Epson LightScene EV-100 3LCD Laser Projector Review
EPSON LIGHTSCENE EV-100 PROs
- Built-in masking feature lets you project mood-setting images and windows of still or animated information
- Slick form factor fits unobtrusively in locations where decor matters—from upscale retail venues and hotel lobbies to museum and gallery exhibits
- Laser light engine with 20,000-hour rated lifespan
EPSON LIGHTSCENE EV-100 CONs
- WXGA (1280 x 800) native resolution limits the level of fine detail
- No geometric correction beyond keystone and four-corner controls
- Epson does not specify 24/7/365 operation
OUR TAKE ON THE EPSON LIGHTSCENE EV-100
The EV-100 is one of the first of a new category of projector. It's designed for decors where a boxy form factor would look out of place, it delivers features meant to take digital signage to a qualitatively different level, and it succeeds nicely on both scores.
The $2,499 Epson LightScene EV-100 represents a new category of projector, and that's only partly because it looks like an oversized spotlight.
The sleek form factor is designed to be unobtrusive in the kind of upscale locations—from retail shops, hotels, and watering holes to museums and galleries—where decor matters and a boxy projector would stick out like a sore thumb. And if the white EV-100 (with black front and rear panels) doesn't fit the decor, you can choose the otherwise identical black EV-105 instead. But what puts the projector in a new category depends just as much on features that extend the possibilities for what a projector can do.
Epson calls the EV-100 an Accent Lighting 3LCD Laser Projector. The projector itself is attached to its base by a 360-degree swivel joint and ball joint. Much like accent lighting, wherever you mount it, you can point it in nearly any direction to project on a ceiling, floor, wall or object of interest.
One potential category of applications Epson foresees for the EV-100 amounts to painting 3D objects with light. For example, a museum could reproduce a design that was originally on a faded, ancient vase, and project it on the vase so museum visitors can see what the vase looked like centuries ago. Similarly, customers in a retail store could choose from a list of colors and designs for, say, shoes to project the chosen design on a blank shoe-shaped block. This only requires the addition of your choice of third-party projection mapping software to align the image with the 3D object by correcting for geometrical distortion.
A second potential set of applications amounts to stepping up digital signage to a more sophisticated level. One of the demo clips Epson provided with the test unit projected a coffee cup shape and rotated though a series of animations filling the cup with labeled combinations of espresso, milk, and other ingredients, showing the names for each drink as well. It makes an eye-catching animated menu for a coffee shop. And thanks to a black mask around the coffee-cup shape—a built-in feature for the EV-100—there's little to no light spilling out in the area around it.
Another neat trick is that you can use the projector as a spotlight. If you use the built-in spotlight mode, you can you adjust shape, size, and color of the light easily. Alternatively, you can create a custom mask to throw a spotlight on an object, while also showing a video or text on a wall next to the object you're spotlighting. These functions further allow the EV-100 to project dynamic content onto floors for wayfinding.
You can also use the projector for more traditional applications, of course, including showing movies or business graphics. But there's little reason to consider the EV-100 if that's all you want to use it for.
The EV-100 offers a native resolution of 1280 x 800 and a rated ISO 21118 brightness of 2,000 lumens—with a slightly higher measured ANSI lumen brightness in my tests. (ISO 21118 and ANSI lumens use essentially identical procedures for measuring brightness.) Beyond that, the rated 2,500,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio helps ensure that black masks won't be visible as a noticeable glow around images, particularly in a room with ambient light. And the typically long light-source life for a laser engine, rated at up to 30,000 hours in Extended power mode, is absolutely required for the essentially maintenance-free operation you need for a projector meant for locations like retail stores and museums.
Epson LightScene EV-100 Features
The EV-100's usefulness for new applications rests partly on its physical design. Projection mapping will let you project images on 3D objects with any projector, for example, but the EV-100's spotlight form factor lets you surround the object with multiple projectors out in the open in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Beyond that, one of the central features in the EV-100 is its masking capability, which the projector menus refer to as Overlays and are built from a list of choices on its Shape menu. I'll cover the masking and how to use it in more detail a little later, but the key point is that you can choose a built-in or custom Shape and you can modify it in multiple ways so a particular Shape can give you a myriad of visual effects.
For example, if you start with one of the built-in circle shapes, you can resize it or turn it into an ellipse, and move it up, down, left, or right. You can also change the Mask setting to fill either the inside or outside of the area defined by the shape with either black or white, add a color filter to the part of the image that isn't masked, and lower the brightness of just the part of the image that isn't masked. Each of these choices is set independently, and you can put them together in any combination you like. Because digital settings offer discrete steps rather than continuous ranges, there's a limit on how many possible combinations there are, but the number is huge.
Another key feature is built-in edge blending, which is useful for creating seamless large displays from multiple projectors. And if you have multiple units, you can send data, as well as control the projectors, over wired or wireless network connections.
The EV-100 has an HDMI input, as well as wired and wireless LAN options, but more important for many potential applications is that the EV-100 can read files from an SD card. In addition to letting individual projectors run as standalone displays, this lets you take advantage of the free, downloadable Epson Projector Content Manager program to synchronize multiple projectors. Briefly, you can create multiple playlists of still images or videos in the program, complete with commands for when to run each playlist, and copy the files and playlists to SD cards. Each projector with an SD card will follow the same commands to play the appropriate playlist at the right time.
The EV-100 makes setup reasonably easy. It weighs only 15.2 pounds, complete with its default mount, and offers both powered zoom and focus. It also scores well on setup flexibility, thanks in part to the 1.58x optical zoom range, which should be enough in most cases to let you find a convenient distance for placement.
Given that you often won't be using standard rectangular screens or the full area of the imaging chip, throw distance range for a given screen size isn't as relevant as it is for most projectors. As a point of reference, however, the range for a 100-inch diagonal 16:10 screen is roughly 9.7 to 15.4 feet. You can use the ProjectorCentral Epson LightScene EV-100 projection calculator to find the throw distance range for the image size you want.
Should you have to position the projector farther away than the optical zoom can handle, the EV-100 adds a digital zoom. When you reach the full telephoto lens setting, the zoom menu shows a warning that you're about to switch to digital zoom, which makes it easy to avoid using it if you prefer not to. With digital zoom included, the total zoom is 2.21x.
As already mentioned, you can point the projector in almost any direction. Mount it on the ceiling, for example, and you can swivel it 360 degrees horizontally, meaning parallel to the ceiling. You can also adjust its pitch over 90 degrees to point straight down to the floor, effectively giving you 180 degrees in pitch if you also rotate it, and you can pivot it 90 degrees on its ball joint to roll to the side and up towards the ceiling, also giving you an effective 180 degrees of roll if you rotate it as well. Epson says the laser engine works without issues in any orientation.
The projector comes with a mount designed for a ceiling or wall. You can also get a $149 track lighting mount or $149 floor stand mount.
Note too that the EV-100 offers three predefined power levels: Normal, Quiet, and Extended. The rated lifetime is 20,000 hours in Normal and Quiet mode, which has both lower fan speed and lower brightness than Normal mode. The rating for Extended mode is 30,000 hours, thanks to its maintaining the same fan speed as Normal mode while delivering similar brightness to Quiet mode. As with many laser projectors, there's also a Custom mode. The Custom settings, from 50 to 100, are roughly equivalent to the percentage of maximum brightness.
- Sleek form factor; the EV-100 looks like an oversize white spotlight, letting it blend into the decor in a tony retail store, hotel lobby, or museum exhibit
- Also available in black as the Epson EV-105
- Fully sealed laser engine offers 20,000 hours of maintenance-free operation in Normal or Quiet power mode or 30,000 hours in Extended mode
- 1280 x 800 (WXGA) resolution
- 2,000 lumen rating using ISO 21118; measured at 2,362 ANSI lumens
- 3LCD technology ensures equal white and color brightness and no rainbow artifacts
- Dynamic contrast ratio rated at 2,500,000:1
- Can be ceiling- or wall-mounted with included mount; optional track lighting mount and floor stand also available
- When ceiling-mounted, can rotate 360 degrees in yaw (horizontally), up to 90 degrees in pitch and roll, effectively giving up to 180 degrees for both in combination with rotation
- Can send content by HDMI or by wired or wireless connection
- Can store content in a recorded playlist locally on an SD card
- Built-in edge-blending for creating images from multiple projectors with seamless overlap
- 4-corner correction
- 1.58x powered optical zoom; 2.21x optical plus digital
- 3-year, 20,000 hour warranty
Epson EV-100 Performance
The EV-100 offers two color preset modes: Normal and Dynamic, without much difference between the two. Dynamic mode is a touch brighter, at a measured 2,385 ANSI lumens compared with 1,987, but that's barely enough difference to notice. And as is common for 3LCD laser projectors, even the brightest mode offers suitably neutral color, which leaves no compelling argument for picking either one over the other.
With my standard suite of business graphics, both modes delivered vibrant, eye-catching color, and a notably bright yellow that's typical for 3LCD projectors. For photorealistic images, the color was accurate enough so I didn't see any color bias or obvious color error in any photos or video.
I even set the EV-100 up in my family room to watch TV and movies without seeing any obvious problems with color in either mode. That's not something anyone is likely to use this projector for, but the color accuracy and contrast is good enough so you could if you wanted to, which also makes it good enough for showing whatever graphics, video, and photos you want to use with it.
The powered focus offers fine enough control to make the EV-100 easy to adjust to the best possible focus. With the test unit, even that still left the focus a touch soft, but at a level that would be a problem only for images like engineering drawings with fine lines and small text. The focus was easily good enough for the kind of applications the EV-100 is meant for. I had no trouble reading white text on a black background or black text on a white background formatted at sizes as small as 7.6 points, even though the individual letters were not as crisp as they should be. Keep in mind that the EV-100 has only WXGA resolution, and so wouldn't be a first choice for very finely detailed graphics in any event.
The masking, or Overlay, feature is one of the most significant tools the EV-100 offers. To define an Overlay to use, you first have to set Overlay to On. You can then go to the Shape filter to chose from a list of 10 shapes, with three versions of circles, three versions of rectangles with rounded corners, and four predefined custom shapes, including a take-out coffee-cup shape and one that looks like a silhouette of three architecturally interesting side-by-side windows looking out at a tree and a flock of birds.
The circles and rectangles each have one version that offers full brightness from edge to edge; one that gets dimmer close to the edge, giving the edges a soft focus effect; and a third version that's similar, but with a wider dimmed area. You can also adjust the circle and rectangle shapes—but not the custom shapes—by height and width to change size and turn circles into ellipses.
The default Mask setting for each shape is Black Mask, which blacks out the part of the image that's being masked. So with a simple shape like a circle, the entire image outside the circle is solid black. You can change the Mask to white instead, and can also invert the mask, so with a circle the matte would block everything inside the circle instead of everything outside. With complex custom shapes, the Mask options behave the same way, but inside and outside are the wrong words to describe what's masked and what's visible.
You can also adjust the color for the part of the image that isn't masked. Choices for the Color Filter are Off, Warm White, Cool White, Red, Green, Blue, and Custom, which lets you adjust Red, Green, Blue individually, with settings of 0 to 100 for each.
Finally, you can adjust brightness for just the part of the image that shows through the matte, so it won't affect the white of a white mask. Settings range from 0 (which gives you black) to 100 (full brightness).
All of these settings are easy to use, and can give you some highly attractive effects. Using a video Epson supplied of what looked like puffs of color smoke, and the custom shape with three windows, I quickly created a visually interesting image that would serve nicely on a restaurant wall. And unlike the static pictures that hang on so many restaurant walls, these images can not only move, you can use the EV-100 to give you different images for lunch, dinner, and special occasions.
To turn on Spotlight mode, you simply press the Spotlight button on the remote. You can then use the EV-100 just like a spotlight, except you can also modify it. All the Effects settings I've described for the Overlay feature are also available for Spotlight mode.
Readers should note that with my Windows 10 PC I ran into a minor problem, which is similar to one I recently saw with another projector from a different manufacturer. After setting resolution using Windows Display settings to 1280 x 800, the EV-100 reported a 1920 x 1080 input for the signal and added scaling artifacts to the image. I did not see the problem on another PC running Windows 7. Epson says it was able to replicate the misreported resolution, but without the artifacts. It also says its testing indicates the problem is related to the video processor in the PC rather than the Windows version. At this writing, the company was still investigating and did not have a resolution.
You don't have to look past the physical design of the Epson LightScene EV-100 to see that it falls into a new projector category. But while the spotlight form factor is a major improvement over boxy designs for locations that care about decor, the EV-100 offers a lot more than good looks. Just as critical is the collection of well thought out features that make it an excellent choice for the kinds of applications Epson has in mind for it.
The physical design alone makes projector mapping applications that need projectors out in the open aesthetically acceptable, but it's the form factor in combination with the Overlay masking feature that opens the door to more sophisticated digital signage and mood-setting images in places like restaurants and hotel lobbies, where a boxy projector would simply look out of place.
One potential disadvantage for the EV-100 is that Epson does not claim suitability for 24/7/365 operation, which would be required for some variations of the applications it's meant for. For applications that don't run all day every day, however, that's not an issue.
The 1280 x 800 resolution is also a good choice for most purposes, allowing image detail equivalent to 720p, and the 2,000 lumen rating—and higher measurement in my tests—offers suitable brightness.
To put those specs firmly in context, it's worth mention that the EV-100 and EV-105 aren't the first projectors with a spotlight design. Panasonic offers two models with a similar form factor—or four, if you count the black and white versions of each separately—all built around a laser engine and a DLP chip. But the Panasonic PT-JW130 Space Player models offer 1280 x 800 resolution at only a 1,000-lumen rated brightness, while the PT-JX200 models offer a 2,000-lumen rating at only 800 x 600 resolution, which gives the EV-100 a clear edge over both. Adding to the advantage is that the EV-100 also costs less.
All told, the Epson LightScene EV-100 is an impressive representative of a new projector category. Its spotlight form factor lets it fit nicely in venues where you might otherwise rule out a projector; its Overlay masking makes it easy to create sophisticated digital signage and mood-setting images that would be difficult to create with most projectors; and features like its built-in edge-blending, Spotlight mode, and ability to run playlists from an SD card are highly welcome conveniences. At $2,499, the EV-100 is also an excellent value. It should find a home in all sorts of locations that can make use of its sleek look and its focus on what Epson describes as "a new category of laser projection for digital art, spatial design, and signage."
|Review Contents:||Features, Performance, Conclusion||Connections, Measurements|
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