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Epson Powerlite 1985WU Projector Review - Picture Quality

Posted on January 4, 2015 by Art Feierman
POWERLITE 1985WU 3LCD PROJECTOR - PICTURE QUALITY:  Picture Modes, Skin Tones, Black Levels and Shadow Detail, Overall Picture Quality

Preset Image Modes

This Epson 1985WU serves up a healthy assortment of picture modes.  The brightest is Dynamic.  Presentation and Theater offer better overall color, as expected, but are still extremely bright.  Those two don't look significantly different from each other.  As expected, Dynamic mode is strong on yellows and a little extra green, but mostly yellow.  Still, it looks a lot better than a great many projectors' Dynamic modes.

Above:  Following a sampling of four assorted photos of projected images, are a sequence showing the different modes on the same test image, and at the same exposure.  You can tell which mode is which by looking at the menu on each photo.  Of interest, the color mode choices vary with the input.  For example, when viewing a video source (DirecTV over HDMI) the menu included a Sports mode.  By comparison, when feeding a computer signal (MacBook Pro over HDMI), Sports mode was gone, but both Photo mode and DICOM mode appear.

In addition the reds look at least good in all modes, whereas many projectors, in their brightest modes, reds come out pretty dark - like a nice merlot red wine. Overall, colors in the major modes are well balanced, and well saturated - there isn't a really ugly mode among the group. For those that need color matching there is the usual sRGB mode - you can see that in the photo gallery as well.  The Photo mode (judging by my eye) is setup with a less contrast than Theatre, and perhaps a touch more saturation.  Whiteboard and Blackboard modes for just that, with Blackboard having a definite color shift toward red and a lot of contrast.   They help if you are working on those "not typical" surfaces. Finally that leaves the DICOM Simulation mode, which does support color, but is designed specifically to work to the medical films standard in contrast, etc.

Skin Tones

The ability to reproduce skin tones in a believable way is a good test of the color handling and overall picture quality of a projector.  There are variations between all these modes that might barely be noticeable on a Powerpoint presentation without photos in it.  Charts and graphs will look great, even if different depending on each mode's characteristics.  But put a face in there, and it doesn't take a whole lot of extra red to make faces look ruddy.

The images here are done either in Theatre, or Presentation mode, with Theatre seeming a touch warmer.  Either way, respectable to great looking skin tones.  Remember it takes good content too.  Switch from one channel of TV's news to anthers and the differences in skin tones are immediately evident.

Keep in mind while the colors here should serve almost all of us extremely well, this projector has all the necessary controls to do a full calibration!

Black Levels and Dark Shadow Detail

This is a 3LCD type business and education projector.  I would say that with 4800 lumens, this projector is rarely going to be used in a fully darkened room.  I start with this because black levels are a function of contrast, and the truth is, the more ambient light the lower the contrast.  LCD projectors do not start out with great native contrast. DLP's and some LCoS projectors are significantly better.

In order to enhance the general black level performance, though, this Epson (like many projectors), sports a dynamic iris.  While this does not add dynamic range to any scene, such as provide provide blacker blacks on bright scenes, it does help a bit on dark scenes where it is more useful.

All considered the Epson offers acceptable black level performance, but would not be a top choice, let's say, if you primary usage was showing movies in a small theater!

Shadow detail is better.  No issues there.  Once adjusting the brightness (by 1) to optimum setting, the dark shadow detail was very good, as I inspected some dark imagery that I also use for our home theater projector reviews.

Overall Picture Quality

The short version is that colors are bright and vibrant.  Even in the brightest mode dynamic color balance is reasonable if strong on yellows.  Other modes are even better, with reasonably good color accuracy (without any adjustment).  Overall the color temperature, contrast, and other aspects of the image vary from mode to mode, but most folks will find that Dynamic is acceptable when maximum brightness is needed, and the other modes look good to great for presentations, etc., including those loaded with videos and photos.

We did not test the picture quality of Epson's DICOM simulation mode, we will just have to assume it does, as claimed meet the standards required for using the Powerlite 1985WU for instruction using medical films.

If there is one "weakness" to the picture quality, that would be the black level performance.  Fortunately, overall that performance is still reasonable for a projector that is likely to be used in a room with at least some noticeable ambient light - and that, in turn, negates significant differences between projectors when it comes to black levels.  So, it is a potential weakness, but one that few will have the opportunity to observe due to the lack of opportunity to project in a very dark room.

Score the Epson overall to be rather excellent at picture quality.  There are some commercial projectors really designed to offer serious home theater level picture quality and color accuracy, but those would typically be far, far, more expensive projectors, or far less powerful ones.

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