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Sony VPL-HW55ES Projector - Performance

Posted on December 7, 2013 by Art Feierman

VPL-HW55ES Brightness

Sony VPL-HW55ES Projector - Brightness by Mode, Mid-zoom
Mode Brightness (Lumens) Color Temp at 100 IRE
Reference 944 6401K
TV 944 6400K
Cinema Film 1 944 6397K
Cinema Film 2 602 5353K
Game 1185 7275K
Photo 612 5364K
Bright Cinema 1044 7492K
Bright TV 1044 7492K
User 944 6402K

As you can figure out from a quick look at the numbers above, while there are 8 different preset modes plus user, that there are really only 5 really different ones in terms of brightness and color temp.

In other words, the first three look the same on the chart, but things like gamma, as well as other image functions have different default values, from otherwise similar modes.

Mike, our calibrator, started with Reference, which he reported to be the most accurate mode, as the basis for his "best" mode calibration.  That finished calibration was placed in the User mode!   Our calibration page will give all the basic settings (Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, etc.), as well as the grayscale calibration putting Red, Green, and Blue in proper balance around 6500K across the IRE range from full white to dark gray (as low as our gear will go).


Individual color calibration of primary and secondaries

Individual color calibration area of primaries and secondaries

For our member subscribers, there's an additional page with "advanced" settings, essentially the individual calibration of each of the primary and secondary colors. That's not all, there are before/after CIE charts and other graphic info as well as a few comments from Mike, our THX certified calibrator.

Color Temp For Best Mode - Pre Calibration


Pre-Calibration Reference Mode
IRE Range Color Temp (Kelvin)
100 (white) 6401
80 6445
50 6493
30 6593

Note that while there is a slight rise in color temp from the brightest whites to the darker grays, it is first of all rather slight.  The range is less than 200K, and better still the range starts with less than 100K below 6500K, to less than 100K above.  Tight, and that's pre-calibration.

Now let's see (in even more detail - every 10 IRE) how the grayscale balance looks post calibration.

Post Calibration - Brightness and Color Temp: "Best" Mode:

Post Calibration Color Temp, by IRE
IRE Range Color Temp
100 6414
90 6517
80 6504
70 6516
60 6506
50 6488
40 6474
30 6537
20 6516

The Sony VPL HW55ES measured a dazzling 964 Lumens calibrated!


That's the brightest of any serious dedicated home theater projector in it's class, or even up to $10,000.  For more calibrated brightness without breaking your budget, you'd have to go with some much lower end DLP projectors calibrated with TI's Brilliant Color turned on.  None of those are any match in overall picture quality.  While projectors like the Epson 5030UB / 6030UB, and Panasonic PT-AE8000U  may be 50%, or more, brighter in their brightest useable modes, those same projectors produce less than 700 lumens calibrated.  That makes the Sony at least 40% brighter calibrated than those.  That allows for a noticeably larger screen, if desired!

Post calibration, the color temperature range improves from an already tight pre-calibration range of the Reference mode.  And the balance between Red, Green, and Blue, further improves from already very good.  This is about as nice as calibration numbers get, in terms of grayscale!

Effect of the Zoom Lens on Brightness

Zoom Lens Position Affect On Brightness
Full Wide Angle 969
Mid-point on the zoom 944
Full Telephoto 844

Sony's 1.6:1 zoom lens must be very well designed from the standpoint of maintaining brightness.  While not as much range in the zoom as some (JVC 2:1, Epson 2.1:1), Sony's 1.6:1 zoom has dramatically less brightness drop off as you place the projector further away from the same sized screen.  Not that the drop is less than 15%.

By comparison, those 2:1 type zoom lenses often lose up to 40% if you place the projector all the way back. True, the Sony won't allow you to go as far back as those others, but it still has enough zoom lens range to even allow shelf mounting in a decent percentage of rooms.

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