Canon Realis SX7 Portable DLP Projector Reviewed - Image Quality
In this section we will consider these topics:
Sharpness and Compatibility: SXGA+ and Other Resolutions
General video performance
Canon Realis SX7 Portable Projector - Color Accuracy
Overall, the colors of the Canon Realis SX7 looked very good. That said, measurements show that in most modes, there is a definite color shift towards blue, and away from red, as one observes white, moving down to dark gray. Only in the sRGB mode (and possibly the Adobe RGB mode, which I didn't measure), was the color temperature fairly consistent across the full range from white to dark gray.
Similar to 3LCD projectors, this LCoS (liquid crystal on Silicon), projector produces bright, rich and generally accurate reds and yellows, which is the achilles heel of most DLP business projectors.
The MoviePhoto mode, which one would think would be ideal for movie watching or displaying photos, was off as much as several other modes, and for that matter way too cool (shift towards blue) overall, for faithful movie viewing. Ideally the full range from white to dark gray should be right around 6500K color temperature, but in reality, we measured a cool 7827K for white, and it rose to 9549K by 30 IRE (dark gray).
The good news is that the SX7 offers excellent color management controls. In reality, they rival most home theater projectors, in terms of flexibility. If you really intend to watch movies on this projector, the controls are there to get excellent color out of it, by simply using a basic calibration disc, like AVIA, or DVE.
Canon Realis SX7 Sharpness and Compatibility - Native SXGA+, and Higher Resolutions
Of course, we assume that any projector will be fully compatible with, and produce its sharpest image, when fed a source at its native resolution, in this case SXGA+ (1400x1050).
Before I go further, let's consider who wants/needs an SXGA+ resolution projector. Long time ago, in addition to the huge PC market, there were lots of computers (referred to as workstations - evolved from the old mini-computers, from folks like HP, Silicon Graphics, and Sun). These computers, for years had been standardized on a display resolution of 1280x1024 (SXGA), far higher than the VGA and SVGA (and even XGA), that PCs used back then. Unfortunately 1280x1024 is a 5:4 aspect ratio, not the usual 4:3 used by all PC's until widescreen displays started popping up about five+ years ago.
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Over these past few years, the workstations started shifting to 4:3 aspect ratio, and SXGA+ became the popular display resolution. Thus, although the market (compared to PCs) is rather small, SXGA+ has essentially replaced the older SXGA. Because of the limited market size, SXGA+ projectors like SXGA ones before them, remained a small market segment, without the huge volumes necessary to bring prices down to the levels currently found with XGA projectors.
It must be noted, however, that another trend also began, perhaps 6-7 years ago, and that was larger displays on laptops. As a result, many laptop manufacturers started offering SXGA+ screens for a few hundred more than the same basic laptop with standard XGA resolution. That gives one a larger desktop, making it easier to see multiple documents at once.
An offsetting trend has been widescreen laptops and displays. With more and more widescreen laptops on the market, less need for SXGA+, and more for higher resolution widescreens. As examples, my Dell laptop from around 2001 was SXGA+, but I replaced it with a widescreen laptop, with 1280x800 (higher widescreen options were available), and more recently I replaced it with a MacBook Pro - also a widescreen, but with 1440x900 native resolution.
As a result, SXGA+ is still a limited market, and projectors with this resolution tend to be used by people with workstations - for command and control centers, scientific rendering, and high resolution graphics.
OK, back to the Canon Realis SX7. This is a projector that is razor sharp, when fed a true SXGA+ source, and its performance on lower XGA sources is almost as good. While any resolution higher or lower than a projector's native resolution will require some compression technology - to make it all fit the entire screen, it is easier to go down (to XGA) than up, say for 1920x1080 (HDTV standard).
The two images below show the SX7's handling of first, XGA, and the lower one is a 1920x1080 source from my MacBook Pro.
Neither is as perfect as the Canon can offer when fed its native 1400x1050, but you can see that overall, the Realis SX7 does a reasonably good job on small type.
In addition, consider that few XGA projectors can even lock onto a 1920x1080 source, and even when they do, their ability to produce smaller text, and fine lines, is marginal at best. After all, an XGA projector has only about 800,000 pixels compared to roughly 3 million for 1920x1080.
Bottom line: If you are dealing with higher resolution sources (above XGA), and need the ability to resolve fine detail, and have readable small text, then the Canon SX7 is definitely going to be a cut above the less expensive, and lower resolution XGA projectors! The Canon doesn't serve a big market, but it will serve its users very well.
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Realis SX7 General Video Performance
The Canon overall, looked good. A basic calibration is definitely called for to make the colors much more accurate. Still even with the uneven color temperature, MoviePhoto mode wasn't too bad. After all, this isn't a home theater projector. It's just fine for video based business and education presentations, where no one cares if a projector flawlessly reproduces skin tones.
"Houston, we have a problem!" I really was impressed. I decided to see how the SX7 looked on a good movie, so I popped in Casino Royale. In the scene with the first chase, a flaw became immediately obvious. When there was a great deal of processing, due to panning and lots of additional activity, horizontal lines flash briefly. I can't begin to explain the cause, but they are very apparent every time there is a great deal of motion throughout the image.
Let's say that the Canon, again, is probably fine for a business video, but not an action packed movie. I only tested feeding 1080p through HDMI, from my PS3.