Sony Cineza HS51A Review – Their latest LCD powered, home theater projector

For most of my viewing, I had the projector in low power mode, had the gamma control set to Gamma 2 (it seems to lighten dark areas and enhance contrast), and had the Iris on Auto. This provided some very respectable black levels and very good, but not spectacular shadow detail. Unfortunately I did not have another LCD home theater projector like the less expensive Sanyo Z4 or Panasonic PT-AE900u for comparison, but did have the slightly more expensive Optoma H78DC3 for some side by side comparison. Despite the high 10,000:1 contrast ratio, LCD projectors just can’t match the DLP projectors using the Darkchip 3 when it comes to doing the best black levels.

BTW, the Auto Iris seems to work best on dark scenes without extremely bright areas. When I viewed scenes with a lot of dark detail but also very bright areas, the iris didn’t seem to do much, (as expected) and it cost some shadow detail. There is a third option which is Iris On, which provides the least bright image. Like most projectors, there are so many options that it is very hard to find the optimal settings with all the “AI” type control of the image from frame to frame.

Theres still another control which is the Black control. You get “richer blacks (seem darker) if you engage the control and set it for Low, Blacks jump out even more with Black level set to High, but the loss of shadow detail is very noticeable. I found the Low setting a good compromise.

Overall, I found black levels to be roughly comparable to other LCD projectors and not quite as good as the Darkchip 2 DLP’s but close enough that the fancy frame by frame “AI” like adjustments, like the Auto Iris, may make one projector look better on one scene and not quite as good on another.

Here are some more of the usual images I shoot to demonstrate shadow detail: The image immediately to the right looked very good, but the Sony lost some shadow detail on the cliff face on the right, compared to the BenQ PE7700, and noticeably more so, when compared to the slightly more expensive Optoma H78DC3 (both DLP projectors).

This scene from Star Wars looked particularly good on the Sony. It did a surprisingly good job of handling the image, with the Iris in Auto mode. It maintained good shadow detail, while not losing the highlight details in the signs on the left.

Stars were plentiful on this opening sequence from Star Wars. The Sony did about as well of any projector tested, except for the more expensive Darkchip 3 DLP’s – the Optoma H78DC3 and the BenQ PE8720.

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