Epson Pro Cinema LS10000 Projector Review – Update: Bottom Line

PRO CINEMA LS10000 HOME THEATER PROJECTOR – UPDATE – BOTTOM LINE:  – Issues and Strengths, Conclusion

Issues and Strengths

I found four issues worth reporting.  Of the four, only one is an area where I believe addressing it would improve the projector.

The other three include one processing issue that may not be the projector’s fault, and the others are simply that some features available with 1080p content are not available with true 4K content, in some cases because there are no standards to do so.

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I will explain each issue – including how much you might want to weigh it, and why.

Then I’ll run through the key performance aspects I really like one more time.

Issues

1.  Most noteworthy of the Epson’s flaws is that it seems to defocus slightly as it warms up.  It’s not much, but the sharper the image the easier to notice.  As an “immersion” freak.  I do sit closer than most.  I’ve typically been sitting 8 to 10 feet from a 124″ wide screen.  I don’t dare do that with most projectors, but I can also do that with any of the Sony 4K projectors (all more expensive, of course), and with this projector, which interestingly, rivals those Sonys’ sharpness in many ways.  I’ve been keeping almost all of my viewing inside of 10 feet.  My vision (I wear glasses) corrects to a bit better than 20/20 so it’s better than most folks if only slightly.

But back to the issue at hand.  I am able to slightly notice the defocus from my close seating distance.  Mostly I have to be paying attention to notice.   And, I seem to need to be watching 4K content to ever notice when not “paying attention.”  Still, the projector would be better if it had almost no defocusing.  (Are any perfect?)  I did one time, compare the defocused LS10000, against a freshly re-focused 5030UB (with the latest sharpness firmware upgrade), and at normal viewing distances the LS10000  still produced a sharper looking image.  It also has better optics which no doubt helps!

Personally,, I have settled on focusing the projector after on for 20 minutes.   Note” I normally run the Epson on the Extra Bright mode.  I haven’t yet experimented with Normal or Eco, but it’s quite possible they suffer this problem less.  I will add to the review.

B.  It could very much be the particular version of DVR box I have, or my individual box could have a problem (it’s already got one of those SWIM attachments on it, the box sometimes reports having trouble “finding the satellite” it says, but none of my other DirecTV boxes report that or need the SWIM).  It could even be the actual satellite signal, but that would seem very unlikely.

The only thing is, that points part of the blame at the Epson, is that  the Sony 4K projector I have here isn’t having the same problem with its HDMI 2.0 HDCP 2.2 port.  So, I suspect overall, the Epson is just more susceptible.  This is first gen HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.  No doubt updates will be coming.

The Epson can be firmware updated, without great difficulty, and that’s a good thing, of course.  The process is basically the same as the recent upgrade for their UB series.  It requires a computer (mac or pc) and a USB connection.

Looking at the competition out there, the only other company with pixel shifting for increased perceived sharpness/detail is JVC.  JVC’s projectors were not updated this past fall.  All their models have only HDMI 1.4a ports.  For them to work with Blu-ray UHD, will likely require a major upgrade or a work-around, perhaps an outboard processor.

In other words, there’s an issue here (based on Sony’s version not having the issue), it seems minor, might not really be the Epson’s fault.  Still, all considered, it should not create a problem for anyone.  Yet I thought it worth reporting.

3.  The next thing worth pointing out, is that when the Epson is processing 4K content, it cannot engage CFI. or the Super-Resolution/Detail Enhancement.   It also can’t do 3D, but we’re so far from a 4K 3D standard it doesn’t matter.  Lacking adjustment on the Super-Resolution with 4K content is understandable.  I would presume it’s directly processed for the pixel shifting.  Additional “tuning” of detail enhancement etc. would be nice, but I’m more than pleased with the current performance.  CFI on the other hand would be nice.  I only use CFI for sports viewing, and can live without it, but for now, at least, the Epson can’t do “smooth motion” while in 4K.  To accomplish that would require an external processor.

On the plus side Epson’s Standard Sharpness, and Advanced Sharpness controls are fully functional.  Any way you consider this, this Epson looks really sharp.

4.  This relates to #3.  The Epson does not support the higher full color depths/chroma color sampling rates specified by Blu-ray UHD with 4K content.  For that matter, none of the Sony’s do either.  Worth noting, but it’s probably a couple of years (at least) until 4K capable projectors offer the full range of support in this area.  Initial Blu-ray UHD won’t support the full standards either.

Let me add here, Ron’s (Ron Jones)  comments. Ron, is an engineer, and my most technical reviewer and blogger.  Many of you on the forums are familiar with him.  He spends far more time on the forums than I do these days.  He read this update and emailed me this:

While the Epson will support the 10-bit depth, 4:2:0 chroma sub-sampling capabilities expected to be used for the first generation Ultra HD Blu-rays, it does not support the full color gamut (color space), as defined by ITU-T Recommendation 2020, allowed by the Ultra HD Blu-ray standard.  However, it does support the DCI-P3 color gamut used today for movies presented in commercial digital cinemas and this may, in fact, become the most used color gamut for Ultra HD Blu-rays released for the first few years of this new disc format.  It is worth noting it’s probably a couple of years (at least) until 4K capable projectors become available that offer the full Rec. 2020 range for color gamut. 

In other words, nothing supports the full gamut of standards out there.  DCI – the Digital Cinema Initiative, is the color space/range that is used in today’s digital cinemas.  To my understanding it’s well beyond the performance built around REC 709, that we live with today.   We can all live with DCI – a real step up.  Remember, Blu-ray is an ever evolving standard – Blu-ray UHD’s first gen still evolved from the original Blu-ray…

 

Strengths

The big surprise of course was that the Epson produces an image that to me is not seems a step up in sharpness one 1080p content from the newest series of pixel shifting JVC projectors that I’ve tested.  OK, call it a pleasant surprise.

The real surprise is that at first glance it seems every bit as sharp on 1080p content (with 4K-2 engaged) as the 4K Sony’s look on 1080p content, if not sharper.

On 4K content, the Epson at first glance seems as sharp as the top of the line Sony, but it accomplishes that with a harder – and on films with noticeable film grain, a grainier look.  It’s less natural, but it is stunning.  If it’s too much on some movies, I dial down to 4K-1.

Let me be clear.  When it comes to true sharpness and detail with 4K content, the Sony is superior.  It’s picture is inherently more natural.   Still, that any 1080p projector can put up an image that in terms of perceived sharpness, could easily be mistaken for the native sharpness of a true 4K projector is most impressive!  To quote Judge Dredd (the original with Stallone):  “I am impressed.”

Lens Memory:  Works very nicely, and there are many savable settings.  That means you can create different settings for multiple different formats.  Not just standard HDTV’s full 16:9, and one wide screen, such as 2.35:1, but perhaps (since wide screen movies come in mostly 3 slightly different aspect ratios, perhaps 2.35:1, 2.37:1 and 2.40:1.  Also sometimes the formatting on HDTV or 16:9 movies doesn’t quite “fill the screen”  add a couple of more!  The Epson allows you to get the maximum out of its Lens Memory.  It’s also unusually fast!

Brightness:  OK, it’s a great, extremely sharp projector for the home theater, with the great blacks, etc.  But, with a hefty amount of lumens.  It’s got enough to tackle good media rooms and other rooms, with respectable lighting control, thanks to 1500+ good looking lumens.  As noted, 1300 calibrated lumens is officially more than enough for 150″ inch screen in a dedicated home theater.  On a 124″ screen like mine, there’s brightness to spare.

Black levels:  Outstanding.  Yes, the JVC projectors are way ahead of everyone else, but I can’t think of any other home theater projector (or digital cinema projector for that matter) that can outperform the LS10000.  In this case “2nd best” is pretty excellent.

Conclusions

The LS10000 punches most of my hot buttons.  The price seems more than reasonable – $7999 considering a long life laser light engine (which should keep operational costs to the very infrequent changing of a pretty long life filter). Note, the images in this gallery start with 1080i and 1080p.

The surprises, were, of course, that:

1.  The Epson Pro Cinema LS10000 produces an image that to me, seems a step up in sharpness on 1080p content from the newest series of pixel shifting JVC projectors that I’ve tested.

2.  Call it a pleasant surprise, but the first really big surprise is that  it seems every bit as sharp on 1080p content (with 4K-2 engaged) as the 4K Sony’s look on 1080p content with Reality Creation on 20, or even 40, if not sharper.

 

3.  On 4K content, the Epson at first glance seems as sharp as the top of the line Sony, but it accomplishes that with a harder – and on films with noticeable film grain, a visibly grainier look. Let me be clear:  When it comes to true sharpness and detail, the Sony is superior.  The $28,000 Sony’s picture on 4K content is more natural!

Still, that a 1080p projector can put up an image that in terms of perceived sharpness, could easily be mistaken for the native sharpness of a true 4K projector is most impressive!

Future Proofing:  While nothing lasts forever, considering 4K content is just becoming available, many of you may take comfort in what Epson said to me a few months ago in answer to one of my questions about compatibility:

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. 

With all those lumens available, The LS10000 is pretty hefty in media, bonus, living room type environments too, when matched with respectable lighting control and matched to the right screen.

I will be adding a couple of images of the LS10000 in action in my very bright living room (where I installed a 5200 lumen projector).  There it’s hitting a relatively small (all I had room for) 86″ Screen Innovations Slate screen, which is one of the best at handling ambient light.

To go a bit further “off-topic”:  My new living room setup got its first test this past weekend when we had almost 30 people watching the Superbowl on it.  It was a sunny day, with sunlight coming into the room, no blinds on any windows.  I ran that 5200 lumen projector in Theatre mode, using less than 4000 lumens.  This Epson should prove that a “1500 lumen” projector paired with the right screen can tackle some very unfriendly rooms. Stay tuned.

Add in a great warranty, a long life laser light engine that should hold color accuracy for thousands of hours not just hundreds as with lamp projectors, and an otherwise pretty complete feature set.
If you are ready for a new projector, one that will run true 4K content including that from download services and the forthcoming Blu-ray UHD,  and if  the Epson LS10000 fits your budget, and assuming you are not willing to spend several times the price for the only true 4K projector that comes close in black level performance, the Epson becomes the top of your short list.
The most serious competition near the price include the JVCs which don’t seem to rival the perceived sharpness or have the basic support for Blu-ray UHD, and the $9999 Sony VW350ES which can’t play in terms of black level, and lacks lens memory, but is still a projector to be reckoned with.
One note about availability.  Epson warned when they launched the LS10000, that for the first several months availability would be limited.  I’ve spoken with them recently.  As of the end of the CES show (Jan 11th), Epson was shipping LS10000s through roughly 50 dealers.  That will expand as production ramps up.  If you can’t find a dealer in your area, you can drop me a email.  I should be able to pass that along, to find you one.  Note that with the shortages, many of those dealers may not be able to demostrate one for you.
As I have said repeatedly, I am impressed enough that I could easily live with the LS10000 for several years, at least until even better true 4K projectors come down to this price or below, something not likely to happen very quickly.  Remember even with Blu-ray UHD shipping in Q3 or Q4 of this year, it will take a while before there are many hundreds of movie titles available.  Time to for to start downloading another 4K resolution movie, so we have something to watch tonight.
At this point in time, to me, the LS10000 certainly is one of the most serious projectors under $10K, or even $15K, and the one with the best bang for the bucks.
I’m sold.  Of course, the more important question is – are you?