"Out of the Box" Picture Quality
The first HW65ES sent to me was sent by mistake. It was an early engineering sample, which did not have great "out of the box" color. Upon observing the "out of the box" performance briefly, I realized that the Sony wasn't near as good as we've been used to. A quick call to the Sony folks and they sent out a early full production unit. Huge difference:
You really can't hope for more accurate, and natural looking color without calibrating a projector, than this HW65ES. Shouldn't be shocking though, as the past few years, great out of the box color has been essentially standard. Mike, our calibrator, said the VPL-HW65ES needed only minimal adjustment. Even better than that, the colors look really good, not just "close". Reference, has the best grayscale. It's your go to movie mode, if you want "best" picture. Mike's changes, found on the Calibration page, were minor on the grayscale, but it was the CMS - where you calibrate individual colors that basically no work was needed at all. Of the many provided presets in the CMS, a couple are almost perfect.
Skin tones were virtually as good as some calibrated projectors. Considering lamp variations, that's impressive.
Of note, the images below from movies were using the "calibrated" User mode, based on Reference. Grayscale calibration has been done, but default (excellent) REC 709 color settings were used. As Mike said, any adjustments would be too small to make a definitive difference. The sports and HDTV shots used an unadjusted Bright Cinema, which I preferred over cooler (bluer whites) Bright TV mode - which could work better for you, if you need every last lumen!
Overall, the Sony's skin tones are pretty excellent. From Hunger Games to The Fifth Element, to Lucy, to Crouching Tiger (yes I broke that old favorite out for the first time in a long time), no disappointment. Even the Star Trek images looked pretty good, (they come across challenging, on a number of projectors).
Compared to the closest competition, I was very impressed that the Epson 5030UB / 6030UB's updated firmware (over a year ago) provided a more natural feel, and figured they may had somewhat closed the gap, but this Sony still has an advantage - if only slightly) when it comes to natural skin tones.
BenQ's W7500 is a good DLP, that's slightly less expensive, does nice skin tones, but a little rough around the edges when it comes to "natural skin tones." The BenQ, I think does better skin tones on darker scenes than on bright ones.