Home Cinema 1080 Projector: "Out of the Box" Picture Quality
Not bad, not bad at all! Like virtually any other home theater projector, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 projector's "out of the box" image quality will improve with calibration. Due to timing, I found myself watching the system for about a week, and at least 15 hours of viewing with the default settings. The best movie mode - Theatre Black 1, using the default setting, produces pretty impressive color, if slightly oversaturated. The color is not dead on, but skin tones look pretty good, and the gamma provides very good balance between dark, mid, and bright areas. Few projectors have better "out of the box" color performance in their best movie mode. Moving to the other settings though, you immediately see the need for some real improvement. Living Room mode definitely needs to be recalibrated, and Dynamic, which is just that - the brightest setting, is way strong on green, a common technique to get the highest lumen measurements. Further, overall, green is somewhat oversaturated in all modes. Whites take on a slightly yellowish green hue. As with other projector reviews, when the Dynamic mode (or whatever other manufacturers call it) is off significantly, my goal when calibrating, is to tame it a bit, sacrificing a bit of the brightness as a compromise, in exchange for better color. This is very successful with the Epson Ensemble HD's Home Cinema 1080 projector. Bottom Line: All-in-all, the Epson's best mode is very watchable, but the brighter modes need some work. If you don't want to pay your dealer to calibrate it, at least get one of the calibration discs, either the AVIA dic, or the DVE-HD disc which we recently reviewed. It will be worth the hours or so of your time, and both are designed to be usable by non-technical folks. Plan B, so to speak, would be to get your system installed, and then simply use the data we provide from our calibration (General Performance section), and set up a few User memory modes with our results. There will be variation from projector to projector (mostly due to variation with lamps - and how many hours they have on them), but for the most part, our results should make you extremely pleased with your system!
Skin Tone Handling
As mentioned, Theater Black 1 - the best mode, does a very respectable job on skin tones. After calibration though, they are gorgeous. Not the best I've ever seen, but downright excellent. As to the best - post calibration, that honor goes to the InFocus IN83 recently reviewed, but then, that projector, by itself, costs almost as much as the complete Ensemble HD 1080 system ($5999 vs $6999 for the full Ensemble HD 1080).
Remember, when considering what makes for excellent skin tones, that the perceived lighting (and the director's intent - think The Matrix), have a lot to do with it. The same person's skin tone will be markedly different in different lighting scenarios. To give you a taste of what I am talking about, here are three images of James Bond from Casino Royale. In the first one, full sunlight, the second - fluorescent lighting in an airport, and lastly filtered sunlight: