Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K Capable Projector Review- Picture Quality 1

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K Capable Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out of the Box Picture Quality, Skin Tones, Black Levels/Shadow Detail, 4K Movies (with HDR)

Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality

The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB is a typical Epson home theater projector in several ways.  One way worth discussing here is that it has some really good color, right out of the box.  True, the brightest mode – Dynamic – is strong on greens, but not nearly as bad as most projectors in their equivalent brightest modes.

More significantly several modes are reasonably close to Dynamic  (Natural is down about 30% in brightness, Bright Cinema not far behind), but both Natural and Bright Cinema combine that brightness with some really good color.  The UB series (also including the HC4010, PC4050, and the just announced PC6050UB) have a cinema filter built in.  That filter, when engaged (Digital Cinema mode), further improves color, allowing these lamp-based projectors to get very, very close to achieving P3 color – which means rivaling a quality movie theater!  Engaging the filter does take a toll in brightness, however, of over 40% when going from Bright Cinema to Digital Cinema modes.  This is one reason why we do two 4K HDR calibrations – Digital Cinema for 4K/HDR with P3 color, and Natural for 4K/HDR, but only REC709 color.

Eric calibrated Digital Cinema for 4K with HDR and P3 (with 50% larger color space than REC709), which we call our “Best” 4K mode – and also calibrated Natural mode – let’s call that “Brightest” 4K mode (which like Bright Cinema mode does not use the Cinema filter).

That way, depending on your environment, screen, etc., you have the choice:  When you need more brightness – use our “Brightest” 4K mode (Natural), and when things are really dark in your room, enjoy the slightly better color with the Epson HC5050UB’s “Best” 4K mode.

Skin Tones

Skin tone handling was really impressive in the better modes.  Consider the Victoria Secret sequence showing the same model, in all picture modes.  Only Natural was taken after calibration, the rest is just “right out of the box!”

All the images in the player above were pre-calibration to demonstrate the “right out of the box” color capabilities of this Epson projector.  We also did a separate calibration of Natural, for working with 1080 content (and no HDR or P3, of course).  The Home Cinema 5050UB has 10 savable memories for picture, so have fun, we only used three of them:

  • Natural for non-4K content (including our Victoria Secret model), but her image was taken pre-calibration
  • Natural for 4K content with HDR, and REC709 color, for a very bright image
  • Digital Cinema for 4K content with HDR and P3 color, for improved color, but with a drop in brightness.

Included in the player above also find our usual four 1080p images of Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale.  But also a number of other 1080/REC709 color images.  The purpose here is to demonstrate to you that there is no one correct skin tone.  Every person’s skin tones look very different with different lightings such as full sunlight vs fluorescent lighting, cloudy days, and night lighting, the four environments for our Bond images.

The remaining images – in the player – immediately below are all 4K with HDR and P3 color. The exception is the Blacklist image which is 4K and REC709 (and no HDR). That’s how Netflix serves up Blacklist to 4K viewers.

Black Level Performance/Shadow Detail

No surprise, the Epson tackles really dark scenes, really well.  I figure you are going up $1000 to find a projector that can do as well, or better, and it mostly blows away anything that costs the same or less (in terms of handling blacks). Being a black level fanatic – looking for the projector that really shines when handling really dark scenes (not brightly lit city nightscapes) – I knew going in that the black level performance of the Home Cinema 5050UB is a cut above – any projectors that cost the same or less, would prove unmatched.  The closest tries would be the older, just discontinued UBs. BenQ’s new HT3550 (DLP) (which I like for folks that can’t afford this Epson UB), also has a dynamic iris, and is a lot better than other under $3000 DLPs to date, but still no match for this Epson.

It’s true that when there’s more than very little ambient light present, that the differences when viewing two projectors with different contrast and black level performance, that the differences are noticeably diminished by the ambient light.

So, to simplify:  If you are going for a living room, media room, family room type of setup with less than perfect lighting control, you will not get the same extra bang for the bucks on really dark scenes, if you choose the HC5050UB instead of the less expensive HC4010.

However, if you are putting together the classic home theater/man cave (ok, in this day and age, let me amend that to “person or people cave”), with dark surfaces and great lighting control, I’ll always recommend spending the extra for the better black level performer, in this case because prices are reasonably close, and you should get a number of years enjoyment out of your new projector!  If your room is mixed – less than great control in the daytime, but really darken-able at night, then for that nighttime viewing you’ll get the full extra benefit, even if you get a slighter benefit with some room ambient lighting.

The images in the first player are the usual black level / dark scene images.  I’ve included several, but then we have the intentionally overexposed (and greyscaled) “Bond night train scene” image from Casino Royale.   In general, exposures do vary, but you are looking for the image with the most pop – where the lightest parts of the image are extremely bright while the darkest parts are still very dark.  The letterbox below and above gives you an indication of how black those blacks are – relative to the whitest parts of the image (i.e., the train’s front light).

These two new Epson’s thanks to their dynamic iris do a rather good job, despite many of the 4K UHD DLPs having more native contrast. That’s because the native contrast differences aren’t really huge, and because the Epson has a dynamic iris to help lower black levels on those dark scenes.  We need to see more DLP projectors use dynamic irises, to improve their black levels.

I have mentioned the Acer VL7860 in other reviews, as the only DLP that’s 4K capable of the more than a dozen we’ve reviewed, that offers a dynamic iris (or rather has their laser light engine emulate one, something Sony does on their $39,999.99 native 4K laser projector).  That Acer, which sells for about $2000 more has the best black levels of any of the DLPs we’re talking about, because of that “dynamic iris.”  Unfortunately lamp based projectors can’t really dim their lamps like an iris (many have tried – Dynamic Black), because they can’t lower blacks significantly because lamps dim and brighten too slowly.

When one tries to get the same range of a mechanical dynamic iris, by using lamp dimming, you’ll normally see very visible pumping of the image – as he image slowly brightens or dims to match the scene, but is usually playing catch-up, and is therefore very noticeable and distracting.  As a result, we typically don’t even recommend using the Dynamic Black feature found on most home DLP projectors be they 4K UHD or lower end.

Dark Shadow Detail

This Epson Home Cinema 5050UB, like other Epsons, is especially good on dark shadow detail. With the Brightness setting adjusted just slightly, these Epson projectors will reveal virtually every bit of dark detail that exists in the content.  Any loss is likely due to the Brightness control not being fine enough (but very close.)

Look at the same Bond night train scene above, for details in the shrubs on the far side of the train tracks in the lower left, and look for faint details in the large almost fully black area of the forest on the upper right side.    BTW we don’t normally focus o white levels and crushing white detail, but this Epson is also very good. And these days, that’s noteworthy, because Eric, our calibrator, has been reporting (and we can see it), that a lot of the lower cost 4K capable projectors are crushing near white detail. They just can’t get there. That said, the most recent BenQ DLP to arrive isn’t crushing as much as many previous models.

Bottom-line on dark shadow detail: Excellent!  On crushing near whites – very, very, good, but more to the point, a lot better than most of the similarly priced competition!

4K Movies (with HDR) BT.2020/P3 - DCI-P3 Color

Almost every aspect of the picture of the Home Cinema 5050UB are exceptionally good, when working highest quality content out there – 4K content with HDR, and DCI-P3 color (same as movie theaters),  True there are slightly sharper projectors, but when it comes to richness of the picture, and “bang for the buck” picture quality, the HC5050UB is, so far, at the top of my list for $3K and under projectors.

I usually give a slight edge to the more expensive Sony 4K projectors for naturalness of the picture.  That holds here. This Epson when doing it’s sharpest 4K tends to be just a touch hard looking compared to Sony’s native 4K projectors.  Now I’m really getting picky here. Most folks won’t notice, especially since you don’t get to compare. Digital Cinema calibrated provides great color, (but it is still very good if a bit “cooler” before any calibration).

Remember you have a choice with the HC5050UB when watching 4K content with HDR.

The choice is simple.  Choose more brightness or P3 color.  Keep in mind if you opt for the over 2000 calibrated lumens without P3 color, that’s more than any of the competition.  And most of the competition can’t do color as well as this Epson, even when you aren’t using the Cinema filter.

The bottom line is that you will have a well-balanced picture with more pop and power or with less brightness, and a bit better color.  If you have a dedicated theater it’s tough to beat… If a family room, you will be hard pressed to find anything that can compete at this price or less, on 4K HDR content, thanks to the addition of lots of brightness.

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