The Epson LS10000 is the company's newest high performance flagship home theater projector, and compared to what Epson has produced in the past it is in a whole new league.
The LS10000 combines four high-demand features that everyone has been clamoring for in a home theater projector:
(1) 4K enhancement of 1080p source/display of native 4K sources
(2) 100% laser light engine with up to 30,000 hour lifespan
(3) Super high contrast reflective imaging devices
(4) 3-way Automated Lens Memory for Constant Image Height installation.
These four features in combination make for a highly competitive new product in the premium home theater projector market. The price has not been finally determined as of this writing, but Epson says it will be under $8,000.
The LS10000 is a revolutionary product, unlike anything that Epson has produced to date. It combines extreme contrast and extreme resolution to produce a picture capable of extraordinary realism and presence. Though it uses 1920x1080 resolution chips, it has the ability to enhance standard 1080p sources to make them look as if they were filmed or captured in 4K resolution. Once the unit was set up, the first disc I wanted to see was the Eagles Farewell I Tour. Projected onto an eight foot wide Stewart Studiotek 130 with the 4K enhancement active, this picture virtually exploded off the screen with detail and a sense of immediate presence that I'd never seen from this disc before. If you want to compare it to standard 1080p, you can simply turn off the 4K enhancement. What you end up with is a picture that looks remarkably soft--almost more like really good standard definition. In actuality, the standard 1080p picture is just as sharp as it always has been. It is just that by comparison to the 4K enhanced version it is surprisingly soft.
The LS10000 has five levels of 4K enhancement, labeled 4K-1 through 4K-5, with 5 being the most aggressive processing. There is no correct or optimal setting. The level of enhancement you select will depend in equal parts on the type of content being viewed, the viewing distance, and your personal taste. When viewing the Eagles concert from a distance of 16 feet (2x the screen width), I set the enhancement to 4K-5 with excellent results. The picture was pristine, clear, and perfectly natural with no hint of any type of processing artifacts. Moving much closer to a viewing distance of 10 feet caused the picture to look slightly oversharpened. At this viewing distance I backed it off to 4K-3, and once again the picture was perfectly satisfying.
When viewing video of a live concert, maximum realism is desired. When viewing a movie it isn't. I found 4K-2 to be a preferred setting for movie material--it gives the image an obviously enhanced clarity and detail but without imparting any digital video effect. And the same thing happens when watching movies as with live video--once you get used to watching with 4K enhancement activated, you can't go back; standard 1080p looks by comparison to be low resolution; it just doesn't cut it anymore.
The other major advance in the LS10000 picture is the contrast. Epson does not bother to quote a numeric contrast spec on this projector; rather they just call it Absolute Black (Our database does not accept alpha characters for contrast specs, so it will be designated as ">1,000,000:1" on this site). The black levels are indeed very solid, as good as it gets on a projector, but black levels are already quite good on most premium home theater projectors. Where the LS10000 truly shines is in its extraordinary shadow detail. In the Blu-ray of the Eagles concert, the camera periodically pans to the audience to show viewer reactions, and of course the audience is in the dark. On most projectors audience pans like this look muddy and ill-defined. But the LS10000 is capable of separating shadow details to a degree rarely seen on a projector, so the audience pans are crisp, clear, with excellent detail, depth and three-dimensionality. You can actually see what's going on, even better than you could if you were there in person. On the LS10000 the audience pans actually become an engaging and exciting part of the video presentation because they make you feel like you are there.
Ultimately, the word that kept popping into my mind as I watched was how natural the image looks. It gives the impression of being a perfectly seamless analog picture--no hint of digital processing anywhere. One might say filmlike, but it is better than film. When viewing live performance material, the LS10000 delivers the video equivalent of the experience audiophiles seek when they go for the vinyl--a clarity and realism that imparts a sense of being in the presence of the performers.
NOTE: Our thanks to Stewart Filmscreen for providing the
Studiotek 130 and Studiotek 100 screens used in this review.