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Sony VPL-VW50 Pearl Home Theater Projector Review: Image Quality

Posted on February 27, 2007 by Art Feierman

The Sony Pearl is a pleasure to watch - after you spend a little time fixing the "out of the box" color accuracy. The VW50 begs for some attention, and, considering the $4000+ selling price, many might want to seriously consider spending $500 or so for a professional calibration. With any projector, for movie watching you want a proper white (grayscale) balance. Some projectors are extremely good out of the box, others good, others so-so, etc.

The Sony produces a significantly too bluish (cool) an image for proper movie watching (D65 standard - 6500K color temperature), with the color temperature averaging almost 1000K too high. This can be adjusted by non-technical users with a basic calibration disk like the AVIA, which sells for around $40-$50, a small price to pay. You'll definitely want to deal with the situation, be it a calibration disk, a professional, or a hobbiest friend who knows what they are doing.

Once I did a basic calibration of the grayscale balance (30-100IRE) (don't worry about the technical stuff), the image quality improved dramatically, especially flesh tone handling, which is where we will start.

For openers, here are the usual 5 images used in every review, from standard DVD. These were all taken after the grayscale adjustment. You can click on almost all of the images on this page, for larger versions.

From Lord of the Rings, Return of the King:

In the Gandalf image we have rich flesh tones, while below, the image or Arwen, is subdued as it appears on the screen.

Moving to The Fifth Element, Leeloo's bright orange hair gets picked up nicely (better still if I would have overexposed the frame - camera limitation), while the flesh tones look good, especially the natural look of her lips. (The image in general has a slightly purplish cast on virtually any projector:

Bruce Willis looks espeically good in the image below. Many projectors tend to appear unnecessarily too saturated, considering the "theater" lighting.

From I, Robot, Will Smith has a realistic look to his skin tones:

Moving to hi-def images, let's start with a couple of new images from Batman Begins on HD-DVD:

You should be getting the idea... Very, very nice. More hi-def from HD-DVD, this time from Phantom of the Opera:

And a couple from the HD-DVD Space Cowboys:

Moving to the HD-DVD Aeon Flux, two images of Aeon:

Overall, after spending about 6 hours viewing the Sony VW50 before adjustment, and another 30 hours plus afterwards, I'm pretty comfortable in saying that the post adjustment VW50, produced some of the most natural skin tones of any review I can recall. My own BenQ PE8720 which I truly like, paled in comparison, or rather, the opposite, it always tends to seem too contrasty, compared to the Sony VW50. This despite it also being grayscale adjusted. Some may have to do with the gamma, or other factors, but the bottom line remains, the Sony is capable of extremely natural looking flesh tones.

HDTV and Flesh tones:

Immeidately below are several images shot from HDTV sources. In this case, I was using unadjusted settings (Standard) on the Sony VW50 Pearl home theater projectors. As will be mentioned in the calibration section, I didn't find a well balanced, default setup for non-movie watching. Since I did not do a full grayscale adjustment, you'll note that fleshtones could definitely be better, and with a proper adjustment, there is no reason why the Pearl couldn't rival the images above, with TV and HDTV sources. The unadjusted images are very watchable, but should look much better, more dead on, after proper tweaking.

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