I'm really on the fence between the new JVC and the new Sony 500ES 4K unit (I can get a very good deal on the Sony here, though it still makes it just under twice as expensive as the JVC).
I've always loved deep black levels and I'm intrigued by the new JVCs on that count (and any other improvements they've made). But I also sometimes wish for more brightness, because I know that can really bring some great qualities to the party as well.
Yesterday I was able to spend a bit of time watching some familiar Blu-Rays on the big Sony VW1000ES, under imperfect conditions in a store (a relatively small black diamond screen, not perfect light control).
What I saw was truly amazing image sharpness, like "Ah, now I know what it's like to experience higher level lens optics." I thought the image on my JVC RS55 was almost as sharp as it gets, until I saw the Sony.
Motion was better too insofar as the first fly-over of the spaceship in Alien seemed clearer than it's ever been on my JVC projectors.
So the 3 main things that struck me about the image were: clarity, detail and contrast. The first two I kind of expected due to the optics and what had been reported with reality creation. But I'd really wondered about the contrast. The thing is the Sony was looking more impressive not only on bright scenes, which had more depth and "pop" (e.g. in Oblivion where Tom Cruise is walking behind windows on his way to the first scene in which he's about to drive his ship, the sense of layering and reflections on windows was palpable beyond what I"ve seen at home). But also the Sony looked more impressive in scenes like the opening of Alien, right after the credits there's that shot of the Nostromo ship against space, with the lighting fairly muted on the ship so it's a pretty low APL scene. What struck me is how the contrast actually looked better than what I see at home on the JVC - the ship looked brighter, more contrasty and visible against the black background and there were variations in the brightness of stars that I'd never seen before, some sticking out looking quite bright. These are exactly the type of scenes that the JVCs are supposed to have an advantage in so that was a bit of a surprise.
The inside of the Nostromo shots, the camera prowling through the ship, looked more "there" in terms of the variation of illumination within, the solidity of objects, and the amount of detail, shadow detail, fine detail, was more than I've seen before. All those red, white and yellow equipment lights the crew turn on in their cockpits just leapt off the screen, the contrast looking so high.
What were the image settings on the Sony? I don't know. I do know reality creation was on, and the colors were a bit over-cooked, so clearly not optimal.
So then I got home, put on the same scenes on the JVC and...was a bit deflated. Suddenly they looked dimmer and more flat, less detailed, less sharp as well. There certainly was a clear difference in image brightness, even though I zoomed my JVC down to the same image size I'd just been watching, and (in low lamp) opened the iris all the way, which I don't normally do.
It got me wondering how much of what I was seeing on the Sony was the difference in sheer brightness.
So I put the JVC into high lamp mode, which edged the image into a bit more pop and contrast. Then I took it out of it's calibrated mode into another picture mode - I can't remember which, maybe another user mode, but clearly one that was less muted and looked more dynamic. Once I'd made all these steps the image started looking more like the Sony, having that "pop" and contrast. It did a decent job of maintaining
that look when I expanded the image to a 112" wide scope image. Although all this certainly also raised the black levels and lowered contrast somewhat on my projector, the perception was higher contrast, and though the black levels were probably lower still on my JVC, I wouldn't say it quite reached the levels of the Sony in terms of image dimensionality overall. And definitely not for overall image/shadow detail. The details that were so easy to see in the Nostromo ship fly-bys and interiors, due to clarity and brightness and contrast, weren't as obvious on the JVC.
So...I'm not sure what to think. The JVC could start doing some of what I saw with the Sony, but only in high bulb mode, with the image put out of calibration. Once I went back to my normal settings I could see all sorts of images that, while they looked really nice, I knew could also benefit from some more "oomph" that a Sony would bring. But then...I'm not sure how the black levels would be for me on the Sony once in my bat-cave conditions, especially with the 500ES being lower contrast than the 1000ES. I'm still stuck between "go for the JVC because financially it's relatively painless and I can live with whatever upgrade it brings until 4K shakes out next year...and hopefully I can find a similar deal next year on a Sony if I find myself still pining for one." Or...grab the Sony now, and hope that it retains some re-sale value at all, so that if I flip it for a higher contrast model in a year or two, given I got a really good deal, it wouldn't be too painful to do so. And then I think: what if I get the Sony, love the brightness, but find myself missing the JVC's black levels.
Well, then I'll have adjusted myself to the amazing brightness of the Sony over the JVC, and I'll likely miss that aspect of the Sony if I go back to JVC. With the JVC since I'm used to it's level of brightness there is a sort of "don't know what's missing if I don't have it" thing. (Except, now I think I kind of do know...)
But this is one reason I'm wondering if Sony tends to increase their native contrast ratio each year like JVC or not; whether we can expect next year's Sony 4K models to increase contrast.
And, in a Sony thread...I wonder what people are going to advise
(As you can see, Mark H, I'm still torn...mostly because my decision has to be immanent).