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Epson MovieMate 25 Projector Review - Image Quality3

Posted on April 9, 2006 by Art Feierman

This means that for movie watching, the high visibility of the pixels is a real weakness of the Epson.

On the other hand, I suspect that not many will really care that much about the pixels. Consider how much better the image of a Moviemate is compared to a conventional big screen TV (or regular TV) viewing standard (non HD) TV, and you have a dramatic improvement in overall image quality. So, I may be overly critical, as a reviewer who sees the MovieMate and its competitors as entry level products and who is used to viewing higher resolution projectors with far less visible pixels.

Pop one of the MovieMate 25's in most people's family rooms for the occasional movie, or maybe their kids bonus room, and everyone is likely thrilled with the image.

There are other aspects of image quality besides accurate colors and pixel structures. Another key issue is contrast and related black levels. LCD and DLP projectors cannot produce a pure black, instead only dark shades of gray. Often, "black levels" (or how close a projector can get to producing black) is considered the "holy grail" of projectors. Once again DLP projectors, with their natural higher contrast ratios (difference between darkest and brightest) have the advantagte here. DLP projectors typically have at least 2000:1 or 2500:1 contrast ratios, the LCD's start lower. Higher end LCD projectors often use other technologies like "AI" (artificial intelligence) to modify the image frame by frame to enhance contrast, but not entry level units like the MovieMate 25.

The MovieMate has a 1000:1 contrast ratio, and that means that its blacks don't get that black. Since blacks come out very dark gray, details of parts of an image, such as the details in dark suit where the subtle shades are no brighter than the darkest gray the projector can produce, are lost. They come out the same flat dark gray that is the best the projector can do. If you are watching a space scene your dimmer stars might be lost, and the sky appears very dark gray, while a projector with better contrast, produces a darker space scene, with blacker sky and a more impressive image.

The two images below, from Lord of the Rings, are the same frame from the movie. The first is a normal exposure, and the second, is significantly overexposed. I show you this to give you an idea of how well the Epson MovieMate 25 handles shadow details. Since my digital camera can't capture the full dynamic range of projectors, if the photo is normally exposed, the camera can't capture the shadow detail. By overexposing the second image, the bright area is badly overexposed, but you can now see the shadow details on the right side that the eye normally sees, but the camera loses. As you can see, there is plenty of shadow detail. Not as good as more expensive projectors with higher contrast and lower black levels, but the detail is there to provide an enjoyable image to watch.

That said, the 1000:1 contrast ratio produces blacks that are pretty acceptable for almost all movie watching, not that you can't do better. Let's assume that you are sitting in a family room that is 10 by 15 feet, though, and you are projecting to the 80" screen provided. If you have a 40 watt light on in the back of the room, it won't matter if you have the MovieMate 25, with its 1000:1 contrast ratio, or a $7500 projector with a 6000:1 contrast ratio, that small amount of room ambient light will produce more reflected light off of the screen than either projector, and you would lose all the advantages of the much better black levels on the better rpojector.

In the two images below, you are looking at a scene from the beginning of the movie, The 5th Element. In the first image the room has 3 lights on, you can see two of them - each are 60 watt recessed lights that shine straight down, little of the light hits the screen directly but more reflects off of walls and carpeting to hit the screen. Compare the image to the second one, shot the same way, but with the room lights off, and the room otherwise completely dark. You can easily see that the contrast is much better on the second image, and that the first image is noticeably washed out. If we were looking at a really dark scene, with the room lighting on, most of the scene might have been lost with the lights on.


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