Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB Review – Performance: Brightness, Sharpness

Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K Capable Home Theater Projector Review – Performance: Brightness, Brightness and Color Temperature, Color Temp Readings for Reference Mode, Post Calibration Color Temp Readings for Reference Mode, Gamma Measurement, ECO Mode: Affect of Brightness, Power Consumption, Lens Position: Affect on Brightness, Sharpness/Detail

Home Cinema 5050UB: Brightness: Mid Zoom, High Lamp unless noted

Picture Mode Lumens Color Temp. (Kelvin)
Dynamic (full power, wide zoom) 3401 6998K
Dynamic (Mid-Zoom) 3137 6442K
Bright Cinema 2077 7551K
Natural (Full lamp) 2323 6986K
Natural (Calibrated) Medium Lamp 1842 6556K
Cinema* 1072 7641K
B&W Cinema 1966 5646K
Digital Cinema* 1116 7793K
Digital Cinema - post calibration 1104 6509K

* Digital Cinema and Cinema modes use Epson’s Cinema filter to improve color (out to P3), but at the cost of a good 40% of brightness when engaged compared to other modes without the Cinema filter.

These Epson projectors are impressively bright. The very brightest mode – Dynamic has a slight greenish caste (far less than most projectors’ brightest modes.)  Still, having a full 3400 lumens is great, especially when you consider that Epson only claims 2600 lumens!   With that much horsepower (and well over 2000 lumens with very good picture quality), you can put this projector in almost any room, as long as there’s some basic lighting control, and a proper screen. Note, that the 3400 lumens is full wide angle on the zoom lens. But you get “just a few lumens less” with the lens set to mid-zoom.

Bright Cinema rocks for sports, etc. Color while not perfect, looks great on sports and most things – think, probably still more accurate than most LCD TVs. But don’t be afraid of Dynamic (especially with some minor adjustments) if you need every last lumen for your upcoming Super Bowl party.

Natural tops out over 2300 lumens, but even calibrated, and with the lamp on medium bright, and lens on mid zoom, Natural provides 1842 lumens for your 1080p and other non 4K/HDR/P3 critical viewing!!!

That’s more than enough lumens for a 150″ diagonal screen, Scott says it works great with his 160″ screen, and his only has a gain of 1.0!

Digital Cinema for 4K/HDR/P3 is excellent. Color is both accurate -and offers a wider color space than almost all of the competition, aka better color, often a touch more natural (more colors to do a skin tone, or subtle graduations such as grays or in skies).  But Digital Cinema is a bit cool, so our calibration just made things better/warmer – slightly.

Digital Cinema offers up just a bit over 1100 calibrated lumens when calibrated for 4K/HDR, with P3 color!  Now that’s not a huge amount of lumens for HDR, but it certainly is no problem on my 124″ 1.3 gain matte screen, with the default gamma/eotf setting of 8).   I find that I watch most 4K/HDR content this way. Sometimes when a movie seems overly “dim” I do use the alternative we also served up:  Using Natural mode for 4K HDR, but without P3.  That buys an extra 700+ lumens!   And that does make a real difference, by “settling” for good old REC709, which was the best any of us had until a year or two ago when P3 and 4K started working well.

This Epson HC5050UB can handle 100% of REC709 when not doing P3.  That is still wider color than many DLP competitors can do).  So, as stated elsewhere – you have two modes to choose – the absolute best, but with about 1100 lumens, or about 1850 lumens calibrated (also mid-zoom, full lamp).

Nice to have choices (which I have also said repeatedly)!

Brightness and Color Temperature "Best mode"

For this review we have done things a bit differently.  Typically with 4K capable projectors we calibrate a “best” 1080p” mode, a “best 4K/HDR/P3” mode and a Brightest (1080) mode.

Because of the Epson’s Cinema filter, which improves color (makes P3 possible when running 4K), at the cost of about 50% brightness, we have decided instead to do two 4K modes:

  • Best 4K HDR/P3 mode, using Digital Cinema (with Cinema filter)
  • Brightest 4K HDR/REC709 mode, using Natural mode (no Cinema filter)
  • Best 1080p mode using Natural, no Cinema filter

In addition, we also recommend Bright Cinema for sports and most HDTV when you need more lumens. And as we have noted, Bright Cinema is cooler – color temp wise, which many (including myself) prefer for most sports viewing.

Pre-Cal Color Temp Readings for "Best 4K/HDR Mode" - Digital Cinema

IRE Range Color Temp. (Kelvin)
100 IRE 7536K
90 IRE 7536K
80 IRE 7548K
70 IRE 7561K
60 IRE 7452K
50 IRE 7144K
40 IRE 6865K
30 IRE 6613K
20 IRE 6538K
10 IRE 6556K

As you can see from the table to the left, overall, Digital Cinema starts out – before any adjustment, as being very cool.  Definitely too cool, so let’s just say to use this mode for movies, you want to definitely lower the overall color temp.

The goal is to have all the numbers (except the very low end – 10 IRE, as close as possible to 6500K.  As you can see, we’re mostly at 7500K instead (except the darker ranges)..  Try our settings, or at the least go to the color temp settings and lower them.  Hint: 6500K!

Fortunately, Epson provides very good, well-behaved, calibration controls.  You’ll find all the settings we came up with on our two calibration pages.

In the next table, (below), you are looking at the Digital Cinema settings after Eric calibrated the Home Cinema 5050UB.  Again, the Pro Cinema 6050UB should behave almost identically (give or take variations from lamp to lamp, and other minor differences).

As mentioned elsewhere, the post-calibration color temp throughout the range is probably as close to being dead on the money, as any projector we have ever calibrated.  With a total range of 203 degrees of color temp, that’s tight.  More typical post calibration is a range of 300 – 500 degrees.  Hey, more perfectly calibrated, is better!

Post Calibration: Color Temp Readings for "Best 4K/HDR Mode" - Digital Cinema

The measurements below were taken at mid-zoom with high lamp power.

IRE Range Color Temp. (Kelvin)
100 IRE 6509K @ 1104 lumens
90 IRE 6513K
80 IRE 6502K
70 IRE 6521K
60 IRE 6478K
50 IRE 6551K
40 IRE 6521K
30 IRE 6373K
20 IRE 6570K
10 IRE 6498K

Gamma Measurement

You will find gamma setting info on our calibration pages. Suffice to say for non HDR content, gamma is very, good, and very adjustable.

For HDR content (EOTF – rather than gamma – for HDR content), the HC5050UB offers 16 settings from 0 to 15. Default is 8.  I prefer 7 or 8 on my 124″ 1.3 gain screen.  One of our other reviewers as a huge 160″ screen, he’s down in the 2 or 3 range.  That boosts the mid and lower mid brightness, which is helpful because he needs twice the lumens because of his screen and gain.  Most folks without huge screens will likely keep to the range from 6 to 9.

ECO-Mode: Affect on Brightness, Power Consumption

Power Mode Lumens Color Temp. (Kelvin)
Full Power (Dynamic Mode, mid zoom) 3137 6442K
Medium (mid-zoom)
ECO Mode (mid-zoom) 2029 6466K

From any color mode, switching from full power (High) to Eco mode results in a measured drop in lumen output of just over 35%!  Typically, a 25% to 35% drop is what we expect with most projectors.

These Epson projectors, however, have three power modes. There’s also Medium power, in the middle. Medium mode, by comparison, is almost 25% less bright than High lamp, and almost 15% brighter than Eco.  As a result, most folks should rely on Medium power except when max brightness is needed. We have noticed over the years, that when a lamp is driven at roughly 65% of full power or less, there’s a tendency to see some occasional, minor flickering – best avoided!

We calibrated our “Best” 4K/HDR/P3 mode at full power (High) lamp, because when viewing HDR we generally want all the lumens we can muster (all else being close to equal).  That said, because there is a big difference in fan noise, I do drop from Full power to medium at night when the room is fully darkened, for a lot of my HDR viewing.

Lens Position: Affect on Brightness - Dynamic Mode

Zoom Distance Lumens - Dynamic Mode Color Temp. (Kelvin)
Zoom out 65” Tall 3401 6498K
Mid-zoom 48" Tall 3137 6442K
Zoom in 31” Tall 2385 6269K

In the case of this Epson projector, there’s only a small drop in brightness (8%) going from full wide angle on the zoom, to mid-zoom, but a far larger drop to telephoto – but still only 30%.  That’s really very good.  There are projectors with 2:1 type zooms, that see drops of over 40%.

In other words, if you have to mount this Epson projector as far back as possible, in your room – such as placing it on a high rear shelf, you aren’t sacrificing a really significant amount of brightness – but you lose less than going from full power to low power on the lamp.  On the other hand, if you mount or place your projector with the zoom at about mid-point, you are looking at a drop that is barely noticable at all (8%).

Sharpness/Detail

Let’s take a good look at sharpness (and detail), or rather what we perceive as sharpness.  As I’ve stated, all these projectors have lots of image processing, and especially true of all non-native 4K projectors when doing 4K content. These Epsons are, of course, pixel shifters, and Epson has had some pretty excellent algorithms, which allows them to look at first glance to be every bit as sharp as more expensive native 4K projectors.  Still there’s always a price to pay. “trade-offs”

In our photo player above, There are a comparison images – close-ups of full screen photos from 4K movies, for a close look.  We used the “lab” credits scene from Ghostbusters, which has plenty of different types of text, angles, and objects to compare.

When comparing look at the gauges on the left, and the small labels, and switches, etc. Remember once you have clicked to enlarge the images, you can still jump back and forth between any two for quick comparisons.

Overall, these Epsons do very well, but we’ve seen sharper, but only slightly, even from less expensive 4K UHD DLP projectors. It’s just that sitting 15 feet back from any of the 4K capable projectors under $10K, you shouldn’t see any real difference, rather contrast differences and other things that might give you the impression of sharper or softer.

Just keep in mind when “worrying” about sharpness differences, that the difference say, between this Epson projector and perhaps, the Optoma UHD65 (2716x1528x2), and the native 4K Sony (4192×2160), in what you perceive as sharpness, is going to be far less than the differences in handling HDR, or for that matter color accuracy. While I favor going native 4K, price is a huge determining factor for most of us.

When reviewing this and related Epson projectors that preceded this 5050UB, I said you could get an extremely sharp looking image with 4K content, but that there’s going to be a slight bit of hardness, say on closeups of faces, that a native 4K won’t have.

I do believe the new pixel shifting hardware is making a difference, but of course, only a small one.  I have to agree with Epson.  The pixel shifting seems more precise in that things do look just a touch sharper/softer than Epsons using the older pixel shifting technology.

I took this pair of images – the same frame – for fun, with the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB first, and with The Sony VPL-VW995ES.  Now what makes this truly interesting, is you are looking at a small portion of the full image so we can see smaller details and sharpness.

One 4K UHD DLP we recently reviewed, is the ultra short throw HiSense Laser TV.  it still had more hardness than the Epson, even with my cranking up Epson’s Image Enhancement setting to 4 (as high as I go, out of 5).

Mostly I set the Epson Image Enhancment to 2, sometimes 3, for my viewing.  For sports (1080i) I crank it to 4.

If you go back and look at the Epson vs some other 4K UHDs in the Ghostbusters credits, you’ll notice some may seem a touch sharper, others not.  Since most use similar lenses, and the same DLP chip, etc.  The differences are likely to be how good each one is in terms of image processing.

The bottom line on sharpness.  The Epsons can be beaten by the 4K UHD DLPs and by native 4Ks, but with its very good image enhancement controls any slight softness is likely gone, in exchange for a touch of hardness.  Further, a significant chunk of people will likely prefer that “harder look” in most scenes.  Remember, we shoot still images.  Something like a touch of hardness that is just visible on a still image is almost certainly unnoticeable on a constantly changing video.

sharpness 5050UB
Epson 5050UB close-up of credits from Ghostbusters 2016, nicely very sharp

VW995es image
For fun - Sony's $40,000 flagship VW995ES. Native 4K. The Sony lens alone, costs more than most home theater projectors!

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