Review: Sony VPL-HW55ES Home Theater Projector

CALIBRATING THE VPL-HW55ES PROJECTOR: GENERAL CALIBRATION AND GRAYSCALE (RGB) SETTINGS

A Note on Brightness Measurements

NOTE: This Sony VPL-HW55ES was one of the last projectors calibrated before Mike, our calibrator, changed out his equipment. As a result of the new gear, projectors reviewed since are measuring just over 10% higher. When comparing against newer reviews, such as Sony’s own VPL-HW40ES, BenQ’s W7500, etc., add 10% to our HW55ES measurements so that the change in equipment is accounted for. Our brightness numbers were lower than in most other reviews, and now our numbers are slightly more optimistic than others.

Post Calibration Color Temperature

Color Temp over IRE Range (Post Calibration)
100 IRE (White) 6414
90 6507
80 6504
70 6516
60 6506
50 6488
40 6474
30 6537
20 6516

The color temperature measurements for the VPL-HW55ES, shown above, are repeated from the Performance page, for your convenience.  Below find the grayscale settings general settings Mike came up with as part of his calibration.  Note that he did not do what we call a quick-cal of the brightest mode.  Normally that means taking the brightest mode, and get the most improvement in picture quality without sacrificing significant brightness.  In this case, those modes already look impressively good without any fine tuning.

Grayscale Settings: RGB Adjustments

Grayscale Settings:  Custom Color 3 (color temp)
Gain
  Red 3
  Green 0
  Blue 6
Bias
  Red 0
  Green 0
  Blue -3

The grayscale calibration is more than getting the projector to measure out 6500K from brightest to darkest areas.  You can still have 6500K color temp, but with way too much or too little green.  By having two controls for each color, that split up the bright from the dark areas (on most projectors there is overlap), most projectors can calibrate in a narrow range, typically 100K color temp to 400K color temp from 100 IRE down to 20 IRE.  This Sony had no trouble working the whole range with total variation of only 123K.  Stellar.  Better still, the Sony averages about 6490K.  That’s a wow.

There is no advanced calibration page for our subscribers, for this Sony projector.  As Mike indicated above, the color space was essentially dead on. Can’t ask for more than that. Plug in our settings see what they do.  The changes will not be dramatic.

Adjustments Made to VPL-HW55ES General Picture Settings

General Picture Settings – After Calibration:  Numbers in ( ) are Default
Setting: Reference TV Cinema Film 1 Cinema Film 2 User
Contrast (90) (90) (90) (90) (90)
Brightness (50) (50) 51 (50) (50) (50)
Color (50) (50) 53 (50) (50)
Tint (50) (50) (50) (50) (50)
Color Temp (D65) (D65) (D65) (D55) (D65)
Color Space (BT.709) Color Space 1) Color Space 3) Color Space 3) (BT.709)
Gamma (Off) (2.4) Gamma 8 Off Off
Iris (Off) Auto Fill Auto Fill Auto Limited (Off)

 

General Picture Settings – After Calibration:  Numbers in ( ) are Default
Setting: Photo Bright Cinema Bright TV Game
Contrast (90) 90 (Max) (90) (90) (Max)
Brightness (50) 51 50 50 50
Color (50) (55) (55) (55)
Tint (50) (50) (50) (50)
Color Temp (D55) (D75) (D75) (D55)
Color Space (BT.709) Color Space 3) Color Space 2) Color Space 3)
Gamma (Off) (9) (10) (9)
Iris (Manual 50) Off Off Off

 

 

Impressive, most of the settings proved to be dead on.  That is, most remained on their default settings, post calibration.

There are nine different modes, so we had to brake down the settings info into two separate tables.  User is the calibrated mode, those are Mike’s settings.  Mike explains the Color Space accuracy below.

Mike’s thoughts on the VPL-HW55ES projector:

As was the case with last year’s HW50ES, a number of modes are almost identical when it comes to default grayscale. Reference, Cinema Film 1, TV and User modes all have roughly the same RGB balance that is excellent right out of the box.  Red and blue are slightly low, but that’s about it.  The RGB balance is also consistent across the entire IRE range.  The out-of-the-box grayscale is so good that if you switch back and forth between the calibrated User mode and Reference, they look the same to a naked eye.  The User mode calibrated so well that Delta E was 0.5 or less from 30 to 90 IRE, rising only to 1.6 at 20 IRE and 2.0 at 100 IRE.  Even before calibration, Delta E was only 2.8 at 100 IRE.  These are the best default and calibrated grayscales I’ve seen to date.  Uniformity is generally good, with only some red tinting along the sides of an all white screen that’s not noticeable in normal scenes.

As far as picture quality is concerned, the different color spaces used by TV and Cinema Film 1 make for more saturated colors, but are less accurate. 

As usual, Sony provides a range of color spaces that tend to make a CMS unnecessary.  BT.709 is about as close as you can get pretty close to the Rec. 709 standard.  Color Space 1, 2 and 3 expand the gamut to varying degrees, with Wide 3 being the largest gamut of the three.

There’s really not much to say about the picture quality other than it looks great.  This is easily the most “plug-and-play” projector I’ve seen.  You get almost 1000 lumens calibrated with accurate colors and decent blacks.

I have one thing to add to Mike’s dissertation above.  The red tinting would be the usual panel  mis-convergence.  However, Mike did not align the panels, I did that after he returned the projector.  With the controls I was truly surprised by how effective it was.  The red edge was effectively gone, even viewing the screen from a foot away.

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