Projector Reviews

Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 Laser Projector Review – Notable Features

ADVANCED 4K PIXEL SHIFTING

A native 4K projector has a native resolution of either 4096 x 2160 (8.8 million pixels) or 3840 x 2160 (8.3 million pixels). While the Epson Pro Cinema LS12000 has a native resolution of 1920 x 1080 (2.1 million pixels), the projector uses pixel shifting to display 3840 x 2160 onscreen.

The new version of Epson’s 4K PRO UHD (pixel-shifting) utilized in the LS12000 is noticeable better than the previous versions due to a new Precision Shift Glass Plate that is quicker and quieter. Every pixel’s image is rapidly shifted 1/4 pixel diagonally and horizontally allowing each one to do the job of four pixels.

Epson's precision shifting glass plate
New Precision Shift Glass Plate is quicker and quieter quadrupling the visible pixels onscreen to 8.3 million

This new version quadruples the visible pixels onscreen whereas previous Epson pixel shifting projectors like the 6050UB only doubled them. The LS12000 can display 8.3 million pixels onscreen whereas old Epson models like the 6050UB and LS10500 could only reproduce 4.1 million.

When it comes to pixel shift, faster is better. The pixel wobbling is done so fast that it fools your eyes into seeing four times the LS12000 actual native resolution. In fact, the new system is so quick the pixel shifting is supported at refresh rates as high as 120Hz. This is great news for gamers who own the latest gaming consoles like Playstation5 or Xbox Series X

4K PRO-UHD logo
The latest version of 4K PRO UHD delivers 8.3 million pixels on screen

I had the opportunity to compare several modern pixel-shifting 3LCD and DLP projectors to native 4K SXRD and DiLA projectors.

When viewed from a normal viewing distance, it is difficult to differentiate between a 4K pixel shift image produced by the LS12000 and an image projected on a native 4K projector.

Factors like higher native contrast and better optics normally have a bigger impact on image clarity than the native resolution of the projector’s imagers.

It is only when you do a side-by-side comparison between a true 4K projector versus a pixel-shifting projector using test patterns that the resolution difference is truly noticeable. In many situations, the content, including movies, lack the fine detail required or the image is viewed so far away that the difference between 4K and pixel shifting cannot be perceived.

Also, keep in mind that native 4K projectors cost significantly more than their pixel shifting HD counterparts. For example, the new JVC NZ7 ($6,999 SRP) which is a very good 1,900-lumen lamp-based native 4K projector costs about two thousand dollars more than the brighter laser light source equipped Epson LS12000 ($4,999 SRP). For many customers, the higher brightest and years of maintenance-free operation provided the laser sources are a bigger benefit than native 4K resolution.

Combined with good image processing, The LS12000 does a very nice job emulating the original 4K content. In addition, the LS12000 utilizes a high-quality 12-element lens to deliver a sharp, crisp picture.

HIGH CONTRAST 3LCD PANELS

The Pro Cinema LS12000 is Epson’s flagship home theater projector so it contains three 0.74″ high contrast LCD imagers. These 3LCD panels are a step up from the units used in their Home Cinema models.

3LCD logo
The LS12000 is equipped with 3LCD panels

As with all Epson 3LCD projectors, the LS12000 produces as many color lumens as it does white lumens, which ensures bright, vibrant color which is critical for good HDR picture quality.

The LS12000 uses Epson’s finest ultra-high contrast 3LCD panels similar to the units found in their older award winning Epson 6050UB, to deliver a native contrast ratio that few competitors’ home theater projectors can match.

While Epson doesn’t list the LS12000 native contrast ratio, based on my viewing, its contrast appears to rival the premium home theater projector like the Sony VPL-VW325ES and JVC DLA-NP5 which are LCoS equipped projectors. Combining these upgraded 3LCD panels with precision laser light modulation results in a rated Dynamic Contrast ratio of 2,500,000:1.

LASER LIGHT SOURCE

The LS12000 has a blue laser phosphor light engine. A portion of the blue laser output hits a yellow phosphor which generates red and green color elements while the remainder of the blue laser light output handles the blue component. As with all 3LCD projectors, a dichroic prism is used to re-assemble the three different colors into a single full color image.

Epson Blue Laser Phosphor Light Source diagram
Epson Blue Laser Phosphor Light Source

Epson says the laser light source in the LS12000 has a rated life of 20,000 hours at full power. This means owners can enjoy several years of nearly maintenance free operation.

As we mentioned multiple times the native contrast of the LS12000 is outstanding for an LCD projector, but projector dynamic contrast can be greatly improved by precisely and rapidly modulating the brightness of the laser light. For example, When the LS1200 encounters a “black frame” of information, it can shut down the laser engine completely projecting a true black frame.

The LS12000 doesn’t include a dynamic iris but the dynamic laser light dimming reacts faster making its application less noticeable.

48 GBPS HDMI 2.1 INPUTS

Support for 4K@120fps

The Epson LS12000 includes two 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 inputs so that they can accept both 8K@60fps and 4K@120fps. We should note that while the inputs can support up to 48Gbps, the HDMI inputs/outputs found on most A/V Receivers, video switchers, and gaming consoles are limited to 40Gbps. This is fine because the video information in a 48 Gbps signal far exceeds the capabilities of the 10-bit panels/imagers found in consumer TVs and projectors including the LS12000.

LS12000 info menu
Dual 48Gbps HDMI inputs support 4K HDR at 120 frames per second

Currently, there isn’t a lot of 8K or high frame rate video content available but 4K@120fps can help deliver a smooth high-quality gaming experience from a high-end gaming PC as well as the latest PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles. Also, when gaming 4K@120fps, input lag time is below 20 ms.

eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel)

In addition, if you decide to connect a game system directly to the projector, one of the LS12000 HDMI inputs supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel).

While HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) format supports multi-channel audio, which includes Dolby Atmos, due to bandwidth limitations, it delivers a compressed audio signal, for example, Dolby Digital Plus.

The latest version of HDMI audio return is eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel). which can transfer a much higher bandwidth and it also supports uncompressed audio surround formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio. This ensures the external audio system receives the maximum quality audio signal from a source that is directly connected to the projector.

HDR COMPATIBLE – HDR10+, HDR10 AND HLG

The HDR provides a major improvement in dynamic range as well as color. It lets you see more detail in the shadows and the bright areas and delivers more saturated lifelike colors.

There are two HDR standards, with the first standard is PQ (ST2084). While there are three variations of PQ, most projectors are only compatible with HDR10 which is commonly used for UHD Blu-ray discs (4K movies) and recorded streaming content.

The LS12000 supports HDR10+
The LS12000 supports HDR10+

The Pro Cinema LS12000 is one of the first Epson Home Theater projectors to support HDR10+. Like the more mainstream HDR10, both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are also based on PQ (Perceptual Quantization) also called ST2084. The only difference between the three PQ based formats is what type of HDR metadata is delivered to a video display to help it tone map HDR content to fit a display’s brightness capabilities.

While the metadata in HDR10 content is static, in HDR10+ as well as Dolby Vision content, this metadata is dynamic. Since the luminance information for each scene is embedded into the content as dynamic metadata, tone mapping can be optimized scene by scene or frame by frame. This helps the projector faithfully reproduce the HDR images as intended by the creators.

While HDR10 and Dolby Vision is the main way HDR content is currently distributed, Amazon Prime Video has announced support for HDR10+. There is also a limited number of 4K UHD Blu-ray discs available and a select number of UHD BD players from companies like Panasonic support it.

The second HDR standard is HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) and it was developed for live broadcast.

The Pro Cinema LS12000 supports HDR10+ and HDR10 and HLG. The LS12000 does not support Dolby Vision but most Dolby Vision content is either backward compatible with or available in HDR10 so owners will be able to enjoy 99% of HDR content available on the market now and in the future. 

FRAME INTERPOLATION

Every video company has some type of technology designed to reduce motion blur and improve the clarity of fast action content. Frame Interpolation compares consecutive image frames and inserts intermediate image frames between them resulting in smooth fast-moving video. While most manufacturers give it a proprietary name, Epson LS12000 just lists the feature as Frame Interpolation in its menu.

I never recommend using it when watching movies since it creates “soap opera” like video which changes the director’s intent. While motion processing normally isn’t required for 24P movie material, CFI can be beneficial when viewing sports.

While I normally wouldn’t turn on frame interpolation when viewing normal HDTV, when sports content there is definitely a benefit to smoother, clearer motion. The nice thing is that the feature includes multiple settings so you can dial in the effect to suit your personal taste.

On previous Epson pixel shifting projectors, this feature could not be combined with Pixel Shifting so it is only available when viewing 1080P content with 4K Enhancement set to OFF. The projector’s version of 4K UHD PRO was not fast enough to display double the visual frames and pixel shift at the same time.

However, the newer and far faster version of Epson’s 4K UHD PRO technology built into the LS12000 allows simultaneous pixel shifting and frame interpolation for content below 120 Hz.

Frame Interpolation is only available when IMAGE PROCESSING is set to Fine in the projector’s menu. When IMAGE PROCESSING is set to Fast, features like Frame Interpolation, Noise Reduction, and MPEG Noise Reduction are disabled to reduce input lag when gaming to as low as 20ms.