Projector Reviews

Epson LS10500 Laser Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features 2

PRO CINEMA LS10500 LASER PROJECTOR – SPECIAL FEATURES PAGE 2:  4K Source info – what processing is available,  “Lamp dimming”,  3LCD – Liquid Crystal on Quartz panels

4K Processing Options - What extra features are available

When the older LS10000 launched, I anticipated that some of the “advanced” processing features would not be available when viewing pure 4K content, or using pixel shift.  I was correct. And that’s still true with the LS10500!

This section will simply let you know which features are available, and which aren’t.

Let’s start with good old 1080p source material.  As with other Epson projectors that sport Super-Resolution, the LS10500 supports Frame Interpolation (CFI).  With the LS10500 CFI works with 1080p source material, if you are user Super-Resolutions regular 5 settings, but if you switch to the 4K 1-5, which engages pixel shifting, CFI is no longer available.  I confirmed this with standard 24fps (Blu-ray), and 60fps content (DirecTV).  As to 24fps, I’m definitely not a fan of adding CFI to 24fps movies, as it changes “the director’s intent” – often significantly.   As far as 60fps, I primarily use CFI on the lowest, or sometimes medium setting for sports and little else.  Whether or not to use CFI, is your call.

Click Image to Enlarge

With the LS10500 projector,  you cannot take advantage of the image enhancement of pixel shifting (4K-3, etc.)  and use CFI at the same time,  I can live with that.  ( I “think”,  the same is true of JVC projectors.)

You can still access (of course) Fine Processing, the separate Detail Enhancement tools, Motion Detection (a feature we didn’t take a look at) works with 24fps, but not 60fps.  The short version, is that most processing is available with 1080 content and “4K pixel shifting”, but not all.

When you switch to 4K content, not surprisingly, most of the 1080 advanced processing goes away.  Epson even provides a nice chart.

Short version, when feeding this projector 4K content not al of these processing capabilities are not available:

  • Aspect modes (ie anamorphic):  Yes
  • Sharpness control:  Yes
  • Advanced Sharpness control:  Yes
  • Noise Reduction:  No
  • Frame Interpolation:  No
  • Super-Resolution:  No
  • 4K Enhancement (ie. Super-Resolution 4K-3): No
  • Detail Enhancement:  No

The idea of course of several of those controls is to make a 1080 resolution image look as close as possible to a 4K image.  Since we’re talking about working with 4K images to begin with, that makes sense.

Also of note is 3D – 4K:  The LS10500 does not support 3D with 4K content, and Epson points out that there are no standards even if they wanted to.  If/when they do finally show up (most new gen 4K LCD TVs aren’t supporting 3D), Epson, may well be able to provide a firmware update, but the answer is unknown, therefore, don’t count on it.   Sony, when they first shipped me their true 4K projectors, provided me  the Spiderman 3 movie, in 4K, but that movie was released originally with 3D as well.  Naturally Sony did not have a 3D 4K version to provide.   Hard to say if 4K 3D will eventually be available, let alone specifically for this projector.  An interesting “situation” came up when I got Ghostbusters (the new one) on disc.  I have a choice – the 4K disc, or the 1080p 3D disc.  I’ve watched it both ways, each has some advantages.  For those not thrilled with 3D to begin with, of course it’s a slam dunk for 4K!

Image processing:  For years we’ve been talking about Deep Color, and getting content encoded at 10, or 12 bit depth per channel.  Ron, our technical blogger has been focused on the bit depth available with 4K / UHD.  Even the true 4K Sony projectors, are only supporting 4:2:0 at 60fps, but they do support 4:2:2, at 24pfs.

Epson, when asked gave me this short response, and a chart, shown here:

The LS10500 supports 8 bit input signal as the available input in the market for 4K is only 8 bit, like other vendors. Regarding image color processing, the 8 bit input signal will be processed with 10 bit and partially 12 bit to achieve higher image quality. (This is the same with other vendors) 

Epson Color Depth
Epson Supported 4K processing

As I don’t follow this technical side of the image processing, I refer those of you with the technical expertise, to Ron’s blogs!  Ultimately, when it comes to issues such as support of Blu-ray UHD (4K), and issues related to HDR Ron’s our “go to” guy.

Epson answered my compatibility question on the older LS10000 when it came out, this way:

The LS10000 meets current 4K standards of HDCP2.2 and following HDMI 2.0 standard. As such, most of the available 4K content is supported by the projector. For the future, it fully depends on the new content, equipment and standards that become available and we are committed to working to support market demand. 

As noted earlier, the one thing the older LS10000 could not do, but the LS10500 does – is support HDR.  Whether we ever see content rolling out such as 4K 60fps, 4:4:4, other than the occasional demonstration disc, is mostly a matter of when, but when could take many years – even a decade.  Consider, regular Blu-ray disc standards support 10 and 12 bit content, but even after a decade there isn’t any out there (except, perhaps on demo discs).

The LS10500 would have been even better if it when to 18Ghz HDMI, which would have had the bandwidth to support possible higher demand content like 60fps 4:4:4, etc., but I don’t worry about that much due to the low likelihood of maximum performance content anytime soon.

Auto Iris - Lamp Dimming - Laser light source "iris"

The Pro Cinema LS10500 uses it’s laser light engine instead of having a manual iris.  Many companies have used lamp dimming, but generally the experience has not been very good, as conventional lamps do not allow for the type of extremely fast dimming and brightening needed to emulate a dynamic iris.

Epson though, has that dual blue laser light engine, and it is fast.  And it works. But Epson uses it as a manual iris, rather than a dynamic one.  It can limit the maximum brightness of the projector.

The one time the projector behaves “dynamically”  is when the projector encounters a black frame – In that case the projector shuts down to 0 lumens – no light hits the screen at all, by turning off the lasers!  It is impressive when it happens.  But, overall, we’re more concerned with how the Epson performs on very dark scenes, rather than those rare black frames – often found between scenes.    When it comes to those black frames I’m not sure exactly how fast the lasers power down, but the phrase “fast enough” comes to mind.  When it needs to turn the entire light source off (when the signal calls for a 100% black frame) while viewing credits, there’s some brightening effect, which I attribute not to any dynamic iris, but to Epson’s Dynamic Contrast control which offers a choice of normal or high speed.

I won’t discuss the actual black level performance here, saving that for its usual place on the Picture Quality pages.

Liquid Crystal Display on Quartz

The three “3LCD” panels in this newer Epson later projector are the same first generation reflective panels in the older LS models.  For a simple explanation, generally the traditional LCD panel has been transmissive – the light split into the three primary colors, each beam passes through a panel with a color filter (one with red, one green, one blue).  With reflective, instead of passing the light through, it bounces off.  LCoS panels.  Sony, JVC, and Canon are the big name folks who make some projectors using them.  Those three companies panels are “liquid crystal on silicon”  Epson’s twist is that theirs are liquid crystal on quartz.  There’s another reflective technology – called DLP (really DMD), but that’s a whole different animal.

Which is better – Silicon or Quartz, and how they differ?  I certainly do not know.  I do know, for example that, the contrast abilities of the panels made by the three mentioned LCoS companies vary widely.  What matters is the picture.  We’ll explore the black level performance of the LS10500 in Picture Quality, but for now, it seems like the LS10500’s native black level performance is similar the step up 4K Sony VPL-VW665ES ($14,999), which is to say far better than Sony’s entry level true 4K projector, the VW365ES, which just saw it’s price drop to that of the Epson – $7999.  Still the Epson isn’t as good as the competing JVC 1080p pixel shifter that’s at the same price as the LS10500, even if the Epson is the next best thing available!

It looks like Epson is continuing to use its liquid crystal on quartz panels, but so far, only in these LS home theater projectors.  The large commercial Epson laser projectors still use traditional 3LCD panels.    As I mentioned last year, Epson has a lot of experience with quartz:  They established the quartz watch mechanisms as a precision standard for watches in their Seiko division long ago.

I still believe Epson chose to call these quartz panels 3LCD Reflective (on quartz) instead of LCoQ, is to keep the 3LCD name involved as that is the name of the LCD trade group (3LCD).  Ah, marketing!