Projector Reviews

Epson Pro Cinema LS10500 Home Theater Projector – Summary

Reviewing projectors that are 4K and HDR capable creates a new world for us reviewers, because 4K HDR changes a lot of things, and therefore, I find myself explaining, and clarifying a lot, since most of you aren’t yet familiar, and because 4K with HDR still isn’t “settled science.”

The basics – again:  The Epson LS10500 is a 1500 lumen projector that exceeds its brightness claims, buy a good amount.  More to the point, it can top 1000 lumens fully calibrated.  And that’s healthy.  The LS10500 does normal 1080 and 720 resolution (and any lower standards), but it also accepts 4K content, with High Dynamic Range.

The Epson LS10500 earns a Hot Product Award for its combination of great color and black levels with 4K/HDR content handling.


But also of major note, the Epson LS10500 uses a laser engine, so it will hold color accurately for essentially years, instead of months as a lamp based projector would shift color much faster.  Also it will hold brightness, taking for most of us probably several years before it’s dimmed 20%.  With a lamp based projector, again, dimming starts immediately, but much faster, so that at full power, most of the competition is down around 25% brightness in the first 2000 hours.

Lasers and such stuff are all fun – and practical, but ultimately it’s about the picture.

I’ve watched a lot of content on the LS10500, since it arrived a a few weeks ago, certainly pushing past 50 hours.  During that same time period I watched a little on the Epson 5040UB I have here all year, so I can use it as a benchmark for all other projectors. I also had Sony’s new $25K true 4K projector, here for the past 5 days, which made for some interesting comparisons.

For some reason, the LS10500 picture modes, right out of the box aren’t as accurate as on the older LS10000.  Also of note, the most accurate one (out of the box) on the older Epson was THX mode, which this projector does not offer.  THX modes, I’ve found in the past, are usually pretty good, but not so good that a good calibration wouldn’t make for a notable difference (and improvement).

Hot Product Award graphic
This is our top regular award for projectors. In addition we offer additional awards in our special reports

But post calibration the numbers on the Epson LS10500 are about as dead on the money as one could hope for.

Skin tones (post calibration) are excellent, about as good as it gets, and the calibration measurements attest to that.

Expect a beautiful picture, whether daytime scenes or dark scenes, or anywhere in the middle. And thanks to great black levels (a real step up from Epson’s UB models, plus the true black frame capability.

So, first item of order:  If you decide to go with the LS10500 as your next projector (a pretty darn good choice), I would suggest that you have it calibrated.  Or, not quite as good, try our settings published in our calibration pages.  For the advanced calibration page – you need to be a subscriber, but hey, if you can afford an $8000 projector, you can afford an annual $3.99 to have it looking a lot better, and that’s hundreds less than a calibrator would cost you.

For those of you who skipped all the middle pages of this (pretty darn) long review, the basics again:

Brightness – this is a 1500 lumen projector that tops 1000 lumens in best mode (post calibration).  That makes it great for large screens – for standard 720 and 1080 content.  For that normal content, or your laptop, iPhone, etc., 1000 lumens is enough for as large as a typical 150 inch diagonal screen (so no problem at all, on my own 124″).

We set up our LS10500 so that we use Cinema for normal 2D content, and Digital Cinema for 4K content (including HDR).

But, we also did what we call a “quick cal” of Dynamic, the brightest mode.  Like the brightest on most projectors – it had heavy greens and yellows out of the box.  The goal was to create a mode that still looked pretty darn good, but more able to cut through ambient light than the precisely calibrated other two modes. That “tuned” but not fully calibrated Dynamic provides an extra couple hundred plus lumens compared to the other two modes.

2K or 4K, HDR and Competition

The screen photos of the LS10500’s picture  found above, are a mix of 1080 (or 720p), and 4K with HDR.  None of the images shows 4K content without HDR.   The first six are the 4K HDR photos.

The sports images were taken with moderate ambient light entering my home theater, other 1080p content was taken with modest ambient light present.

The LS10500 is a great native 1080 home theater projector.  As of this publication, I find the only serious competition to be the two JVCs which are $6995 and $9995.  And of course, the “entry level” 4K Sony VPL-VW335ES also at $10K, although overall, the Epson might better be compared to the $14,995 Sony VPL-VW665ES, since the lesser Sony has only mediocre black level abilities compared to the LS10500!

Epson and JVC are on the same track – creating 4K capable pixel shifters using 1080p panels (chips).

And they are in many ways, similar in performance.  The JVC’s can do blacker blacks on content, except that  the Epson does pure black on black frames, which the JVCs can’t do (you need a laser, or other solid state engine powered projector) so there’s a real trade-off.  No matter, those two JVCs and the LS10500 have the best black levels I’ve seen so far under $10K.

Two new DLP projectors that are 4K content capable (but also not true 4K) are inbound.  I’m hoping one of them properly supports HDR, although I believe at least one has no HDR support.

Now the “interesting” part:  4K with HDR.  As I’ve discussed a couple of times in this review, 4K doesn’t really present challenges – the Epson does it’s advanced processing, and pixel shifting thing, making the projector look a bit hard (but still great), but seeming as sharp as a true 4K projector, when you take best advantage of the settings.

But with HDR, overall brightness becomes a factor, and projectors just aren’t near bright enough to meet the target 1000 NITS of brightness most HDR content calls for. This yields darkish mid-brightness content, so that there’s lots of headroom between mid-brightness and maximum brightness. That’s what HDR brings to the party.

I was absolutely thrilled with the LS10500 – and its picture,  until about 6 days ago, when the $25K Sony VZ1000 laser projector arrived.  The Epson and Sony looked pretty similar on non HDR content (give or take the differences between true 4K and a 1080p pixel shifting projector). But on 4K with HDR, the Sony truly ruled – It had a lot more pop – a whole lot more wow factor when viewing the same High Dynamic Range content movies.  The comparison images from Ghostbusters in 4K HDR (Picture Quality page) pretty much shows what I’m talking about.  So, now I’m not as enamored with the LS10500 as I had been.  Of course the Sony is a mere $17,000 more, so it’s not like the Sony is a direct competitor.  It should be far better.  OK, back to HDR on the Epson:

The HDR10 standard, the most widely used, is called HDR2 on the LS10500.  Everyone’s going slightly different ways (projector companies) in trying to deal with the “too low” brightness.  (Call that a very high gamma!) Sony maps their brightness to the source, using a single setting (let’s call it a dynamic solution).   Epson, however, decided with the LS10000,  to go a different route, by creating 4 different HDR choices.

HDR2 looks a bit too dark to my taste most of the time when viewing mid-tones, but HDR1 is a good deal brighter, and for most of the 4K HDR content is my preferred.  HDR3 and 4 are extremely dark (to me unusable). If the LS10500 output a usable 2500 or 5000 lumens, HDR2 would probably be great.

But, I’m very pleased by HDR1.  (I also found I liked HDR 1 and 2 better when my source was my Philips 4K UHD Blu-ray player compared to my Samsung 4K UHD Blu-ray player.  I only had the Samsung when I reviewed the older Epson.

Epson listened to me (well, I think it was me)!  After the LS10000 review I had a complaint.  Epson relies a lot on Auto settings, for BT2020 (4K) and REC709 (1080, etc.)  With the older projector if I wanted to use HDR1 for my 4K HDR content, I would have to set the Epson to HDR1, but then when I switched to non HDR content, I’d have to go back in, and change to REC709.

The fix:  Epson now has two auto modes, instead of one, so I now use the Aut0-Bright which when getting HDR content, goes to HDR1, but since it’s an Auto mode, REC709 automatically comes up when the source isn’t HDR!  Now that’s a good working solution.  Epson – nicely done.

I can stretch the 4K HDR image to fully fill my 124″ 1.3 gain screen and have a very respectable image (HDR1) if a bit dark in the mid-ranges.  At 100″ diagonal though, it’s a different story.  The LS10500 is much more impressive at the smaller size because that extra roughly 50% brightness from the size reduction makes a real difference.  While I normally like to watch at the full 124″ diagonal, normally, I find myself reducing the image size to no more than 110″ diagonal (2.35:1) when watching 4K HDR content on the LS10500.  At the smaller sizes, truly impressive!

The very Bottom Line:

The LS10500 puts up a pretty awesome picture.  But what I really like is that it’s the whole package.  Picture, plus the ability to handle 4K content,, including HDR and a laser engine.  It runs quiet, and it will hold accurate color and brightness for far longer than all of the serious lamp based competition which is, pretty much everything at this time, around the price.  We’ve reviewed most of the other laser home theater projectors under $10,000, and none approach the Epson’s picture or value.

LS10500 Pros and Cons


  • Laser Light Engine – consistent brightness and color, long life
  • Calibrates beautifully for really excellent color
  • Deep black level performance, plus lasers turn off for black frames
  • Extremely quiet for a home theater projector
  • 2.1:1 zoom, lots of lens shift, lens memory for Maximum placement flexibility
  • Superb dark shadow detail – as good as I’ve seen
  • Pixel shifting for perceived detail and sharpness enhancement
  • Accepts 4K content, including HDR, BT2020 color space
  • Offers 4 HDR modes (two are useful)
    • HDR1 has brighter mid-range levels than HDR2 which is equivalent to the HDR10 standard, providing users a viable choice
  • Auto controls detect type of content, automatically select the preferred picture mode, as well as the preferred HDR level for 4K content, or appropriate settings for non-4K, HDR content
  • Excellent remote control and menu layout
  • Great warranty 3 years parts and labor with 3 year rapid replacement program
  • Comes with Chief ceiling mount, cable cover, and 2 pair of 3D glasses in the box


  • Excellent black levels could still be a bit better
    • adding a true dynamic iris would have been a plus
  • Like all dedicated home theater projectors – could use more brightness for HDR content
  • “Mapping” of HDR content could likely be improved
  • Epson could provide a longer warranty on the laser light engine
  • When cranking up advanced features (viewing 4K or 1080 or 720), to have maximum perceived sharpness and detail, the image will tend to have a hard look to it.  This may give the illusion of equalling or even looking slightly sharper than a true 4K projector, which would look more natural.
    • No problem for sports viewing, but more moderate settings better for movies