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Black Levels & Shadow Detail

Posted on October 1, 2013 by Art Feierman

Vivitek H9080FD Black Level Performance

Overall, the Vivitek's black level performance is very good, but not exceptional. It's definitely an ultra high contrast projector (contrast claimed to be 100,000:1), but in comparing with other projectors I've concluded it isn't a match for the JVC DLA-RS20, the reigning champ), or for that matter, the less expensive JVC RS10.

Overall, black level performance with iris off is not impressive, still limited by the DLP chip, even if the light source offers real, potential performance improvement over conventional lamps.

Almost certainly, for movie watching, people will use the dynamic iris. When using it, black level performance becomes very respectable. I would, overall, put it in the performance range of the Epson Home (or Pro) Cinema 6500UB (the champ of the under $3500 projectors). It may not quite match the Epson, but is in the same class. That should also mean that it is comparable to Sony's VPL-VW70, and better than their VPL-HW10.

As is normal for dynamic iris projectors, there's a price to pay for the better blacks, and that falls into two categories. The first, is some compression of the image, the second, iris action is sometimes noticeable (and annoying). Let's start with the second point. There are three dynamic iris modes, but they apparently differ, not in the iris action, but some additional contrast enhancement on two of those modes.

There is compression, of course. Before we get started with the usual images, Let's look at some side by sides done compared to the InFocus IN83 - which I often describe as a great projector - superb color, but so-so black level performance. The InFocus does not use a dynamic iris (nor do the JVC's I might add).

In the first image, you are looking at a star field (overexposed, of course to bring up the "blacks". The Vivitek is on the left side. I've gotten the brightness of the two projectors as close as possible using the InFocus'es manual iris. That, however was set using a bright image. When the Vivitek's iris stops down, the maximum brightness also decreases, and you can spot that in this image, but the main point, is that the Vivitek's space background is definitely darker than the InFocus.

Now, in the next image, credits (white) come up on the screen. As a result, the iris on the Vivitek has to open up a good bit. This raises the black levels which, in this second image are now roughly comparable to the InFocus and actually a little worse:

While it's hard to see in the image above, the measured the text was brighter on the InFocus by a small amount as well. In other words, on a mixed scene like this, the InFocus matches or slightly beats the blacks of the H9080FD, while also being brighter on the bright areas.

Keep in mind, however, when you have something like this - the bright text, the eye is not likely to notice the difference in blacks. Ultimately, therefore, the dynamic iris of the Vivitek H9080FD is very effective. It lowers the blacks very nicely on the darker scenes where it is most appreciated.

OK, let's start with one of my favorites, the starship image from The Fifth Element. The first one is heavily overexposed, lightening up the letterbox as well as the starfield. You can tell, though that blacks are pretty good, because to get the letterbox to be fairly visible, it had to be overexposed a good amount. Some of the brighter areas of the starship have gone "all white" but a fair amount of detail remains.

Right below it is the same image also heavily overexposed, but taken with our black level champ, the JVC RS20. In that shot, I had do a still greater overexposure (to make the letterbox visible), and the letterbox area still isn't as bright as on the Vivitek. With the JVC, though almost all the detail in the starship is gone very badly overexposed, as it turns mostly white. Bottom line, this translates into the JVC having significantly blacker blacks.

Below those two images, is the same image (Vivitek), but only moderately overexposed, as are the comparative ones from other projectors, below that photo.

Consider additional images which are good ones for considering both black levels, and shadow details Look for the richness in the black part of some of the buildings and, also, the sky, in the second image. Both of these next two, are digital hi-def images from the DVE-HD calibration disc.

There's nothing like a real image of the night sky to show off black level performance. I believe this one above, is from the Hubble telescope.

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