Sony VPL-HW50ES Projector - Performance
9/25/12 - Art Feierman
Let's look at some VPL-HW50 numbers, including brightness, pre, and post calibration. This section also considers sharpness, light leakage, image noise and audible noise levels.
Sony VPL-HW50ES Brightness
This Sony VPL-HW50ES is fairly typical in brightness when compared to most other home theater projectors in its price range. Over the years, most of the over $2500, but under $10,000 projectors we've measured, have had "best mode" brightness in the 500 to 700 lumen range, and "brightest" is typically between 800 and 1100 lumens.
Thanks to 3D, we're seeing a number of projectors sporting extra 2D lumens these days. This is particulary true of the HW50 projector.
While it's still not a "light cannon" if you need tons of lumens and can sacrifice some color accuracy (a "brightest" mode), this Sony, calibrated is a good deal brighter than most home theater projectors. That makes it ideal for rooms with good light control, such as theaters, caves, and many media rooms.
Lumen Output and Color Temp at 100 IRE (mid zoom):
Reference= 1044 @ 7369
TV= 1054 @ 7356
Cinema Film 1= 1047 @ 7360
Cinema Film 2= 773 @ 6112
User= 1054 @ 7357
Game= 1281 @ 7815
Photo= 794 @ 6121
Bright Cinema= 1132 @ 8477
Bright TV= 1131 @ 8480
Those numbers are all "right out of the box", without any adjustments. The two key brightest modes, Bright Cinema and Bright TV both topped 1100 lumens. That's still brighter than your average home theater projector in "brightest mode".
1281 lumens represents the highest that Mike measured (Game mode), and that with the zoom at mid-point. Not your first choice in modes, you'll probably stick with the almost as bright calibrated mode, or the Bright TV or Bright Cinema.
Post Calibration: User "best" mode = 992 lumens
Right off the bat, that's a good deal brighter than the HW50's little brother, the HW30ES, which produced 814 lumens - that makes the HW50ES projector 22% brighter.
Essentially you have 1000 calibrated lumens. Have fun. You can easily fill an extremely large screen for 2D viewing. 150" diagonal is very doable if that's your thing. I like my screens in the 120+" diagonal range it seems. This projector has no problem producing a bright calibrated image, on my 124" diagonal 2.35:1 screen in 2D - nice and bright! If I'm watching a 16:9 movie, which works out to bout 98" diagonal, I've even switched the lamp into low power mode a few times.
The Sony 1.6:1 Zoom Has A Limited Effect on Brightness
Effect of zoom on lumen output (Reference mode):
Zoom out: 1109
Zoom in: 997
The optics show minimal drop off in brightness as you place the projector more telephoto (further back). Given, this is a 1.6:1 zoom, a drop of only 10% is impressive. Drop off can be an issue. On some of those 2:1 and 2.1:1 zooms out there, those projectors can drop almost 40% by the time you are at full telephoto, for rear shelf placement.
VPL-HW50 Projector Low Lamp Mode
Switching to Low lamp should cause the same percentage drop, regardless of which mode you are viewing.
Mike randomly picked Reference mode to compare the two settings. Lumens dropped from 1044 to 657 lumens. That's a hefty drop of 37%. Most projectors drop between 33% and 20%. The big drop here, is expecially beneficial since the projector is so bright calibrated, that it's technically too bright for some smaller screens unless you go with screen gains below 1.0. Nice to have only about 650 lumens if you really don't need more. That, BTW, the Sony's low power mode will give you a very bright 100" diagonal image, and is technically bright enough for about a 125" diagonal screen. Sweet!
Below, the same image twice, first one full power, second one low:
Sony VPL-HW50ES Pre-Calibration Color temp, Cinema Mode:
Ideally projectors should be calibrated to D65, basically 6500 degrees Kelvin. Below you see two modes color temps listed, both in the low 7000 temperature range. At 7000K you are going to be just a touch thin on reds. At 7300, even more so, but still pretty slight. You want to observe a color temperative that is obviously quite thin on reds, you are probably looking at a color temp of 8500K or higher. In other words 7000K is pretty close, but still can definitely be improved upon.
As one calibrator expressed to me a few years ago, When he comes and calibrates a projector that starts out pretty good around 7000K (across the brightness rage), and then shows the client the finished calibration at 6500K, he often gets a hard time from them.
Why? Because pre-calibration if that projector already looked pretty good, and after calibration it only looked a little better, then the person whose spent $400 - $500 on a professional calibrator might be expecting something more dramatic. I'm talking along the lines of: "wow - that's a huge difference".
Color Temp over IRE Range (Best Mode, Pre calibration):
Reference Cinema Film 1
30 IRE 7357 7050
50 IRE 7342 7087
80 IRE 7339 7057
100 IRE 7369 7360
As you can see, the Cinema 1 mode was the best "right out of the box" without adjustment. It's a trifle on the cool side, just a touch thin on red. Cinema 3, was cooler still, so Mike based his D65 calibration on Cinema 1.
Mike calibrated and came up with the results below which he placed in User mode.
VPL-HW50 ES Color Temp over IRE Range (Post calibration):
20 IRE 6396
30 IRE 6545
40 IRE 6494
50 IRE 6514
60 IRE 6517
70 IRE 6504
80 IRE 6479
90 IRE 6432
100 IRE 6804
Average gamma= 2.22
That's about a 400K shift of temperature over the range. but other than the very slight coolness of white (100 IRE, at 6804K, all the other numbers are within a range of only 121K. Pretty tight.
Next: Let's take a look at how all these different modes look. There is a shot of each below. User is after Mike's calibration. Others were really only adjusted for correct brightness, contrast, etc., and Sony's almost dead on, on almost all of those settings. In fact that's one of Sony's big "things": Out of the box performance.
All were taken with the same exposure, which works nicely since the brightest mode isn't even close to double the least bright. Here goes:
It seems I did miss one, Sports. Sorry about that. You can see that the three brightest modes are Bright TV, Bright Cinema and Game, and all are a bit cooler than the others, although they still look really good. I've watched all my sports viewing in Bright TV and been very pleased with the settings.
Sony VPL-HW50ES Sharpness
Greetings, first things first, I'm changing the image we're using immediately below from the PS3. In the past, looking at the video icon, it was mostly on a dark background. Now on my PS3, it's always Playstation store medium light blue background. So, I'm pointing to a different icon. It works just as well.
Top left: Sony VPL-HW50ES, Top Center: Sony VPL-VW1000ES, Top Center: Epson Home Cinema 5010
Top Right: Sharp XV-Z30000
Bottom Left: Runco LS-5, Bottom Right: Optoma HD8300
Of note, above. Reality Creation was on, setting 20. For this type of image, I believe it actually detracts from the sharpness of the text, but still looks really sharp.
Reality Creation - Detail Enhancement - Continued
I started on the first page. But I have lots of images. Immediately below you can compare the effects of Reality Creation at different settings, and also with it off. This batch of images is from Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix.
In order, top to bottom - Reality Creation set to:
20, Off, 35, 50, 75, and 25. I wanted to let you have Off between 20, and 35, which I consider the optimum range.
Note regarding the images above. You can see differences in Daniel Craig's face, but also check out other areas, you can even see the different settings affect on background noise.
There are a couple of other examples of RC, On, and Off, this time from Harry Potter:
This last one is pretty impressive, yes? In the lower image with RC on, it is set for 20. Note that I have cropped this image, you are only looking at about 1/3 of the screen so details are "larger" and easier to see the differences.
Sony VPL-HW50ES: Bottom Line Sharpness
Bottom line: Convergence of this pre-production unit was so-so, not surprisingly, as it's "been" doing a lot of traveling, and is not full production. With the Auto convergence feature though, it comes out looking pretty good. There is also the likely more precise manual system, but all those zones take some time. Not for those who bore easily.
Using Reality Creation can take detail and sharpness to essentially new levels for a 2K projector. Just remember, there are always some trade-offs. Still, I doubt if even a particularly good under $5K single chip DLP will look sharper, even if one technically is, as DLP's have an inherent advantage. RC will let you think you have the sharpest projector out there.
This Sony projector, like its predecessors (and even more expensive siblings. Likes to leak a very small amount of light through the lens. Some of that lands outside of the image area.
The amount is minimal. If you really want to spot that light leakage, you are probably going to have to pause the image on a black frame. Even so, you aren't likely to be able to spot it, unless your room has a front wall that's fairly light, to show off that faint light when the room is fully dark.
There is no leakage out the vents, or, perhaps I should say, absolutely no noticeable amount escapes the vents.
I have no issues with light leakage. Optics seem particularly clean, halo (white leaking into nearby black) around white text on a black backround (such as film credits), is less noticeable than with most projectors. Very good!
I mentioned 3D related noise issues if you set the projector and glasses for the brightest image based on the black frames and glasses opening times. Once again, I recommend the 2 setting, or if you can live with the even lower brightness, the minimum - 1. At the maximum of 4, you get max brightness, but a scene with a distant crowd has that crowd looking sort of over contrasty, not natural.
Note, I've watched many hours of 3D pretty much continuously, without any fatigue, although, I have yet to be fatigued by any newer 3D projector.
2D noise issues are what I expect of a modern quality home projector - none worth discussing. The art of image processing took lots of strides over the last 6-8 years. Today, just about every projector is reasonably clean on image noises, except, perhaps some entry level and crossover projectors.
Remember, there' are many noise controls on this projector, standard, motion noise, and noises relating to Reality Creation...
Sony claims 22db in eco-mode, and that, folks is very quiet. The quietest home theater projectors seem to get down to about 15 or 16 db, but 22 is lower than the vast majority.
At full power, I don't believe Sony publishes a spec, but don't worry about it, this Sony is not only pretty quiet at full power, but the fan pitch is low.
No matter, if I had to guess at a full power audible noise level, I'd probably have to go with 25-27 db, and that's still quiet compared to most projectors at full power.
The Sony is quiet enough that most noise adverse buyers probably won't have any problem with full power, and definitely not eco-mode!