Projector Reviews

Epson Pro Cinema LS10500 Projector Review – Picture Quality 2

PRO CINEMA LS10500 LASER PROJECTOR – PICTURE QUALITY:  4K with HDR, Dark Shadow detail, HDTV, 3D,  Overall Picture Quality

4K with HDR

4K content provides extra perceived sharpness and detail, even on a 1080p pixel shifting projector.  But the greater difference for the Epson Pro Cinema LS10500, with 4K content comes from that content that is in HDR (High Dynamic Range).

All the images in this section are from 4K HDR content.  The images are from Ghostbusters, Lucy, and Deepwater Horizon.  The projector was in Reference mode (“best” mode), for all of these.

HDR has brighter brightest areas, so things really pop.  Explosions, for example are “off the charts” compared to non HDR, as are flashes of bright lighting, etc.

But any display – LCD TV, or projector, ultimately has a maximum brightness, and the HDR standard, really calls for a lot more brightness than any of the home theater projectors have.  Technically even Sony’s $60K, 5000 lumen projector can’t produce the called for 1000 NITS on a 100″ screen.  (Nor can 90+% of LCD TVs currently selling).

So it comes down to trade-offs.  For that extra pop on that flash of white (or yellow, or red…or any color), it has to be much brighter than objects of mid-range brightness, when you compare to standard non-HDR.

Well, if maximum brightness is fixed by the projector’s output, then to get that expanded dynamic range, you have to lower the brightness of the mid-range.

Well, if you have 1000 NITS that works great, because the mid-range is going to be similar to non-HDR, but with say 150 NITs which is probably where a lot of home theater projectors are (1500-2000 lumens on a 100″ screen with modest gain), that means mid tones are on the dark side.

Epson recognizes this, as does Sony.  Each takes a different approach.  In Epson’s case, they serve up 4 different HDR settings.  Epson’s HDR2 is for the official HDR10 standard.  And that means for the most part, a lot of scenes seem too dim.

But their HDR1 setting lifts the mid-range (and reduces the extra pop of HDR) a bit, while making the picture more watchable, whether I’m viewing content on at about 100″ diagonal, all the way up to my largest screen’s 124″ diagonal (2.35:1).

On occasion (especially if I’m sticking to 100″ diagonal (Stewart StudioTek 130 – 1.3 gain), I find that some movies look pretty good on HDR2 if a little dark, but on some other content, HDR1 is almost demanded, and is really needed for my full 124″ diagonal.

You will not get the full advantages of HDR without a projector capable of over well 5000 lumens, so there will be compromise, and compromise is also what you will get with all but the most expensive LCD TVs.  (I find that over 1000 NITS LCDTVs in the larger sizes cost well over double what those with the more typical 350 – 650 NITS capable TVs.

At the end of the day, however, I find my 4K movie content looks consistently better using the  HDR1 setting, than watching the same movie without HDR.

Bottom Line:  HDR on the LS10500 is a very good thing!

Dark Shadow Detail

Dark Shadow detail is stunning, no issues to report with normal viewing.  Overall, with Super-Resolution off, there’s about as much dark detail as you will find on any projector.  I was marveling at how much detail I could spot in our favorite image: The Bond night train scene from Casio Royale.


The darkest detail behind the tracks and in the woods, was easier to see clearly than any other projector I can think of, that offers great black levels.  (Understand, lower end projectors are so much brighter in terms of their “blacks” and near blacks, that the brightness makes the detail  – when it exists – easier to spot.

But to have that detail be easy to spot on a projector with inherently excellent black levels is not common at all.

HDTV and Sports

Not everyone cares about TV viewing with an expensive projector, but most of us do.  There are lots of pure movie fanatics buying or already owning projectors who rarely their projectors for TV in general or sports.    But, for most of us, movies are just one (significant) part of what we watch.  I’m one of those.  Besides lots of movies my viewing also includes:  Football, Awards programs, Blacklist, HGTV, Olympics, Designated Survivor, 24 Legacy, and Jools Holland.  The list is long, but that’s a taste.

The LS10500 is by our usual definition is just bright enough for our definition of a light canon – it exceeds 1500 lumens at brightest, and came up over 1200 lumens in one calibrated mode.  That means it can tackle some ambient light in the room when you’re having friends over for a sporting event.  In my theater, with its dark surfaces, I can let in a significant amount of light with my shutters part open, and my rear down facing lighting turned on (7 led lights).

Bottom line on HDTV and sports – pretty awesome.   Since sports is more “lights on” I guess I could complain that the projector could be brighter still, but with the LS10000 measuring over 1500 lumens – after Mike’s improvement of Dynamic, it has “the power.”   Again, the picture is vibrant, sometimes it surprises me.  Is that something to do with the lasers?  I have no idea, but last night, watching the Cardinals/Chargers football game, I was blown away with the red shirts of the Cardinals, and their staff.

Concern:  If we start getting 4K content – with HDR – streaming/off of cable satellite, etc., the brightness of the LS10500 won’t  seem like a “light canon” on that content.

This projector doing sports reminds me of what I like about DLP projectors on dark scenes – lots of pop, without being over the top.  That’s hard to beat.

3D Picture Quality

I’ve already discussed 3D a good bit in the Special Features pages, so I’ll basically recap here.  First, 3D looks great. Crosstalk is almost non-existent from my perspective.  I’m not bothered by modest crosstalk, but this projector seems significantly cleaner in terms of crosstalk than the Epson UB projectors, and more so, compared to the JVCs which have struggled a bit with 3D.

The LS10500 uses the same 3D glasses as other Epsons, and there are plenty of universal, low cost glasses that will work as well.

But the combination of the brightness, and the minimal crosstalk, which seems almost completely undefined rather than hard edges, make for particularly excellent 3D viewing.  Color handling is another story.  We never calibrate Dynamic 3D modes, and that’s the mode with the most brightness.  Perhaps some day we will, but not yet.  Dynamic’s 3D color was better than expected, but hardly “calibrated.”  I found it to have more watchable color than unadjusted Dynamic mode in 2D.  That’s impressive.

Still, Cinema 3D mode is definitely superior and has some very good color, but you are giving up more than a little brightness.  At 100″ diagonal, in my theater, I was primarily watching with Cinema-3D, but almost always switch to Dynamic-3D when I could fill the whole 124″ diagonal with 3D widescreen content.  It’s your call.  I don’t like dim, so I’m willing to suffer less accurate color in exchange for more 3D brightness.

3D is impressive!  Regular readers know I’m a big fan of 3D.   I watched the new Ghostbusters, parts of Iron Man 3, and others.   Desolation of Smaug (The Hobbit) was exceptionally clean in 3D.  Note that 4K pixel shifting is only available with 24 fps content.  I could not engage it with 60 fps HDTV.

Bottom Line: Overall Picture Quality

How does the Epson Pro Cinema LS10500 perform when it comes to overall picture quality?   Color handling is excellent.

In the image player above, the first two images are 4K HDR, BT2020 color space, the others are all 720p, 1080i, or 1080p using the traditional REC709 color space.

Ultimately the pictures should tell the story.   Of course the images you are viewing on your laptop, tablet or phone are dramatically inferior to how good those images looked projected by the LS10500.   There’s just too much compromise by the time you are viewing these – massive compression, smaller color palettes, etc.

Eric’s calibrations came out pretty great. I wish my pro Canon dSLR could capture the color accuracy of the projector a bit better.  I routinely seem to have more color inaccuracy from my 60D when working with laser projectors than lamp based ones.  I can’t tell you why, but I’m never thrilled with the photos I take of projected images from laser projectors.

Keep that in mind, at this point, the laser projector’s color range capabilities exceed that of the material its being fed.  A good Blu-ray disc hardly fits the concept of “garbage in, garbage out”, but the same content at BT2020 with HDR  is going to be visibly more stunning than the small jpg images you are looking at.  10 Gig images are compressed down to about 100K with Photoshop’s Save for Web…

That’s about 100:1 compression.  That these images look halfway great at all, is almost a miracle with that much compression.

So what is the bottom line?  You’ll be viewing as sharp a picture as you will see short of a true 4K resolution projector.

Note: Those two new DLP UHD projectors we are expecting in the next week should be a touch sharper seeming as their chip sets are half way between 1080 and true 4K.  I’m not sure any of the ones inbound though, support HDR, which would be a shame.

Rich colors, with good pop – a dynamic feel to them, without being over the top.  Very good accuracy, with a full production version potentially better?

One caveat, we’re talking about extremely good black level performance, but, I must, once again, challenge Epson on their claim of essentially perfect contrast.  Epson’s point, in its brochure is that when the content is a black frame, the light engine is simply turned off.  That creates On/Off infinite contrast (divide by zero).  Such scenes do happen, sometimes between scenes in a movie, or in credits at the end, but its pretty rare to have a pure black image in a normal scenes.  The reality, is that if there’s just a pixel or two on, even at near black levels, the light engine is on, and the black level performance becomes what we describe – extremely good, close, but not up to the absolute very best!

The LS10500’s picture is overall, really excellent for an under $10,000 projector.  It has only a few serious competitors in the range.

I truly was thoroughly enjoying it, it is a step up from the 5040UB I’ve been using recently, and it is in many ways a rival to the $10,000 4K Sony, I had here recently.  Yes, truly enjoying a great picture…

…until a few days ago, when Sony stopped by and helped me set up their new ultra short throw, true 4K projector:  The VPL-VZ1000ES.

That’s a $25,000 projector so it’s over 3X the price of the LS10500.

Sorry Epson, the Sony VZ1000ES is just plain better – a step up in performance better on 4K HDR, and more subtly better on other content.  It’s true 4K of course.  More brightness alone is making a real improvement on HDR content.  That makes brightness is perhaps the biggest difference (2500 lumens instead of 1500 with the Epson).

That’s on 4K HDR content.  Put on 1080p content, or perhaps the usual HDTV sports (usually 1080i or 720p – yes ESPN is still stuck at 720p!), though, and the LS10500 looks surprisingly close to that 4K Sony, it can even look sharper, depending on how much processing you throw at the Epson.  With the extra processing, though comes some hardness to the image.  Still, on sports I consider that a great trade-off.

All considered viewing on the Pro Cinema LS10500 has been an extremely enjoyable experience.  I mean it was a really wonderful experience, which got downgraded to merely a great experience, when it took on the best $25K projector