Epson Home Cinema 1080 and Pro Cinema 1080 Projector Brightness
Epson earns a WOW. The other two popular 1080p home theater projectors - the Pansonic PT-AE1000U and Mitsubishi HC5000, are considered to be a bit below average in brightness, compared with most home theater projectors (all resolutions). Those two are not as bright as either of the two LCOS and two DLP projectors I have also reviewed. The Epson's though are really bright. These measurements were taken with the lens less than 20% from full wide angle, so they are within a few percent of the brightest the Epson's can do. If you are extreme telephoto, I believe the projector will measure about 35-40% lower.
In its best modes, the Epson still can't quite match the brightness of a couple of those other projectors, but when you need lots of lumens, the Epson delivers, by far the brightest of the 1080p projectors I am aware of, under $10K, and, at least the Home Cinema version is under $3000.
Here are some numbers for you:
Theater Black 1 mode (which I used for most movie watching): 597 lumens with lamp on high. With lamp on low (default for Theater Dark 1), 460 lumens, or about 23% dimmer.
Theater Black 2 was the least bright, yet still produced 385 lumens in full power. For this and the others, to figure low power, reduce by that 23% and you should be close.
Theater mode was 599 lumens, high lamp
Natural, 593 lumens, high lamp
Livingroom (probably your favorite for watching HDTV, TV, sports...) an impressive 880 lumens at the default 8000K temperature, but lowering color temperature to 7500K raised brightness to 937 lumens!
Finally, Dynamic mode. Not the best color at all (as expected) and very, very heavy on green, (you probably should reduce the green somewhat, to have a more enjoyable picture, at the expense of some but not a big drop in lumens. Dynamic mode yielded a whopping 1685 lumens. I took the measurements, but didn't do the calculations until I started to write the review up, by which time the Home Cinema 1080 was on its way back to Epson. I knew right off this Epson was bright, but I wish I had done the calculations sooner, I would have remeasured, just to be sure. In my experience, most companies projectors don't meet their brightness claims, but Epsons do more often than not. Still to beat claim by over 40%, is staggering. Actually I shouldn't be that surprised, last fall we reviewed the Epson Cinema 400, rated 1500 lumens, and it came in only a handful of lumens shy of 2000 when measured!
Bottom line here, if you need the lumens (for say HDTV sports) and want some lights on, the Epson is the best able to handle it of the affordable 1080p projectors so far. In fact, none of the other six 1080p projectors we've reviewed comes close to matching the lumens. The closest, is the DLP BenQ W10000, which only measured 1119 lumens in brightest. The Optoma HD81, might have been able to beat the BenQ slightly, with some adjusting, but doesn't inherently have a really "bright" pushed mode.
It all just goes to show how different manufacturers, and probably different technologies create projectors with different strengths in terms of brightness. The JVC for example can put out almost 800 lumens in best mode, - far more than the Epsons at their best, but the JVC can only find an extra 100+ lumens when you need maximum output. The Epson's by comparison, have 4 times the brightness when in brightest, compared to best.
All, which of course gives you much to think about and choose between, as you try to find the projector that will best work for you.
Lamp Life and Replacement
Epson uses a modified type of lamp they call an e-Torl lamp which their marketing says offers extremely even illumination. We don't measure ilumination, but the gray screen image below shows good evenness, and a pretty good color consistancy from edge to edge.
The lamp itself, is rated 1700 hours at full power and 3000 in low power. Just like Epson to be conservative... I suspect other manufacturers would, in a similar environment say 2000 hours in full power, just to have that popular industry average. Most other companies say 2000 at full, and 3000 in low.
Lamp replacement, unfortunately is from the bottom, where you will have to unmount the projector (assuming you are ceiling mounting) to change it. This is more common than not, but, of course a bit of a pain, or, if you have really high ceilings, a potential nightmare.
Projector Screen Recommendations for the Epson Cinema 1080s
If you aren't ceiling mounting this high lumen beast, get two screens! What?!
Sure, in addition to your screen for indoors watching, you might as well pick up a huge inflatable, like the Gemmy (about 140" diagonal), that I reviewed last year. Drag the Epson outside, and light up the neighborhood. The Epson has the horsepower to overcome a fair amount of nighttime ambient light, such as street lamps.
But back to serious screen recommendations. Of my three somewhat different screens, a projector this good with very respectable black levels works well with all three. Still, I have these observations. For serious movie addicts "purists" looking for the functionally best image, the Firehawk G3 is awesome. With lamp on high and a slightly calibrated Theater Black 1, the Epson easily handled my 128" G3.
For those on a financial diet, though, the very affordable Elite Cinetension HC Gray (motorized, but similar surfaces are available from them in fixed frame) , provides a very good alternative. In fact, one thing I really like about their HC Gray, is that it really has very little "HC" (high contrast). As a result it has a wider viewing cone, and you suffer almost no roll off in the corners.
The Carada Brilliant White with it's roughly 1.3 gain, is, of course a real plus if you are fighting a lot of ambient light, but it is probably best if you feel the need for huge screen sizes. I don't know that I would particularly choose it for anything under 110" diagonal. I imagine the Brilliant White, could probably work well with sizes to 150" diagonal, and still let you use some of the "better" image modes.
You may recall, that, in the beginning of the Image Quality section, how the first thing I watched on the Cinema 1080, was X-Men: The Last Stand, a movie with lots of dark, detailed scenes, and followed that with Space Cowboys. Well, that was on my Firehawk G3, projecting the full 128" diagaonal, and I repeat, the combination yielded extremely good black levels and rich deep colors. Overall, a very satisfying combination. It works for me, should work for you. I should note that Theater Dark 2, is theoretically the best mode at black levels, but I worked with it only briefly, instead savoring the Epson advantage over the Panasonic and Mitsubishi, in it's ability to do a larger screen then they can comfortably handle while still producing deep black levels