Overall Picture Quality and Color
I really don't have any specific complaints (or general ones) about the overall picture and color. In fact kudos go out to Sony for providing not just a lot of preset modes - lots of projectors have that, but rather that they are all at least pretty good looking, including the brightest, with the exception of Game mode, which is a bit "over the top."
The Sony VPL-HW55ES as previously mentioned, looks extremely good for movie viewing in an unadjusted Reference mode, and becomes beautiful, post calibration. Color looks right on, whether bright, medium or dark scenes, which indicates that the colors are consistent from near white to dark ranges.
Certainly black level performance, already really excellent for the price range, could be better, but then, that's one reason why Sony has three higher end projectors!
The Bottom Line on Picture Quality, is that in over 60 hours of total viewing, the VPL-HW55ES projector has yet to disappoint.
VPL-HW55ES Looks Great on a Wide Range of Scenes
Note, on the next pages, Performance, we have a sequence of images showing all the different preset picture modes so that you can get an idea of how they vary in both color handling, and brightness.
I don't know whether it's something specific to the image itself, about the Sony that just gives it a lot of pop, when I'm watching movies, or whether it's simply that I rarely get to watch using a projector that is outputting about 1000 lumens calibrated. Most that can do more than 1000 lumens calibrated are either far more money, or they are less expensive, more home entertainment type projectors, that are certainly no match at all. Even then, most of those would be DLP projectors that have a very strong Brilliant Color implementation to get that brightness, but at the expense of naturalness of the image.
It's the Lighting! Looking "Right" Under Different Lighting Scenarios
As we have in the past, here are a few Bond images of Daniel Craig, under different lighting scenarios. Two points only: First, this is a good way to appreciate that the same face can have very different looking skin tones, in different lighting. The trick is for a projector like the Sony VPL-HW55ES to look right, in each.
For your consideration above are four Bond images, with very different coloring to his face, due to the lighting. They are, in order: Direct sunlight, Fluoresecent lighting, Indirect sunlight, and Night.
Sony VPL-HW55ES Projector For HDTV And Sports
I like my sports viewing to be bright! True, I have a dedicated theater, but for my NFL football, I usually have guests on Sundays. As a result the window shutters are normally at least part way open, depending on the projector de jour!
As is usual, first we'll look at the room conditions for my viewing, as seen in these images:
Because the Sony projector is rather bright, if I set the exposure when shooting my room, so that the picture looks as bright as it is, the rest of the room looks much darker than it really is. To help you get a good reference, note the image with the pinball machine. As you must know, the lights on pinball machines are very bright… I hope that helps. (FYI, for any pinball fans, the machine is a Firepower II, from the late 1980's.)
Also you can see on two of the images some dots of sunlight hitting the left side of the screen, just outside and on the edge of the picture.
It's easiest to see on the image without a projected image. OK, enough about the room, let's talk picture.
The images below speak for themselves. Note that for most of the sports images Reality Creation was set fairly high to 50, although for the GameMix, it's at 20. 20 was also the setting for the non-sports HDTV images.
All of these HDTV images were taken with an unadjusted Bright Cinema. For those of you looking at image sharpness, considering Reality Creation is on, please keep this in mind:
First, the original projection was of course 1080p. 1920 pixels across. But we're showing you only 1000 pixels wide, and we've already cropped, so you are looking at less than half of the Full HD. To further degrade the picture though, my source for HDTV is DirecTV, and when I pause a scene to take a picture, it pauses on one of the 2 1080i frames, effectively meaning we've lost 50% of the vertical resolution.
Bottom line: These photos look dramatically sharper and cleaner on the live screen, and they really do look great. Good job, Sony VPL-HW55ES!
BTW with about 1300 lumens at brightest, the Sony, I mention also here, is viable in rooms that are not theaters. If I can let in lots of light (I'm watching CNBC right now with my shutters fully open), in my theater, I certainly could use this projector in a decent family room layout, when paired with the right screen. True, you can get about 50% more brightness (a significant jump) from a competitor like the Epson 5030UB / 6030UB, but that Epson's color quality isn't as good in its brightest mode.