Most of the projectors I review are best used in dark rooms with the lights off. But not everyone wants to sit in the dark just to enjoy a jumbo-screen experience. Enter the Pro Cinema 1985.

Part of Epson’s ultra-bright line, it offers 4800 lumens of peak output which is enough to compete with room lighting and project an image up to 300 inches diagonal. It’s a viable alternative to extra-large HDTVs which can easily top $10,000 when you’re talking about screen sizes over 80 inches.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

Highlights

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector

  • Prodigious output over 200 footLamberts
  • Vivid color
  • Multiple picture modes for different viewing environments
  • No lens shift in base model
  • Built-in speaker
  • Interfaces with home theater and computer source components
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Compact chassis
  • Full calibration options with two-point grayscale, gamma and color management
Introduction

The vast majority of the projectors I’ve reviewed have been dedicated home theater displays. They place a greater priority on color accuracy, contrast and overall fidelity rather than sheer light output. But many people don’t want to sit in a light-tight room just to watch movies. They’d like the convenience that comes with an HDTV, just with a giant screen. Rather than spending upwards of $10,000 on a giant television, it’s now possible to go up to 300 inches and still have some lights on.

EPSON PROJECTOR REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Imaging chips:

3LCD TFT Active Matrix

Native aspect ratio:

16:10

Native resolution:

1920 x 1200

Anamorphic lens support:

No

Throw ratio:

1.38-2.28

Image size:

50-300”

Lens shift:

No

Light output (mfr):

4800 lumens white, 4800 lumens color

Inputs:

2 x HDMI (1 x MHL), 1 x composite, 1 x VGA, 1 x stereo audio (RCA)

Outputs:

1 x VGA, 1 stereo audio (3.5mm)

Computer interface:

2 x USB, 1 x LAN

Control:

1 x RS-232

Lamp power:

280 watts

Rated lamp life:

3000hrs Normal, 4000hrs ECO

Dimensions:

4.9" H x 14.8" W x 11.4" D

Weight:

10.2 lbs

Warranty:

Two years

MSRP:

$1999

Company:

Epson

SECRETS Tags:

Epson, Epson Pro Cinema, Epson Projectors, Projector Reviews

Epson has recently added six new models to its Pro Cinema line and labeled them “Ultra Bright.” They are suited for multi-use rooms where lighting is less controllable. They’ll also work well in large theaters where throw distances are long and screens can be 200 inches diagonal or more. The best part is they don’t cost an arm and a leg. Ranging in price from $1999 to $6499, this series offers more output for the money than any other projector I’m familiar with. Today I’m looking at the entry-level 1985. It’s rated at 4800 lumens, offers a ton of connectivity options including wireless and boasts some home theater cred in the form of full calibration controls and easy setup. Let’s take a look.

Design

People often ask me why some projectors cost tens of thousands of dollars while others are far less expensive. The answer used to be “light output.” It wasn’t long ago that a projector as bright as the 1985 would come in a large heavy chassis, run two bulbs and cost $50,000. By making the most of a single 280-watt lamp, Epson has harnessed that power in an almost-portable and certainly affordable package.

Secrets Sponsor

Epson employs a 3LCD imaging engine in the 1985 with three chips, one for each primary color. The light is passed through them just once on its way to the lens array. This efficient path is the primary reason for the projector’s prodigious output. A 280-watt bulb is fairly powerful and throws off a lot of heat. As a result fan noise is a bit higher than most home theater models but considering the brightness, it isn’t overly loud. In fact the ECO mode takes it down to a whisper.

Native resolution is 1920×1200 in a 16:10 aspect ratio which makes displaying computer-based content convenient. When fed a 1080p video signal, it places black bars above and below the image. These can easily be zoomed off the screen if you only plan to view 16:9 content.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

The lens is fixed offering only focus and zoom adjustments. Since there’s no shift, an auto-keystone function is provided that squares the picture automatically. A small door slides across to keep out dust and can also be used to blank the image. The bulb shuts down when this happens to prevent the plastic from melting.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

There are quite a few things you can do from the projector’s top panel without ever touching the remote. Just above the lens are focus and zoom sliders. Behind these are two buttons that activate focus and zoom patterns to help you align the image properly. All of these functions can be disabled in the OSD if you want to take care of this manually. Near the back of the 1985 are buttons for menu navigation, source selection, auto-keystone and volume. There’s even a help key that pops up instructions when you need them.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

Epson packs a lot of connectivity into a small space. You get two HDMI inputs along with analog composite and VGA ports. There’s also a VGA output for an external monitor; handy in boardroom presentations. The USB ports can accept video and audio streams and the 1985 can connect to your network through an RJ-45 jack or the built-in WiFi. Analog audio is supported by RCA and mini-jack inputs and a mini-jack output. Finally, you can hook into a control system using the RS-232 port.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

The remote is compact and efficient and only lacks a backlight. You’ll mainly use it for source selection and menu navigation but a few projector functions have been included. It can also be used as an on-screen pointer with a wireless mouse option. It’s extremely powerful and capable of bouncing IR signals off the screen, walls and ceiling.

Setup

Installing the 1985 is a bit of challenge due to its fixed lens. The offset is such that aiming the projector at the bottom edge of the screen will place the image correctly. Your best bet is a ceiling mount. If you’re unable to align the lens parallel with the screen, Epson has included a slick auto-keystone function that squares the image for you. It works remarkably well and only takes a few seconds. Remember though that it will reduce resolution. The projector also helps you set zoom and focus with on-screen patterns that appear automatically.

Secrets Sponsor

Once placed, there are many connection options both wired and wireless. In addition to standard HDMI ports, one of which supports MHL, there are VGA in and out connections. You can also get content in via USB sticks. Over-the-air options include built-in WiFi which can accept video and audio streams up to the 1985’s full resolution. Speaking of sound, there is a built-in speaker which plays content from analog or digital inputs. Or you can send the audio out to an external system.

The menus appear to have been adapted from a boardroom presentation projector but pretty much everything you need to calibrate for home theater is in there.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

There are nine picture modes which are task-specific. The default is Presentation which is a good all-around preset for just about any kind of content. For home theater use, you’ll want to check out Theater. It’s a good starting point for calibration or it can be used without adjustment. sRGB is also pretty accurate but it locks out access to the auto-iris which is sorely needed to boost contrast. For maximum brightness, the Dynamic mode with bulb at Normal will pump out over 200fL of light. That’s about twice the output of most televisions.

In the Advanced sub-menu you’ll find Epson’s traditional gamma, two-point grayscale and color management controls. They aren’t quite as precise as the ones I’ve seen on their home theater models but I was able to achieve decent image fidelity and accuracy.

The auto-iris will roughly double sequential contrast and should be used for all content. It makes a little noise in operation but image pumping is minimal. Epson has arguably the best dynamic iris in the business and this one is no exception.

The only other image control you’ll need to visit is the HDMI Video Range option in the Signal menu. By default it is set to Auto but if you want to see above-white and below-black information, change it to Expand. I prefer the extra dynamic range offered when clipping out-of-bounds signal information but occasionally there is content that breaks the rules.

You can also set the lamp power to ECO or Normal. ECO provides plenty of light for even a large home theater. I measured over 100fL after calibration. Obviously this projector is much too bright for the small dedicated room I use. But its image is compelling though I would probably get a little tired after a few hours of watching movies at this intensity level.

In Use

The 1985 is meant for spaces where some lights will be on. There might even be a bit of sunlight creeping in the windows. Thanks its high output, the image still looks pretty good. I would recommend pairing it with a light-rejecting screen for best results. This will preserve the picture even better and increase contrast which is always a good thing. For my viewing I used my trusty Stewart Filmscreen LuminEsse fixed frame screen system configured with StudioTek 130 material. With the iris engaged I achieved roughly 1000:1 contrast which doesn’t seem all the great on paper. But in practice, the picture looks fantastic. A lot of that is due to the terrific optics used. The lens is sharp from edge to edge and shows no hint of chromatic aberration. My sample also displayed excellent convergence of the three imaging chips. I used the Theater mode with the bulb on ECO and the auto-iris set to Fast.

Baraka

Baraka

I started with the purest form of the film-maker’s art, Baraka. This is a visual and auditory feast with nothing but amazing photography and mesmerizing music to tell its tale. The first thing I noticed was there is no way to achieve a true black from this projector, there is just too much light output. The best I could do was a dark gray. That’s not to say that shadow detail is compromised in any way.

In fact it pops right out. There is nothing you won’t see. If it’s in the content, you’ll see it clearly. I would say that high black levels remove a bit of the mystery from a film. Sometimes you’re not sure if you’ve seen a subtle nuance or not. When you watch it on the 1985, you will be.

What this projector does incredibly well is render color. The brightness extends to a rich and bold saturation that literally drips with bold hues. At one point a man’s red eye makeup simply had me riveted to the screen. I could almost taste and smell the environment in front of me. Some of that is due to the terrific optics used here. The image is super-sharp with a clarity that rivals the best projectors I’ve reviewed.

The Incredibles

The Incredibles

I followed with The Incredibles. Realizing that high-quality CGI animation makes any display look good, I expected it to go above and beyond at this brightness level. And it did. Color is at the forefront here as well with a vividness that just doesn’t come from dimmer displays. I experimented a bit with the Noise Reduction option in the Signal menu. Ordinarily I turn these enhancements off as they either soften the image with excessive digital scrubbing or they do nothing. Epson’s control seems to work in reverse. Turning NR off made the picture seem out of focus. The difference is substantial and you should leave the option turned on at all times. I doesn’t create any artifacts that I could see but it’s a must to maintain sharpness.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 is a recent Blu-ray release that falls just a bit short of reference quality, mainly due to some image softness. The 1985 did its best to render small details and succeeded in displaying the content just as it comes from the disc. There was no artificial funny business going on; this is a pleasingly neutral display. Dark scenes didn’t have the rich blacks one might see on an LCoS projector but shadow detail was fully present. The different environments of the film are each presented in their own hue: blue for the Capitol, green for the sewers, red for the final sequence with Katniss and her children. All are somewhat monochromatic but the Epson had no trouble maintaining solid image depth.

Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible, Rogue Nation

I finished up with Mission Impossible, Rogue Nation. This transfer has a huge dynamic range with contrast that’s almost overblown at times. The 1985 did a great job with this despite its high black levels. With output over 100fL, you’ll see the other side of the contrast equation. Even though the numbers aren’t impressive, an image this bright, with reasonably accurate gamma and correct color will look fantastic. If you’re looking for blacks to rival a tar-pit you won’t find them here, but perceived contrast is very high. This projector is one whose reality exceeds its benchmark results and presents a far better picture than you’d expect given the specs.

On The Bench

All grayscale, gamma and chroma readings are taken from the projector’s lens using an X-Rite i1Pro with the diffuser attachment. Contrast tests are done with a Spectracal C6 tri-stimulus meter positioned at the lens axis and measuring from the screen at a 12-foot throw distance. This method provides an accurate picture of the contrast performance seen in a typical viewing environment.

My reference screen is a Stewart Filmscreen LuminEsse fixed-frame system configured with StudioTek 130 material. It has a gain of 1.3 and is 92 inches diagonal in size. Patterns come from an Accupel DVG-5000 signal generator and the whole procedure is controlled by CalMAN version 5. Color standards are Rec.709 with a white point of 6500 Kelvins. Gamma is compared to the BT.1886 spec or the 2.2 power function where appropriate.

Grayscale & Gamma Performance

The 1985’s sRGB and Theater modes are pretty close to the mark out of the box. sRGB offers good color and gamma but doesn’t allow access to the iris control. This is a deal-breaker in my opinion. Bright projectors like this need an auto-iris to increase contrast. Therefore I chose the Theater as my starting point.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

There is a visible green tint starting at the 40 percent level that rises slightly as you approach 100 percent. It’s not too bad and users who don’t calibrate will still enjoy a good image with natural color and an almost-neutral white point. The greater concern here is gamma tracking which takes a serious dip (too bright) as the signal level increases. The auto-iris along with a tweak in the gamma editor will mitigate the issue somewhat.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

I couldn’t quite achieve the grayscale tracking seen in Epson’s THX-certified models but aside from a dip in green at 40 percent, the errors are now invisible. Changing gamma to -2 and reducing contrast to -7 helps improve the tracking a little. It look to me like extra brightness is engineered into the mid and upper levels on purpose. It makes the image even brighter than its peak output levels would suggest. When competing with room lighting, you’ll see a little more detail and color saturation this way. While it’s not as necessary in a dedicated home theater, multi-purpose media rooms will benefit from this approach.

Color Gamut & Luminance Accuracy

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

Many of the color saturation points are close to target until reaching the 100-percent level at the triangle’s points. There you can see under-saturation in red and green while blue is a little over. Luminance levels are also far too high. While this contributes to a bright and saturated picture, there is room for improvement here using the color management system.

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

I could not change the outer saturation points but I was able to balance luminance levels and fix the hue errors in cyan, magenta and yellow. The improvement is not huge but it is visible. Color looks a bit more natural while still remaining vivid and deep. Paired with a light rejecting screen, the 1985 would look a lot like a television even under fairly bright room lighting.

Contrast Performance

Bright projectors rarely set records for sequential contrast but I did discover some interesting things in the different picture modes. After calibrating the Theater preset, setting the bulb to ECO and turning on the auto-iris, I recorded a peak white of 101.6854fL, a black level of .1136fL and a contrast ratio of 895.4:1. Without the iris the 1985 has a native contrast ratio of around 400:1. That’s why the sRGB mode is not appropriate for any sort of video content. The image is just too flat.

At the top end, using Dynamic and the Normal bulb level, I recorded a peak white of 212.5253fL, a black level of .0015fL and a sequential contrast ratio of 142,318:1. That’s not a misprint. Dynamic mode closes the iris down almost completely at a zero signal level rendering a totally black screen. At that point you can barely tell the projector is turned on. Dynamic is a usable mode thanks to its full calibration controls. You can dial in a proper white point and tweak the CMS to provide a good image with reasonably accurate color. If you need that kind of output, the 1985 can deliver.

Video Processing

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

Epson proudly displays the Faroudja logo on the back of the 1985 and that processing solution yields excellent results. The 1985 couldn’t quite resolve one-pixel vertical lines from a 4:2:2 component signal and the zone plate lacked definition in its corners. But other than that, this projector can produce an clean artifact-free image from a variety of signal sources. Deinterlacing performance is pretty much perfect which is rare from any display.

Conclusions

Epson Pro Cinema 1985 Projector Review

If you need a lot of light, there is no better value than THE EPSON PRO CINEMA 1985. With potential brightness over 200 footLamberts, it will outshine most televisions and throw an image up to 300 inches diagonal.

Likes
  • Incredibly bright
  • Beautifully saturated yet accurate color
  • Calibrates to a good standard
  • Quality optics contribute to high clarity
  • Compact form factor
  • Many connection options
Would Like To See
  • Better gamma tracking
  • Lens shift, but you can get that on other models
  • A manual iris to reduce output and increase contrast

So despite its origin as a presentation display, the 1985 definitely qualifies as a home theater projector. By adding proper calibration controls and creating out-of-box presets that come pretty close to SMPTE standards, Epson is offering a truly viable television replacement.

I’ve consulted with people who are trying to decide between a big TV and a projector. In most cases they choose the TV for its convenience. You don’t have to block out all light and sit in the dark, but unless you are very well-financed, it’s hard to go much bigger than 80 inches. With a projector though, you can fill a screen three times larger. And an Ultra Bright Pro Cinema model from Epson lets you leave the lights on and enjoy the same image quality. Thanks to their thoughtful inclusion of just about every possible connection option, you can pull in content from Blu-ray players, streaming devices, computers and everything in between, with or without wires.

For those building or retro-fitting a multi-use media room, I can think of no better choice than one of Epson’s Ultra Bright displays. If you don’t need lens shift, the 1985 represents a fantastic value at less than $2000. I’m impressed by its theater-quality image, vivid color and superlative sharpness. For those seeking maximum light output and fidelity, this projector fills the bill nicely.

  • Paul

    I have a small screen (16×9 64″ diagonal) with a long in tooth Sony AW-15 720p projector. My room is light controlled, so even with 2000+ hours on my (2nd) bulb in low lamp mode, I get a pretty good picture (relative to tech from its day, of course). I could go a bit bigger on the screen (in theory, I could accommodate up to 80″) but I like the current screen I have. So far, everything I’ve described makes my room a horrible candidate for this projector. But…

    I am almost always alone when watching movies or TV in “the cave”, primarily because my wife (who has fairly pronounced claustrophobia) is uncomfortable in the dark needed for my current PJ to work properly. I would like to change that without re-inventing the wheel. I understand I could solve this problem by getting a 65″ HDTV and I may well pursue that option. However, if I were to go to 80″, your review suggests I could benefit from the 1985 with a fair amount of ambient light (something that would not be the case with a newer projector along the lines of a Sony 40/45ES or an Epson 5030UB if I’ve understood the reviews of those projectors, here and elsewhere, correctly).

    Essentially, I want to either keep the same size screen I have now (via HDTV flat panel) OR expand my screen size to the most I can accommodate (around 80″–for which a flat panel is cost prohibitive) while, in each case, being able to have ambient light in order to make it more appealing to my wife (who, in any case, would finance a significant portion of any “upgrade”). As to overall PQ, I am still very happy with my current PJ (so as long as whatever I get is equal or better I’ll be fine), but I cannot have any light in the room with my current PJ.

    Thoughts?

  • Chris Eberle

    Hi Paul,

    If you plan to keep the screen size under 70 inches, a television is far easier to live with and will allow you to have some room lights on. If you go up to 80 inches, projection will be cheaper and a display like the 1985 will give you a decent image with some lights on, especially if you use a light-rejecting screen like the SI Black Diamond or Seymour Ambient Visionaire.

    Another screen option is to go with a rigid model like the SI Zero Edge or Stewart LuminEsse and add the bias light option. That’s an expensive way to go but it will cast a soft glow in the room without affecting the image. In fact, a properly tuned bias light can enhance perceived resolution and contrast.

    -Chris-

  • Paul

    Thanks for the response. Those screen options seem very nice but would be out of my budget. Perhaps a 65″ TV with an articulating wall mount would be the best of both worlds. I used an online viewing distance calculator for relative viewing field of visions and a wall mount with about 25″ of range would make a 65″ on the wall appear nearly 80″ when pulled out from the wall. Cheaper to get TV and mount than projector and 80″ light rejecting screen.