Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW40: 1080p Home Theater Projector Review – Image Quality

Since it is essentially the same as the older VW50, the Sony VW40 also performs similarly. However, when looking at images, expect significant differences. The Sony VPL-VW50 review was done about a year ago, with a different camera, with different quirks.

Although it is difficult to pinpoint the causes, it is common for my camera to be “off” from what I’m seeing on the screen. In the case of the entire Sony photoshoot, images appear a touch more green, than what I saw on the screen. I could waste your time conjecturing as to exactly why, but it doesn’t matter. The end result is that you can pick up that extra green when viewing these, but it is far worse than in real life. The fact that the Sony images also (like most shot with my new camera), are slightly oversaturated, probably explains part of it.

The Sony VPL-VW40 Home Theater Projector: Skin Tones

The Sony is far enough off from ideal color, out of the box, that there’s no point in shooting images in default mode. All these images were taken in Cinema mode (except for the HDTV ones).

Overall performance on skin tones is very good. While I note above that I’m getting too much green, when watching, that is very slight. Still, a better grayscale calibration, and/or using their color management RCP should further improve. I doubt that any but the most hard core crazed, will be disappointed, as long as a reasonably accurate grayscale calibration is done. We’ll start with non-hi-def images from standard DVD – Lord of the Rings, Return of the King:

For those of you who like to compare images with those of other reviews, The next group (The Fifth Element) are all from Blu-ray disc, whereas until a few months ago, I was using the standard DVD for them.

The newest Bond flick – Casino Royale, has excellent production qualities and makes a great disc for testing. As a result it has quickly become one of the discs from which I get a large number of images

Keep in mind, that when considering skin tones, you must also consider the lighting conditions intended, in the movie. Obviously a person’s skin tones will look different under different lighting. For your consideration, here are some images of Jame Bond, under varying lighting. The first one, by the plane, is under full sunlight. The second, in an airport, is under typical florescent lighting, and the third one, outside, is filtered sunlight. Once you figure that each should be a touch less green, to accurately reflect what was on the screen, you should conclude, as I did, that the Sony, once calibrated, does an excellent job:

I’m not sure where to comment on this, but since we are in the color sections of the Image Quality page, this is as good a place as any, to discuss a potential issue.

The Sony VW40, unlike it’s predecessor, and like all the new crop of 1080p projectors to come out in the last few months, supports HDMI 1.3. Older projectors support the older 1.2 standard. Now, 1.3 offers a number of additional capabilities, many of which relate to audio, and are not relevant to projectors, but one key capability is that the HDMI 1.3 standard supports Deep Color, something that has not yet started appearing in hi-def discs, but certainly will. With Deep Color, the bandwidth is wider, and the HDMI interface can pass much larger color palettes – billions of colors.

While the differences are subtle, this is a very desireable feature. As of right now, Sony tells me, that while their HDMI inputs are 1.3, the projector’s color system can’t handle Deep Color. Whether that can be changed/fixed with a firmware patch, I don’t know. This will be an issue in most 1080 projectors so I plan to go back and query the manufacturers of the all the new 1080p projectors I’ve reviewed this fall.