Posted on December 6, 2018 By Art Feierman
Epson HC4010 and PC4050 Projector Review – Picture Quality 2: 1080p Movies and 4K without HDR, HDTV and Sports, Overall Picture Quality, The Bottom Line on Picture Quality
This and the following image are from Blacklist on Netflix - 4K no HDR. The rest are from Casino Royale, and The Hunger Games (both 1080p Blu-ray disc).
The photos from these 1080p movies and 4K TV shows are of content that lacks HDR. We used Eric’s calibrated Natural mode for all of these photos. From a color standpoint, Eric’s work only improved the picture colors slightly. Truth is, his pre-calibration color measurements proved closer to the targeted D65 (6500K) desired results, than many other projectors we’ve worked with end up, even after a good calibration. The changes in color, between “before and after” are, at most, slight. The slightly larger change was to the gamma, which increased slightly with calibration.
Whether looking at skin tones (Blacklist, Hunger Games, Bond), or outdoor images, or other general content, the Home Cinema 4010 and Pro Cinema 4050, look extremely good post calibration. If not for a couple of Sony projectors, I’d have to say that the Epson’s color is as good as we see. Certainly – “close enough” to please almost everyone, even without calibration.
As a result our calibration settings will be less useful here (for non HDR content) than with most projectors. Lamp variations and aging of a lamp, are likely to have as much, or as more shift to colors than the difference between default, and Eric’s calibrated settings. Still try ours out. If you like them better, go for it.
BTW the differences between pre-calibration and post-calibration for our Best 4K with HDR/P3 mode, are significantly greater.
Overall skin tones in this mode, aren’t as perfect as what we would expect if calibrating Digital Cinema mode instead of Natural, because of the addition of the Cinema filter in Digital Cinema mode. Let’s just say that the Cinema filter smooths out imperfections of color consistency, but at the cost of more lumens. We had to make a calculated decision which mode to calibrate, and thought that running Natural mode at medium lamp gave us the advantage of the projector running quieter.
Bottom line on Color and picture handling on non 4K HDR content – Just a touch below excellent!
For general HDTV (where production qualities are typical “TV” not up there with say, sci-fi movies, or high production TV shows like Game of Thrones), we offer you two recommendations.
First, for the better of two modes in terms of color accuracy, use the calibrated Natural mode that we also recommend for 1080p movies and 4K content without HDR/P3.
But, for even more pop, and a cooler (more blue in whites etc, less red) overall color temp, I recommend using Bright Cinema mode. It starts out a bit cooler – probably averaging a bit over 7000K instead of 6500K. That looks better on my sports in almost all cases, because, like many, I find 6500K a bit too redish/yellow, on sports.
I’ve been using Bright Cinema on High lamp for maximum brightness when I have the four window’s shutters mostly open in my home theater on a sunny day. Works for me, and overall, the color is extremely well balanced.
Great! The Home Cinema 4010 and Pro Cinema 4050, do color really, really well, both “right out of the box” and then even better with a calibration, although these Epson projectors barely need calibration, especially compared to 90% of the projectors out there.
HDR is a bit of a challenge, as it is for almost all displays. Epson now, with its HDR Auto Bright mode, doesn’t come across dim as older Epson’s pre that “Auto Bright” tended to be. True, sometimes the HC4010 and PC4050 can be dim. But it’s the exception now. I did put on a 4K HDR/P3 disc of Hunt For Red October, a very dark looking movie that takes place primarily within submarines (which one would guess from this movie as being poorly lit, at best. (But that makes for a lot of pop!)
For normal, non-4K sports, you have choices. With two modes – Natural, which is a bit more accurate, but Brilliant Color – slightly brighter, but set with a more dynamic look – gives my sports viewing more wow, more pop to the picture.
Your other choice is between slightly better, and more accurate, and expanded color, vs having a lot more lumens for more brightness on high HDR scenes. While I’m stubborn and favor the calibrated Digital Cinema for most of my 4K HDR movie viewing, Red October, and a few other movies have me shifting to our calibrated Natural mode for its almost double the brightness.
Your screen size, room ambient and surfaces, and, of course, your person preferences/taste should allow you to pick which mode you prefer for most of the highest quality content, but as I mentioned elsewhere in this review: It’s nice to have choices! The competition, when there’s 4K with HDR/P3 can’t come close to the superior P3 color, no matter what. There are exceptions, but only if you count Epson’s own 5040UB/6040UB, JVC’s $4K and Sony’s $5K projectors. Everything else we’ve tested that can do 4K HDR and support P3 color, simply fails to do better than REC709, while P3 provides a 50% larger color space.
Downsides? Well, of course this Epson isn’t as natively sharp as a native 4K projector, or the higher resolution 4K UHDs, but those differences, as we have emphasized, are slight, and you have to sit close to even appreciate any differences.
The other downside, is of greater concern for me, and that is the black level performance. Thanks to these Epsons having an excellent dynamic iris, they do well enough – with a bit less native contrast, but otherwise, can hold their own with most of the 4K UHD DLP projectors. The Epson wouldn’t be too different on very dark scenes, but on brighter scenes you would notice that Epson blacks would not be quite as dark as say, those of an Optoma UHD65. Of course we care far more about the deepness of blacks on very dark scenes, than on medium, or especially bright ones.
In some ways these Epsons are a touch better than even the more expensive 5040UB and 6040UB. And that’s despite that I consider the 5040UB to be the best value in 4K / HDR/ P3 capable projector. That’s temporary, of course, as Epson will no doubt be upgrading those Epsons shortly (they are over 2 years old!)
These Epsons do appear a touch sharper than the UBs, thanks to improved pixel shifting, but mostly are similar overall. Overall, Epson’s image processing for 4K are extremely good, so that the HC4010 and PC4050, can appear sharper than even native 4K projectors. The cost – is a touch more hardness to the image, although this too is where the 4010 seems a touch better than the 5040UB.
It’s the color though where these Epsons beat most of the competition. I didn’t find a single 4K UHD projector out of the roughly a dozen we’ve reviewed in the past 15 months, that has as good color right out of the box. Oh, some have a good mode for his or that, but most are just inaccurate – and therefore more needing of calibration.
BTW if I had to pick one brand of DLP projector where they do provide some pretty good “out of the box” color for good 4K content, hat would be BenQ, but even they could do better.
Everything about these Epsons’ picture quality (except for black level performance), is highly competitive with anything offered under $5K. And when it comes to black level performance, only Epson’s UBs, and the more expensive JVC and Sony projectors, can beat them on those very dark scenes, in terms of blacker blacks.
All of this adds up to a projector that overall, performs extremely well, with or without calibration, one with consistently at least very good (up to great) color, good gamma, and very respectable handling of HDR, with P3, or without P3 but brighter.
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