Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector - Image Quality
All of the Sony VPL-90ES screen image photos below are from either Blu-ray or HDTV,
In truth, virtually all projectors, including this VPL-90ES, will look a lot better projecting on to your screen, than in these pictures. Still there are things to be learned by viewing them.
These Sony VPL-VW90ES projector images come to you, through a Canon D60 dSLR camera, software, browsers, and even your monitor, all with their own color inaccuracies. There are color shifts, saturation differences, etc. Take them all, "with a grain of salt"
The images of the Sony VPL-VW90ES are provided to support the commentary, but keep in mind the limitations when trying to compare images from the VPL-90ES with other home theater projectors.
3/13/11 - Art Feierman
VPL-VW90ES "Out of the Box" Picture Quality
Once again, and somewhat surprisingly, the Sony's picture is a little disappointing, right out of the box. Many other projectors start with slightly more faithful color, even a number that are a small fraction the price. Basically, even the warmest out-of-the-box color temp, starts too warm. Don't sweat it though, once calibrated...
Check out our recommended settings for items like Brightness, Color, etc. on the Calibration page of this review.
VPL-VW90ES Projector - Flesh Tones
I'd truly be raving about the skin tones of the VPL-VW90ES projector (post calibration), but for having just spent many dozens of hours bathing in the brilliance of the Runco LS-10d home cinema projector (that's still here)! That projector combines almost triple the brightness with truly stunning skin tones.
This Sony VW90ES, almost pales by comparison, but it really is excellent. What has been particularly interesting is how the Sony handles skin tones in darker scenes. The colors end up rich and saturated. They look natural with a touch of intense. The Sony reminds me of may DLP's in that regard. Not sure why, but most impressive.
This is a $10,000 projector so you figure you should get some great looking fleshtones, when viewing. The VPL-VW90ES delivers on that. I like the skin tones right now, better than my JVC RS20 (though in fairness, the lamp is old and it could use a tweaking). This year Epson's THX mode proved excellent out of the box. First time I've described that projector as being very natural, and fairly film like. I mention that, so that I can say, yep, but this Sony is still better. This first image of Gandalf, gives you a good idea of the Sony's abilities, although the reproduction could be a tad more accurate.
Above and below are images from the Blu-ray release of Lord of the Rings, and skin tones of both Gandalf and Arwen appear very natural. The blue caste you see in the walls above, accurately reflect what I saw on the screen (except, the image above is more staturated looking).
Below, Arwen looks rather pale. This is pretty correct. The scene is in a forest, and it lends a slight green caste to the image, which gives it that pale look. You might even notice, that it's a bit more pale around her forehead, than lower on her face - as it was on the screen.
Below are our usual images of Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Casino Royale. These were taken under different lighting conditions (on the set, not my theater). As I always point out, skin tones should look different under different lighting conditions. You can expect significantly different looking skin tones, when switching from bright sunlight, to nighttime, fluorescent lighting, incandescent lighting, or even lighting in the shade, or a cloudy day. Consider these three images, the first, in direct sunlight, the second is a scene with fluorescent lighting, and the third, a sunny day, but Bond is sitting in the shade - indirect lighting.
Immediately below are some additional images we typically use in reviews, that should give you a good feel for overall skin tone handling:
Bruce Willis in Red:
Quantum of Solace:
Another from Quantum of Solace:
VPL-VW90ES Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Sony rolled out a new improved contrast spec - one of 150,000:1, so I expected at least a slight improvement in black level performance. I think I received just that, and maybe a little extra. Like the VW85 before it, the VW90ES projector is a very good, ultra high-contrast projector. Respectable native contrast and a very good, smooth dynamic iris should serve us well. Looks like another year where JVC's best - this year the JVC DLA-RS50 and RS60 (also both sporting 3D), will still be superior at blacks, and accomplish that without a dynamic iris.
Even with all that in mind, and with the idea that we will always appreciate blacker blacks, I have no problem with the Sony's blacks. They have achieved a sufficiently fine level which now has me more interested in other areas of performance.
Immediately below, from Space Cowboys, and below it, same image, from Sony's lower cost VPL-VWPro1:
Time for a lot of comparative images - our favorite starship image from The Fifth Element.
The first image below is just slightly overexposed, and below it, one even more so. The goal here is to compare the blacks of different projectors, and if they are about the same, and one's starship is more overexposed than the other, then the more overexposed one has the blacker blacks. Got that?
Note, don't worry about color differences. These are all time exposures, and the color tend to be less accurate (understatement).
Same scene, intentionally overexposed (but, it seems a tad less than many of the others):
Sharp XV-Z17000, a $5000 competitor also 3D capable:
Consider two additional (digital) images which are good ones for observing black levels.
The dynamic iris, with almost all projectors (JVC excepted, as JVC manages great black levels without a dynamic iris,) of course, is key to the excellent black levels. I figure this is as good a time to comment on the iris's impact on viewing. Below are two images from Space Cowboys, (the second image with the shuttle in it was about 2 seconds further into the movie, explaining the slight shift in the position of the stars and planet).
The idea here was to show how the iris opened for the second image, lightening up everything. Unfortuantely, this time, I was using a Panasonic Blu-ray player, and as I would go to freeze the frame, it would not let the iris finish stopping down, or opening. I later switched back to a PS3 for that reason. Consider these just two space images, this time.
Same exposures, above. The stars are so much brighter in the first image,
Shadow Detail Performance
When it comes to shadow detail, the Sony VPL-90ES is superb. My favorite image for dark shadow detail is the night train scene from Casino Royale. Further down, you'll see how the Sony handles that dark shadow detail on the darkest of scenes, as well, as how many competitors do on the same frame. Before we get to those, some other images though. Direct comparison side by side images will be added when ready:
The first set of comparison images, is a scene with Clint Eastwood from Space Cowboys. This is a very dark scene, intentionally overexposed (from Blu-ray disc). 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 type of photos they always look terrible, and way over the top).
The VPL-90ES does extremely well in shadow detail on our Clint Eastwood dark scene from Space Cowboys:
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The VPL-90ES seems darker than some in the satellite on the right, but the detail is there. Next to it on the first row, is the Sony VPL-VWPro1. Those images are followed by the Epson 8700UB, and the JVC DLA-RS15 (second row). The third row is the Runco LS10 (left), and the Optoma HD8600 on the right.
The following images are both the same frame, from Space Cowboys. Here we're comparing the VPL-VW90ES to the lower cost VPL-VWPro1 projector. As you compare, the shadow detail seems comparable. What is noteworthy, however, is the real advantage the VW90ES has in terms of blacks. The exposures are almost comparable (and intentionally overexposed, with the 90ES a touch more overepxposed than the Pro1 - look at the red light and other bright areas), yet, the blacks are blacker with this 90ES.
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-90ES, followed by the same, but more overexposed. Next, the HW15, fourth is the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, followed by the JVC RS15, and the last one is from the Runco LS-10d projector.
Shadow detail performance is really very good. No issue here at all. Plenty of details in the darkest areas of the woods, with the shrubs by the tracks and so on. Not the very best, but close enough. Remember, when setting brightness correctly, the difference between the two closest settings (one a tad too "bright" one too "dark") impacts the shadow detail. In the side by side above, for example the Epson slightly beat the Sony, but if I changed the Sony's brightness, by +1, it would no doubt match or beat the Epson slightly, but the black level would also raise. Again, these are small differences.
Sony VPL-VW90ES - Overall Color & Picture Quality
The Sony VPL-VW90ES projector, or, if you prefer - the 90ES, or the HW20a, is a complete, high performance projector when it comes to image quality. Post calibration color is downright excellent and natural. Shadow detail is equally impressive. Note that on a typical daytime type image with a normal exposure, the Sony (right) and the Epson (left) seem very similar in color handling.
Black level performance is very good. Not the best in its price range -around $3000, but definitely one of the better ones. It would still seem to come up a bit short of the Epson 8700UB, and almost certainly compared to the HD250 from JVC (even though I've only seen it at shows, so far, but based on the older RS15).
On top of all that, since this Sony got a significant boost in brightness to complement, the color, etc. Over all, that makes the Sony VW-90ES a truly better projector than last years effort, especially since the price is essentially unchanged.
Bottom Line for Overall Picture Quality and Color Handling: Excellent, especially for the money!
Don't forget, below these remaining images is our section on HDTV and Sports viewing with the Sony VPL-VW90ES - HW20a projector.
A mix of additional images to show off the VPL-90ES:
From the DVE Blu-ray test disk, consider these:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other reviews:
The bottom line, on overall picture quality.
Pre-calibration, the Sony needs calibration (or at least, try our settings), for out-of-the-box color is not as good as most projectors.
Post calibration, expect to enjoy excellent skin tones, a good look and feel to the image, and great black level performance (although not the best).
3D picture quality - Sports. The colors not bad, but a bit over the top blues when in 3D. Brightness is marginal at best. I actually watched some FIFA (soccer) in 3D, and other than being a bit dim, it looked pretty good.
3D picture quality HDTV non-sports content. Wow folks, brightness notwithstanding, the Sony does great. My new Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D (surfing, watersports great computer graphics, and plenty of scenery), is killer on the Sony, but to best enjoy it, I reduce the image size to the smallest I can place the projector from my current screen. Instead of filling the 106" screen, I've been doing most 3D viewing with the Sony, at about 90 inches diagonal. It's still not bright, but the extra 25% more lumens helps.
Once more the Sony's closest competitor is a JVC. We'll discuss the two together, in the competitors section. The two JVC's that are competition, straddle the pricepoint of the Sony, just to make it interesting.
If you have to ask which has better overall color, the JVC RS60 I had through here, or this 90ES, folks, I think the winner is the one that has the better calibrator working for you.
Sony VPL-VW90ES Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
My only complaint really about sports viewing, and HDTV in general, is that the Sony VPL-VW90ES could use more lumens. I don't like my sports in the dark, nor, for that matter, my Discovery HD type content. With a maximum of about 750 lumens there are plenty of less expensive projectors that are a lot brighter, in fact we consider 1000 lumens to be about average for a brightest mode.
My theater is nicely light controlled. I can have 6 lights on in the back of the room yet only a small amount makes it to the screen thanks to super dark walls and ceiling.
While more lumens are nice, the picture quality on sports was either good, or great. If you opt for maximum brightness, the color temp gets rather high, close to 9000K, but the picture still looks pretty good, but thin on red. If you can live without the exra 20% in brightness, though, the picture is gorgeous using the "best" mode (with color temp on Custom 4).
I watched a good bit of other HD content, even in the cooler mode, not bad.
Also of note, Sony offers CFI under the name of Motion Enhancer, to smooth out fast moving objects. I used it on the lowest setting for sports and found it fine. For movies, BTW, as expected, CFI turned film movies into a live digital video look, and though not as soap opera looking as some, it still is dramatically altering the original 24fps look and feel.
Bottom line for HDTV on the Sony VPL-VW90ES Home Cinema Projector
This new Sony Projector has muscle, and also offers better than average color accuracy for a "brightest mode". I'm extremely impressed! A few hundred more lumens would be better still, but, what a difference a roughly 40% increase brings to your viewing pleasure, when you don't want to be in a cave mode.
This is how the back of my primary Theater room looks when shooting HDTV images. The light of the projector you see in this small image, I will note, is from the Runco LS-10d projector, not the Sony. (This is now a standard image, you will see repeatedly). All six lights are LED lights, each the equivalent brightness of a 65 watt incandescent bulb. Note, they use only 8 watts each, half the draw of even a CFL (compact fluorescents). Better still, they can be properly dimmed, something CFL's can barely do, and they don't poison the planet with mercury, like CFLs.
Here's how good the Sony VPL-VW90 looks with that exact lighting:
and again, this time sports and the Sony looks truly excellent:
I'm impressed, but please understand, in terms of room lighting, my room is set up so that the back of the room can be pretty bright (you can easily sit back there and read a book), while the front and screen remain pretty dark. This is a lesson in how much benefit having dark walls, ceiling and floor can improve the picture, with or without ambient light present. The Sony puts up a great picture using the "best mode" settings which were used for all these HDTV images, but you've got an exta 20% more brightness if you go to "brightest mode" (color temp 5), although that mode is definitely thinner on reds (almost 9000K color temp) Nonetheless, "brightest" will cut through even more ambient light (see the comparison images on the projector Performance page). Thanks to room lighting and paint in my theater, though, we have a great sports environment, (despite the Sony's below average "brightest mode"), allowing the VPL-VW90ES projector to look great, even on an average sized screen like this 106" Carada.