Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema LS10000 3D LCD Projector Review Page 2

As an example, one of my favorite test clips, from the film The International, is an interrogation scene that takes place in a dimly lit room. I’ve seen a lot of projectors clip the highlights here, resulting in a total lack of definition in one of the actors’ faces. I also usually see obvious pumping as the brightness of the image changes from dark to dim to bright. The Epson delivered this scene flawlessly with not a single artifact noticed, something I’ve never seen before, all while still delivering great shadow detail, blacks, and highlights. That isn’t to say the system is totally transparent. For example, I could spot some minor clipping in the movie Oblivion in the scene where Tom Cruise gets the 411 from his captors as he’s tied to a chair. This is a great torture test for dynamic contrast systems when the scene transitions between Morgan Freeman sitting in the dark and Cruise sitting under a bright spotlight. That time, although the Epson demonstrated modest clipping for a split second, it recovered faster than the reactions I’ve seen from JVC’s and Sony’s dynamic aperture systems.

With the Dynamic Contrast system engaged, there were also clear improvements in black levels. Darker material took on a more dimensional look, with solid blacks and outstanding shadow detail. I tried my best to measure the black performance before the laser would shut off completely, and I got somewhere in the range of 80,000:1 to 150,000:1 as the meter shifted, but it’s hard to say where it stops before the laser shuts down. Overall, the Epson’s picture doesn’t match the JVC’s for nearly black images, but I found the performance to be in line with my recollections of Sony’s flagship projector (VPL-VW1100ES, reviewed at The dynamic laser’s High Speed mode, meanwhile, is quicker to go to absolute black than the Normal mode is. This works really well with the typical blackouts that occur between scenes, but it’s distracting on opening titles or scenes where the image pans through complete darkness for a few brief seconds. The abrupt jump from the more natural black level of the projector to its absolute black with the laser off is a bit too jarring—reminding me once again of the staircase analogy where some intermediary steps are missing and it’s an awkward tumble to the bottom. This mode works great for measurements, but I would avoid it in regular operation and stick with the Normal mode.

Faux 4K
Like JVC’s most recent LCOS projectors, the Epson LS10000 uses a 4K “enhancement” technology to deliver 4K-like images while still using native 1080p panels. This is done by slightly and rapidly shifting the panel image diagonally to replicate another set of pixels. It tricks the eye into thinking there’s more resolution than the native panels truly deliver. JVC’s version, which I’ve been playing with for some time now, is called “e-shift.”

I was lucky enough to have a Redray 4K player from Red with native 4K material on it to test this feature on the Epson. Native 4K images did look quite stunning, and the projector was considerably faster to lock onto the 4K video and less finicky with 4K than my JVC was. HDMI stability has been an issue with the last few JVC models I’ve tested, with the signal frequently cutting in and out. The Epson showed no signs of this. Nonetheless, Epson’s 4K modes aren’t quite as good-looking as what I see from my JVC. This may be just a technology maturity issue, but Epson’s 4K treatment has a slightly softer look. Although Epson tries to counteract this a bit with its “super resolution” feature, it doesn’t solve the problem completely and ends up giving the image a bit of an overprocessed and edgy look. This isn’t as obvious with native 4K material, but it was noticeable with 1080p material scaled to quasi-4K.

Another issue was image lag. If I scaled a 1080p signal to faux-4K using the projector, I experienced video delay that created issues with audio sync. Usually, I might compensate for this with the audio delay settings in an audio receiver or processor, but I couldn’t get enough delay from my processor for a perfect sync. I eventually overcame this by moving the 4K scaling to my Oppo universal disc player and feeding the Epson a 4K signal that way, but this only works for Blu-ray and not for other sources you may want to watch using the 4K mode.

Therefore, I ended up using the projector’s standard 1080p mode for my viewing, as I just didn’t find the quasi-4K mode to deliver any real benefit on my 120-inch screen. I’ve said the same about JVC’s e-shift mode as well. The pros just don’t outweigh the cons with the vast majority of my viewing using native 1080p material.

Light-Years Ahead
Perhaps the most exciting piece of technology offered by the LS10000 is the new laser light engine. Laser illumination has been talked about for years, and aside from a cost-no- object 4K projector from Sony that’s not geared to consumers, we haven’t really seen any full-scale home the- ater projectors utilize the technology.

The Epson isn’t a true scanning laser display, meaning it doesn’t actually shine the laser directly at your screen. Instead, it uses two blue lasers—one to create the blue primary and one that lights up a dedicated phosphor wheel that turns the light to yellow. The yellow light is then split by mirrors into the red and green primaries. The final red, green, and blue light is sent to the reflective panels and then out of the lens.

Among the prime benefits of the laser light engine are stability and a long life. Three selectable Power Consumption modes are offered to adjust the laser’s output: Eco, Normal, and High. Epson claims that the laser’s life span for usability is rated at 30,000 hours in the Eco mode, which represents a massive improvement over traditional UHP bulbs, which typically last close to 3,000 hours at best before needing replacement to maintain good projector performance. But in the laser’s High mode, this long life span is truncated to about 17,000 hours. I wasn’t able to get a specified life span for the Normal mode, which was my preferred setting during this review. It gave me a peak brightness of about 20 foot-lamberts on my 1.0-gain Stewart StudioTek 100 screen (120-inch diagonal) in mid zoom. That is far higher than what I’ve been able to achieve with my JVC in low lamp mode. I could actually bump this up a few foot-lamberts if I clipped bright highlights at reference white (digital 235) as well. And if I clamped down the manual iris, I could still get 15 ft-L without any white clipping at all! High mode bumped this up to about 25 to 27 ft-L, and Eco mode took me down to about 14 ft-L peak, which is still quite respectable and where I’ve been running my JVC.

The rated life span for UHP lamps is typically the number of hours to half brightness. They dim gradually over time. If laser technology holds its promise of stable output throughout its life span, this means I would have a constant brightness level from day one until the end of its life, with no concern for dimming or changes in the calibration once set properly. Obviously, we won’t know if this promise proves true until we have a chance to measure projectors with more hours on the laser.

Another big benefit of the laser light engine is a wider potential color gamut. We’ve been living in the world of HD video for some time now, and that means the Rec. 709 range of colors. But with more Ultra HD content around the corner, there’s a lean toward standardizing the wider P3 color gamut used in digital cinema. (The UHD standard also accommodates the even wider Rec. 2020 standard, though that’s considered a little too ambitious for today’s displays.) We’ve already seen a couple of projectors capable of delivering the P3 gamut using filters, and the Epson now joins these ranks. In addition to the selectable color gamuts in the Advanced settings menu mentioned earlier, Epson has a specific Color Mode (picture mode) that engages a filter for its green light output to bring it into the P3 spec. This drops light slightly, but in my case, it still delivered more than enough for me to light up my screen to the 14 ft-L I desired in my setup. Of course, I didn’t have any test material mastered in this color gamut, so I stuck with the THX preset for most of my viewing during this review. It delivered the most accurate image out of the box, with nearly dead-on color accuracy for Rec. 709.

One more advantage to laser is that you can turn the projector on and off at will, with no concern about damaging any components. The UHP bulbs employed in projectors are expensive parts and very sensitive to being toggled on and off, and manufacturers typically build in a delay that keeps the fan working after the lamp has been shut down to cool it off. You can’t just turn a projector on and off and on like the flat panel televisions we’re used to. No such problem here. All in all, I’m extremely impressed so far with the potential for laser light engines, and I hope to see this type of technology implemented across other brands.

Sharpening the Knife
Setup was a snap with the Epson. The menus are nearly identical to the ones on the Epson models I’ve used before, and as mentioned earlier, the THX preset was nearly spot-on out of the box. I did do some minor tweaking to the grayscale to get things in order. This was actually the third Epson LS10000 that I calibrated. The first two were brand new and required only a few clicks to get things dead-on. This review sample came with nearly 500 hours already logged, and it proved a bit more difficult to calibrate. No matter what I did, it was nearly impossible to get the middle grayscale points to come in perfectly. They were still quite close, but not spot-on as with the other two projectors I calibrated. The question remains: Is this from drift after nearly 500 hours, or was this phenomenon sample-specific? If it’s from drift, then the claim of a stable source for the lifetime of the projector diminishes significantly, but without follow-up calibrations on the other projectors I looked at, it will be hard to know. Some trending data points are needed.

After I got everything dialed in, I enjoyed the LS10000 for a few weeks, running through my usual test material and some of the latest titles on Blu-ray in both 2D and 3D. Epson provides two pair of their active shutter 3D glasses with the LS10000 (extras are $100 each), and they were a cinch to link up to the projector via RF. I’m not a big fan of 3D, but the Epson delivered a pleasant 3D image using its THX 3D Color Mode preset. This automatically puts the projector into its High Power Consumption mode for the laser, and the image looked correspondingly bright. I did notice some occasional ghosting (as I’ve come to expect from just about every projector aside from DLPs), but it was pretty infrequent, and I didn’t find it overly distracting. The image looked a bit washed out and flat compared with my 3D viewing via my reference JVC, though, which I attribute to the lower native contrast. Still, the 3D performance was considerably strong overall and in line with that of most other projectors I’ve used at this price point.

In my 2D tests, I went through a multitude of different titles on Blu-ray and was constantly impressed by the image from the LS10000. Highlights included the recent Blu-ray release of Lucy from director Luc Besson. This is by far one of the best video transfers I’ve seen on Blu-ray and an absolute stunner for showcasing reference-quality video. The Epson was razor-sharp and showed incredible depth, dimension, and detail throughout. Colors popped from scene to scene, and black levels were always satisfying. The animated film The Book of Life was another great treat. The animation style is quite different from what we typically see in CG animation, but it made for some demo-quality sequences with great contrast and definition.

The New Elite
It’s great to see a company still pushing innovation in the projector market. The LS10000 is one of the most exciting products I’ve reviewed in some time, and I can only hope that other manufacturers will step up their game in response to it. Given this projector’s support for next- generation copyright protection and a wider color gamut, it’s an easy recommendation for those looking for a longer-term projector to get them through UHD’s infancy, until we see models start to offer more advanced features like reasonably priced native 4K and HDR content support. I’m also impressed by just how well Epson has combined so many new technologies. I ran into almost no problems with setup, and the image was up there with the best I’ve seen. At $8K, this isn’t a budget design, but it competes well with almost everything at or above this price point. If you’re in the market for a showcase projector with some compelling next- generation features, look no further.

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