shows you how the brightness differs from preset mode to preset mode.
The first was shot, (yes, it is intentionally, slightly underexposed) in Theater Black 1 mode. I didn't photograph the slightly brighter Theater mode. Using the same exposure, the second image is somewhat overexposed, and the last one, overexposed - big time!
The 2nd image is Livingroom mode - ideal for most HDTV, or even movie watching if your room isn't very dark.
Lastly is Dynamic mode - big time brightness here. Color issues are evident, including a overly strong green, but most of the green should be easily removable with adjustment, without significantly impacting brightness at all.
As you can see immediately from these three images, the jump in "horsepower" is very dramatic, and the Epson really can deal with significant ambient light and still do a great job on a nice football game, sitcom or Discovery HD. The image used for these three shots, incidently, is from the Starship Troopers DVD:
Bottom line, if you are like a great many potential buyers of a home theater projector, who need a bright home theater projector, because you can't fully darken your room at night. The same is true, if you also want to watch it in the daytime and have only partial control of room brightness, or simply want to watch some content (such as sports, HDTV, or even video games) with significant room ambient light (I'm not saying really bright, I'm talking modest to moderate light with no sunlight pouring in, for sure), the Epson Cinema 400 home theater projector is going either near, or at the very top, of your short list for a projector in this price range.
In fact, the only home theater projector I can think of that may prove to be able to put a brighter image on the screen, in the under $2500 range, may be the just announced Panasonic PT-AX100U, which will be reviewed next. The new Panasonic is rated 2000 lumens vs. the Epson's 1500, but traditionally, Epson is the most conservative company out there, when it comes to rating their projector's brightness. I won't be at all surprised if the Cinema 400 proves to be every bit as bright as the Panasonic, and maybe even beat it by a few lumens. Stay tuned for the results.
I'll provide you with the brightness measurements for the various modes in the next section - Performance.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with the Epson's performance in terms of image quality. Great fleshtones, good black levels, and reasonable (not exceptional) shadow detail. Combine this with an unusually bright projector, and the Cinema 400 is going to be a top choice for a large chunk of the buying public - especially those who don't want to be limited to viewing in a fully, or almost fully darkened room!