Sony VPL-VW85 Projector - Image Quality
Sony VPL-VW85 images below are from either Blu-ray, or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). These images are not overly accurate compared to the image the VPL-VW85 projector projects on the screen. There are color shifts (too much yellow, in this case), saturation differences, etc.
These images are provided to support the commentary. In reality, the projectors always look better than the images in our reviews. From a color standpoint, my dSLR camera still adds a very slight green shift to some photo shoots that I have not been able to completely remove. In other words, while we can demonstrate differences in black levels and shadow details of the VW85, the photos are only approximations of skin tone and color accuracy.
1-4-2010 - Art Feierman
VPL-VW85 Out of the Box Picture Quality
One more comment about the images below. The images below tend to show a little less red, noticeable in the skin tones, than were actually seen on the screen.
Out of the box performance turns out to be especially good. Color temp hovers around the ideal 6500K, although after calibration, we get tighter results, just slightly improved. This is a projector you could live with just fine without having it professionally calibrated (assuming you can't calibrate it yourself), but when you are spending this kind of money on a projector (and the other toys), the few hundred or so to fully calibrate it, in its environment, seems a bit of a waste.
The image immediately below is an all digital image from the DVE test disc.
It's those reds, darn! Despite that small extra touch of reds evident in most skin tones, I'd say skin tones look extremely good. Understand how we work here. Mike takes the projectors and calibrates them. Very slight differences in how a calibrator approach things give slightly different results. While, for example, the color temp numbers are right on, slightly different individual color settings will provide similar, but different final tonal balance. In a perfect world I'd have Mike do two more things - calibrate each of the primary and secondary colors - something we rarely do, (time and expense) and re-calibrate the grayscale. No doubt the results would be different, and slightly better.
Based on what we see, which is very believable skin tones, a pro calibration will only make them better. I'd definitely recommend having it properly calibrated. Afterall, the reason for spending this much, compared to the best $2,000 to $3500 projectors, is to get incrementally closer to the ideal. The Sony VW85 is a great launching pad for a superb picture, so get it properly calibrated to get all of your money's worth. I should note, I did a lot of side by side viewing with the Epson Home Cinema 9500UB. The Epson's skin tones, are quite the opposite of the Sony's. The slight tendency there, is toward green, not red. Side by side the difference is very noticeable, yet, either, alone, looks really good. Perhaps most interesting, is how similar the two images are. Consider (Sony is on the left):
Below, a nice collection of skin tones, from film sources. First are a pair of images from my favorite movie not available yet on Blu-ray: Lord of the Rings, played from standard DVD. Once again, I must point out the images below do not show that red tendency.
The next two, from Red October and Casino Royale
Next are images from the sci-fi flick, Aeon Flux:
From Men In Black:
From Hunt for Red October:
Lau, above, from The Dark Knight, looked particularly excellent. I think I've said that before about this frame, in one of the other Sony reviews.
Sony VPL-VW85 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Huge surprise! Instead of a nice, slight, just noticeable improvement in black level performance, which seems to be what most manufacturers offered us this season, Sony has improved black levels impressively. Since, for the last 2+ years, JVC has been the benchmark for black levels (excluding CRT projectors of course), I can't help but compare the VW85 to the JVC in order to best describe the black level performance.
I'm likely repeating myself, but JVC gets its great blacks without having to resort to a dynamic iris. Even with dynamic irises, though, no projector last year, came really close to the JVC RS20. The new RS25 is just a touch better than the RS20, in terms of blacks.
Last year, I found the VW70 to be well short of the RS20, in terms of black level performance, in fact more in the range of JVC's lower cost RS10.
Not so, this time! I didn't have the RS25 here, but do have my RS20. At its best, on just the right type of scene, the Sony now can match the blacks of the RS20. Most of the time, on very dark scenes, and mostly dark scenes with small bright areas, it can't quite match the JVC, but it's so close that I have to say that, as a black level fanatic, the Sony's blacks are certainly no deal breaker. I could just as easily own the Sony as far as blacks are concerned. Yes, the JVC is a touch better, but most of the time even side by side, the difference isn't evident.
Of course, with a dynamic iris, there are side issues. To operate, they need to compress the image a bit, if there are any fully bright areas. That translates to less punch, but, again, watching the two, side by side, it is rarely obvious.
So, when it comes to black level performance, the RS20, and the RS25, now have a very slight advantage, and I must say, there isn't another projector I am aware of, that can claim that, compared to the VW85.
Immediately below, from The Fifth Element, our favorite starship image - overexposed. And right below it, the same image from the JVC RS25.
Below, the Sony again, but normally exposed, and for comparison, a number of other projectors
For comparison, here's the same image more normally exposed, from the JVC RS25.
Next, the Panasonic PT-AE4000, which isn't really a match for the Sony VPL-VW85, but one fine projector for $2000:
Below you get a look at the VW85 vs. my JVC RS20. The RS20 is above, and the VPL-VW85 on the lower part of the screen (a Firehawk G3). Very, very, similar. Then the next image, below, is the same frame, but seriously overexposed, so you can see the black level differences in the letterbox dark area in between. Even with that level of overexposure, they are both still near black. You can, however see a slight difference if your monitor is bright enough. On my MacBook Pro, I really had to look close on the small image, so click to enlarge - it helps.
Here are three dark scenes comparing the Sony VW85 (left) and Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB (right) from Space Cowboys (Overall, the Epson image ended up a touch brighter than the Sony, so take that into consideration):
In the last two above, we have the same Earth and stars background, but when the shuttle enters, the dynamic iris has to open up more. You can see space get brighter, as blacks get less so, despite the same camera exposure. For that reason Earth also appears brighter. In the first image, the Sony (left) has a ery slight advantage, but in the second one, the difference is more evident, due to different iris action between the two. Keep in mind, that if one of those was the JVC RS25, it's blacks would remain just as black, with the shuttle in the picture, as without. And therein lies the biggest black level advantage of the JVC over the Sony. Still, these images are intentionally a bit overexposed. The Sony's blacks (even with the shuttle) looked stellar!
These next two all digital images images are good ones for considering black levels and dark shadow detail. Look for the richness in the black part of some of the buildings and also, the sky, in the second image. Both of these first two, are digital hi-def images from the DVE-HD calibration disc.
Of course nothing like a real image of the night sky to show off great black level performance. This one is from the Hubble telescope. This image is stunning filling about 110" diagonal inches of my Firehawk G3, with the projector in best mode.
Shadow Detail Performance
Shadow detail performance of the Sony is very good, not exceptional. Seeing the darkest of shadow details is inherently more difficult on a projector with really great blacks, as the near blacks are still very, very dark. Despite this, the Sony does a good job. I can think of several projectors with better dark shadow handling, but not enough to be an issue. I put the VW85 as a bit better than the Epson 8500UB and 9500UB projectors, and about comparable to the RS25. The Panasonic PT-AE4000, the Optoma HD8600, and one or two others can best it.
Below, our overexposed satellite from Space Cowboys. Look in the dark areas. Pretty comparable, despite the Epson, on the right, being slightly brighter, which does wash out the black of space a bit, but helps see near dark detail in the satellite.
Below are groups of images, showing the Sony's performance on shadow detail and black levels compared to many of the other 1080p projectors out there.
The first set of comparison images is from Space Cowboys. This is a very dark scene with Clint Eastwood on Blu-ray disc. The photos are intentionally way overexposed. Look for the blacks in the shades, and the details in those shades in the form of the white trim. (At this level of overexposure, don't even worry about the skin tones, as in these types of overexposed photos they always look terrible).
First image is the VPL-VW85, followed by the JVC DLA-RS25 and the Mitsubishi HC7000. Next is the the Sony HW15. The last two in the sequence are the Panasonic PT-AE4000 and the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB.
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The VPL-VW85 (top left) shows very good shadow detail in the dark areas of the satellite. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB/Pro Cinema 9500UB, Those images are followed by the Optoma HD8600 and the older Sony VW70 (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC7000 (left), and the JVC DLA-RS25:
Next is a frame from the last Indiana Jones movie. You'll see this one in other recent reviews. The details still found as the walls and fixtures darken toward the top, are a good way to compare shadow detail.
On the left, is the VPL-VW85, the middle, the Epson 8500UB/9500UB, and on the right, the JVC RS25. The exposures are all a little different, but you should be able to appreciate the combination of shadow detail and dark blacks
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Sony VPL-VW85, the second is the JVC RS25, followed by the Epson 9500UB, the Mitsuishi HC7000 and the last one is from the Optoma HD8600.
Bottom Line on Black Level and Dark Shadow Detail Performance:
Excellent overall. With blacks only a close second to the JVC RS20/RS25, and comparable shadow detail, this Sony is about as good as it gets. In this area, perhaps only JVC's RS35 (an RS25 made with a much higher quality control level on all things, including lens, optical engine), may prove to be really, visibly superior. Even the JVC RS25, while technically better, is not that much better to have a serious advantage, as last year's JVC did have, over last year's Sony.
Overall Color & Picture Quality
Truly impressive. It all adds up to a first class picture. Colors are really good, skin tones, as noted, most believable (despi5e a touch too much red). There's nothing not to like with the VPL-VW85 projector when it comes to overall picture quality.
Of course, that's about what you want to expect when spending on a projector in this price range. It's going to have to be some other aspect, not the picture quality of the Sony VPL-VW85 home theater projector, to dissuade you from owning one.
A mix of additional images to show off the VPL-VW85, Don't forget, our section on how the Sony performs on HDTV, primarily Sports, is found below:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
Back to movies:
And here are a few more images, for your consideration, and viewing pleasure!
The very bottom line on overall image quality and color:
The VPL-VW85 looks great. It's one of those projectors that just tends to look right, when viewing a lot of different material. It even looks pretty vibrant, within the limits of its overall brightness.
Sony VPL-VW85 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
The picture the VPL-VW85 puts up on the screen looks really good in terms of color. With only a 127 lumen difference between "best" and "brightest", they are close enough, that if you have good room lighting control, you may choose "best" mode for first class color and skin tones, or you could opt for a brighter image, and lighter gamma (lower number), with our "quick-calibraton" user mode based on Dynamic.
The colors and overall image in "brightest" mode is still rather impressive, and much better than a few far brighter projectors that shift towards green, significantly, to get more lumens on the screen.
That said, brightest mode is dim, compared to most projectors, and many competitors put 50% and some even 100% more lumens on the screen, and most of those others, can produce really good color with lumen measurements in the 1000 - 1300 range. For example, the Epson 9500UB's Livingroom mode isn't as good as the Sony's "brightest" but close enough, that unless the room is fully darkened, virtually everyone would much prefer to watch the Epson, for it's huge brightness advantage on sports.
HDTV Sport Images:
The first three images were shot in my "testing" room on a Carada Brilliant White screen (1.4 gain), and all lights off. (A cave!) Not the way I like my sports, but, hey, the colors are rich and dynamic, and the Sony looks great.
Next we try some ambient light. The two rear recessed lights (65 watt dimmable CFLs), were at 50% brightness in the image immediately below. The projector was set to our "brightest" mode. The front two recessed lights were turned off. Also note, due to where I need to place the VW85 in this room, I was only projecting about a 90 inch diagonal image, which is smaller than most folks have.
Below is a photo of the back of the testing room, showing rear lighting (on full). Thanks to medium chocolate colored walls, dark woods, and even a ceiling that is a number of shades darker than off-white, the front of the testing room remains fairly dark, yet, even the recessed, dimmed lights, take a small, but visible toll on a 90" diagonal image. With this modest lighting, a basic 110 diagonal screen starts to wash out more than I would like to view.