Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K Capable Home Theater Projector Review- Special Features 2

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K Capable Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features 2:  More HDR Than Before, Excellent Calibration Controls, Lens Memory – For Wide Screens

More HDR Than Before

Pixel shifting device
Epson provided photo of new pixel shifting mechanism.

This is one of the three significant improvements Epson is touting in the Home Cinema 4010 and Pro Cinema 4050 projectors compared to past models.  With pixel shifting, we are talking about a physical shifting.  In this case – the faster, the better.

What Epson has done is, per their description of it, is significantly reduce the time it takes for each pixel to go from one pixel position to its other.  That means each pixel spends more time correctly centered on where it should be, which should result in less distortions and a slightly brighter picture.  Epson gave me a more detailed rundown at CEDIA 2018, but the rest is more of the technical stuff.  I’m not sure if Epson has published any details about it, but suffice it to say the end result looked better in sharpness than the 5040UB.  If you are an audiophile, think of the Epson improvements in pixel shifting like better power amps that can better do square waves.

Better HDR Than Before

Everyone supports HDR10, so this is the primary HDR standard that most people are talking about today.  It is the same one used on BluRay UHD discs, and is found in uses elsewhere.

For broadcast, and I believe most streaming, a second “software” based HDR called HLG, or Hybrid Log Gamma, is utilized.  So far, the Netflix movies etc. that I have watched have all lacked HDR, but I expect to see a shift over the next couple of years – likely sooner than later.  With projectors, at least, it’s only been about a year since anyone has supported HLG.  I assume Netflix, Prime and others will want a decent installed base of “TVs” that can handle it.

The third method is DolbyVision, which is hardware based.  You will find that in X-Boxes, but few (I think) consumer TVs at this time.

The older 5040UB which launched pretty much with the advent of 4K HDR on Blu-ray UHD disc, has had 3 firmware updates, each focused on improving HDR.  That third one was particularly effective.  The tendency of 1st gen HDR projectors has definitely been dark or dim HDR content.  By Epson’s 3rd iteration it was looking very good, with me adding only a slight amount of extra brightness to the lower end, via gamma (EOTF) settings.

The photo player above only has two images – comparing similar frames from Ghostbusters (2016).  We took the 5040UB’s image with the original firmware – very dark.  The third version of the 5040UB’s firmware update for HDR puts it a lot closer to the current 5050UB than the original version on the 5040UB, but there is still a nice improvement going to the 5050UB, which has me very excited (I’m doing a lot of watching, having logged over 2600 hours on the Epson HC5040UB I have here as my “reference.”

In other words: The Home Cinema 5050UB,, starts out already better than even the last 5040UB update.

The dim is gone, thanks to some auto tone mapping.  You still have a manual control (from 0-15 – default is 8.   I like 7 or 8, on my 1.3 gain 124″ screen.  By comparison, when chatting with Scott G, he’s got a huge – 160″ diagonal screen with only 1.0 gain. That means he needs over twice the brightness hitting his screen for it to seem as bright as my setup.   Scott reports he’s working with settings of 2 or 3.  (He may also like it a little brighter in the mid-range).  You will set yours for what you like the best.  Remember that the more mid-range brightness we adjust into the image, the less “HDR” it is. That means there’s a legit trade-off where you don’t want to go brighter in the mid-range (and lower ranges), because you want more “pop” to the picture – more wow – the stuff HDR promises.

Superior Color vs. Competitors

The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB supports and achieves the DCI/P3 color standard. (Eric says they got extremely close – closer than any other lamp based projector we’ve calibrated.)  Tha tis thanks to a Cinema filter that slides into place when you demand the best possible color.  While lamp based DLP competitors can barely get to REC709 (the older color standard and a lot don’t even make it to that!) P3 offers a 50% larger color range, delivering color quality comparable to what the better digital projectors at your local theater complex deliver!  True, there are some trade-offs: for instance, the Cinema filter drops the projector’s brightness by about 40%.  

From that perspective, you get to choose either more brightness or better, P3 color.  I love that you get the choice, unlike the competition.  By the way, if you go with a really good laser DLP UHD projector, you can find P3 or close, but those typically run $3K to $6K.  Interestingly BenQ’s HT3550 – my last review, has added a “cinema filter” so offers the same type of brighter, with no P3/less bright with. That BenQ is half the list price and is a favorite, but it is definitely a step down overall. It’s not as bright, it’s too slow for serious gaming, can’t match black levels, lacks great placement flexibility, etc, but it is worth its price.  

I think the option with/without a filter, is great because it allows many of us to move projectors out of a dedicated theater. 

Many might watch movies at night – if less than a fully darkened room, with “best mode” Digital Cinema with the filter in place, and Using Bright Cinema or Natural without the filter in place for REC709 color during the daytime when more ambient light is present.

Black panther photo
Epson's HC5050UB tackle's the Black Panther's army - 4K / HDR / P3 content

Excellent Calibration Controls

menus - color
The Color Temp and (shown here) the CMS controls to adjust individual primary and secondary colors, are the same on the 5040UB and the newer 5050UB.

Eric, our calibrator, confirms that the Epson projector starts out with impressively good color, but it can be improved with a full set of controls that do not exhibit bad habits, or lack the range needed.  Not just color, gamma, etc.  The HC5050UB has tone mapping controls for adjusting the HDR as well, that work far better than previous Epsons.  (Note:  HDR was a real challenge (primarily to not look dim) on almost all first gen 4K projectors supporting HDR.)

Lens Memory – for Wide Screens

These Epson projectors allow you to save 10 different settings for lens memory.
These Epson projectors allow you to save 10 different settings for lens memory.

Most movies, less some of those made for TV and those from the Casablanca era – and many animated films, are typically much wider than HDTV.  As a result, serious movie fans may wish to go with a wide screen for the purpose of filling the entire screen with a Cinemascope type movie.  When projecting 16:9 content, you’ll end up with a letterbox on the left and right, so that football game or HDTV program will use less of the screen.  What you get is the maximum size for wide movies, and a bit smaller for everything else.

With Lens Memory, you can set the image size separately for each aspect ratio.  Two can be quickly changed with one button operation on the remote control.  There are 10 memories in all, although few users will find a use for more than three or four of them.  I only have two set up myself, so far, one for widescreen, one for 16:9.

Come football season though I’ll add at least one more:  When watching DirecTv’s GameMix (8 football games at once), to have the biggest view of each game, one can overshoot the screen significantly because all the games are on the inner 80% of the picture, so I zoom larger so the left most games are at the edge on the left side, and the right most – ending on the far right. That makes each game view about 20% larger.  I can also set up a unique one when I’m feeding my laptop to the screen…  Have fun, but you won’t run out of memories – with 10.  Then consider none of the competition, until you are up in price to the $4K JVC, even offer Lens Memory – the lower cost exceptions being Epson’s HC4010 and PC4050!