Epson Pro Cinema 810 Projector Review - Image Quality
The most notable improvement of the Epson Pro Cinema 810 over its predecessor the Pro Cinema 800, is in image sharpness. This is the direct result of improved optics. Whereas the older Epson produced acceptable sharpness, the new 810, is definitely sharper, but still not up to the sharpest 720p projectors.
However, the most interesting thing about the Pro Cinema 810, is that when it comes to watching content, the 810 seems to fit that description of "the whole is greater than its parts.
I watched large quantities of content, incuding movies and trailers in hi-def, concerts in hi-def, and of course some standard DVDs. The Epson just didn't seem to be an LCD projector. The pixel structure, for sure is more visible than a DLP, but the hard edge of good sharpness, and LCD pixel structure tend to combine to create a less "film like" image than that of DLP projectors. Perhaps most typical of that are the Sanyo PLV-Z5 and maybe the Sony HS51a. By comparison, the Epson image is more forgiving. I didn't feel it was at all soft (even those comparing close up images, the Sanyo in particular looks sharper). And I really enjoyed watching the 810.
We'll start, however with the handling of flesh tones, so it's time for my usual "warning": There are limits to what my digital camera can capture - it cannot handle the full range from darkest shadow areas to full on whites, that a good projector can project. As such, the images below are good for "giving you an idea", but keep in mind - they are here to support the commentary, not the other way around. Also direct comparisons between the same and similar images shot with different projectors can be helpful, but also can be misleading, for example, it is impossible to get the exposures to be identical, and therefore on two projectors that are very similar in image quality, the eye will likely choose the one that is slightly brighter overall. So - take the images with "a pound of salt" because a grain - just isn't enough! -art
Back to flesh tones. Overall, the Epson in a couple of its modes, produced excellent fleshtones - out of the box, I favored Standard for movies, with minor adjustments, Silverscreen also performed well. The images below were shot in silverscreen mode - which unadjusted runs a little warm - a bit too much reds. Here goes, with our favorite images, two from Lord of the Rings (Arwen, and Gandalf) followed by two from The Fifth Element (Leeloo, and a shot of Bruce Willis). The last of the 5 images from standard DVD is Will Smith from I, Robot.
As I mentioned in the Overview, the first review unit I received has a problem, and that is, uneven color across the screen. This was determined to be a fault with pre-production 810's which Epson assures me was fixed by the time production projectors hit the street. Here is what the problem looked like when projecting a white image (slightly underexposed so you can better see).
Looking closely at the image to the right, you can see a shift toward red, mostly in the bottom and right side, and a little in the left bottom and upper left corner.
If you look above, at the image of Gandalf, guess what? Yep, you can see that red in his cloak and his hair in the lower part of the image, but that red shift isn't there at the top of his head or the gray building behind him, (except slightly at the extreme right). A replacement 810 is on the way to me, and I will update this comment, along with the same image shot on the new projector, for comparison. BTW, it's not uncommon for pre-production units to have problems that are corrected by the time consumers get their hands on them! (That's why they are "pre-production" - the design is not finalized.)
Also note, the redish shift also adds to the slightly warm color of the Silverscreen mode, out of the box. Unfortunately, the end result is too much red in most of these screen shots, but correctable with adjustments. It will be interesting to see if the Silverscreen preset color mode on the replacement 810 will be less redish overall. Look for those new images when the newer 810 arrives.
I won't reshoot all the images, but will do a couple/few, like Gandalf above, and leave in the original, so you can see the difference between projectors.
Editor's Note: A second Epson Pro Cinema 810 arrived, and did not exhibit the significant color shift across the screen that the pre-production unit did. Although still not perfect, it was drastically better. (I don't think I've ever seen an LCD projector do a perfect job, but the second Epson Pro Cinema 810 is close enough that it should not be detectable in normal viewing!