Sony VPL-VW60 Home Theater Projector Review: Overview and Physical Attributes

Sony VPL-VW60 Shadow Details

Shadow detail is different than black levels. Generally the better the black levels, the more shadow detail that is revealed, but that is not necessarily the case. Even the same projector (such as this VW60), can perform well, or poorly in terms of shadow detail, depending on settings and design. Theoretically, if the blackest a projector can do, out of the traditional 0 – 255 scale, is a black of 12 (that would mean that any gray 12 or lower all are projected at 12, since that’s the darkest the projector can do), then you would expect to lose all shadow detail below that point. Truth is, however, that a display device can compensate – equalize the image to reveal that detail.

Consider, knowing that 12 is as low a gray as one can get, if there is information in the movies that calls for, say a value of 4 (very close to pure black), the projector’s electronics could make that a value of 14 so that it would be visible, 2 shades brighter than the darkest the projector can do. Following that idea, an 8 might be raised to 16 and a 12 to 18, so that you can distiguish between all of these levels. We’ve seen that in action, especially in the Mitsubishi HC4900 which has the poorest black level performance of the 1080p’s I’ve reviewed, yet reveals really good shadow detail.

For review purposes, we are more concerned with the end result – can you make out details in really dark areas, and are less concerned with how that is done, than the final image.

With the Black Level setting off, and Gamma either off or 1, the Sony does a great job. Increase gamma to 3 and all kinds of shadow detail disappears.

Here are a number of images found in most reviews, and a couple comparisons:

We’ll start with an SD-DVD image from Lord of the Rings. This cropped image of a night scene in Gondor, is seriously overexposed to reveal all the dark shadow detail we can find. Just click on the left thumbnail, for some competition, the right thumbnail will show the same scene on the less expensive Panasonic PT-AE2000U:

VPL-VW60 LOTR gondor night close lg
PT-AX200U LOTR gondor night closeLg
VPL-VW60 LOTR gondor night close lg
+PT-AX200U LOTR gondor night closeLg

Click to enlarge. SO close

If you look in the darkest areas, you will occasionally see some additional dark detail on the Sony, that the Panasonic lacks. You’ll also note that colors in the dark areas are also more visible on the Sony.

The other image from Lord of the Rings. This thumbnail below is normally exposed (not from the Sony), and even this small, you can see that the areas along the bottom and the shed on the right, are very dark. Click on the link, for a larger, and overexposed image from the Sony. As you can see, the Sony reveals excellent detail in the dark areas, and of particular note, in the woods of the shed itself. This image is found on most projector reviews, for comparison.

Click Image to Enlarge

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