Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. Sharp XV-Z15000
The Sharp XV-Z15000, (another older projector) is similar in price to the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB. (I'll be repeating quite a few things below, from a previous Epson / Sharp comparison):
The Sharp, interestingly, isn't quite as sharp, overall, as the Epson. The Sharp, when reviewed, appeared to have optics that aren't quite as good as most, in that if you focused on the center of the screen, the sides and corners would be a little softer than with most other projectors. Don't get me wrong, at the point you focus on, the Sharp, is very, well, sharp. It's just that overall, the image will be a little softer. (Be sure to focus about 1/3 out from the center of the screen, with the Sharp, which will give you a nice image that seems sharp all the way from center to edge, just not razor sharp.
The Sharp has truly excellent color and skin tones. It has that DLP look and feel. I had to give a slight advantage to the Sharp over the Epson 8500UB, as far as color handling. While I haven't seen the Sharp over here in almost a year and a half, I'd say that the Epson 8700UB is now as accurate, at skin tones, and color overall. I'll still give the Sharp that slight DLP advantage that seems to allow dark colors to be very rich, but without seeming over the top.
When the Sharp was reviewed, I was very impressed with black level performance. It uses a dynamic iris, and is definitely what I define as an "ultra-high" contrast projector. No, its black level performance can't match the 8700UB, nor the older 8500UB and the 6500UB before it, but is pretty comparable to, for example, the Sanyo PLV-Z4000, and probably just shy of the Panasonic PT-AE4000. In other words, the Sharp does produce very nice black levels, blacker than almost all projectors at or below its price, but that black level performance, while in the same class as the Epson, is closer to the "bottom of the class" while the Epson is at the top, so far, for under $4000 projectors (though the new $3000 JVC, and the soon to ship Epson R series Home Cinema 21000, both around $3000, should outperform the 8700UB in terms of black level performance.
Brightness is no contest. While the Sharp is very average over all, the Epson, is brighter. Post calibration, the Epson beats the Sharp in "best mode" with almost 500 lumens vs. 355 lumens. In "brightest" mode, the Epson again is just plain brighter 1309 vs. 1099. That makes the Sharp not quite as able to handle large screen sizes. The Sharp was best at about 100 inch diagonal or less, in "best" mode, and can be pushed to 110", but unless you have the right screen, and the room is a dark one (walls, ceilings, etc.) 110" diagonal may be too much to tackle. In "brightest" mode, the Sharp is fine, and will do a really nice job on sports and general TV viewing with some ambient light, on the larger sizes of screens that match the projector (again, about 100" or a little larger). The Epson will, for example, do just about as well when comparing bright modes, on a screen 10 percent larger. That means for sports, the Sharp will look great on a 100 inch diagonal screen.
When it comes to the dynamic iris, the Epson has two modes, the Sharp, one. The XV-Z15000's iris action is a bit more visible than some, including, typically, the Epson, but overall, it's a pretty good one.
The Sharp makes an excellent lower priced 1080p projector with excellent color and impressive black level performance, that will appeal greatly to those sold on the DLP look and feel. It is one of those "a pleasure to watch" projectors. The Epson has the muscle, the better warranty, a lot more features, placement flexibility, and so on, but the Sharp's picture quality in general is every bit the match for the Epson, even though the Epson is definitely a bit better in terms of blacker blacks.
If you are a DLP (in terms of color, "look and feel" guy), this choice is going to be a really tough one! If you are about gadgets, and power, the Epson is the way to go. Both put a really good image on the screen.