Canon Realis SX60 Projector - Image Quality
As mentioned in the overview, the Canon Realis SX60, is not just a very high resolution business projector, but they added a low power home cinema mode. We'll look at the strengths and weaknesses of the SX60 here, as it relates to several types of applications.
We'll start off looking at it as a business class projector designed for very high resolution applications. Following tha,t we will consider how it might function in a home or specialty video applications.
The SX60's 1400x1050 native resolution (SXGA+) makes it one of a handful of projectors that offer this high resolution and have pricing that is significantly below $10,000.
The SX60, first of all, offers very exceptional color handling. As you can see from our spreadsheet image with Red, Yellow, Green and Blue boxes, the colors look very good. By comparision, you might expect the much more expensive LCD based SXGA+ projectors to do even better (such as the $10,000 Epson 9300). On the other hand, the competition for the Canon is mostly from new DLP projectors which as a group, typically sacrifice good reds and yellows in exchange for maximizing lumens. As we have commented on in past reviews, many DLP projectors handling data, tend to attempt to produce bright pure reds, but yield dark wine colored reds, also bright yellows tend to come out a sort of mustardy yellow-green. Not so the SX60 which does a really good job on both.
Another key capability of the SX60, is the ability to produce smooth text. This is expected in its native resolution as shown to the right. You can click on this image to see a much larger, zoomed in image of the text.
The SX60 also does extremely well handling higher resolution sources as shown in the second text spreadsheet image of a higher resolution UXGA source.
The third image (immediately above) shows you the small text quality on compressed UXGA (1600x1200) source material, using the same spreadsheet.
Moving on, another key strength of this LCOS projector is in the virtual invisibility of pixels. To illustrate, this review uses the same HD image of the Philadephia boathouses that is used in many of our reviews. The first image shows you what the entire HD image looks like, and the 2nd, zooms in on the text "Schukyll" Despite the relatively small size of the text, the pixel structure is barely visible compared to DLP projectors, nevermind LCD projectors which have even more defined pixel structures.
The key demand areas for SXGA+ projector usage, are high resolution applications in engineering, architecture, scientific modeling, medical imaging, etc. These are the same areas dominated for years by "workstations" - more powerful, non-PC computers from names like Sun Microsystems, HP, SGI, etc. Their high resolution applications and images require precise, faithful displays.
To demonstrate this, I have included several small images, that you can click on. In each case the larger image zooms in to a smaller area to show you the resolving power of the SX60.
Keep in mind that in those closeups, most of the softness you see, is still the result of our displaying only a 1000 pixel wide image from what was originally a 2000 pixel wide full photo of a larger area. As a result, you do see a certain softness, but not the jaggies you would expect from, say, an LCD projector.
The first image above, is from the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre. Below it, we zoom in. Click on the zoomed in image for the large image.
The next set of images, is of the Orient Express train. Again, first is the full original 3megapixel image, the 2nd, a zoomed in shot, and clicking on the second takes you to a much larger version.
Pretty impressive, Hey?
So, what we have here, in the form of the Canon SX60 LCOS digital projector, is a high resolution projector, with very good color, virtually invisible pixel structure, excellent resolution and compression handling, and the ability to reproduce high resolution imagery with virtually no artifacts.
As a result, for many critical, high resolution requirements, the SX60 will easily command a higher price than less capable projectors of similar resolution using other technologies.
One, note however, which will be further discussed. The Canon, being of LCOS design, cannot inherently match the high contrast, and lower black levels of DLP projectors (but exceeds the LCD projectors in this regard). This is true in normal mode. However, the black levels get pretty impressive if the users are willing to drop of the brightness to boost contrast/black levels by using the Home Cinema setting. In other words, for the absolute best image, you can sacrifice almost 3/4 of the brightness to get an image that is sensational in all regards.
Since I have previously mentioned that the Canon projector has sufficient brightness to function as a home entertaiment projector in rooms that cannot be fully darkened here are a few images (in full power mode), in rooms with significant lighting:
The first image is shot in my viewing room, but the exposure is set to show how the rooms walls looked when the photo was taken. The second image is done in the same setting, but adjusts the camera to show how the image looks to the eye, but it makes the room look dark. (In the first image, getting the walls right, makes the image look badly overexposed.)
Pretty impressive for a room that is not bright, but has sufficient ambient light that you could comfortably read a book.
Now we go to scenes at night with the ceiling recessed lights on:
Again pretty impressive, when you consider that a typical (and much less bright) home theater projector would be so washed out that you wouldn't consider the picture watchable.
And that takes us to a close look at the Canon SX60 in it's Home Cinema mode. Whether your application is an image critical one for business/scientific (etc.), or because you need a projector for video, for home or specialty use (photo studios comes to mind), the home cinema mode does give the SX60 a different performance "footprint".
SX60 Projector - Home Cinema Mode
The SX60 offers some real capabilities as a home entertainment projector. By engaging the Home Cinema mode, the brightness drops off by about 75%, but the contrast improves to 2000:1, close to typical home theater projectors. Black levels improve dramatically, and the SX60 can do a respectable job for watching movies, or other applications requiring better black levels than this 2500 lumen rated projector can do in full power.
Below are a number of the usual images that we display in our home theater projector reviews. First are several images showing color accuracy, (after a minor calibration).
I will just provide the images, without going into the usual lengthy comments on them, other than to say, flesh tones look really good.
Next, are the types of images that require excellent black levels to look good, and the SX60 does a respectable job, though definitely not up to the best DLP home theater projectors:
The image above is from The 5th Element. The image below from a High Definition source.
Below are two images from Lord of the Rings, the first normally exposed, and the 2nd, as usual, the same image overexposed so that you can see how well the Canon SX60 handles the shadow areas on the right.
To put the SX60's performance in perspective, I photographed the SX60 (in Home Cinema mode) side by side with Optoma's new HD7100, which was recently reviewed, received a hot product award, and, I would have to say, is currently the best under $3000 home theater projector around, and the least expensive using TI's Darkchip3 DLP processor. The Canon is on the left, the Optoma on the right. Please note, that the Canon (in Home Cinema mode), is not quite as bright as the Optoma, so the images are not indentical in brightness. Which tends to make the Optoma stand out on some of these images.
The most telling image, however is the one immediately below, the starship from The 5th Element, a dark image with lots of blacks and near blacks In this case, both images are intentionally overexposed slightly, so you can get a better feel for the difference (see above for the same image properly exposed on the Canon projector):
The Optoma has the best black levels of anything around its price, and in reality the Canon is very respectable, in this regard, but not up to rivalling a Darkchip3 DLP projector.
As I pointed out, earlier, in Home Cinema mode, the SX60 is not quite as bright as the Optoma. In the image below, I toggled the SX60 back to full power, to give you an idea of the brightness difference when the Canon is pumping out full lumens. (SX60 on the left.)
There is one limitation to the SX60 as a home cinema projector not yet mentioned. It has, as noted a 4:3 aspect ratio, but the typical home theater viewer wants a 16:9 aspect ratio, and would favor a screen of that shape. The Canon, on a 16:9 screen will overshoot at the top and bottom, by about 10%. Now if you have significant ambient light in the room, you just won't see it at all, but if you go fully dark, for night viewing the overshoot will be slightly visible unless your walls are dark. I would consider this a small price to pay for being able to watch sports, TV, even movies, for those that cannot fully darken their rooms in the daytime.
I recently reviewed Sanyo's 3000 lumen widescreen PLV-80 projector, another bright projector that could function in the home, where ambient light is an issue. If you are looking for a solution to the ambient light situation, here's how these two might stack up.
The Canon, isn't quite as bright in full power mode, but the two projectors are close enough, so that if lighting is such that the Canon, doesn't cut it, the Sanyo isn't likely to either. Still, the more lumens the better. The Sanyo also has the advantage of being native 16:9 (1366x768 in this case), so there would be no overshoot on a 16:9 screen.
The Canon SX60 however, does far, far better on blacks for dark room viewing, and, perhaps even more important to most, the Sanyo, being LCD, has a much more visible pixel structure, than even DLP, let alone LCD. This would be a tough call, but the Canon is better situated to be a projector for both dark and ambient light viewing, whereas the Sanyo would have the edge if all you care about is having some lights on all the time. I would have to choose the Canon.
In a commercial application, such as a sports bar, that would probably the Sanyo the edge, since ultimate contrast and black levels are very secondary. Of course there are other issues for the commercial applications besides image quality.
Enough! Let's look at General Performance, including using the remote, the menus, and various non-image performance aspects, such as lamp life and projector screen recommendations.