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Epson HC1080UB Projectors: Black Levels and Shadow Detail

Posted on January 18, 2008 by Art Feierman

Black Levels

Amazing! Who would have thought? For years, black levels have been the achilles heel of LCD projectors. With their typically dramatically inferior contrast levels, LCD projectors have had to rely on technology "cheats" to tame the black level beast. A combination of "AI" to analyse and adjust each frame, combined with dynamic irises, and sometimes dimming lamps, that can dim and brighten the image frame by frame, has allowed LCD projectors in the past, to do a pretty good job, most notably on scenes that have no really bright areas. If a scene does have a really bright white, then it can't stop down the iris, to lower the black levels, without making the white, dimmer as well.

Even some DLP projectors use dynamic irises in the same way, to further improve their black levels.

Now, here comes the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, with its brand new "D7 C2Fine organic LCD panels", and it seems the world as we know it, has just been turned upside down!

Even with the Dynamic Iris turned off, this Home Cinema 1080UB, produces excellent black levels rivaling the best of the DLP projectors, and when the Iris is engaged, I do believe it produces an image overall, that on most scenes, is superior to all but the very best of the DLP's, (such as the $12,000 list Sharp Z20000).

The "reference standard" for black levels of the under $10,000 projectors, most reviewers would agree, would be the JVC RS1 - at least until the brand new RS2 came along.

I am not going to claim that the Home Cinema 1080UB matches the RS1, let alone the RS2. But, I must emphasize, that it comes extremely close to the RS1 (which has been my own home theater projector for the last 10 months). Closer, in fact, than any other projectors I've reviewed, with the possible exception of the Sony VW50 and VW60. Now I didn't have the opportunity to view them side by side, but my belief is that the Epson actually does a better job than the more expensive Sony VW50 - the Pearl.

And that from a sub-$3000 home theater projector is outstanding.

Let's look at the usual crop of images for black levels and shadow detail.

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