Sony VPL-FHZ61 Commercial Laser Projector Review

For the last Best in Classroom Education Projectors Report, I got to review my first Sony. I believe in that review, I mentioned that I’ve been a longtime fan of Sony products since my first experiences with the Sony Playstation and my Walkman as a child. This particular projector, the Sony VPL-FHZ61, is a more impressive projector than that first Sony I reviewed, as it is of a different breed, designed for more commercial applications than conference room and K-12 classroom, like the Sony VPL-EW435.

The Sony VPL-FHZ61 is a WUXGA (1920×1200) laser projector boasting 5,100 lumens – quite enough to combat ambient light found in higher education classrooms and lecture halls, conference and boardrooms, museums, houses of worship, medical training, retail spaces, and even smaller entertainment venues. This is a 3LCD projector, which, coupled with the laser light engine, adds to its ability to handle ambient light while maintaining great color – but we’ll get into that later. It has some great features for commercial applications, including projecting an exceptionally large image.

We’ll start this review of the Sony VPL-FHZ61 with a brief overview, followed by some highlights before moving on to that list of special features. We will also tour the hardware, as well as discuss picture quality and performance before summing it all up for you on the last page. By the end of this review, you should have a pretty good idea about whether or not the Sony VPL-FHZ61 is the right projector for your commercial applications. Let’s get started!

Sony VPL-FHZ61 Specs
Price$9000
Technology3LCD
Native Resolution1920x1200
Brightness (Manufacturer Claim)5100
Contrast500000:1
Zoom Lens Ratio1.60:1
Lens ShiftYes
Lamp Life20,000 hours
Weight35.3
WarrantyN/A
View Full Specifications Here >>

Overview

The Sony VPL-FHZ61 is a 5,100 lumen, WUXGA resolution (1920×1200) projector, going for $9,000. The FHZ61 has a laser light engine, and that, coupled with its 3LCD technology, is a winning pair. 3LCD projectors have some distinct advantages over DLP projectors – they use three LCD panels (one each for red, green, and blue) to emit the entire range of the color spectrum, rather than a color wheel. DLPs use color wheels, and depending on the speed of that wheel, can produce something called The Rainbow Effect (rainbows being seen across the screen – something that affects maybe 5% of the population, including myself, Art, and my brother). So, no color wheel, no rainbows.

3LCD projectors also produce as many color lumens as they do white ones, whereas DLP projectors miss the mark on that one. DLPs’ brightness claims will often be comparable to those of a 3LCD projector, but they’re only talking about white lumens (whites), and their colors are often significantly dimmer than that claim. In the case of this Sony, the colors will be just as bright and vibrant as the whites. Add to that the power of the laser, and those colors should be rather breathtaking, especially in a fully darkened (or mostly darkened) environment. Even in the face of ambient light, you can expect some pretty vibrant color.

About that laser light engine – its lifetime claim goes up to 20,000 hours. That is typical of laser projectors, and translates to about a decade of use before that light engine needs to be replaced. That’s a distinct advantage over lamp based projectors, whose lamps generally last from about 3,000 to 8,000 hours and will need to be replaced. Lamp replacements are quite affordable these days, however. Lamp based projectors will have a lower up-front cost, but maintenance over its lifetime, while laser based projectors will have a higher up-front cost and low maintenance over its lifetime (the filters don’t need to be changed until around 20,000 hours).

Lamp based projectors also lose some of their brightness and have a shift in color within the first several thousand hours, whereas lasers will lose brightness and shift color slowly over its lifetime – by that 20,000 hours, you can expect to lose maybe half the brightness. As we say, there are always trade-offs. Sony has implemented something called “Constant Bright” with the FHZ61, which they claim allows the projector to maintain the same brightness over its lifetime. I have no way to test that, but if it’s true, that’s a big win in favor of the Sony VPL-FHZ61.

The Sony VPL-FHZ61 has a host of desirable features for commercial applications, including powered focus, zoom, and lens shift of its interchangeable lenses. Projectors will fall out of focus from time to time over their lifespan, and in a typical installation where this projector will be ceiling mounted, you’ll be glad to have those powered lens capabilities. The projector also has Auto Calibration, which will come in handy for those who want to get the best color out of this Sony. This laser projector has all the inputs and connectors necessary for your business and education applications, including HDBaseT for running AV signals over long distances, and has some other awesome features we’ll get into on the next page.

Highlights

  • 5,100 Lumens
  • $9,000 List Price
  • WUXGA Resolution (1920 x 1200)
  • 3LCD Technology
  • Laser Light Engine – Light Engine Life of Up to 20,000 Hours, No Need for Filter Replacement
  • Self-Cleaning Filter – Filter Cleans Itself Every 100 Hours
  • 500,000:1 Contrast Ratio
  • Excellent Placement Flexibility – Motorized Lens Shift (+5%, -60% vertical, ±32% horizontal), Interchangeable Lens Options, 360° Installation, and HDBaseT
  • Advanced Picture Refinement Technologies – Auto Calibration, Reality Creation, Contrast Enhancer
  • Large Screen Size – Can Project Anywhere From 40” to 600” Diagonally
  • Image Warping – Project onto a Non-Flat Surface
  • Side-By-Side Image – Project Two Images Simultaneously (Perfect for Video Conference Calls)
  • Edge Blending
  • Quiet Operation
  • Energy Saving Features – Auto Dimming and Picture Mute
  • Quick Power On/Off

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