Epson LS10000 Laser Projector — Because Everything Is Better With Laser

Laser Outside

At CEDIA 2014 — Epson demonstrated the PowerLite Pro Cinema LS10000. It employs a laser light engine illuminating three liquid-crystal-on-quartz (LCOQ) imagers, a technology similar to LCOS, licensed from NHK Engineering in Japan. To be more accurate, actually, two (not one) blue laser-diode arrays are used, one of which excites a yellow-phosphor wheel. The yellow light from the wheel is then split into red and green, which—along with the blue light from the other laser—illuminate the three imagers…not dissimilar from Sony’s Triluminos technology.

Laser Path

Epson’s two-laser light engine produces red, green, and blue light to illuminate the three LCOQ imagers.

The LS10000 is rated to produce up to 1,500 lumens of light output. As per usual, the light output is mode-dependent—for example, both projectors are brighter in Cinema Mode, unlike previous models, whereas Digital Cinema mode—which uses the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) color gamut—is dimmer because it uses a Cinema Filter to achieve the expanded color gamut and deeper blacks. Interestingly, Digital Cinema mode does not use DCI grayscale, which would result in a dark and greenish image; these projectors are optimized for Blu-ray and other consumer content, not digital cinema. (Which then begs the question, why include a Digital Cinema mode in the first place?)

Speaking of gamuts, this new LCOQ model encompass a very wide range of colors—larger than DCI and even Adobe RGB. I presume Epson will provide a CMS (color-management system) that allows the gamut to be adjusted to BT.709, which is used to master all current consumer content, although it’s nice to know that a wider future gamut can be accommodated.

Laser Colour Gamut

The LS10000 LCOQ projector reproduce a very wide colour gamut.

The laser light engine is said to last up to 30,000 hours, an estimate based on using the Eco mode, which usually mean producing 80% of the maximum light output. According to the press release, “Actual hours may vary depending on usage environment.” Other laser-related features include Instant Off, which means there’s virtually no wait for the projector to warm up or cool down, and a high-speed contrast function increases perceived contrast without using a mechanical iris—the lasers are modulated instead, which is much faster than an iris.  This also means that “black” will really be “black” as opposed to “somewhat black ish kinda”.  Using my own not-so-educated guess, at maximum brightness, the light engine should be able to last, at the very least, 10,000 hours.  A far cry from regular projectors which usually needs replacement bulb (in order to run at maximum brightness) around every 800-1,000 hours.  That’s easily $5,000 in bulb replacement cost!!!

Another related feature is called Absolute Black, which purports to produce zero lumens when displaying a full black field. LED-LCD TVs have been doing this for a long time—the real question is how deep are the blacks when the scene is mostly black, like outer space with bright stars, and what happens during black interstitials? I’ve seen LED-LCD TVs drop to zero in these moments, which can be rather distracting if it’s not done smoothly.  However, the demo at CEDIA 2015 seems to make me fall in love to this laser LCOQ technology as (as I mentioned earlier) the blacks are truly black.

The LCOQ imagers are said to have an increased aperture ratio, which means the pixels are closer together with smaller gaps between them. In addition, the LS10000 features something called 4K Enhancement, in which the pixels in a 1920×1080 array are quickly shifted back and forth by half a pixel vertically and horizontally to produce a pseudo-4K image. Of course, from the explanation given at CEDIA, this is very similar to (if not the same as ) JVC’s e-Shift technology.

What will certainly be of interest is motorized zoom, focus, and lens shift with 10 lens memories, which allows the projectors to display different aspect ratios from 4:3 to 2.35:1 without the need for an anamorphic lens. Of course, you need a 2.35:1 screen to take advantage of the ultra-wide aspect ratio. In addition, the lens-shift range is quite wide—±90% vertical and ±40% horizontal.  During the demo, the motorized zoom, shift and focus are near-instantaneous.  No more fiddling your thumb while waiting from 16:9 memory to 2.35:1 memory.  IT’S THAT QUICK!!!

The LS10000 offer 3D capabilities with RF active-shutter glasses, which refresh rate has been increased from 240 to 480 Hz. This decreases the time during which both glasses lenses must be closed to minimize crosstalk even further, allowing a brighter 3D image—though, of course, it won’t be anywhere near the maximum brightness in 2D.

Speaking of HDMI, the LS10000 two HDMI 2.0 inputs that can support bitrates up to 10.2 Gbps, not 18 Gbps, which means the LS10000 is limited to 2160p/60 at 4:2:0 and 8 bits. Lower frame rates and resolutions can include 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 color, but the input signal is limited to 8 bits in any event, a decision Epson made because current content—even UHD—is 8-bit. However, internal processing is 10-bit and partially 12-bit according to Epson. The best news is that the HDMI1 input on both projectors supports HDCP 2.2; the HDMI2 input supports HDCP 1.4.

Finally, the new projectors are designed to be very quiet—as low as 19 dB, thanks to a whisper-quiet fan and advanced thermal-conductive copper piping to dissipate heat. And the housing looks super cool!

So when will these beauties be available, and how much will they cost? According to the attendants at CEDIA 2015, the projector “will be available through CEDIA and specialty dealers in the fall time frame for less than $8000 [estimated street price].”  Considering the bulb-cost equivalent is about $5,000 to begin with, the $8,000 price is not bad at all.

The only drawback?  It doesn’t go “pew! pew! pew!”

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