Leica Cine 1 Cinema TV (Short Throw Projector) Review

Posted on 3rd April, 2024

Leica Cine 1 Cinema TV (Short Throw Projector) Review

Tony O’Brien is bedazzled by this seriously classy, short-throw projector from a world-famous optics manufacturer…

Leica

Cine 1 Short Throw Projector

AUD $13,999 RRP (100”), $14,999 RRP (120”)

The Cine 1 may be Leica's first foray into home cinema projection, but it's hardly this prestigious German company's first rodeo. In fact, Leica has been at the forefront of camera design since its inception nearly a century ago. In addition to being responsible for key innovations such as the 35mm compact camera and auto-focus system, it has also played a pivotal role in the development of 35mm film photography.

Leica is also a world-leading manufacturer of optics, specialising in aspherical lenses, which are coveted by photographers for their distinct 'Leica look'. Aspherical lenses are also favoured in projection for their superior contrast, focus, and clarity. They seek to bring this distinct Leica look to the home cinema market in the form of the Cine 1 Cinema TV, or short-throw projector. Available in 100” and 120” models, it can be purchased with or without Leica's high-contrast ALR (Ambient Light Rejecting) screens ($2,690 RRP) – a must unless you plan on locating the Cine 1 in a bat cave.

StereoNET was fortunate enough to receive the 100” model for review. A DLP projector, it uses Texas Instruments' 0.47” DMD chip with a native resolution of 1,920x1,080. Incorporating 2+ million micrometre-sized mirrors, the chip flashes these in fast succession to achieve its 3,840x2,160 (4K) resolution. Its 3,000+ Lumen light output is achieved courtesy of its direct triple RGB laser, which has a quoted 25,000-plus hour lifespan. The native contrast ratio is quoted as 1,000:1, with dynamic contrast pushing this number to 2,000,000:1. As always, I'd recommend taking the numbers for dynamic contrast ratio with a liberal dash of salt.

In addition to higher light output, the RGB laser enables the Cine 1 to produce more than 100% of the wider BT.2020 colour gamut. It's an impressive feat at this price point, where most projectors struggle to achieve the smaller DCI/P3 colour gamut. It also enables the projector to dispense with a colour wheel, which is the cause of RBE or Rainbow Effect.

At the heart of the Leica look is its lens. To this extent, the Cine 1 has been fitted out with the company's Summicron lens, which features four aspherical lenses. Another key aspect of the Leica look is accurate colour reproduction. To achieve this, the projector has been engineered to provide accurate colour with a quoted Delta E tolerance of 3%.

As a professional calibrator, accurate colour reproduction is also close to my heart. However, it's impossible to compensate for the myriad of screen options and viewing environments, both of which impact colour reproduction. Nonetheless, it's a move Leica should be applauded for and I have no doubt the Cine 1 will still be more colour-accurate than some of its competitors.

The projector supports HDR10, HLG and, surprisingly, Dolby Vision. A rarity in projectors, Leica says it was able to achieve Dolby Vision Certification for the Cine1 due to its high light output and colour accuracy.

Marketed as a Cinema TV, the Cine 1 also has an in-built tuner and Hisense's VIDAA Smart TV platform. Leica explains that it has collaborated closely with Hisense for key elements of the projector's electronics including its Smart TV interface. It also has a built-in 4.0-channel Dolby Atmos soundbar with a quoted power rating of 50 watts. There is built-in Bluetooth and it is compatible with Airplay and Screen Mirroring. The gaming fraternity is supported with 4K 60fps, with a quoted latency of less than 60 milliseconds. 

GETTING GOING

Unboxed, the Cine 1 weighs a tad over 15kg, much of which I suspect is the Summicron lens assembly. Finished in aluminium, the projector stands some 149x600x378mm, with Leica's red badge front and centre. And it is a sight to behold, a stunning piece of machinery that owners will justifiably be proud of. Fetching as it is, however, I suspect owners of dark cinema rooms will be less than thrilled.

The lens is housed behind a motorised aluminium cover, which retracts when the projector is powered on. It automatically closes again when the Cine 1 is powered off or – after a five-second warning – when it senses someone is too close to its laser light source.

The back of the projector has three HDMI inputs, two of which are HDMI 2.1 (HDCP 2.2) compatible, and one which is HDMI 2.0 compatible and supports e-ARC. It also has two USB inputs, dual antenna inputs, an optical TOSLINK digital audio output, an earphone audio output and a LAN output, and it's also Wi-Fi compatible. 

Finished in the same aluminium casing, the remote control is also easy on the eye. It's a rather longish affair with shortcuts to Netflix, Disney+, Prime, YouTube, and Deezer. 

The box includes a quick-start manual that covers the basics of getting the Cine 1 up and running, including guidance on aligning the image to the screen. Unfortunately, it doesn't explain how the picture controls work, nor does Leica's website. All the same, setting up was comparatively easy, taking me just a few minutes to align it to my screen. As tempting as it is to use the inbuilt geometric correction, avoid it if you can, as these systems tend to soften images.

With the Cine 1 aligned, it was easy enough to enter my Netflix and Disney+ credentials, after which I was whizzing around the VIDAA Smart TV Interface with ease. I was pleased to discover five picture modes, consisting of Cinema Day, Cinema Night, Dynamic, Sports, and Filmmaker mode. The picture menu also contains an impressive range of calibration controls, including 20-point greyscale and gamma controls and a Colour Management System. I opted not to calibrate the projector, using it with both a 100” (1.0 gain) Cinegray 16.9 screen and a white wall.

VISION ON

The Cine 1's Summicron lens and RGB laser produce bright, sharp, film-like images. Dolby Vision material looks wonderful; not only are the images colour-accurate, but there's a range of colours simply not possible on many of today's display devices. Although, as a DLP projector, it struggles to achieve the deep dark blacks of other display technologies.

I started my viewing with the Dolby Vision transfer of Venom: Let There Be Carnage on Netflix. From the get-go, it's apparent that the Cine 1 can throw some serious light – in fact, it was so bright that it produced a serviceable image even with some ambient light. Naturally, it was far from the last word in image fidelity, and if you plan on giving the projector a forever home in such conditions, Leica's ALR screen is a must. Regardless, it opens some interesting possibilities for impromptu viewing sessions.

While it wasn't the first time I've seen Dolby Vision on a projector, it was the first time I've seen it properly implemented on a projector. David Attenborough's Our Planet II produced bright, poppy images with excellent colour fidelity. While it didn't match the colour fidelity of a calibrated display, it gets you a good part of the way there, which I suspect will be enough for many owners.

Not only did it produce a pleasingly accurate range of colours, but it gave a range of colours beyond the capability of most projectors and, for that matter, televisions. For instance, as the sun rises over the African plains, the Cine 1 produces reds and oranges that I usually only see on very expensive projectors and Quantum Dot OLEDs.

Moving to Ahsoka on Disney+, the combination of the Summicron lens and DLP technology created sharp yet highly film-like images that lent themselves perfectly to the subject material. Likewise, the combination of the Cine 1's high brightness and wide colour gamut made bright colours in badges on uniforms pop. At the same time, more neutral tones and skin tones retained a natural-looking palette.

This extra brightness emphasises my only criticism of Cine 1: its black levels. Black levels are the bane of many DLP projectors, and this projector is no different – the blacks of Ahsoka look more like dark grey. Switching to The Wolverine in SDR, I was again greeted by sharp, beautiful, film-like images. These made for an intoxicating watch and are the reason that many insist on using DLP to experience this film. While colour reproduction in SDR was generally good, it did struggle with Logan's ruddy complexion, which can trip many a display. 

The Leica's built-in soundbar had no problems filling my room with sound. Thanks to its Dolby Atmos capability, it also created a sense of height in the front soundstage. While it's far from the last word in surround-sound excellence, it's a clear step above the sound systems found on most televisions.

THE VERDICT

Leica's Cine 1 is a thing of beauty – not only in terms of aesthetics but also for the bright, sharp, film-like, colourful, and accurate images it creates. In many ways, it outshines the competition, but ultimately, its black levels prevent it from being a perfect machine. However, if you don't mind less-than-perfect black levels and are prepared to shell out the extra for an ALR screen, this is one of the best – if not the best – short-throw projectors at its price point. 

For more information visit Leica

    Gallery

    Tony O'Brien's avatar

    Tony O'Brien

    As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

    Posted in:Visual Visual Projectors Projection Screens
    Tags: leica 



    JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION

    Want to share your opinion or get advice from other enthusiasts? Then head into the Message Forums where thousands of other enthusiasts are communicating on a daily basis.
    CLICK HERE FOR FREE MEMBERSHIP

    00004788

    applause awards

    Each time StereoNET reviews a product, it is considered for an Applause Award. Winning one marks it out as a design of great quality and distinction – a special product in its class, on the grounds of either performance, value for money, or usually both.

    Applause Awards are personally issued by StereoNET’s global Editor-in-Chief, David Price – who has over three decades of experience reviewing hi-fi products at the highest level – after consulting with our senior editorial team. They are not automatically given with all reviews, nor can manufacturers purchase them.

    The StereoNET editorial team includes some of the world’s most experienced and respected hi-fi journalists with a vast wealth of knowledge. Some have edited popular English language hi-fi magazines, and others have been senior contributors to famous audio journals stretching back to the late 1970s. And we also employ professional IT and home theatre specialists who work at the cutting edge of today’s technology.

    We believe that no other online hi-fi and home cinema resource offers such expert knowledge, so when StereoNET gives an Applause Award, it is a trustworthy hallmark of quality. Receiving such an award is the prerequisite to becoming eligible for our annual Product of the Year awards, awarded only to the finest designs in their respective categories. Buyers of hi-fi, home cinema, and headphones can be sure that a StereoNET Applause Award winner is worthy of your most serious attention.