Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 21000 and Pro Cinema 31000, 61000 Projectors

New Epson Pro Cinema 61000 Projector - Front
Epson Home Cinema 61000 Projector

I’m excited.  The season for new home theater projectors is upon us, starting with the CEDIA show, next week.  Unfortunately, this year looks to be one where many manufacturers are offering just minor improvements (and lower prices) on “new” models.  For that reason, something new – a new type of  panel – or chip, call them what you wish, and three new projectors built around it, sounds interesting, and promising.

All the fuss is about Epson’s new projectors sporting first generation reflective LCD panels or Reflective 3LCD as Epson calls them.  Their claim of 1,000,000:1 contrast certainly is going to get a lot of attention as they’re pretty much adding an entire extra 0 to the contrast numbers game.  For those not following the technology, previously all “LCD” projectors have used transmissive panels – light passes through them.  LCoS and DLP, use reflective technologies instead.  I’m not yet clear on how Reflective 3LCD compares with LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), I’ll find out more at CEDIA, as today, I was focused on the finished products – real projectors.

No, not so real that you can buy one today, but soon.  No ship date released, but unless the backorders are huge, I have every confidence you’ll have no problem having one under the tree for Christmas eve (or even installed before then).  So far, there are only a few sample projectors in the US, and they are all heading to the CEDIA show.

OK, there are three models:

All Epson Projectors with Reflective 3LCD share these traits:

Lens Features: The same 2.1:1 Fujinon lens Epson’s been using for a number of years, however, in these projectors, the lens will be motorized zoom and focus (and lens shift), instead of manual.  That means that all three can have, and do have, a lens memory feature similar to the one we’ve discussed at length, about the Panasonic PT-AE4000’s lens memory.  That’s a great option if you want to go 2.40:1 screen for all those Cinemascope movies, and you don’t have the thousands for an anamorphic lens setup. They also do support an anamorphic lens, with, or without, a motorized sled (2 anamorphic modes)  The lens is center mounted (less math needed to install it)

Pro Cinema 31000 reflective 3LCD projector
Angle view of the Epson Pro Cinema 31000 projector

Image Features: Dynamic iris, Super-Resolution (discussed in last year’s Epson reviews),  new improved CFI called FineFrame for smoother action, New Silicon Optix HQV Vida processing, expanded color space.

Performance Features: 1200 lumens, HDMI 1.4, lamp rated up to 5000 hours,  (in either full or eco power modes  – excellent)!

Warranties:  2 Years for the Home Cinema 21000 and 3 Years for the Pro Cinema 61000 and 31000.  Epson is offering a 2 day exchange  replacement program now called Home Service Program.

Side view of Home Cinema 21000 projector

Home Cinema 21000:  500,000:1 contrast for great blacks.  Of course only testing will tell how good. Figuring that the dynamic iris in these projectors is probably very similar to the ones in the lower cost UB projectors, with about the same iris action, then the 500,000:1 would represent about a 2.5 times improvement in native contrast (Epson claims 200,000 for the UB projectors).  That should translate into a quite visible lowering of black levels.  Most likely (just guesswork), that will allow the Epson to probably match and beat the JVC RS15 in terms of blackest blacks, on dark scenes, and perhaps rival the RS25.  (The JVC’s have been the 800 pound gorilla’s of deep blacks, and they do it without a dynamic iris.)  On mixed scenes, though, a dynamic iris isn’t as effective, so the JVCs (no dynamic iris), are likely to remain superior in terms of blacks.  No matter, the RS25 is currently more expensive than I expect any of these Epson’s to cost, and one cares about deepest blacks on mixed brightness scenes.  But, I digress…

Epson Pro Cinema 31000

The 31000 is basically the same projector with a couple of extra bells and whistles.  It offers the same 500,000:1 contrast. I won’t repeat all of the above about blacks and irises.  It adds ISF certification, comes with a spare lamp and ceiling mount, and as noted above, a third year warranty. And don’t forget, the Pro Cinema 3100o comes in a black case, and a cable cover.

How the projectors are sold, is another difference, with the Home Cinema version primarily sold online and in big box houses, and independent small dealers.  The Pro Cinema models will be sold by authorized, local, installing dealers, as has been traditional with previous Pro series projectors.

That brings us to Epson’s new flagship:

Epson Pro Cinema 61000 Projector

It is still basically the same as the other two, but offers double the contrast to 1,000,000:1.  It may be that this model has a better iris than the other two, since they do talk about a ultra fast dual layered iris only on the 61000 prelim info.  That should represent still another small improvement in black levels, compared to the 31000 and 21000 projectors. Add to it some networking capabilities, including remote notification, and apparently even more color and image management controls than the others.

The Bottom line?  Epson’s already dominated the $2000-$3000 home theater projector space in terms of best blacks, and now we’ll see if they can take black level performance up a notch or two, to do battle with the best projectors in the $3500 to $10,000 price range.

Other key things to learn: As we review these projectors in the coming months, I want to find out what the subjective characteristics of these new reflective 3LCD projectors are.  I am speaking  of imprecise terms including film-like, pop and wow, forgiving…  Each type of technology seems to add its own slight “coloration” or “feel” to the image.  Will they behave a lot like LCoS projectors? Brightness will be important, too.  Like the less expensive Epsons, these use what Epson calls a Cinema filter in its best modes.  That does cost some brightness, which is why Epson projectors typically are among the brightest home theater projectors at their maximum.  I’m hopeful that they will have the horsepower for a big screen like my 128″.  We shall see.

Reviewing this new series of projectors promises to be fun – and rewarding, so the only question that really matters first, is…who do I have to kill, to get one in here quick for review?  -art