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1080p Projector Review 2008 - Image Quality4

Posted on March 14, 2008 by Art Feierman

1080p Home Theater Projectors: Natural Skin Tones

This obviously ties closely to color balance, and is based on performance after grayscale adjustment.

Each review is loaded with images, however I ask you to remember there are many compromises in how they look on your computer - your monitor is different than mine. Monitors in general lack the contrast of the projectors, and the digital camera inherently loses a lot of dynamic range. In addition, I find variations from projector to projector in how accurately my camera is in recording those colors. My camera tends to exaggerate color differences in extremely dark areas, and overall, tends to provide a slightly oversaturated image compared to what is on the screen. Also about half of the projectors (the pre Q4-07 reviews) were photographed with a different camera.

I'll refer you back to the image quality pages for photos of the individual projectors.

Truth is, if you have your projector properly calibrated, or it is one of the few projectors with really excellent out of the box color balance, you are going to get excellent, natural looking skin tones. That said, the various projectors, when you are looking at skin tones, will still look slightly different, with slight differences in color balance, contrast, and film-like appearance. After adjustment, my personal favorites in each class are:

$2000 and under 1080p Home Theater Projectors

Click to enlarge. So close.

Tough call between the three projectors, all produce really excellent, and, I should note, film-like qualities, especially considering that the HC4900, PT-AE2000U, and PLV-Z2000, are the three lowest priced 1080p projectors around.

The Sanyo PLV-Z2000, from Casino Royale - Blu-ray disc

Click Image to Enlarge

Of the three, I'd say that the HC4900 perhaps appears a little less film-like than the other two, just a touch of hardness. If some like the Panasonic over the Sanyo on skin tones, it is probably going to be due to the slight softness of the PT-AE2000U's overall image, which might make you feel it is more "film-like". Personally, too close to call. Between these three, there isn't even remotely enough difference, for "the naturalness of skin tones" to be a factor in your decision. Almost any other category of difference will be far, far more significant. Officially, these three are a tie.

$2000 - $3500 1080p Home Theater Projectors

Click to enlarge. So close.

To a large degree, great skin tones are about having the proper grayscale balance, but even then, there are some differences, in other aspects. One example, I mentioned in the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB review, was that the Epson, while having an excellent color balance to skin tones, appears to have a slightly more dynamic looking image (giving its skin tones a just slightly harder than perfectly natural look), than say, the Sony VW40. Some may well describe the difference as the Sony VW40 being a touch more "film-like". I would have to agree.

Click Image to Enlarge

Without properly adjusting the grayscale, there wil be huge differences in skin tones, with the three Optomas in this price range probably being the weakest. The BenQ W5000, as easy as it turns out to be to adjust, without adjustment, has just a bit too much green to look really great on skin tones. Without adjusting the Sony VW40 first, it also does not do well.

Of all the projectors in this group, I have to give a very slight edge to a properly calibrated Sony VW40 (even though it is particularly weak, out of the box). The three Optomas after adjustment, in my opinion, do very well on skin tones on most scenes, but in darker scenes, and especially on darker scenes that are supposed to be lit by incandescent lighting, the general Optoma tendency is to oversaturate a bit. This is a trade-off, as I often complement the Optoma projectors as having especially rich darker colors.

The Mitsubishi HC6000, for a 3LCD projector, is particularly natural looking on skin tones, lacking that slight hardness I mention about the Epson.

Once again, only subtle differences once each projector is properly grayscale balanced.

$3500 - $10,000 1080p Home Theater Projectors

Click to enlarge. So close.

Well, we have a class of one here, (despite how good almost all of these projectors are), and that one, is the JVC DLA-RS2. The RS1 (and I assume, the RS1x) come in right behind it, along with the InFocus IN82, and the Sharp XV-Z2000. Note please, there are issues with the RS1's images, I was dealing with camera issues back then (that was before I got my dSLR), and the images are dark and oversaturated, as well as too strong on Red, and are not representative of the projector's performance.

JVC DLA-RS2, scene from House of the Flying Daggers - Blu-ray

Click Image to Enlarge

When it comes to skin tones, my RS1 never disappoints on any kind of setting, be it sunlight, incandescent lighting, night scenes, etc. The RS2 is much the same, but better, by virtue of its even greater dynamic range thanks to the better black levels.

Once again, the Optomas come up just a tad short, having that oversaturated look on skin tones in dark lighting. The BenQ W20000, is an unknown, since it hasn't been reviewed yet, but should be very, very good, based on my long experience with BenQ home theater projectors.

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