Mitsubishi HC3000 DLP Projector Page 2
The first two movies I watched on this projector were Tim Burton's Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and the HC3000 hooked me right from the get-go. The image had blacks that were nearly as good as the best I've seen from DLP, and a very natural depth and dimensionality that continually surprised me. With both of these stop-motion films the HC3000 revealed the richness of detail in the transfers without ever being too sharp, or etched. There are lots of impressions, contours and textures in the figurines that populate these films, and this little projector rendered them vividly, but with a slightly soft touch that actually worked to its benefit with film material. The HC3000's picture wasn't perfect, but was always refined with a film-like aftertaste that eludes even some of the premium-priced projectors I've seen.
Intrigued by the HC3000's contrast and dimension, I threw some tougher material at it, such as Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's dark (literally and figuratively) comic book masterpiece, Sin City on DVD, and 1080i HD from HBO in the form of Deadwood and The Sopranos. In all cases I saw convincing performance with deep blacks and high contrast, but the HC3000's performance with Sin City was the most eye-opening. With the very darkest scenes, the HC3000 didn't show quite as much of the detail that's buried down near black as the very best projectors I've seen. But it maintained resolution and contrast throughout the movie and kept me fully immersed in the wild ride. Just a few years ago, this kind of performance from a DLP at any price would have been shocking.
Sin City showed me another of the HC3000's strengths in the deep crimson splatters of blood that punctuate this violent visual feast. No orangey reds here, thank you very much, just deep and rich cabernet reds. At no time during the review period was I distracted by limey greens either- even intense foliage looked natural with convincing gradations and shading. Is this the work of BrilliantColor processing? That's difficult to say. BrilliantColor can be defeated in the user menu. When engaged, it maintained (but did not enhance) color purity. The most noticeable visible change was a slight (and measurable) increase in light output. Still, I've seen colors that measured well against the existing standards, and yet looked cartoonish, and I've also seen colors that didn't measure quite as well and yet looked freakishly realistic. The colors portrayed by the Mits are among the best balanced, and most convincing I've seen from digital projection and the measurements actually agree! That this is accomplished at such a price point borders on astonishing.
The HC3000 fares nearly as well with brightly lit HD material, such as the now famous Westminster Dog Show, and the outdoorsy stuff that runs on Discovery HD Theater 24/7. The light output is high enough and the picture sharp enough to be competitive with the best 720p projectors I've seen. With this kind of bright, video-based material the 1080p projectors have an advantage that can't be overcome by anything with half the pixel count. But up against anything else at 720p this little Mits is shockingly good, if just a ways off the most revealing I've seen. Of the 720p rigs I've lived with only Marantz's VP-12S4 is hands-down, obviously sharper.
Switching to component video showed images with DVD that was right in there with the DVI/HDMI feeds I'd been watching. I don't think I'd make a living picking between the two in a blind A/B. On top of that, while 480p component was excellent, 480i was out of this world, showing deinterlacing that leaves nothing to be desired. I've seen some Faroudja DCDi equipped rigs that do slightly better on some of the video-based torture tests, but not much. Even the waving American flag that cripples many deinterlacers was rendered without jaggies, and without any noticeable softening either. This is superlative performance. 720p and 1080i component were also excellent, but there I saw a cleaner image with program material via HDMI. But with DVD I'd go so far as to suggest 480i component as the preferred connection method, which is something I'm not sure I've said in a review in a long time.
So, although I've been fairly gushing about this projector's performance I've also mentioned that it's not perfect either. Rainbows were much more persistently visible than with most recent vintage DLP projectors I've used. While brighter projectors tend to induce noticeable rainbows more often, I've seen projectors brighter than the Mits that showed them less (I'm thinking of InFocus' Screenplay 7205 in particular.) I am what I'd call medium-sensitive to rainbows, and I wasn't totally distracted in any instance, but I was more aware of them than I would wish.
Occasionally I saw a bit of turbulence with motion. Nothing major, just something that looked occasionally like the processing was being overtaxed. With standard definition feeds I saw very respectable performance, but the premium-priced projectors I've used have offered more useful tools to spruce up lower quality broadcasts.
Sony's Cineza VPL-HS51 has long been the standard-bearer in front projection in this price range, and I have lived with that projector. The most current version is the VPL-HS51A, which is $2999 MSRP, uses a dynamic iris and is spec'd for higher contrast than its predecessor. While I'm stretching back a little farther in my memory than I want to for comparison's sake, there are a few things I remember vividly enough to comment on. I was never completely satisfied with the Cineza's colors or grayscale tracking. The Mits has scoreboard there. I also thought that the Cineza had a tendency to look cartoonish and artificial in ways that the HC3000 doesn't, but am also tempered by the Sony's fuller feature set, and especially its inclusion of refinements such as vertical and horizontal lens shift. My memory says I slightly prefer the HC3000's image overall, and definitely prefer the Sony's feature set, video processing and overall fit n' finish.
I didn't maintain much of a poker face with this review, as the enthusiasm of the opening paragraphs attests. Projectors in this price range typically have to cut corners, and this one is no different. Only Sony, with its 3LCD Cineza projectors, has figured out how to offer a fully loaded feature set and high performance anywhere near here. But Mitsubishi has chosen its tradeoffs very shrewdly.
The vertical lens shift is the only feature I truly missed. The adjustability offers everything you need to get a good picture, the memories are adequate, and the day –to-day usability is terrific, and more importantly, the essential performance characteristics of this projector are simply excellent across the board. The image is sharp and dimensional, the contrast and blacks are excellent, and the colors pure and un-digital in the best way.
If the HC3000 cost $5K I'd be happy with it. At $2500, it's a marvel. Go see for yourself.
Rich, natural, and dimensional image
Terrific color fidelity
Terrific blacks and contrast
Excellent remote and simple user interface
No vertical lens shift
Only a single HDMI input
Not the sharpest image with 1080i HD