Pros: Bright enough for classroom, auditorium, business presentation, and reasonable HT video applications. Amazing lamp life.
Cons: Limited HT use for critical viewers
Since I was shooting with a VX2000 I needed a 4:3 bright projector that could also display reasonably clear video. I did a lot of research and found a compelling review at Projector Central of the NEC LT380. It has a 3000 ANSI Lumens rating and a full on/off contrast ratio of 600:1. It's resolution is 3 LCDs rated at 1024 x 768 each.
You can see their review here:
I bought the projector for around $2300 along with a spare bulb for $450. The last thing I needed was for the lamp to blow in the middle of a presentation without a spare. What is remarkable is that the original lamp still works very well despite the lamp life indicator nearly at the expiration point in terms of usage hours. The lamp seems very well made.
As a retired teacher I still had a lot of friends still teaching to test the projector for me in a classroom. They tested the projector with graphics, photos, and Power Point. They drove it from both a networked computer and a laptop both wired and wireless(using the included software). They tested it with the Presets for High Brightness and Presentation Mode favoring the Presentation mode when better color accuracy was preferred and High Bright when the rooms were large or the projector had to be placed further away. Color is very good for photos. They tested it against both a drop down screen and the walls. The projector has compensation settings for different colored walls. They also tested the keystone compensation adjustment which worked very well. The remote has a built in laser pointer. Despite the inability to darken the room completely in classrooms that had windows the projector displayed a satisfying image for their presentations. In all cases the projector's High Brightness vs Eco Mode switch was in the High Bright position to give it the additional boost. With every imaginable interface a classroom teacher or business person could ever need everyone raved about the projector.
Since it would be many months before I had to use the projector for a video presentation I ceiling mounted the projector at home and set it up for video. I used a home made 4:3 screen in the beginning at around 13 feet. I used the DVI input on the projector and fed it signals from a DVD player via HDMI to DVI cable. I also used Component and S-Video connections from various equipment. The room is very dark, but not pitch black. I used three of the Presets. High Brightness, Video, and Movie. Of the three, the only one that seemed OK was High Bright. The recommended setting was the custom setting called sRGB. The Projector Central review claimed, "In sRGB mode, a little adjustment was all it took to get the LT380 to reach near-perfect 6500K. " I was unable to do that. Despite the white balance and color adjustment settings, none of those settings seem to change anything to a noticeable degree. Via DVI there are no sharpness adjustments and although there are presets for Black Level, none could bring out the shadow detail I wanted. Was the shadow detail reasonable? Yes. Was I satisfied? No. I wanted this for displaying DVDs of stage productions I shot. With the necessary compression involved in Mpeg 2 rendering, blacks get crushed in dimly lit areas of a stage lit scene. Normal television programing and commercial DVDs also displayed some lost detail in darker scenes. Of course, a projector will never show the detail that an active display such as a plasma display will so perhaps I am expecting too much.
White and Black level adjustments help and need to be changed sometimes as needed. So custom s-RGB settings and High Brightness appear to be the two most useful settings along with High Bright lamp mode, not Eco lamp mode. There are many more available adjustments using composite, component, and S-Video, but DVI allows the proper scaling and will be the interface most people would use for video. Despite the projector being 4:3, 16:9 displays very well after one changes the aspect setting using the remote. My current screen is a 16:9 high gain drop down screen. With ambient light, the projector still handles itself quite well even though the contrast ratio for any projected video image is always lower than it's rating. I shoot in HD now and feed it signals from an HD portable media player and a Blu-ray player.
In the pitch black auditorium the projector suited my needs perfectly. Viewing angle was very good and no one sitting anywhere in the center section of the auditorium has ever complained about the image not being very very good. I still keep the distance between the projector and the screen at around 10 - 12 feet to maximize the contrast ratio and color resolution. The screen is an 80 inch screen. The projector continues to serve me well. It has never required any repair and has only required a disassembly and cleaning once. I did that myself, but I would not recommend it. It is complicated and delicate. I would recommend sending it out to be done.