Epson Pro Cinema LS10500 Laser Home Theater Projector – Special Features

PRO CINEMA LS10500 LASER PROJECTOR – SPECIAL FEATURES PAGE 1:  4K Source Handling, including HDR, 4K Processing and pixel shifting, Dual Laser Light Engine

LS10000 Handling 4K Content

The LS10500 handles 4K signals, and it supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP (copy protection) 2.2.  Blu-ray UHD has started shipping since the older LS10000 came out.  Not only are today’s Blu-ray UHD discs 4K, but most of them are supporting HDR (High Dynamic Range), and BT2020 color gamuts, for imagery with more pop    Epson confirmed yesterday, that the LS10000 will definitely support Blu-ray 4K content, once that starts shipping.  Note that this Epson has a wired networking ability, and could handle firmware updates that way, as standards get firmed up, Epson pointed out specifically that the networking could be used for such firmware upgrades.

The five images above were all of 4K HDR content.  The close-up of one of Lucy’s eyes, is cropped from the overall closeup of both her eyes, so you can see more detail.

Pixel shifting is used to display “4K”.  And 4K looks really, really, good.  I’ve had those 4K Sonys here (and I have their VPL-VZ1000ES here right now – a $25K projector), and I know they are ultimately technically sharper and provide more detail than any 1080p projector with pixel shifting when looking at true 4K content.

No surprises there, but the Epson can give the impression of being just as sharp, at first glance (or even sharper)!  Epson accomplishes this by using a lot of advanced processing.  Those of you familiar with tools like sharpening will recognize that edge sharpening, and other techniques are in use.  You’ll notice that heavily enhanced objects may have their edges shift towards white from whatever color they were originally.  Look at the sequence of images showing Epson’s Image Enhancement settings as a good example.

The pixel shifting itself is a real plus, but at the end of the day, the projector is firing overlapping pixels instead of discreet ones, and each pixel itself is 4 times the area in size, of the pixels on a true 4K projector.  Simply stated, as good as the Epson may look, in terms of sharpness, it is not, as example, capable of producing a single clean red line exactly one (4K pixel) wide on any background color.  No single line of information can be projected that is truly thinner than a 1080p pixel’s diameter, which is twice as wide as a 4K pixel.

Note, Super-Resolution and several other dynamic features do not work when processing true 4K content.  No real surprise there, and most likely there will be limits like that in terms of processing, on other “faux K” projectors.  I’ll touch on that later on.

LS10500 Supports HDR and BT2020

This section is all about capabilities that the LS10500 has added relative to the older LS10000.

Perhaps the two most significant image improvements of the LS10500 compared to “standard” 1080p projectors and 1080p content, is the support for HDR – High Dynamic Range, and for BT2020.

Note, in the images in the player above, you can compare the same scene, viewing HDR vs No HDR, and BT2020 vs REC 709.   Those images are from Ghostbusters and Lucy.

BT2020 (similar to the P3 color gamut), offers better color than the REC709 standard we use for normal HD content.  Reds are redder, etc.  Saturation is higher.  The difference is, to say the least:

Dramatic, especially when combined with High Dynamic Range.

Bright areas seem brighter, there’s way more wow and pop factor when watching any content that is highly dynamic (check out the Blu-ray UHD Ghostbusters or DeepWater Horizon.  You just won’t see explosions and fires on a 1080p projector that can compare.

When the LS10000 hit the market, it was the only non-4K projector that promised 4K support and Blu-ray UHD support.  And the LS10000 did deliver on its promise.

But – and this is a really big But:  The LS10000 did not support HDR  And as noted, virtually all Blu-ray UHD content is in HDR.  (The good news for older LS10000 owners, is that if they pop in a Blu-ray UHD disc with HDR, the LS10000 would simply produce it using the older standards.  So the movies all would play, they just wouldn’t rival HDR versions.

JVC – Epson’s primary competitor in this price range, was shipping projectors when the older Epson launched, that were the first 4K capable pixel shifters, but they lacked HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 so were incompatible with Blu-ray UHD discs (they shipped before the HDCP 2.2 standard was even close to existing).  But this past year, JVC upgraded their models, with the replacements supporting the whole shebang – 4K, BT2020, HDR.  They beat Epson to that level of support, but now the LS10500 (and their UB projectors) have achieved parity, in supporting all three technologies.

There are picture quality and other differences between the LS10500 and the JVC competition but that’s a discussion for elsewhere.

Super-resolution 4K Processing and Pixel Shifting

This content, and the images in the player right above, come from the LS10000 review, as both projectors are the same in this regard.

Epson, like most other companies sporting $2000+ projectors, offers some form of dynamic detail enhancement.  Everyone gives them their own names, in Epson’s case, that’s Super-Resolution, which Epson’s been offering, and improving for the past 4-5 years.

What was new on the older LS10000 though is  that it upscaled the source material to 4K, and then manipulated it to retrieve detail, but when it gets done, it can feed the panels two sets of data, and the panels will project them separately, after the projector shifts the panels by 1/2 pixel, off angle.  This allows some smoothing of fine lines, and overall, multiple advantages.  Epson’s system should be similar to some degree to JVCs projector models in that they too use pixel shifting.

Above you can compare Image Enhancement settings available.  There’s Off, and 2 (regular 2, no 4K processing) and also 4K1, 4K-2, and 4K-4.  You can see that the higher the settings the more likely to be over the top in that the artifacts are becoming  visible.  Objects, of course, will be less noticeable when in motion than viewing a still frame like these.  I found 4K3 still watchable, but didn’t care to go over 4K2 for that movie  because of the graininess of some scenes.  Mostly I stick to 4K1 or 4K2 for my viewing pleasure.

I find that dynamic detail enhancement systems have a definite tendency for the image to display more hardness, more contrast, with the extra processing.  With that in mind, play around, figure out which settings work best for your taste.  This is a projector that relies heavily on fancy processing, to be able to “play” with 4K and HDR.  That’s going to be true of any non-native 4K projector.  As a result, the concept of being a purist – minimal processing – doesn’t fit well with the 4K capable Epsons, JVCs and forthcoming DLP projectors.   Feeding this projector 4K, though, does produce a more natural, and still slightly looking image than cranking up a 2K (1080p) image to 4K3 for example.

I find that in general 4K2  makes for a very crisp image, and 4K4 with heavier processing can be over the top.  Ultimately isn’t the same thing as a true 4K projector, which is inherently more “natural,” and without the slight hardness that all that processing adds to the Epson image along with the perceived sharpness improvement.

My sense is that Epson’s implementation of Super-resolution with pixel shift, is perhaps slightly sharper looking with similar levels of “4K” processing than the JVC last time I had one of those here.

LS10500 Dual Laser Solid State Projector Light Engine

No changes to the laser light engine have been reported.  (I don’t doubt that Epson made some minor improvements.) Two blue lasers are the core of the light engine.  One laser, it is my understanding, provides blue, while the other hits phosphors to create red and green.

Ultimately the laser system works much like any other three panel projector’s light source, you split it into 3; red, green, blue, one for each panel, then recombine and fire those lumens out the lens.

There are several obvious advantages to laser engines, but so far they are still pretty rare, and mostly on the business projector side of things.

A big advantage of laser engines  is the huge color gamut.  That is, a laser projector should have – at least – a small advantage in handling BT2020/DCI/P3 over lamp based projectors.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 12.20.19 PM
Design of Epson’s LS10000 Laser Light Engine

“Lamp life”  Epson claims 30,000 hours.  As long as it gets close to that, consider that about “forever”.  At 30 hours a week that’s 20 years.  20 years ago you had a 21 inch TV, no hd.  No lamp replacement costs, which, btw are still upward of $300 (to $500)  per lamp for most lamps  among the projectors in this price range

A third major advantage of the laser light engine  is maintaining color accuracy!

Lamp based projectors have always suffered from lamps slowly shifting their color slightly over time.  Ideally one should calibrate a lamp based projector every 500 hours or so, but except for the fanatics with their own calibration gear, that’s not likely due to cost.  With this system the color should hold for years, although I am not aware of exactly what changes might occur, its supposed to be absolutely minimal over short periods such as 1000 hours, a timeframe that would cause a noticeable shift in a lamp projector’s color.

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