The Sony VPL-HW15 screen image photos below are from either Blu-ray or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). Please note, by the time these Sony VPL-HW15 projector images get to you, through digital camera, software, browsers, and even your monitor, there are definite color shifts, saturation differences, etc. The images are to support the commentary, but keep in mind the limitations when trying to compare images from the VPL-HW15 with other home theater projectors. Take them all, "with a grain of salt"
VPL-HW15 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Impressive, skin tones, right out of the box are pretty good, just a little strong on reds. Overall, the VPL-HW15 is very watchable right out of the box. Calibrating it, however, further refines the image, and provides more natural skin tones.
Check out our recommended settings for items like Brightness, Color, etc. on the Calibration page of this review.
Sony VPL-HW15 Projector - Flesh Tones
After calibration, skin tones were excellent, and, while not the very best I've seen, certainly better than most, including almost all other home theater projectors selling for under $3000. To calibrate the projector we started with the Sony's Cinema mode, which is the same as the default User 3. We placed our new calibrated settings into User 3, for all images taken in "best" mode.
Moving to movies on Blu-ray, below are our usual three 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.
Below are a number of additional images we typically use in reviews, that should give you a good feel for overall skin tone handling.
I particularly like the second image (usually a tough one because the background is so bright), and the night shot of Aeon, right below it.
VPL-HW15 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Well, it seems everyone this fall, is launching projectors with improved contrast specs. How that translates into improved black levels, however, is still a bit questionable. Oh, so far there seems to be improvement, but with several new projectors, the contrast specs are running higher than the black level performance would suggest.
One thing to mention first - a doubling of contrast should provide a small, but recognizable improvement in black levels. Thus, you should see about the same improvement going from 4000:1 to 8000:1, as from 30,000:1 to 60,000:1.