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HC5000BL Home Theater Projector Review - Image Quality-5

Posted on October 25, 2006 by Art Feierman
Some good news - if a scene has large very bright areas, even though the iris stays open, and blacks are brighter "dark gray", the eye adjusts and mostly follows the bright areas, so shadow detail and blacks are less noticeable. However, there will alway be plenty of scenes where there is a preponderance of black and near black and small amounts of bright white. You will see what happens in such cases immediately below.

Another technique is to dim the lamp and brighten it frame by frame to accomplish the same goals as the iris. Most projectors using these techniques - which are often call "AI" (artificial intelligence) because they compensate frame by frame after "analyzing" what's in each frame, use just an iris, although a few projectors - notably Sanyo's Z4 and brand new Z5 (our next review) use both, to further improve black levels.

OK, here's our first example. In this dark star scene, in the first frame, the iris has closed down due to virtually no bright areas, and blacks are pretty good. In the second image of the same frame, I opened a fairly large and bright HC5000BL menu. The projector treats the menu as part of the scene and adjusts acordingly. The result, the iris doesn't shut down at all, or only barely, so black levels are much brighter. Both images were shot with the same exact exposure with my camera, so you are seeing the difference in how they appear in "real life".

Of course, to best show the blacks, the exposure for both was overexposed, thus the menus are completely "blown out" In reality there is text in there. The important point, though is how much lighter gray the blacks are. A small bright moon, say in the upper right corner, occupying about the same area as the menus, would achieve the same effect.

All that explanation aside, the Mitsubishi HC5000BL does achieve extremely good black levels overall, within the limits of the technology. While, in scenes with more than a few very bright areas, it can't match a DLP projector (they are inherently better at black levels), the performance should satisfy the demands of most fairly critical viewers, and be a non-issue for the vast majority. In most scenes however, the iris will improve black levels anywhere from slightly to dramatically.

I might point you back up to the side by side shot above of the cockpit scene from Starship troopers. In a scene like this, where there are large areas of color, but nothing blindingly bright, look at the sky. The Samsung, on the left, is DLP (Darkchip2) with a 2800:1 contrast ratio, and no dynamic iris, or other AI. In this case, the HC5000BL's iris is apparently closing down enough, and adjusting the image, so that the sky (black) is notably darker with the Mitsubishi.


Moving on to shadow detail. Contrast and Brightness, out of the box were very acceptable, and as a result, the HC5000 did very well in terms of shadow detail. The best I've seen of late, was the Samsung SP-H710AE, basically a relatively expensive 720p DLP projector using the Darkchip2, and it comes, out of the box, essentially fully calibrated. Neither my own BenQ (Darkchip3) nor the HC5000BL could bring out as much detail in dark shadow areas, but both were close. Overall, the HC5000BL's image is very good in this regard, and it (an apparent trade-off) produces an image that is punchier than the Samsung, which many will prefer. In environments with very modest ambient light, the HC5000BL image appears more dynamic.

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