Posted on November 21, 2018 By Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW295ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out of the Box Color, Skin Tons, Black Levels
Folks, I almost decided to quit this section after just that first word. I’ve seen other Sonys look pretty great out of the box, and some of Epson’s better models also have impressive color, but I’ll give Sony the edge. The most surprising thing is not so much how good this Sony does without adjustment, but why so many projector manufacturers lack any modes with close to “on the money” color accuracy. You would think most would have this down, after many generations of projectors. Sadly, that’s not the case, which means if you don’t put in extra effort, or throw some money at many other projectors, they just won’t have great color or a great picture.
This Sony has both.
First of four "Bond" photos from Casino Royale, to demonstrate that skin tones are what you and the director perceive them to be. This one looks to be fluorescent lit.
This Bond image is full sunlight.
A night scene, his skin tones are very different than in either of the two previous, but look right.
This photo is of Calibrated Film 1 which we're using as a brightest mode with very good color.
This is Cinema Film 2, however it is primarily set up for 4K with HDR. Compare with the the adjacent images. This one has different saturation gamma and more. Best to save for 4K / HDR P3
This is the Sony VW295es's Reference mode after calibration. The photos taken from DVR, from 1080i satellite.
This photo from Pacific Rim Uprising, is 4K HDR P3. This photo does not even begin to do justice to the image the Sony put up.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about skin tone performance, is how good all the non-calibrated modes look. This goes back to reinforcing my claims about great “out of the box” performance. Check out these images. Only two, Cinema Film 1, and Reference, are calibrated for non-4K content. Cinema Film 2 we set up for 4K with HDR, so, technically it’s calibrated, but not for the 1080i Victoria Secret Swim Suit special. That’s OK – look at all the others. And, I should note, that all those other modes’ pictures were taken before Eric even got a chance to play with and calibrate the VW295ES!
This is the VW295ES in calibrated Reference mode
Cinema Film 1. Nicely dynamic, yet very good skin tones. Fine for almost everything, but the most critical viewing.
Cinema Film 2 - a touch less bright (default settings) and with a touch less "pop", than Cinema Film 1. More pop than Reference!
Bright Cinema - interestingly a bit cooler than Cinema Film 1. And a bit more pop - if you are tackling more ambient light that you would like to.
User mode. Similar to the Cinema Film modes
Look for the greater differences between the bright, dark areas. Exposures vary. Look for more contrast, no blow out. Not as good as $8K Sony 4K VW885ES, or Epson UB. Both lamp based.
If you want truly great black level performance in a native 4K projector, that’s not this VW295ES, but it does an impressive job. It’s just not as good as the dynamic iris equipped VW695ES the step up model. In my dedicated home theater which I can get extremely dark (just a few led lights on electronics), I definitely wish for deeper blacks on dark scenes, but the VW295ES does very well without that iris. It should hold its own with anything around or under its price, except for JVC’s 1080p pixel shifter, and Epson’s 5040UB and 6040UB.
I’m perhaps the long time projector reviewer out there best known for caring and demanding better black level performance. Even so: “I could live with the VW295ES in a dark home theater!”
The VW295ES tackling my favorite space image from Passengers, 4K, HDR, P3. Very good job but blacks could be darker. Here's where a dynamic iris could help as no bright areas in image.
The HiSense 100 is a 4K UHD DLP laser projector - ultra short throw design - review posting following this Sony. Respectable black levels, perhaps a touch less deep than Sony.
LG's smart HU80KA - the lowest cost laser 4K UHD DLP, and smart, to boot, but black levels definitely not near as good as Sony or HiSense
The black level performance of Acer's VL7860 4K UHD DLP ,laser projector are really good. better than this Sony. That's possible thanks to using its laser as a dynamic iris.
Split image - Epson 5040UB on top with excellent black level performance better than the Sony. Below it, a lower cost Acer projector the V7850, which is basically entry level.
Optoma's bright 4K UHD (the higher res UHD), on top, vs BenQ HT2550 (entry level 4K UHD DLP chip). The Optoma has a slight advantage, could not get the two the same in brightness.
If you don’t have that near pitch black man cave, and instead have a media room or family room, den, or living room with good lighting control, this Sony is even more in its element. With less than a really, really dark room (preferably with very dark ceiling, walls and floors – like mine), the Sony is even better, in that even a little controlled ambient light will significantly limit the advantages of a projector with deeper black level performance.
One more point, re black levels. I believe Projector Reviews has only reviewed one 4K capable DLP projector (out of more than a dozen) that has black levels that overall are close to this Sony. That would be the Acer VL7860 (image in the player). Most have relatively poor black levels – just “entry level” like sub $1000 projectors. The exception is the Acer laser, the VL7860. How does it do well what all the other DLPs (so far) fail at, you ask? Easy, they are the only folks to have a dynamic iris functionality. No, there is no iris, but the Acer uses its laser light engine to emulate a dynamic iris. A laser is fast enough, a lamp is not!
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