Sony VPL-HW50ES Projector - Physical Tour
We will start our tour of the Sony VPL-HW50ES at the front.
9/24/12 - Art Feierman
Sony VPL-HW50ES Projector - Appearance
Note, while some of the product shots of the HW50ES were taken by me, once again, it's hard to pass on the professional photography Sony provides.
Very dark gray/black throughout, with just a bit of a two tone look. Overall, it's slightly larger than most home projectors (typical for LCoS), but still a good bit smaller than some others. It is just a bit larger than the Panasonic PT-AE8000 or Epson HC5020, HC6020, smaller than the JVCs... Overall it is a clean looking design, one that other than size, shouldn't have much problem with the "wife factor" (how politically incorrect is that phrase)? That of course, assuming that you are placing it on a ceiling that's dark, not white.
The VPL-HW50ES sports its lens shift dials on the top, right behind the lens.
As has been Sony's design for several years now, the inputs, and noticeably, a small control panel, are located on the left side (when facing the projector). More below on both. Four screw thread adjustable feet adorn the bottom of the projector for those of you not ceiling mounting.
VPL-HW50ES Control Panel
In fact, the small control panel is located above the recessed input panel. Closest to the front, is the power switch. As you can see above, next comes the input button (press repeatedly to scroll through the many inputs), then the Menu button. Behind that, and last, is a tiny navigation joystick, with press straight in for Enter. It works fine, if you must, it's just a backup to a rather full featured remote control. that replaces the usual four arrow keys. Pressing the joystick in, is the Enter function. All considered, it works pretty well. I still prefer control panels on the top, not that anyone tends to use them once a projector is mounted.
VPL-HW50ES Projector - Input/Output
For the most part, the VPL-HW50's input panel is similar to previous HW and VW LCoS ("L-cose"), that is, SXRD projectors.
The connector area is located on the side of the projector, below the control panel, and runs from back to front. Furthest to the rear, is the power receptacle. Just forward, and above, are two HDMI 1.4a inputs (one circuit, two connectors, as is typical). Next up, is a standard HD15 analog computer input, for hooking up to a traditional PC.
That's followed by the usual composite video (yellow RCA jack), and then the three (R,G,B) color coded RCA jacks for the component video. Note, should you need two component video connections, the HD15 computer connection should be able to double as your second one.
After the component video, is an ethernet type jack (RJ45) for an optional 3D emitter for the VPL-HW50ES projector. With the less expensive HW30, there are two versions, one with the emitter and two pair of glasses, the other without. The point being, you needed to have the emitter for 3D with the less expensive Sony projector, but not for this VPL-HW50ES.
An emitter is still available as an option for the HW50, in the event you have a larger than typical room. So far in my fairly typical sized theater (the space above a two car garage (a little more than 400 sq feet), no problem from anywhere in my room.
Next (second from the front) is a jack to hardwire the remote control (for long distances, or rear projection, where there's no line of sight).
As is typical, there's the usual RS-232 serial port for command and control from a room or whole house system
The VPL-VW50ES lacks a 12 volt trigger (for controlling an anamorphic lens, or a motorized screen), found on the more expensive $6999 VPL-VW95ES, or $24,999 VW1000ES.
No surprise, the Sony VPL-HW50ES menus have the same look and feel as previous generations of Sony HW and VW projectors that have come before. Below, find most of the main menus, several sub-menus, and adjustment controls.
First menu is the picture menu. I've also placed a number of sub-menus below it, including those for CFI, Reality Creation, Color Temp selection, and Color Temp controls (for grayscale balance). Lamp brightness is found under Cinema Black Pro. The Expert setting has various noise reduction options gamma correction and other controls.
Immediately above - RCP, which is Sony's Color Management System with three user settings for tuning the individual colors.
The Screen menu above, primarily offers the Overscan control. Personally, I like to also see a masking option. With overscan, you end up slightly enlarging the image to eliminate any noise around the edge of the image, by getting rid of the outer several percent. Cropping/masking by comparison, simply doesn't project that outer area, instead you get a slightly smaller image. The advantage - you maintain 1:1 pixel mapping, which overscan gives up. 1:1 means one pixel for each piece of data, no fudging, no compressing, etc.
Above, the Function menu, including 3D settings. The image to the right (above) is the 3D menu when the source is 2D. You can tell it convert to 3D. When in 3D, however you get additional options, including the key one which offers 4 different brightness modes for the glasses by controlling open/closed times for each eye.
As mentioned elsewhere, this is a pre-production projector. In fact, as you can see above, it is the 12th VW-HW50ES projector built. I would presume all of these pre-production projectors share the 9999999 serial number. When I started with this projector it had about 50 hours on the lamp. It was 107 when the image was taken, and almost 150 hours as I write this, the day of publication.
Sony VPL-HW50ES Remote Control
I like Sony remote controls. This new one for the VPL-HW50ES is another long narrow remote. It feels good in your hand, solid! The backlight - is just a tad dim for my taste, but probably not an issue for the majority of folks. You can get to a lot of the main controls without shifting your hand from the middle area, but, power on and off, and that backlight are at the top, where you'll probably use your other hand to control them.
Not far below those three, is a block of 3 rows by 3 buttons with your picture modes - nine total including the User mode.
Further down is the navigation area of the Sony remote control. Three large buttons surround the four navigation arrows and center Enter button.
Those three are Pattern - for test patterns, and Reset. The third one, at the bottom is the all important Menu button. (I never have understood why anyone would design RESET to be a large button the middle of things. Scary - although you have to confirm.)
The next block of nine buttons give you direct access to most of the major image controls. Those include aspect ratio, 3D, Color Space, Color Temp, RCP (CMS), CFI, Dynamic Iris (or manual iris) settings, and Reality Creation
That only leaves three very popular controls, and those are +/- controls at the bottom for Sharpness, Brightness, and Contrast.
Sony VPL-HW50ES Lens Throw
The VPL-HW50ES sports a 1.6:1 zoom ratio manual zoom lens..
To fill the usual 100" diagonal screen, the front of the projector can be as close as 9.7 feet from the screen, or as far back as 15.7 feet. In both cases, that allows you to place it a little closer, say, than the Optoma HD8300 (more expensive DLP projector), which has a slightly narrower zoom range of 1.5:1.
Overall, the range of the Sony zoom is very typical for zooms in the 1.5:1 to 1.6:1 range. Even projectors with 2:1 zooms, typically can't sit closer to a 100" screen than about 9.5 feet, but those can go back to about 20 feet.
The only potential downside for the VPL-HW50ES in terms of placement flexibility, is that while the HW50ES is capable of being rear shelf mounted, in many rooms, you won't have the zoom range to place the projector far enough back to be on a rear wall.
Of course, if you have a fairly short distance to the back wall, or a pretty large screen for the room, you still, likely, can shelf mount. Me, I'm a big screen fan, so in most rooms that wouldn't be a challenge for me. One advantage of this Sony, if you are at the telephoto (distant) end of the zoom range
Sony's optics seem particularly good. Once sign is a very limited drop in brightness across the zoom range. The HW50ES's brightness is covered on the performance page, but it shows limited drop from wide angle to telephoto.
The Sony VPL-HW50ES offers manual horizontal and vertical lens shift. As is typical, there's far more vertical shift. Note that the two controls affect each other. The more vertical shift you use, the more the amount of horizontal shift that will be available. That's standard across all projectors.
Assuming no horizontal shift, the vertical lens shift of the Sony VPL-HW50ES will allow you to have the projector positioned +/- 65% of screen height. Our usual 100" diagonal 16:9 screen is roughly 50" tall, so that provides a range of +/- about 33 inches with the lens (measured from the center of the lens) approximately 8 inches above the top of the screen surface, all the way down to about 8 inches below the bottom of the screen surface. That is the same amount as found on Sony's HW30ES
There are a number of projectors with more vertical lens shift range, but the Sony numbers are pretty good. Having more range would help someone with a high ceiling, allowing the projector to be mounted higher up, where it is more out of the way. Of course the difference between the Sony, and the competition that has more range, is typically maybe an extra 15 inches of shift at most, not exactly a factor if you have a really high ceiling. (I once had a projector mounted and hanging down almost 8 feet on the usual extension pole, due to having a cathedral ceiling).
Anamorphic Lens - Wide Screen
The Sony VPL-HW50ES does support an anamorphic lens, one feature the lower cost HW30ES does not. The HW50ES provides two anamorphic modes, so you can place the anamorphic lens in front of the projector's lens, and leave it there, allowing for the second mode to correct the aspect ratio when you are watching standard 16:9 or 4:3. This saves you the cost of an expensive lens sled (a sled can be couple thousand dollars, or even a lot more on some really high end brands).