Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Performance

Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Performance: Brightness, Brightness and Color Temperature, Color Temp Readings for Reference Mode, Post Calibration Color Temp Readings for Reference Mode, Gamma Measurement, ECO Mode: Affect of Brightness, Power Consumption, Lens Position: Affect on Brightness


Unlike its predecessor, the 285es, the Sony VPL-VW285ES came up just a touch short of its brightness claim of 1500 lumens.  But it did get a lot closer than many.

When you look at the chart below, please note that we show Reference mode twice, because throughout the performance and calibration pages, we use mid-zoom and full power, unless otherwise noted. That first listing, therefore shows this projector at its absolute brightest. Still at mid-zoom it doesn’t lose many lumens!

That makes the VW295ES bright enough to be happy outside of a dedicated home theater/cave. .  Consider: In a fully darkened room – such as good home theater, you really only need about 450 lumens to fill a 100″ diagonal screen with movie theater brightness, so this Sony has power to spare, to tackle more than a minimal amount of ambient light. HDR content is a bit different and will take advantage of even several thousand lumens.

Picture Mode Lumens Color Temp. (Kelvin)
Bright Cinema (Zoom-Out) brightest measurement 1456 8018K
Bright Cinema (Mid-Zoom) 1390 7495K
Cinema Film 1 1259 6654K
Cinema Film 2 1267 6641K
Reference 1302 6579K
TV 1338 7863K
Photo 1175 5380K
Game 1378 7490K
Bright TV 1390 7577K
User 1294 6561K

In the case of this Sony, we calibrated Cinema Film 1 as our “bright” mode for viewing with ambient light present.  It measured 1239 lumens at mid-zoom.  But for the brightest mode, overall, still with respectable color (if a little cool) is Bright Cinema which produced 1430 lumens at full wide angle, full power on the lamp.  Since Eric burns in the lamp a bit before calibrating, My guess is that if he had measured it on day one, it probably would have gotten within 30 lumens or so of claim.  Close enough!

We calibrated Reference mode at mid-zoom, and set to low lamp, and measured 1024 lumens as our “best” mode for non-4K, non-HDR content.  We could afford to choose low lamp for calibrating  “best” picture quality, for dark room use, because we have Cinema Film 1 doing the heavy lifting when there’s more than a little ambient light.  Turn off the lights when using Reference with our setup.

Had we used full power on Reference mode, and wide angle on the lens when calibrating, we would have measured 1224 lumens for our best mode.

We use mid-zoom for most measurements because we believe that is more “real life” than publishing full wide able on the zoom lens. That’s because not everyone with this projector can mount or place it at the minimum distance from their screen. Also because you aren’t going to have the lens at its best, at the extreme ranges of its zoom.

Brightness and Color Temperature

The same chart above shows the color temperature of each mode when measured. These numbers are all pre-calibration.  About half of the modes are around 6500K (the ideal for movies, etc), while others are more in the 7500K range – a bit cooler (more blue) whites, such as Bright TV mode which I mention elsewhere in this review.  In this case, if I was to pick an uncalibrated mode for my sports viewing, I’d likely use Bright Cinema.

Many folks like a cooler temp for sports viewing – I count myself among those, so I tend to prefer something around 7000K but never more than 7500K.

Color Temp Readings for Reference Mode - Pre-Calibration

IRE Range Color Temp. (Kelvin)
100 IRE 6843K
90 IRE 7182K
80 IRE 7366K
70 IRE 7334K
60 IRE 7318K
50 IRE 7269K
40 IRE 7154K
30 IRE 7133K
20 IRE 7054K
10 IRE 7013K

For our best calibrated mode (Reference) for non-4K/HDR, and with the standard target of 6500K, for greyscale balance, you can see that this Sony is already extremely close to ideal, and the range is nice and tight without any major variation from 6500K (+231/-199).

Post Calibration Color Temp Readings for Reference Mode

The measurements below were taken at mid-zoom in ECO.

IRE Range Color Temp. (Kelvin)
100 IRE 6395K & 885 Lumens
90 IRE 6452K
80 IRE 6547K
70 IRE 6785K
60 IRE 6711K
50 IRE 6727K
40 IRE 6701K
30 IRE 6572K
20 IRE 6301K
10 IRE 6252K

hunger games photo
Hunger Games - taken using calibrated Reference mode.

VPL-VW295ES Gamma Measurement

Pre-Calibration: Average Gamma 2.18

Post-Calibration: Average Gamma 2.33

For more casual viewing than movies – I’m thinking sports, or most TV, most prefer a lower gamma which yields a brighter mid-range to the picture.

Our calibration of Cinema Film 1 preset mode, as the VW295ES’s Brightest mode, has a gamma closer to 2.0.  2.02 before calibration and 2.1 after.

ECO-Mode: Affect on Brightness, Power Consumption

Power Mode Lumens Color Temp. (Kelvin)
Full Power (Brt. Cinema Mode) 1390 7495K
ECO Mode (Brt. Cinema Mode) 1005 8270K

From any color mode, switching from full power (High) to Low power mode, results in a measured drop in lumen output of about 29%.

That, I should point out, is pretty typical with almost all projectors dropping between 25 and 35 percent when going to Eco (Low).

Lens Position: Affect on Brightness

Zoom Distance Lumens Color Temp. (Kelvin)
Zoom out 65” Tall 1456 8018K
Mid-zoom 48” Tall 1390 8014K
Zoom in 31” Tall 1153 7892K

In the case of this Sony projector, there’s only a small drop in brightness about 4% going from full wide angle on the zoom, to mid-zoom, but a far larger drop to telephoto – but still only 21%.  That’s rather excellent – that is, a relatively small drop compared to some other projectors with zooms around 2.0:1.

The good news is that if you have to mount this Sony projector near the furthest end of its range for your sized screen.  Or perhaps you are placing it on a high rear shelf, either way you aren’t sacrificing a really significant amount of brightness – you lose less than going from full power to low power on the lamp.

Sony VPL-VW295ES Native 4K Sharpness and Detail

The VPL-VW295ES simply looks more naturally sharp than any of the lower resolution 4K capable projectors, whether they are basic 1080p pixel shifters (2x) or (4x – the lower res “4K UHD” DLPs), or the 2716×1528 4K UHD pixel shifters).

With all the controls any of those others can at a glance, on 4K content, look as sharp, or even sharper than this Sony.  That doesn’t make them better, what that tends to make them is over processed.  I’ve long talked about how those lesser resolution projectors when set up to look really sharp, tend to add visible hardness to the picture, something that may look great on a outdoor scene, but may really look too hard, and not too natural (even when the color is great), on close-ups of faces.

While I’ve had the Sony here, I’ve compared it to the Epson 5040UB, the Optoma UHD65, and a couple of the lower res 4K UHDs (BenQ HT2550/TK800) and the Viewsonic PX727-4K.

In every case, the differences in sharpness are slight enough that you really can’t tell differences at 15 feet back from a 100″ screen – Except if you look at one of those face close-ups, that is over sharpened, that you could spot differences in sharpness and detail.

It is always tempting to “up” sharpness, detail, image enhancement, and other similar type controls to end up with the proverbial “razor sharp image.”  That said, in the long run, many folks end up doing that, but eventually, tend to dial back some of that extra processing for the more natural look.

In the case of this Sony – sure you can crank up its Reality Creation engine and get a similarly over sharpened type image, but there’s no need to!

I should note that when I run a photoshop image into these various 4K projectors – one with just 4 color pixels in the center – a red, green, blue, and a white one, in a square layout, This Sony does a better job of separating colors (still not great) than any of the non native projectors.   The only one that has topped it has been the 5040UB (seeing the different colors), but when it does that, it also definitely has the slightly hard look I keep mentioning.

The bottom line on sharpness and detail.

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