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Mitsubishi HC5000 LCD Video Projector Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 July 2007
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Mitsubishi HC5000 LCD Video Projector
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I would like to see Mitsubishi add some adjustability to the Iris on this projector, so we could get better blacks without having to resort to using one of the Auto Iris settings. I am at a loss as to why digital projector manufacturers are so caught up with the Auto Iris mechanism. Essentially what it does is change the contrast level on the fly, depending on how bright or dark the picture is. This of course simultaneously changes the blacks, floating them up too high in bright scenes, and potentially crushing them when the picture content is dark. What that means is that you will almost never have a correct black level setting. Unfortunately, this is clearly visible when watching movies, and consequently very distracting. This is one of the many consumer electronics “features” that wreak havoc with picture quality. While I would normally advise you to turn it off, the only setting with it off is Open, which opens the aperture completely, totally compromising the blacks. Therefore, I chose the best compromise, which is the Auto 1 setting.

Overall color accuracy on the HC5000 is relatively good. Color decoding is accurate for both SD and HD sources, and grayscale tracking is reasonably good for an LCD projector after an ISF-style calibration. Primary and secondary colors are not accurate, which unfortunately is the norm for inexpensive front projection systems like the HC5000. However, I must say the primary and secondary colors are not as offensively wrong as on many projectors in this category. Even at the best Gamma setting (Cinema or User), the projector comes out of black much too fast, which ultimately compromises shadow detail, as it robs the picture of many layers of gray just above black. The gamma is not as good as I have seen on similar projectors. The poor gamma characteristics, and the inability to stop down and fix the Iris to a setting that produces better blacks, means black level performance is compromised and not as good as most of the competitively-priced LCD and DLP projectors currently on the market.

On the positive side, the lens on the HC5000 is quite good for a sub-$5,000 projector. This was clearly evident to me when sizing and focusing the projector in my theater, because there were a distinct lack of chromatic aberrations, and the resulting pictures were extremely well-defined and crisp. Video processing, courtesy of Silicon Optix and their REON chip set, was clean and relatively noise-free. I was also pleased to find that it passed the Video Resolution Loss test on Silicon Optix’s new HQV Benchmark HD DVD test DVD. This is an SMPTE test pattern that shows how well, or not so well, a video processing algorithm de-interlaces 1080i HD material. This means that, with the HC5000, you get all the resolution from 1080i HD signals, which is not true of all projectors in this price range. Unfortunately, I found that the HC5000 doesn’t handle 1080p/24Hz well, truncating some of the resolution at the HDMI input. As with many digital projectors today, the HC5000 won’t accept 1080p in any format at the component input. To Mitsubishi’s credit, that’s not surprising, given the importance of HDCP copy protection. It may also be the reason that it doesn’t deliver the full resolution from 1080i HD sources at the component input, either. White field uniformity, normally the Achilles heel of all LCD-based projectors, was actually relatively good, with minimal color shift when looking at a completely white field.

My immediate impression after calibration when I fired up King Kong (Universal Studios Home Video) in HD DVD was that blacks were washed-out-looking and not as deep and rich as I would have expected. This was painfully apparent in the scene where the adventurers reach Skull Island on the boat in the dark fog. Looking into the picture, the dark areas are simply not dark enough, but rather a muddy dark gray. I have to attribute this to the Auto Iris being hard at work. Conversely, some dark material was rendered fairly well, with decent shadow detail. A good example of this is Chapter 25 of Batman Begins (Warner Home Video), which is the car chase scene that takes place at night. Oddly enough, blacks were also sometimes compromised when you wouldn’t expect them to be, with neutral or medium bright scenes earlier in the film. Blacks were particularly poor, with very bright images on a dark background. I caught a glimpse of a night-time rocket launch on my Time Warner cable HD feed, and the blacks in the background were not nearly as rich and deep as they should've been.

Brighter material generally fared better on the HC5000. Chapter 3 of Crank (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray looked pretty snappy indeed. I have come to the conclusion that the HC5000 looks its best when the intensity of light is constant, which is the case in this scene. When the brightness of the picture varies a lot, then the shifting black and white levels become more visible.

Speaking of cable HD, after living with superior formats, such as HD DVD and Blu-ray, for about six months now, it is somewhat underwhelming in terms of picture quality to watch HD on cable. It is amazing how quickly we get spoiled when we are fed a diet of super-high-quality, lower-compression video. Nonetheless, the picture from my reference HD channels Discovery HD and HDNET did look reasonably good, particularly with bright images.


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