Projector Reviews

Optoma HD65 Home Theater Projector Review – Image Quality

As usual, I’ll start with how well the HD65 performs in terms of skin tones. I’ve said this many times before, slight overall color shifts in an image mostly go unnoticed, but if a skin tone is noticeably poor looking, it’s a major downside for a home theater projector. It’s easier to spot poorly done skin tones, than, say, to determine whether the red in an American flag is the right shade of red.

Click Image to Enlarge

Please remember, images from movies and other sources shown here, should not be taken as accurate representations of what you would see on the screen. First, in almost all cases, what’s on the screen will be strikingly superior. There are a great number of reasons, relating to your computer monitor, mine, my camera, etc. For more information, check out this article I recently published on the subject. In addition to points in the article, my dSLR – an Olympus E-510, just got a firmware upgrade with new color tables, correcting some issues I’ve had to deal with. The new version is giving me more highly saturated colors, a good thing, but it may be they are a touch over the top, at least they look that way on my Mac, before publishing.

More of a concern, is that I’m picking up a slight shift to green in the mid and dark areas. Not enough to have any significant impact on skin tones. The exception is the James Bond images below in fluorescent lighting scenes, where it is slightly detectable. Overall though, you will really notice it in the black and white opening shot from Casino Royale, the green is very apparent, although the projected image on the screen was a beautiful gray, with no trace of green. The camera has the ability to be adjusted to some degree, so I’m still tuning it, meantime – whenever you see that slight green tinge – it is the camera, not the HD65.

Optoma HD65 - ImageAI

The HD65, like all Optoma home theater projectors sports ImageAI, which increases contrast by allowing the ImageAI circuitry, to analyze the image frame by frame, and adjust lamp brightness, to achieve better black levels in darker scenes. This is not dissimilar from other projectors that use a dynamic iris to accomplish the same end result, and there are some projectors (Sanyo comes to mind) that use both an iris and lamp dimming.

While the ImageAI does help out slightly in scenes without full on bright areas, there is also a downside. I have noticed that, when a scene switches from one that is fairly dark to one that is pretty bright, if that bright scene is pretty stationary for a few seconds, all of a sudden the image brightens up, it just sort of instantly snaps to a brighter output. This is certainly easy to spot when it occurs. Is it a big deal?

To some folks, the answer is yes, to most folks though, I would think of this as a minor flaw that you just might see a few times per movie. Those who have no tolerance for these types of artifacts caused by dynamic irises or dimmable lamps, will either run the projector with ImageAI off (not a big difference), or shop for a different projector.

Bottom line: A serious issue for a small percentage, a minor flaw for the rest of us.

HD65 Projector: Skin Tones

One of the most impressive things about the HD65, is how well it handles skin tones, even before any adjustment (calibration). This is a huge plus for the projector. While we reviewers, pundits, and hard core enthusiasts, recommend almost every projector be calibrated, to get the most out of it, it is well understood that few buyers will pay someone to calibrate a projector, especially the lower cost ones. As to do-it-yourself calibration using popular calibration discs like AVIA, and DVE (Digital Video Essentials), it is understood from talking to dealers, and from my own previous experience selling thousands of home theater projectors, that most buyers of home theater projectors won’t buy one of the discs to do a step by step, follow the instructions calibration that takes about an hour, despite the benefits.

In the case of the HD65, skin tones are really good, without adjusting. True, they improved slightly with a big time calibration, but even I could live with the skin tones this projector delivered, unadjusted, out of the box, when watching both HDTV, standard, and Blu-ray disc.

While I rarely show “before and after” images, I decided to do one, this time, just to give you a good idea, of how good the HD65 is. This first image below is from Casino Royale (Blu-ray). The first image is the HD65 in default Cinema mode, and the one below it, the same image, after a full calibration.

OK, with that out of the way, here are the usual collection of images that show off skin tones, starting with two images from Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). Unlike the images above, most of these will allow you to click for a larger version of the image.

OK, time to look at the best – images from Blu-ray disc. The first three are from House of the Flying Daggers, a movie with rather spectacular color, and what I would describe as intentionally having slightly modified, but beautiful skin tones.

Next, is a sequence I’ve been using for many months. It’s easy to say – look, great looking skin tones, but what are accurate skin tones?

The reality is, that each different lighting condition gives you a different color balance. We all look markedly different in terms of skin tones, as we move from sunlight, to filtered sunlight, to cloudy day, to standard incandescent indoor lighting, to fluorescent lighting… In this case, you get to sample several of those environments. I think you’ll find that all look natural, once you consider the lighting conditions, even though each one has James Bond having noticeably different skin tones. OK?

Bottom Line: The HD65 is a winner when it comes to skin tones, in fact it performs, uncalibrated, pretty close to most projectors post calibration. Since there are lots of factors – even the director’s intentions and the colorist (the guys who decide on the necessary compromises going to digital DVD, etc.) actions, may end up with a technically perfect reproduction that you just don’t like. (Think the green cast in the Matrix movies – although that is an extreme example.)

HD65 Projector: Skin Tones slideshow

Now, not all movies try to produce faithful skin tones. Consider, for example Lord of the Rings, which tends to vary the color balance differently for each part of Middle Earth – The Shire – strong greens, lands of the Elves – strong on pastel look, Mordor, dark and green-gray, etc. Or the Matrix movies, with their heavy green caste on everything. Sin City is a movie that is mostly black and white, sepia and white, etc. with some spot colors. Here is a shot of Nancy, from Sin City, with that sepia flavor to it: