Dynamic Iris? No
Every so often we find it necessary to list a “feature” that a projector lacks, especially if most of the competition has that capability. In the case of the HW40ES that missing feature is an iris. All more expensive Sony home theater projectors have an iris that can be used dynamically, manually, or a combination of both – such as working dynamically while limiting the maximum opening – brightness, as one might do if one has a relatively small screen, and don’t need the projectors full brightness, but still want the dynamic iris benefits.
In the case of the VPL-HW40ES, the black level performance is most impressive for a projector with no iris, but there’s a real difference between it and the HW55ES in this regard. The HW40ES is so good without a dynamic iris that it can hold its own with several competitors that we included in a 4 way shoot out, that we are about to publish. In that shoot-out, the Optoma HD91 which uses dynamic lamp dimming instead of dynamic iris, and the BenQ W7500 which has a dynamic iris, are both in the same league as the HW40ES when it comes to black performance (albeit different).
On the other hand the Sony’s lack of an iris definitely leaves it trailing the Epson 5030UB – the fourth projector in our shoot-out, when it comes to black level performance. Note that we consider the 5030UB almost identical to the more expensive HW55ES in terms of black level performance, and, to date, the best black levels of any projector under $3500.
With no iris, the HW40ES can’t have the blackest blacks on dark scenes, but, of course, without an iris, that also means no iris related issues, such as sometimes seeing the iris action, audible noise associated with dynamic irises.
We will discuss the actual black level performance in detail in the Picture Quality section of this review.
Sony pairs this lens with lens shift controls that provide quite a bit of lens shift, for great placement flexibility. Actually lens throw and lens shift numbers can be found in our Hardware Tour of the VPL-HW55ES.
One limitation of this lens that’s also worth noting is that it does leak modest amounts of light through the lens that appear on the outside of the projected image area. You are not likely to notice this if your walls are dark, but might be noticeable on a very dark scene if the wall around the screen is fairly light in color.
The light leakage would have to be considered fairly minor as an issue, but it is more noticeable than on most projectors, although not nearly as bad as on some projectors such as the popular lower cost BenQ W1080ST which leaks a whole lot of light. At worst, with the Sony it may have some small impact on dark scenes, however that would already be a factor in our conclusions about black level performance.