Finally got fed up with measuring, calculating and day-dreaming whether an Epson 8350 would work with my family room so I bought one last night from a place with no restocking fee to test it out for real. Not too shabby.
10.5 ft viewing distance with a throw of 12 or so ft. Projected it on a cream wall opposite a very large window (open area to the left of this wall, a dark red wall to right of it, white ceiling, light carpet, dark brown furniture and black out curtains for the big window). Even with the curtain open and late afternoon, cloudy-day light flooding the room, it projected a decently viewable picture.
The convergence was perhaps a pixel or so off. Obviously, I didn't notice it from my seating distance. The picture was sharp, although I expect it would be much, much sharper on a screen as opposed to my lightly textured wall. My room setup requires the use of a lot of lens shift, which is why I really needed to try one out for real to see if my math was workable. At times I had both vertical and horizontal at their max. I closely inspected the image for issues with extreme lens shift and could not see any.
I dialed in a few settings (auto iris: fast - yes I did notice it lag on pure black screens, but not during live content; 2:2 on; HDMI range was automatic (although, expanded would blow out the blacks); superwhite off; rgb on; played with the contrast and few other setting, and used cinema for my all-dark viewing -- sometimes with eco mode and sometimes not. Overall, not remotely fine tuned, but probably slightly better than out of the box - for a cream wall.
I had no sound since my sound system was on the opposite side of the room. With the projector 2-3 feet above my head and directly to my right (and my loud, old style fat PS3 at head level to my right), I could hear the auto-iris grind a little like a hard drive. I have dog-like hearing (it's about my only natural talent) and I did not find it annoying, and I doubt it would be very noticeable with the sound on. However, the projector fan was noticeable (definitely more so in normal mode). Buuut. I think typical sound would cover it up and move it to background noise (like when your heater is running and you sort of forget that it is).
After removing the ambient light from the room, I ran the projector thru the paces with the expected blu-rays off my PS3 (Avatar, Dark Knight, 127 Hours, Toy Story 3) along with Netflix streaming (both Hi-Def and Standard) and DVDs (Revenge of the Sith). I continually changed the size of the picture, ranging from approx. 100" - 120".
Blu-rays looked great, as expected. Both Standard and Hi-Def Netflix streaming looked much better than I expected. I don't deny I was disappointed with DVD (it looked worse than Netflix streaming SD). Revenge of the Sith is one of the better DVD transfers, and it just felt lacking (but the PS3 has never had the best upscaler and I believe I was watching with the screen closer to around 120" -- ultimately I prefer 100-106" for best balance of clarity and size from my 10.5 ft viewing distance).
Black levels. Well, I come from using a 58" Panasonic V10 (which was their 2009 flagship model). I'm pretty good at keeping my expectations in check (especially since my room is not optimal for contrast nor was the wall I was projecting onto), so I wasn't expecting plasma level by any means. For 16:9 content, the picture has a lot of depth. However, I have mixed feelings on blacks in regards to 2.35:1 content with letterbox bars. With the plasma, I'm used to the brighter scenes making the bars appear blacker and improving overall perceived contrast and the darker scenes making them appear grayer. But with the way the iris works on projectors, it's the opposite. Dark scenes looked good (almost comparable to the plasma or a very good LCD). However lighter scenes reeeally blew out the blacks on the bars and affected the overall perceived contrast. Not exactly a deal-breaker, but I don't deny it gives me some pause on whether to perhaps wait until the next iteration of this model arrives in fall (I've been on the fence for awhile on that since I have a gut feeling the next model for the 8350 may further incorporate some of the tech currently used for the 8700 such as CFI -- at the very least the contrast will improve somewhat...or perhaps the next 8700 version will drop a few more hundred $ as they have been since the 1080, who knows?)
I digress. I've always known I needed a gray screen for my room. And I believe it would definitely help in this situation (my ceiling will never be painted black, and since it's not the 70s/80s my carpet will remain a lighter color). Although to what degree a gray screen will help, I cannot say. I'm considering gray fixed screens from Elite, Elunevision (1.1 gain), Jamestown, and even perhaps the new multi-format Monoprice one (once someone actually buys one and posts some real info and pics).
So here's my question, if anyone is still reading. Has anyone else with a similar room setup (white ceiling, light carpet, a light wall that would hold the screen) tried the 8350 with any of those gray screens (or perhaps another one from another of the more economic manufacturers)? Did they have a noticeable impact on the perceived contrast on 2.35: 1 material, especially during brighter scenes?