A few weeks ago, I replaced an Optoma HD81-LV with a Runco LS-3. I had planned on buying an LS-5, but the small size of my HT room necessitated the addition of the $995 short throw lens, which made me rethink the LS-5 vs. LS-3 due to budget constraints and concerns over buying 2008 technology. I was happy enough with the Optoma image, but I literally went through over a dozen units under warranty due to failures of all sorts.
I demoed the Runco LS-5, 750 LED and a 3-chip model. I liked the LS-5 better than the LED (didn't like the color), the 3-chip was too expensive and way too bright for my 100" wide 2:35 Stewart Studiotek screen. I also demoed the latest JVC LCOS model and was underwhelmed as I had been in 2006 when I bought my OptomaHD-81 DLP, before trading for an HD-81LV in 2007. I guess I'm just a DLP junky! I had looked at an Optoma HD8200 a couple of years ago, but found the smaller DMD to be a bit soft, more like the JVC's apparent sharpness.
The LS-3 seems to be pretty close to the LS-5, certainly a big step in CR over the Optoma, whose DI never worked. Overall, the image seems to look more "sophisticated" for lack of a better word, with better motion. The color is more accurate, low light scenes are more believable as far as black levels. There is less overall image noise and fan noise is lower when in economy mode. Source switching processing is much faster than the Optoma. The HD81-LV was too bright with new bulbs, but luckily had a manual iris. I have yet to see any rainbow artifacts with the Runco, whereas I did fairly often with the Optoma. I also seem to see less 8-bit artifacts with the Runco for some reason. Optics are quite good, no apparent chromatic aberration is evident to me, sharpness is good edge to edge. I use a Panamorph 480 which softens the image a bit and reduces contrast, but still offers a very compelling image.
My installation not only required the short throw lens in full wide and vertical shift as far as it would go, the projector had to be so close to the rear wall that I left the rear cover off!
Now for the things that are a bit problematic with the LS-3:
Light leak from the lens around the right side of the image, much like my Optoma had on left and right, albeit more subtle.
Adaptive Contrast unusable due to crushing of blacks.
Don't like SATCO, didn't like Brilliant Color on Optoma either.
Constant Contrast seems to work well most of the time, but I have seen flicker in flat field areas several times, including a green screen scene from camera original files that I was playing right out of a Canon C300 at 50Mbps, 4:2:2. This scared me for a moment, making me think there was something wrong with the footage I had shot that day, until I turned off Constant Contrast and the issue went away. I also see a slight color temperature change with CC on.
I'm uncertain at this point whether I will continue to use Constant Contrast--while I haven't seen picture level pumping or too much crushing of the low or high end, the flicker is unacceptable when it occurs infrequently. I know I will lose CR with it off, but the LS-3 is still much better in the blacks than the HD81-LV, even with CC off.
Overall, the LS-3 is a nice step above the Optoma, which are only about a year apart on model year release(the Planar 8130 debuting in 2008, I believe, the HD81-LV in 2007), both having the same price point originally. As a director of photography, I often watch footage that I shot during the day, monitored on broadcast LCD displays on set, then with the LS-3 at night. The Runco image is very close to what I saw on set. This is important to me. I'm certainly hoping for better reliability as well. I previously had 13 years of reliability from a Sony 1251Q CRT projector, so the Optoma experience was a shock.
Edited by Jeff Regan - 7/23/12 at 3:27pm