Black Levels and Shadow Detail (continued)
Here we again start, with the DLA-X70R, followed by the Sony VPL-VW95ES. Note: We have been converting most recent "starship" images to grayscale to remove the distraction of varying colors (which tend to be exaggerated on these many seconds long time exposures).
The JVC X70 image (top), is obviously much more overexposed than the Sony right below. Despite that, note that the blacks of space, and in the letterbox area, the blacks still look good on the JVC, and stars are brighter. The Sony's "blacks" though measure blacker, due to the exposure difference. In the image below the Sony, is the also excellent Mitsubishi HC9000D which uses the Sony LCoS panels. That image is more similarly exposed to the JVC, so makes for a better comparison. Using a colorimeter, measuring the black on the JVC image (bottom letterbox, center) I measure 18 grayscale with the JVC.
With the Mitsubishi HC9000D, I'm measuring 9, so blacks are a bit blacker with the Mitsubishi. When measuring one of the space clouds, the JVC does 218, and the Mitsubishi 186. All considered, that would indicate that the overall black level performance is similar, but the JVC is demonstrating more dynamic range. (Blacks just slightly brighter at 18 vs. 9, but near white at 218 vs 186. That's going to translate into just blacker blacks on any scene, but also more pop, as the brighter colors would be brighter, if both the Mitsubishi and JVC were adjusted so both put the same level of blacks up on the screen.
The Sharp XV-Z17000 was the first single chip 1080p DLP projector to hit the market under $5000. It exhibits very good black levels typical of a respectable DLP projector, but not a match for the JVC!
Epson Home Cinema 5010: Epson has reigned for years as the "black level champ" in the under $3500 price range, and can compete in blacks, rather easily with most over $5000 projectors.
That said, it can't quite compete with the JVC DLA-X70R, which is simply better at doing blacker blacks. Note that measuring the black in the letterbox (bottom center) measures 19 average (vs the JVC above's 18), but the brightest measured in the same space cloud was only 176, a touch below the Mitsubishi, and definitely below the JVC. As we have said, the Epson may be the best under $3500, but it cannot match the blacks of the JVC DLA-X70, and for that matter, can't quite match the $6000 Mitsubishi HC9000D either.
Finally, a little side by side imagery. On the right is the DLA-X70R, on the left is the $20K SIM2 Nero 2:
Basically what we can conclude from this is that the JVC DLA-X70's got not only the blackest blacks but the widest dynamic range. No surprise, of course. But, it also translates that the Sony VPL-VW95ES, the Mitsubishi HC9000D, and the Epson 5010 all come close. Not super close, but "close enough" for many. I prefer the JVC's black level performance, of course, but when they are all this close, other factors can be more important issues, such as brightness, cost, placement flexibility, color accuracy, and various features.
Click Image to Enlarge
Shadow Detail Performance
I was most impressed with the dark shadow detail of the JVC X70 projector. When you have blacks as dark as this JVC's that means that the nearest things to black are just a tad brighter. When you consider projectors with inferior blacks, the blacks are brighter, but so are the darkest shadow details, making them easier to see.
To get a handle on how well the JVC DLA-X70R performs in terms of shadow detail, I observed side by side with the Epson 5010. I consider the 5010's shadow detail to be particularly good for an ultra high contrast projector, though not the very best, close.
Well, the JVC held its own very nicely against the Epson, and that despite starting out with the blacker blacks. In the train scene below, the JVC not only provides plenty of dark detail in the shrubs behind the tracks on the right, but you'll find some real detail inside the large mostly "black" area in the center of the trees. Bottom line, no issue with the shadow detail. Let's just call it extremely good, or excellent. Either way, the details are there, and I cannot recall a single projector sporting really good blacks that has a significant advantage over the DLA-X70 projector.
Editor's note: As we started to do with the starship image above, more recently we are converting the Casino Royale night train scene, to grayscale, so that the color shifts aren't distracting.
Overall Color & Picture Quality
Sweet! OK, I don't think the JVC X70R (or any JVC for that matter), has the most perfect, most natural color. But, this JVC is, at least, close to the best. There's going to likely be more variation in, say, skin tone handling from one movie to the next, than between a couple or three of the better projectors, once they are calibrated.
Click Image to Enlarge
That said, the JVC never looked anything but really good, even right out of the box. Calibrated it looks really great. I might favor the Runco and the Sony just slightly in terms of natural color, but, by the same token, I'll give the JVC the slight advantage there, against projectors like the Epson 5010 and 6010, as well as the BenQ W7000. A well tuned Optoma HD8300 should be close as well.
Below, for your amusement, and to let you draw your own conclusions. The JVC X70R is on the left image, and the Epson Home Cinema 5010 is on the right. This is the same train scene as used above, but in this case, the image is pretty much normally exposed, and gives you a pretty good idea of how each will look on the screen.
Note you've already seen a lot of the "train image" below, including converted to gray scale, as this image is particularly good for comparing both black level performance and shadow detail, as well as flagging which projectors look really flat on dark scenes.
The Epson on the right looks great on this scene when viewing, and the JVC just looks better. If I put up this JVC projector against the same images from the Panasonic PT-AE7000, the Optoma HD8300, the BenQ W7000 and others, which can't quite match the Epson's blacks, then you'd be seeing a pair of images which would quickly have you saying "big difference". Shows you what great black levels brings to the party!
Concerts on HDTV, as well as even programming like the Academy Awards, look great with excellent dynamic range. Animation is great as well. I've included an image or two in this review from Howl's Moving Castle, but that's done mostly in pastels. I should have picked something like Cars, or Space Jam, to get some really high contrast animated scenes. I did view part of Space Jam. Looked killer.
For your consideration: Here are additional JVC DLA-X70R images, some of which can be found on other reviews for comparison purposes.
The Bottom Line on Overall Picture Quality
2D Picture Quality is just gorgeous. If a couple other projectors can appear a touch more natural, that's OK. None of them can match the dynamic range of the JVC projector. While I usually concentrate (when talking black levels) on the darkest scenes, where the differences are most obvious, in this case, the JVC's blacks really show off on scenes that aren't really very dark, blacks even on average and bright scenes, are visibly blacker than with any projectors using a dynamic iris (everything else over $2000, pretty much), as those irises have to open for the medium and brighter scenes. The more the iris opens, the less black the blacks. While better blacks on a bright scene won't make a whole lot of difference, better blacks on a scene that's mostly not very bright at all, but has one very bright area, enough to force the iris mostly open can make a noticeable improvement in the dynamic look of that image.
The only real downside to the DLA-X70 R - and it's twin, the DLA-RS55 - when it comes to overall picture, is when the conversation turns to 3D. Then the JVC suffers from a brightness shortage (compared to most), and more noise like cross-talk than the competition. I've tried playing with the Crosstalk adjustment, but it seems to help little, or not at all, after much playing while watching Hugo (not the best 3D production to begin with). When viewing Tron Legacy with the screen size 96" I was still wishing for more brightness.
2D -> 3D conversion is actually pretty decent for what you are doing. As I mentioned, it's fun with your own videos. I've yet to be happy enough with anyone's 2D-3D conversion in terms of whether its worth the hassle to watch the conversion, at the much lower brightness levels, and with glasses on. I tend to save the glasses etc. for content created in 3D (or at least professionally rendered, rather than one algorithm fits all, kind of thing.)
Now last year I complained even more about the brightness of the JVC DLA-RS60 I had received for review. In fairness, JVC has made real progress. We found that last year, the DLA-RS60 projector calibrated almost 200 lumens lower than this X70! That makes the X70 doing 3D a dramatic improvement, if still on the low side.