Epson Home Cinema 3010 Projector – Image Quality 4

Epson Home Cinema 3010 - Overall Color & Picture Quality

While I always crave for great black levels to go with beautiful color, one can only expect so much in the lower price ranges. All considered though, the Epson is extremely well balanced. Colors are really good in all aspects unless you go to Dynamic mode, where greens are too strong (typical) and its a bit thin on reds. Note: Livingroom isn’t quite as bright as Dynamic, but it will be the preferred choice for many when they want more brightness than best mode.

Living Room mode is only about 15% dimmer than Dynamic, and looks much better.

As far as “best” mode goes, in 2D, skin tones are very good, but I would have to give the edge to another less expensive 2D only projector, and that would be the rather no frills, but good performance, Mitsubishi HC4000. For those not at all interested in 3D, and only if they don’t need the brightness, look to both the Mitsubishi, HC4000 and the Epson Home Cinema 8350, but for a few hundred more you can enjoy a light canon, with a very good picture, and have 3D that can be as bright as about either of those two projectors can produce in 2D.

Here’s something to think about: some folks may well say that the Home Cinema 3010 is simply too bright for movie viewing on average (100″-110″) screens. I might agree if you have a high power screen, but not with the typical 1.0 to 1.4 gain screens most use. And if you have a 0.8 grey screen, even less to be concerned about. Look, it takes about 4x the lumens of 2D, for 3D to be as bright. So, either one’s dim, or the other’s very bright. But this Epson in “best” mode, drops to 923 measured lumens with the lamp on Eco. Folks that’s only about 100 – 200 lumens brighter than most far more expensive LCoS and DLP projectors in their “best” modes. So, even in a dedicated home theater, I don’t see a problem with too much brightness, say, on a 110″ screen for 2D viewing.

If you do the numbers by ft-lamberts, even in 3D Dynamic, with a shiny new lamp, on a mere 100″ , 1.0 gain screen (a bit small by my taste), the numbers look like this:

3D Dynamic: Lamp on High x .75 (assuming a loss of 75%) = 1573 lumens *.75=393 lumens estimated (Probably higher, since the Epson loses about 19% going from Dynamic, to 3D dynamic, and that probably means some processing for the glasses is already in there). Of course 393 lumens = just over 13 ft lamberts minimum, with a new lamp.

2D “Best” mode: Lamp on Eco = 30.2 ft lamberts right at the top of the recommended range for movie theaters. Of course, by the time you’ve had any projector for a couple hundred hours use, lamp brightness will typically be down at least 10%.

So, it could be argued that even in Cinema mode, calibrated, with a new lamp, that the projector is too bright. (Not me, I like bright.) That is, on a 100″ diagonal screen (and no ambient light), but remember, this is an LCD projector, not DLP. Very bright DLP’s tend to make people notice the rainbow effect more, and fatigue some folks (small percentage), but LCD’s haven’t been accused of that. Technically by SMPTE standards the projector would be too bright if you are using a 1.3 gain screen which would get it close to 40 ft. lamberts.

So there’s a potential issue of too much 2D brightness, in a darkened dedicated theater (where most of these Epsons won’t be found), if you have a bright screen. Good news, folks, there’s a fix if it really becomes an issue.

It’s an old trick, used by most early home theater projector owners. They wanted to knock down the black levels, and were willing to give up brightness to do so. Go check out your favorite camera shop. Buy a relatively inexpensive neutral density filter, and place it in front of your lens, if you think it’s too bright. You can knock off 25%, 50% or even more depending o the density of the filter. Mount the filter in front of the lens so you can remove when you want.

But, personally, I think the “too bright” argument is a red herring, with normal screens and normal screen sizes. Besides I recommend a larger than 100″ screen for 3D (if not 2D), if you can find room for it. With a 120″ diagonal screen, that same 2D “best mode” is now down to a very nice 21 ft-lamberts with a new lamp. Considering SMPTE recommends 16 ft-lamberts you are pretty much right on target. So, try a 120, a 124, 128, even 133 inch diagonal screen, and you’ll still have respectable 3D brightness, and good 2D!

I’ll concede that in most dedicated theaters, the 3010 is too bright for highest quality 2D movie viewing on a typical 82 or 92″ diagonal screen – go bigger, or gray surface.

A last thought on the subject: The real problem with most of the 7-8 3D capable projectors reviewed so far, isn’t too much brightness, but too much dimness. Consider, that on a 100″ diagonal screen, using the same formula, not one of the at least 2x as expensive 3D capable DLP or LCoS projectors reviewed, can even get to 5 ft-lamberts in 3D with a new lamp on a 100″ screen. Oh, the 3D standard recommended is around 4.5 ft lamberts by SMPTE, but I have to believe that spec only exists (and a 2.75 minimum) beause that’s all the digital cinema gear was capable of. A concession to reality, rather than an accurate assessment of what is needed. The dimmest of the expensive projectors we reviewed, could barely hit that minimum with a brand new lamp on a 100″ screen. You don’t even want to think about how dim that JVC would be when the lamp gets old (less than 1.5 ft-lamberts – or less than 1/10th of what SMPTE recommends for 2D).

And finally, because lamps dim and lose half brightness over time: Consider that Joel Silver, President and founder of ISF, the organization of professional calibrators, believes the recommended spec for image brightness should really be up around 30 ft-lamberts, to allow for dimming.

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