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Big, Bright, and Not All Business:
Using A Commercial Projector in Your Family Room-Part 2

M. David Stone, February 13, 2019
Review Contents

Editor's Note: In Part 1 of this article , contributing editor M. David Stone explained how high-brightness business projectors differ from traditional home theater projectors, how we went about our testing of three commercial projectors, and some basic performance characteristics of our samples. In Part 2, he discusses how these projectors measured for brightness and fared in the key areas of color, contrast, and black level, and describes how an ambient-light-rejecting screen affects image quality in different lighting conditions.—Rob Sabin

Color Performance for Film and Video

Our first goal was to see how easy these projectors were to optimize and how well they performed after optimization. Here's a snapshot look at the performance for each of our three sample business projectors, the BenQ LH770 (5,000 lumens, $5,000), Optoma ZH500T (5,000 lumens, $2,999), and Epson Pro G7905U (7,000 lumens, $4,387).

BenQ LH770 Performance

BenQ-LH770-Front-500

Video Optimized Modes. The LH770 lets you save changes to each color mode. Optimize each one, and you can use whichever mode delivers the best balance of brightness and image quality for the current level of ambient light as it changes through the day as a consequence of changes in sunlight coming in or turning lights on or off.

The LH770 delivers acceptably realistic looking color despite some minor compromises. Adjusting color so blue skies don't occasionally turn green in sRGB mode, for example, yielded a slightly bluish black in a dark room. However, it was not noticeable with ambient light. Also, after adjusting brightness and contrast using display setup test patterns, Bright mode looked a little washed out. After optimization, the three most useful color modes were Bright for highest brightness; Vivid, which was almost as bright, but delivered better color accuracy and contrast; and sRGB for the best color accuracy and contrast.

Color Preset Performance. Note that we tested an early production unit of the LH770 with firmware version 1.00 that suffered obvious color inaccuracies in all of its color preset modes, notably reds with a blue shift in some modes, and blues shifted toward red or green in others. After color adjustments, however, most colors in most scenes were well within a realistic range.

BenQ says the color was tuned this way initially for some specific commercial applications, but firmware version 1.02, available on newly shipped units and to existing owners via a firmware update, provides a more color-accurate preset for film and video. According to BenQ, selecting the sRGB mode and turning off the DLP Brilliant Color feature delivers a color profile similar to BenQ's typical Cinema preset for those who wish to do less tuning out of the box. Users who need to perform the update should contact BenQ customer support for instructions.

Brightness. In its brightest mode, before adjusting brightness, contrast, or color, the LH770 ANSI lumen measurement was roughly 80% of its rated 5,000 lumens, which BenQ says is a little lower than expected, and may also be due to its being an early production unit. The measurements for each color mode in Normal and Eco power modes (HDMI input, lens in its widest angle position) are as follows for the brightest mode with default settings and for each mode with optimized settings in that mode:

BenQ LH770 ANSI Lumens


MODE Normal Eco
Bright 3977 3160
Optimized Settings
Bright 3133 2474
Presentation 2968 2359
sRGB 2403 1910
Vivid 2907 2310
Infographic 2760 2193

Low Brightness Mode. Eco mode lowers light output by roughly 21%, delivering 2,474 lumens for the brightest mode with optimized settings.

Zoom Lens Effect on Brightness. The 1.5x zoom lens curtails light by roughly 23% at the full telephoto end of the range, giving a measured 3053 lumens in Bright mode with default settings.

Brightness Uniformity. At 73% brightness uniformity with the lens at the wide angle end of its range and 76% at the telephoto end, the LH770 does better for uniformity than most inexpensive home theater projectors. A solid white image showed a touch higher brightness at the bottom middle and left, slowly dropping going up and to the right, but the difference is too little to see with movies or video.

Epson Pro G7905U Performance

EpsonG7905U-RightAngle-500

Video Optimized Modes. In addition to its predefined color modes, the G7905U can store 10 customized settings, which lets you calibrate, store, and retrieve optimized settings for multiple lighting conditions, from nighttime with lights turned off to bright daylight streaming through windows. It can also store 10 sets of combined settings for its powered zoom, focus, and lens shift, so you can easily switch between, say, 16:9 and Cinemascope 2.41 aspect ratios if you want a constant image height setup. It can even store three sets of geometric correction settings.

After optimization, the G7905U delivers a close color match to a reference projector along with suitable contrast and black level for video and film in Dynamic, Presentation, and Cinema modes. Even Cinema, with the lowest brightness of the three, delivers a whopping 5,115 lumens at 16:9 aspect ratio, making it bright enough to light up a 180" 1.0 gain screen in moderate ambient light.

Color Preset Performance. The G7905U offers highly watchable video with default settings in all modes except Dicom Sim, which is meant for x-rays and the like. Cinema delivered the best contrast and most accurate, neutral color. It also did the best job holding subtle gradations in midtones. Dynamic and Presentation modes came in just a bit lower on all three scores. Multi-Projection and sRGB modes are best described as usable, but lacking saturation. They also delivered lower contrast and sense of depth than the other modes. Brightness. With default settings, the G7905U test unit essentially matched its 7,000-lumen rating, measuring 7,049 ANSI lumens. That's a touch brighter than the G7905U we looked at for a Road Test back in 2016, but within the expected variation from one unit to another.

As mentioned earlier, the more relevant brightness for this discussion is for the non-native 16:9 aspect ratio, where the G7905U uses only 90% of its 16:10 imaging area. For each color mode in both Normal and Eco power modes, the ANSI lumen measurements for a 16:9 image in the brightest mode with default settings and in each optimized color mode are as follows (HDMI input, lens in its widest angle position):

Epson Pro G7905U ANSI Lumens


At 16:9 Aspect Ratio

(ANSI Lumens at 16:10 would be roughly 11% higher)


MODE Normal Eco
Dynamic 6269 4890
With Optimized Settings Normal Eco
Dynamic 6228 4858
Presentation 5166 4030
Cinema 5115 3990
sRGB 4758 3711
Dicom Sim 4754 3708
Multi-Projection 5228 4078

Low Brightness Mode. Eco mode reduces brightness by 22%, leaving the optimized version of the brightest mode at a solid 4,858 ANSI lumens.

Zoom Lens Effect on Brightness. The standard 1.6x zoom lens for the G7905U curtails light by only 16% at the telephoto end of the range, a lower than typical drop in brightness compared with the wide angle end for this level of zoom. For Bright mode with default settings, Normal power, and 16:9 aspect ratio, it translates to 5,265 ANSI lumens.

Brightness uniformity. The measured 80% uniformity for the G7905U is lower than the 89% we saw with the earlier test unit, but high enough that few, if any, will consider it a problem. A solid white test image shows the bottom left corner as the brightest area, with brightness dimming slightly going up and to the right. With video and film, the difference was impossible to see.

Optoma ZH500T Performance

Optoma ZH500T-LeftAngle-500

Video Optimized Modes. The ZH500T can save modifications to only one color preset mode. Make any change to any preset, and the changed version immediately becomes the new, and only, User mode. Rather than adjusting color and other settings every time you change the color mode, it makes more sense to pick one to modify and save, and use the default settings for other color modes you may switch to occasionally when you need a different brightness.

We suspect most people will chose Bright mode as the preset to start with for video optimized settings for the same reasons we did. In addition to it being the brightest mode, we were able to adjust the color to fall within a realistic looking range in the vast majority of clips we looked at without changing the measured brightness significantly.

With its default settings, Bright mode has a slight green bias that shows primarily in skin tones. However, it can be adjusted to a nearly neutral color. And at 4,195 ANSI lumens, it is bright enough to fill a 180-inch diagonal 1.2-gain screen in moderate ambient light.

Color Preset Performance. Straight out of the box, Movie mode has a slight green bias, but less so than Bright with default settings, while Blending mode has the most obvious green shift. Presentation mode offers more accurate color by default, but loses subtle gradations in midtones, which makes rounded objects like close-ups of faces look flat instead of three dimensional. Dicom Sim is designed for medical images like x-rays. For the most accurate color out of the box, but lowest brightness, sRGB delivers 1,350 ANSI lumens—enough to light up a 100" 1.2-gain screen in moderate ambient light.

Brightness. The ANSI lumen measurements for each color mode in Normal and Eco power modes (HDMI input, lens in its widest angle position) are as follows:

Optoma ZH500T ANSI Lumens


MODE Normal Eco
Bright (default) 4195 2859
Presentation 3016 2056
Movie 2317 1579
sRGB 1350 920
Blending 2544 1734
Dicom Sim 3111 2121
Bright (after adjustment) 4190 2856

Low Brightness Mode. We measured Eco mode at 32% lower brightness than Normal mode, or roughly 2,860 lumens for the video optimized setting.

Zoom Lens Effect on Brightness. The 1.6x zoom lens curtails light by roughly 32% at the full telephoto end of the range, for a measured brightness of 2,860 ANSI lumens in Bright mode with default settings.

Brightness Uniformity. The ZH500T's brightness uniformity came in at a solid 85% with the lens at its full wide angle setting and 74% at the full telephoto end of its range. With a solid white image, the bottom center is the brightest area, with the brightness dimming slightly going up and to each side. Even at the full telephoto setting, the uniformity is better than most inexpensive home theater projectors offer, and too little to see with photorealistic images.

Next Page
Contrast and Black Level
Review Contents: Color Performance Contrast and Black Level Conclusion
Comments (3) Post a Comment
MICHAEL J JOHNSON JR Posted Feb 14, 2019 7:25 AM PST
Very disappointed in the black and contrast level testing for the Optoma DLP laser projector. With the Optoma ZH500T, 920 lumens is too bright for dark screen viewing? On your home theater dlp lamped based reviews, where most "Movie modes" are a 1000 lumens, that has never been mention as a problem.

Also the ZH500T has a "ExtremeBlack" feature that modulates the laser for better blacks levels and contrast. Why wasn't that mentioned? Was it tested? Why no actual report on how good or bad the black levels are? Are they more dark gray than black or are the better than lamped based projectors when the lumen brightness are matched?
bob osterman Posted Feb 22, 2019 8:11 AM PST
Michael

I don't think the article says that 920 lumens is too bright for dark screen viewing. I read it as saying that for a 110 inch screen, 920 lumens gives a brighter image than the 22 foot lamberts that SMPTE recommends as a maximum. All that means is that you need a bigger screen than 110 inches.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Feb 22, 2019 8:41 AM PST
Bob's more literal interpretation is the correct way to read this, as the reference here is to the SMPTE recommendation for dark-room viewing. And yes, a larger screen would obviously reduce the brightness.

To Michael's point, though, the comment is perhaps not properly placing this in full context of our overall experience. In reality, we typically measure something between, say, 600 and 950 lumens of brightness on a Cinema or Film mode, the variance being the difference between the least bright and most bright lamp mode. So maybe this 920 lumens referenced would be acceptable, but without any ability on a "typical" 110-inch screen to reduce the light output to something more comfortable than what a high lamp mode would generate. That simply may be too bright and fatiguing for some people.

But I think there's a more subjective debate to be had here about how bright is too bright in terms of a peak-white reading OFF the screen these days (lumen measurements are taken facing the lens). Our columnist Terry Paullin, who has built home theaters for 30 some-odd years, recently wrote that he recommends a projector with enough output to generate a minimum of 25 ft-L coming off the screen and personally likes it up around 40 ft-L for his own viewing. (See his article here.) That 25 to 30 ft-L is a nice target for an HDR viewing mode on a 4K projector in actual use, but may be too bright for long-term viewing in a dark theater with SDR content for some people. But it won't be for others. I also lean toward a brighter pictures, and may end up with a measured 35 or so ft-L off the screen in SDR for a 100 IRE, 18% window (not full frame). For the HDR mode, it can be as high as 50 or more ft-L if the projector accommodates. Of course, you're viewing those 100% peaks very infrequently and the average picture level of most content is well below 50%.

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