Epson HC5040UB, PC6040UB Review – Picture Quality

HOME CINEMA 5040UB / PRO CINEMA 6040UB PICTURE QUALITY:  “Out of the Box”, Skin Tones, Sports and HDTV

There are many elements to overall picture quality.  In this section we’ll cover how these Epsons perform “right out of the box,” discuss the different picture modes and show you photos of how they differ.  Also covered are how well the projector does on skin tones, and separately, a discussion of black level performance, and dark shadow detail.

And there is a section on viewing sports and other HDTV, as well as one for Overall Picture Quality.  If you’ve gotten this far, you already have learned a good bit about the Epsons’ 4K content handling capabilities, and also pixel shifting. Naturally we have some additional images here to better paint the picture of how much difference 4K content – and pixel shifting can make to your viewing experience…

And as an added bonus, the Sony VPL-VW365ES arrived for review, so I’ll shoot those same images with a true 4K projector for comparison, and get them up as well.  Don’t, of course expect the Epson to do 4K content as well as the true 4K Sony, of course.  The big question is, how close can it come, for 1/5th the price?

5040UB / 6040UB - "Out of the Box" Picture Quality

This Epson as a number of preset Picture Modes to choose from.  The brightest is Dynamic (no surprise there).  It’s a bit heavy on the yellow greens.  (Definitely no surprise there – that’s the tendency of just about every projector when pushed to its brightest.)

Brilliant Cinema is the next brightest mode, and looks much better than Dynamic (which isn’t so bad, but save it for when you really are dealing with “too much ambient light.”)

No surprise – Cinema will be the best looking color preset mode, and the basis for our calibration, but it isn’t near as bright as the first two.  This is because Epson has always included a color filter that slides into place when their UB projectors are in “best modes.”

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Brilliant Cinema mode handling GameMix on DirecTv with a fair amount of ambient light present

The sports image above was taken using Brilliant Cinema mode, prior to calibration (besides that, Brilliant Cinema was calibrated in 4K w HDR, not 1080, although I don’t know how much of a difference that might make.)

The result of the color filter is slightly better color than Brilliant Cinema (previously called Living Room on older Epsons), but the color wheel exacts a price in brightness, resulting in just about half the brightness in lumens of Brilliant Cinema.

Black and White mode is the warmest, temperature wise, which fits with the warmer color temp of black and white (greyscale) films – around 5500K.

From “out of the box” to “calibrated” – a Decision

I had Eric perform two calibrations – he did a normal one on the Cinema mode, but I had him calibrate Brilliant Color when working with 4K content with HDR.  Now, you have to be asking – if 4K HDR is the best quality content, why not use the best mode?

Brightness is the answer.  HDR significantly increases the dynamic range of the content, compared to what we are used to with 1080p.  As a result the difference in brightness between black, mid brightness (50 IRE), and full brightness (100IRE) is greater.  If the device isn’t bright enough, the overall image may seem dark.

In theory, we need that doubling of brightness Bright Cinema brings to the party (compared to Cinema), to get us close to the brightest whites we’ll need so that mid bright areas don’t seem too dark.

This is all still a bit murky, but roughly speaking, I’m hearing that HDR needs about 1000 NITS (that’s a measurement associated with displays rather than projection).  Converting that, (I think – still learning), that with the formulas I’ve found, that a 2000 lumen projector on a 100″ screen produces 584 NITS.  Not enough, but not terrible.  Per a couple of sites that review LCDTVs, seems like the average LCDTV today is still about 400 NITS, but certainly there are brighter ones.  So, it seems that most LCDTV and OLED TVs and most projectors are technically not quite bright enough.  BTW the visible difference in brightness between 1000 NITS and 600 NITS is not great.  (Think having 10 identical light bulbs lighting a room.  Now turn off four of them.  Not as bright, but not much darker.

So, the way we did things color might not be as perfect as possible, but boy does that image pop with all that extra dynamic range – and that is what HDR is all about.

Skin Tones

Keeping in mind that the 6040UB we’ve been working with is an early engineering sample, calibration didn’t go as well as I had hoped.  Some of that is discussed in Eric’s write-up in the Calibration section.

All the images in the player above were taken in Cinema mode, except for the shot of the ref, and the model photo immediately following him.  Those two were taken with Brilliant Cinema mode.  The second shot of that same model, was done in Cinema mode, and is more natural looking.  The last model image (also from Victoria Secret’s SwimSuit show)  was also with Cinema mode, the quality looks awfully good for HDTV.  So, while I’m not fully pleased with the calibration results, since they are not essentially “dead on”, they’re still pretty darn good looking, and producing some great looking images.  BTW some look a bit oversaturated on my MacBook display but not on the PC desktop we have here.  Adjust your display’s saturation accordingly to get the best results.

I’m not concerned about our calibration because Epson has promised a production 5040UB or 6040UB for me to work with when production units start shipping late summer.

While I haven’t found skin tones to look quite as good as I’m used to with a calibrated 5030UB, or, a JVC RS400, or a Sony HW65ES, I hope/expect to be fully pleased with the production version.

Remember, also, this is one of the first two home projectors that Eric our new calibrator has calibrated for us.  He’s an ISF certified calibrator, and knows his stuff. He did it by the numbers.  I’ll get him to view real content as well, because, you can calibrate and get slightly different results, depending on a number of factors.  Mike would routinely look at the finished result on a familiar movie, and if not fully satisfied, he’d try something a little different – the numbers likely would be just as close but the  picture slightly different.

So, short version:  Skin tones are very good, post calibration with 1080p content, but came out better with 4K HDR content.  No doubt we could have tweaked and done better, but since I doubt any of the adjustments we made with this projector will be the same for production units, we’ll wait – and update!

Since I expect both modes  to look better when we start over with a full production unit.  When that happens I’ll replace a number of these photos, perhaps saving one or two for “before and after” comparisons.

HDTV and Sports Viewing on the 5040UB, 6040UB

The images above are all from HDTV.  The sports images were taken with a fair amount of ambient light. The other images were taken with only low levels of ambient light.

So far, I’ve probably watched at least 20 hours of the Summer Olympics, including the opening ceremony. I’ve been watching all the sporting events with pixel shifting engaged, and Image Preset on 3 or 4.  I’ve been running Bright Cinema mode (post Eric’s calibration), in Medium power.  It’s been pretty glorious, which my wife, and a couple of friends have also observed.

I didn’t feel the need to use CFI, so that allowed me to do the whole pixel shifting process, for a really crisp looking image.  Update, I’ve got the Olympics on right now, using the Epson.  Michael Phelps just won the 200 meter Butterfly, and it looked great!

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