Projector Reviews

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector – Picture Quality

PRO CINEMA 1985 PROJECTOR – PICTURE QUALITY:  Out of the box picture, Skin Tones, Black Levels and Shadow Detail

PC1985 Out of the box color quality

Like just about every recent Epson home projector, the Pro Cinema 1985 serves up rather impressive color, right out of the box, with no adjustments needed.  While this time we only measured the PC1985’s brightness, and did not perform a calibration, nor measuring of the color temps of the different modes, I’m getting pretty good at these “high brightness” or “bright room” Epson projectors that target the home.  This is the 5th one reviewed in the last year and a half, the least bright being 3000 lumens.

So while I have no color temp numbers for you, I would expect, that, like most of the other bright Epson’s that the color temp for “best modes” (i.e. Theatre mode) likely (based on viewing), centers in the upper 6000K to low 7000K range (typically 6700K – 7100K), which is very good.  6500K is the target, but noticeably “cool” modes tend to be between 7500K and 9000K – the higher the number (especially over 7500K), the less desirable.  Presentation is a bit cooler, some of the others more so.  Our image collection shows the same scene in multiple modes to give you a good idea about brightness and color differences.

But what really makes the picture work is not the red-blue balance, but that Epson manages to keep the greens in line, and that’s the trick to those surprisingly good looking skin tones “right out of the box.”  As you would expect, the brightest mode – Dynamic, as is expected, goes heavy on those greens adding a noticeable, but not way over the top yellow green caste to that mode (we’ve seen much worse)!

Movie images in this review were taken with the mode set to Theatre.  As were most HDTV images except for football photos, which were primarily in Presentation mode unless otherwise indicated.

Dynamic mode is by far the brightest, and has a bit too much yellow green, but not bad, all considered – very watchable, especially for sports in a bright room.

Mostly you can save Dynamic mode for when you need every last lumen, because Presentation mode, not as bright but slightly better color should handle just about everything you can throw at the PC1985.  But know that even in those circumstances where you do opt for Dynamic, the color’s definitely watchable, although obviously not the best.  It is, for example better, less yellow-green added, than you will find in the dynamic mode of Epson’s own Home Cinema 5030UB, a far less bright projector but a personal favorite of mine for dedicated theaters.

Bottom Line:  Fire up the Pro Cinema 1985, the colors never look bad, and overall look pretty amazing without any calibration at all.

Almost too many Picture Modes to Count

OK, not really, but there are a lot of them!

You’ll discover that the Epson shows different modes depending on which source you are working from.  If I have an HDMI from my Blu-ray player or DirecTV box, I’ll see Photo, Blackboard and Whiteboard among the many modes.  But hook up a computer through HDMI, and Photo vanishes, Sports appears and so does DICOM Simulation, so the projector is sensing the type of source (i.e. computer vs Blu-ray player – even though I used HDMI for both), and adjusting the mode choices.

Theatre, overall is the best mode, in terms of viewing movies, and good for pretty much everything. Presentation has more punch, however, so, while not brighter overall, with its different gamma and saturation, can be preferable when fighting ambient light.  Dynamic of course, is for when you need the most lumens.  You can dial down the greens a bit to improve the color but if you get it close, to say, the way Theatre mode is, you will likely have given back most of the extra lumens that Dynamic started with.

The first image is from a computer source (MacBook Pro – over HDMI), the second and all the other mode shots (all the same football scene), are recorded HDTV (over DirecTV). Each image was taken with the same exposure so you can see how the color, brightness, and gamma vary from mode to mode!  The only showing of the Sports mode, is the first image since it wasn’t available, strangely, for sports viewing from HDTV.  I think it would have been more logical if Sports was included on the sources that show Photo, and vice versa.

Pro Cinema 1985 - Handling Skin Tones

The skin tones look very good, if only the slightest bit thin on reds (the overall color is a touch “cool” favoring blue slightly over red) in Theatre mode – the PC1985’s ‘best” mode. Understand:  If a variety of skin tones look believable, then the rest of the colors typically will as well.  (If you ever see a blue sky that looks wrong – too much green or yellow or red in the blues, you can expect the skin tones to also look at least noticeably wrong.)

You’ll find three of the usual Daniel Craig as Bond images from Casino Royal, under three very different lighting conditions.  You can see from that that skin tones aren’t absolutes, the actual color of a skin tone depends on both the skin’s color, and the lighting (or simulated lighting), in this case, filtered sunlight, night, and bright sunlight.

It’s pretty impressive how good so many of today’s projectors can do on skin tones without any more adjustment than selecting the “best” mode.  5+ years ago, the difference from one projector model to another were often rather drastic. That the manufacturers (well, most of them) are paying more attention to creating modes with accuracy, is a very good thing.  I wouldn’t feel the need to calibrate this projector at all.

Black Level and Dark Shadow Detail Performance: Pro Cinema 1985

As you would expect from the Pro Cinema 1985, the emphasis in picture performance is based on brightness, not black levels.  If you plan to use a projector in a fully darkened cave or home theater, sure, you want great black level performance, but if you are doing the vast majority of your viewing in conditions with at least a small amount of ambient light, then black level performance is quickly washed out, dramatically reducing the difference – on screen – between projectors with acceptable black levels and those with great black levels.  Note the last image shows our test dark scene – the Bond night train, showing the impact of modest ambient light (just the rear, down facing lights on in my theater.)  Yet the impact of just a little ambient light is significant on a very dark scene, even with this projector outputting 2.5X to more than 6X the brightness of most home theater projectors.

The last two images above show our Bond night train scene in color, with a good amount and then minimal ambient light (from the shutters)  in the room (look to the sides of the screen, the speaker on the right, etc).  The point being, that when there’s more than minimal ambient light, a seriously bright light canon like this PC1985, will likely provide you a superior watchable very dark scene, than a higher performance, lower brightness home theater projector.

Score the black level performance (even with the help of a dynamic iris) to be typical of a “brighter room” projector, which is to say, no match for less bright projectors built for dedicated theaters. Just remember, if any – even minimal – lights are on, the big advantage of projectors with great black levels is quickly lost.

Dark shadow detail is respectable, but not the best around. On the scene of Katniss and Rue sleeping in the woods there’s a fair amount of detail there, but we’ve seen more dark detail on a number of projectors.

Pro-Cinema1985_hungergames_sleep

Bottom line:  dark shadow detail and black level performance are very reasonable for a projector this bright.  For the most part, the 1985 is almost too bright for a fully darkened room, so the assumption is, at least a little ambient light is present (even white walls can do a lot of damage to blacks on mostly dark scenes).

Let me put it this way:  In my living room – and probably yours – it would be very infrequent when viewing – that we’d be able to appreciate much better black levels.  But during the day, and anytime viewing at night with any lights on, the PC1985 should easily best a much less bright projector, in terms of viewing experience, even if that other has inherently superior blacks and better shadow detail!