I just got home from Bob's house (ultra 150 pilot on the forum). He kindly invited me over to check out the Epson LS10000 he currently has on loan from a friend of his who happens to be an Epson dealer with access to these units. I just thought I'd write this up now while things are still fresh in my head.
When I first arrived we fired up the Epson and viewed that for about a half an hour. I was curious to check out the LS10000 with the 4K e-shift enhancement turned off to see what the lens looks like. I would say the Epson has an excellent lens on par with the JVCs, with the JVC having an ever so slight advantage over the Epson in my opinion, but we're really splitting hairs here. Focus uniformity was excellent even when using quite a bit of zoom to fill Bob's 16/9 126" diagonal screen. My initial impression was that contrast with and without the laser dimming ("dynamic iris") turned on looked excellent. We watched a little blu-ray (The Hobbit part 2) from my HTCP. After that Bob was curios to check out the Runco Q750i which I also brought along with my JVC DLA-X500. Obviously the Runco has a disadvantage in contrast, brightness, and several other image processing features both newer units have such as smart sharpening, frame interpolation, support for 3D, motorized lens functions and a few other odds and ends. Bob and I were amazed at how well it was able to keep considering the laundry list of things going against it. For a projector with a light path, lens, and processing getting close to 10 years old now (as it's based on the same hardware as the Planar PD8150) it's clear that it was well ahead of it's time in terms of image quality when it first came out.
I forget the timing and arrangement of things from here on out a bit because we swapped out projectors quite often with different material to do comparisons, but at one point after lunch we spent about 3-4 hours with the JVC DLA-X500 and Epson LS10000 A/B'ed and brightness matched next to each other. Both projectors were fed blu-ray content from Bob's Oppo BDP-105. After all these two projectors were really the main show of the day. If you read the Epson LS10000 thread, Bob mention from recollection (before the meet today) he thought the Epson was definitely sharper overall, but acknowledged to me that his copy of the RS4910 (same model as the X500) had bad lens sample as it was no where near as sharp as my X500 copy. As mentioned before, pre e-shift (without any sharpening on either) the images looked about equal if not a smidgen sharper on the X500 on the pixel level. This was also observed with several close-up shots of faces. I suspect if we had a much larger screen where we could have had the images next to each other larger the difference would have been clearer. The JVC just seemed better overall in the native sharpness department. Then we decided to enable e-shift on both. The JVC I'm familiar with having 4 different X500's and one of each of the previous generation units with prior versions of e-shift (X90 and X55). The JVC looked good with eshift, but we noticed something striking with the Epson. It looked very soft. This was 4K-3. We then disabled e-shift and BLAM super sharp. Re-enabled e-shift with the 4K-5 setting (the most aggressive)...still soft. There was clearly "smart sharpening" enabled which was visible as it gave skin a gritty and "hard" look to them, but even still with JVC eshift on the JVC was clearly sharper looking to the both of us. Then we matched the Epson's smart sharpening by turning up the MPC controls (we just turned enhance to 50 as that seemed about as aggressive as 4K-3). I still have to give the JVC the nod. When e-shift is enabled on both, to the two of us at least, the Epson just didn't look anywhere near as good in terms of sharpness. But disable eshift on both and the two images were basically equal again. We thought this was kind of odd, but that's just what we witnessed.
Next up; contrast differences. Again, the two images were brightness matched and the same image width next to one another. The JVC, to me at least, was a clear winner with very dark content. The Epson can definitely hold it's own against the JVC with everything but fairly dark material. We did notice anytime subtitles engaged in a dark scene the JVC was head over heals better. The laser dimming can only do so much when the JVC has about double the native contrast. Bright material looked equal to our eyes. I think that was the consensus. Neither was visibly better than the other for that type of content. Motion looked to be equal, though we weren't choosing torture tests for motion to spot differences. I'd say they're on par in that regard from the 5-6 hours of content we saw throughout the day. Both units have issues with "lens streaking". Considering both units are fairly different internally (different lenses, different micro-displays, light sources, light paths, ect) I'm starting to wonder if this phenomenon is just something that all ultra high contrast projectors suffer from. The FFTB on the Epson was a bit odd for me. It goes nicely into it without being overly obvious, but it's a bit sluggish on both "normal" and "high speed" DI modes coming out of it. It's just not my cup of tea and I wish Epson would have given a third mode that doesn't do it. The good thing is that if you choose "normal" mode the fade to black needs to stay black for a few seconds before the lasers turn off, so you can mostly avoid this from happening. Overall an excellent DI though. I was expecting worse. I don't think we really noticed either working in an obvious way all day with the exception of the Epson coming out of fades to black. The JVC is just quicker in it's iris's movement. The Q750i is even faster.
I brought my Leo Bodnar input lag tester with me and I tried for about 10 minutes, but for some reason it would NOT pick up a consistent lag reading, so I'd go off of the numbers posted elsewhere for the time being. We did witness more input lag with the Epson with scene transitions and lip sync, especially when eshift was enabled on both. It's less evident but still a tad more on the Epson with a straight 1080p image going to both.
Another interesting thing of note was that, for a long while, we witnessed what seemed like a lot more image noise on the JVC compared to the Epson. And for a bit I had my Lumagen Radiance XD connected to the X500 and for some reason that was exacerbating the image noise by a large amount. We took it out of the mix, it helped, but there was still more on the JVC. So I was curious if the Epson has some sort of non-defeatable noise reduction going on so we took out the JVC and replaced it with the Q750, which has the cleanest image out of basically every projector I've had here. That is, the Q750i doesn't add or detract noise. If noise is in the source, the Q750i will display it. What we saw was more noise on the Q750i compared to the Epson, so this leads me to believe that much hunch is true and even when the NR is at 0 in the menu system there is some other setting, possibly in the service menu, that is always on and reducing noise. For Bob, this was a plus, as he likes a clean image. But for me, I'd rather have the image retain noise if it's in the source. Older movies with film grain may be compromised a bit on the Epson without a way to turn off that NR. With that said, the JVC was still adding a bit of extra noise that wasn't there in the source, but for me, it's not a deal breaker as it's something you'd only notice A/B'ed, like we had it, against a projector that is less "noisy".
Great segue. Noise, audible noise that is
The JVC is quieter. The Epson in it's "medium" mode is about as loud as the JVC is in "high lamp mode". This was surprising to me considering the size difference between the two chassis. I was expecting it to be the other way around.
We took a look at 3D on the Epson and I thought it was extremely impressive. We watched Star Trek: Into Darkness and it looked marvelous on the Epson. I didn't notice any flicker when I took the glasses off. The Epson is forced into high laser mode, that is, you cannot use any other laser mode while viewing 3D. The dynamic iris can be enabled, but eshift is not accessible for use in 3D mode like it is on the JVC. We didn't look at frame interpolation on either unit. Sorry guys, but I don't think this our cup of tea. I just don't like using it and Bob didn't mention turning it on so I don't think he typically uses it either.
Overall I was extremely impressed with the Epson. For me, I still think the JVC has an overall better image. Between the higher native contrast, similar light output, better handling of darker scenes, better handling of the darkest of scenes, the slightly sharper native image, and the clearly sharper e-shifted image, and a bunch of other odd and ends really goes to show you how much value the X500 is and for me a better image. For as low as $3000 for a b-stock and around $4000 for a new unit, I honestly don't know of any other projector that has ever given THIS much much bang for the buck. I don't know if Bob agrees with this sentiment entirely (though he does on the value proposition), but I'm sure he'll be giving us his take on the day as well at some point so I'll let him speak about that. I think Bob said it best; "The images are more similar than different." I was honestly surprised at close they were with much of the content we viewed today. But for me, at least from a picture quality standpoint, this the JVC is better. The laser does add some extra value to the Epson, but it doesn't seem to do anything for the image. It will last much longer than the bulb currently in my JVC and the calibration will hold longer as well. So Epson definitely has that over the JVC. If this is something you value, go with the Epson, but the JVC is definitely a better value and had a better overall image after seeing the two next to one another today. Most I suspect would be happy with either.