Optoma HD73 Projector Brightness
When reviewing the older HD72, I was dazzled by the projector's brightness. In best mode (Cinema) it produced 518 lumens with lamp on full power. In part this was helped by using a color filter wheel with a "clear slice" on it, so it could output more white when needed.
The HD73, in changing the color wheel to a 5X and removing the "clear slice", makes the projector more of a "movie purist's" projector. In doing so, however it took away a significant portion of the HD72's impressive brightness. Instead, the HD73 is barely average in brightness.
I was so under awed by the initial measurements that I suspected that the HD73 Optoma sent me, may have been defective. I took the usual measurements, but contacted them for another HD73, which arrived 48 hours after my contacting them. With the first unit I have three measurements to report. The default Cinema mode, lamp on full power produced 304 lumens, however, for movie watching, the Color Temp setting needed tot be switched from default 0 (way too bluish an image), to 1. As it turns out, the first projector was screwed up, and the second HD73 worked best for movie watching with the Color Temp at its default 0 setting. The zoom, I should note was at mid-point, so the projector will be just a touch brighter in full wide angle, and a touch dimmer in full telephoto. Remember, this projector has only a 1.2:1 zoom so the shifts would be only a couple dozen lumens either way.
So, by the time the first unit was in color temp 1, and some minor color adjustments were made, the lumens dropped to 255!
Good news. HD73 number two, with color temp at 0, (and after minor adjustments), managed to crank out a more respectable 332 lumens. This was with the lamp in full power, as was the first unit's measurement. Compared to the Optoma HD72, that's a drop in brightness of 36%. From a practical standpoint, that would mean a 124" diagonal screen for the HD72, would be as bright as the HD73 on a 100" screen!
The Bad news: Even the significantly brighter second projector is ranks among the least bright available.
Since I mentioned we did the measurements in Full Power mode (most will need it), you must be curious. Low power mode dropped the brightness down just over 21%, for a measurement of 261 lumens, on HD73 number 2.
As I said, not a particularly bright projector. With lamp on full power, AI engaged, the projector, really struggled trying to fill my 128" Firehawk, and that with a brand new lamp. After watching the projector in that mode, I finally settled on a much smaller image size - about 105" as a good large size for the HD73. I could have pushed it a bit more, but keep in mind, lamps dim over time. With a screen like the Firehawk, 110" is probably pushing it. The projector seemed more comfortable in my testing room on the Carada Brilliant White (a matte white surface with an approximate gain of 1.3). The Optoma easily filled it's 106" diagonal, and with a screen like that or similar, 110" is reasonable.
Of course the HD73 has Bright and TV modes (as well as Photo which replaces sRGB on the HD72), and User.
Bright Mode is for when you need to do battle with ambient light. With the Color Temp set to Bright's default of 2, the image is too cool (bluish) around 9500K, yet the first (defective) HD73 only cranked out 483 lumens. The second projector, however, managed 558 lumens. That's almost exactly half of what Optoma claims. Changing the color temp to 1, more ideal for TV/HDTV viewing, dramatically dropped the lumens, so let's say that Bright - is for when you need every last ounce of brightness.
TV mode, defaults to color temp of 1, and offers an excellent color temp for white (100IRE), of 7676K - very, very good for TV/HDTV/sports, brightness however, was not significantly brighter than Cinema mode, with only 383 lumens on the "good" HD73.
So, what we have here is a spectacularly overrated projector in terms of lumens. Optoma claims 1100 lumens, and, even it Bright, achieved just half of that. Fooling around, boosting green, etc. I could muster up just over 600 lumens, but, as they say - "that's nothing worth writing home about".
To put this all in perspective, here are some numbers from the competition:
Panasonic PT-AX100U: Best mode (Cinema1): 707 lumens, Brightest mode (Dynamic): 2025
Sanyo PLV-Z5: Best mode (Pure Cinema): 262/304 lumens (depending on iris setting, but there is also Creative Cinema 369/479 lumens), Brightest: Dynamic 963 lumens
Mitsubishi HC3000: (which has excellent black level performance): 465 lumens best mode
So, as you can see, only the Sanyo is less bright in "best" mode, and not by much. On the other hand, the Sanyo and all others, are signficantly brighter in brightest mode - by almost 60%!
Projector Lamp life
Optoma claims 3000 hours for their lamp (in Low Power mode), 2000 in Bright mode. Optoma tells me that with AI turned on, actual lamp life will fall between those two numbers). Most users will run the projector with AI on, which means the lamp will brighten and dim as needed. I could guess at 2200 to 2500 hours, but no way to tell.
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Optoma HD73 Projector Screen Recommendations
This continues the points I was making above. Important to consider is that the HD73 has much improved black levels compared to the brighter HD72. Overall, if you are going more than 100" diagonal, a screen like the Carada, Stewart Studiotek 130, Da-lite CinemaVision, etc., is a good match, and you still get very good black levels. If you really are going for blackest blacks, though, the Firehawk or its equivalents (not that anything is quite like a Firehawk), like the Da-lite HC Da-Mat, or the Elite HC Gray, would be good choices, but keep the screen size a bit smaller. Dark walls are a real plus, in the hunt for blackest blacks. My personal opinion, is that you can go a larger screen size if you have really dark walls, (and ideally, a dark ceiling and floors too).
While I did watch movies successfully at about 105" diagonal on the Firehawk, that is probably a little too large a surface for those really expecting to get 2000 hours before replacing their lamp. For the Firehawk, think 100" diagonal as a maximum
Bottom line: The HD73 is a projector for fully darkened rooms. It simply lacks the horsepower for large screens. 110" in the right room, with a screen with 1.3 or 1.4 gain is about the maximum. The projector will work best with 92" and 100" screens. If you also want to watch some football with some lights on, this is not the projector for you.
BTW, with that roughly 105" size image projected on the Firehawk, I also tryed out my PS3 on one of the auto racing games, and with mode set to Bright, it worked out just fine with very low room lighting.