Light output. The HC8000D-BL is rated at 1300 ANSI lumens. The projector does not have a high brightness preset in the same way that other projectors have Dynamic or Presentation mode, but high lumen output can still be obtained by switching the projector to the 3D preset, then changing color temperature to the High Brightness setting. This combination, along with setting the lamp to full power, yields 1293 lumens.
A large portion of that brightness comes from using the high brightness color temperature setting. When you switch back to Medium, which is the default, light output drops to 913 lumens. This gives the picture the much more balanced appearance that is desired for 3D home theater viewing.
For home theater use with 2D content, the go-to setting is Cinema. Out of the box, Cinema mode provides the best contrast and color performance for high-definition film and video, and in this mode the projector produces 626 lumens with full lamp power and 454 lumens in eco mode. The 25% eco-mode reduction in light output increases lamp life from 3,000 to 5,000 hours.
The HC8000D-BL has a secondary iris system that can be set to either "high brightness" or "high contrast" and has a significant effect on black levels and overall contrast. The above readings were all taken with the iris in "High Brightness" mode. Our preferred mode for 2D high definition content is Cinema mode, High Contrast iris, Eco lamp mode. This reduces light output to 359 lumens (a 21% reduction), but the dramatic deepening of the projector's black level is more than worth the trade-off. If you need more light than that, putting the lamp to Normal power boosts output to 496 lumens even with the iris set to High Contrast.
Interestingly, despite the HC7800D being rated at 1500 lumens, the HC8000D-BL is just as bright as its predecessor in the modes that count. Whereas the HC7800D measured 609 lumens in Cinema mode high lamp, the HC8000D-BL measures 626 lumens. Specifications don't tell the whole story.
Contrast. The HC8000D-BL is rated at 330,000:1 on/off contrast, whereas the HC7800D was rated at 100,000:1. This translates into a better black level on the HC8000D-BL. If you switch the HC8000D-BL's secondary iris to High Brightness mode, the two projectors' black levels are about equal.
As for gamma, the HC8000D-BL's Cinema mode defaults to the appropriately-named Cinema gamma, which measured 2.2 on our test sample. The projector also has a preset gamma setting labeled "2.2," which measured identically. Either setting will produce the correct amount of shadow detail without crushing the low end of the image while also preventing blowout in the highlights. If you want a picture with more apparent punch, you can use the 2.4 gamma preset, which makes the picture look more three-dimensional and high in contrast at the expense of a small amount of deep shadow detail. Overall, we felt the viewing experience was more satisfying with gamma set to 2.4.
RGB levels before calibration
Color. While each projector is a little bit different, we had to do very little fine-tuning to get the HC8000D-BL looking its best. Ours came out of the box measuring around 6300K, but with slightly too much green in the image and a slight deficit of blue. After a few tweaks (we took Green Brightness and Contrast down about 4 points each and gave Blue Brightness a two-point boost), our test unit gave us a nice, smooth 6500K across the board.
RGB levels after calibration
Gamut in Cinema mode closely conforms to the Rec.709 standard color space, though there is some initial error as is found in almost all projectors. Color gamut calibration is something of an "advanced maneuver" for the average home user, and it's just about impossible to do it without a good meter, but luckily the HC8000D-BL does not differ from the specification enough to make a visible difference. For most folks, it's perfectly fine to leave the gamut right where it is.
Saturation by default is a touch subdued, so we gave that a slight boost. The resulting picture is bright and vibrant, with plenty of pop.
Sharpness and detail. The picture produced by the HC8000D-BL has plenty of detail, and HD content looks superb. However, at times it can appear slightly less detailed than its competitors due to a couple of factors. For one, the HC8000D-BL has no smart-sharpening or detail clarity system, a feature which some folks like and some don't. Secondly, while the HC8000D-BL is high in contrast, some competing units can achieve an incrementally higher contrast which can produce a slight improvement in detail definition. Using the 2.4 gamma preset narrows this gap by making the picture appear higher in contrast.