Epson Home Cinema LS100 Laser Projector Review - Picture Quality 2

November 9, 2017

/ By Art Feierman

Epson LS100 Picture Quality pg 2:  Black Levels, Dark Shadow Detail, Overall Picture Quality

LS100 Black Level Performance

The LS100 is, as mentioned, extremely bright. It’s not built for the dedicated theater, but brighter rooms. It can play where LCD TVs play, but putting up a much larger image.

So its not a big surprise that black level performance is not a strength. It’s not that you don’t want great black level performance, but that with even a little light in the room, that negates a significant portion of the advantage of a projector with great blacks and one with, like ths LS100, black level performance above entry level, but still not true “ultra high contrast.” And speaking of contrast, we ignore manufacturer’s claims about contrast because they are dynamic, and there’s no firm rules on how to measure. We make our calls on how good black level performance is, by watching the projector in action. We find that dramatically more accurate than what some manufacturers throw out a specs.

If you are watching typical non-movie content, the performance is not an issue. For football games, Colbert, the late great House of Cards, because the scenes are at least partially medium to bright, you would hardly notice the difference. I’ve said this before: There typically isn’t a significant difference on a medium bright scene, between projectors with great black levels and those where they are only OK. The biggest difference - in reality - between a $1000 and a $5000 home theater projector is when viewing really dark scenes.

In a bright room environment, where the LS100 likes to call itself at home, great blacks are not near as important. Just a little ambient light – say a 30 watt incandescent bulb in a lamp in the back of your room, will wipe on the largest part of the difference in how those blacks look, between the LS100 and a theater oriented projector with exceptionally good black level performance like the HC5040UB (by far the best available under $3K), on a really dark scene.

The photo player shows the LS100 in action with some other sub $3000 projectors and one $9000 one. We use our usual Casino Royale / Bond night train scene for comparing. We convert the intentionally overexposed photos to greyscale so that differences in color do not become a distraction.

I’ve included the Epson HC5040UB in this group of images as an example of what a projector with great black levels looks like, compared to the LS100  and the assortment of other projectors from several well known brands. 

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Not one of these other projectors featured, is anywhere near as bright as the LS100.

Consider this – on a 100” screen, even in eco mode, the Epson LS100  hits the screen with about twice the maximum brightness spec’d for cinema projectors in the theater – twice the maximum, and about 5 times as bright as is typical in the theaters!

The photo player shows the LS100 in action with some other sub $3000 projectors. We use our usual Casino Royale / Bond night train scene for comparing. We convert the intentionally overexposed photos to greyscale so that differences in color do not become a distraction.

I’ve included the Epson HC5040UB in that group as an example of what a projector with great black levels looks like when shooting this “test” image, and also an assortment of similar and lower cost projectors from several well known brands.

Bottom line on black levels – you’ll probably want to have a little light on in this room when watching at night, because of the brightness of the LS100, so don’t stress the black level performance. If black level performance is critical to your viewing, you will be better served by other projectors – for example, the more featured, 4K capable, and less expensive Epson 5040UB. Nice to have a choice. That one though, won’t be UST or laser powered.

LS100 Dark Shadow Detail

No problems here. The LS100 does an excellent job. No surprise either because most projectors do, and Epson consistently is among the best. Non-issue.

Essentially, it's easier to spot the darkest shadow details on projectors that don't really great black level performance, than those that do.  Why you ask?  (good question - glad you thought of it).

If black levels are outstanding, that is, the areas that are supposed to be black - the total absence of light, will be very close to that on your screen. Then, an object in an image that is just the tiniest brighter than black (let's say 1 on a scale of 0-255, where black is 0, and white is 255), is obviously going to be hard to spot because it's virtually black.

That would be true in the real world - spotting detail in an almost black shirt being worn in a room with all the lights off, with the only light, perhaps a candle 30 feet away.

But with most projectors blacks are seen as medium dark grays, and near blacks a little brighter still.

Now it's like trying to spot that almost black shirt shirt in a room with some lights turned on.  Obviously that's easier.  OK, not my best ever attempt to describe the issue. (sorry 'bout that).  Hopefully, though, you "got it!"

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LS100 Overall Picture Quality

Since Epson’s Home Cinema LS100 is built to tackle less than ideal room environments, just pair it with the proper light rejecting screen, and you can enjoy excellent color, very good sharpness, and enough lumens behind it do do a better job than just about anything else out there on sports and most content. If, I repeat again, you are about movie viewing and maximum picture quality on the darkest of scenes, in the darkest room possible, wrong projector. It’s that easy.

I found that the LS100 worked at its best during the day, paired with my 100” diagonal light rejecting screen designed for UST projectors during what should be a pretty bright room in most peoples’ homes – and during all but the worst conditions in my absurdly bright living room at the worst times of day.

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The first six images in this photo player below were taken either in my theater or in the great room, with low to modest ambient light.  The rest were taken either during one of the brightest part of the days, daytime without the sun pouring in, or night time.  Night time shots were either with some 75 watt CFL's almost directly above the screen, or with those all off and moderate lighting in the back of the room.  Some will have captions with further info:

The rest of the time, on normal times in my room when sunlight isn’t streaming in, the LS100 nailed it. In my theater at night, I watched sports and movies, with my 6 down facing LED rear lights on, and it worked out great. Or during the day, I had my window shutters half open, and had plenty of brightness to spare, with viewers of Epson HC LS100 barely, if at all, noticing any affect from the ambient light!

The Bottom line - the LS100 can handle a pretty hefty amount of ambient light with no or little trouble, but in an absurdly bad room for viewing projectors or LCDTVs due to lots of sunlight and no shades at the worst time of the day, the LS100's picture quality definitely washes out a little. (It is true, however, that none of these images were shot in Dynamic - the brightest mode, but the one too strong on greens.

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