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Sony VPL-VW5000ES 4K Projector Review - Picture Quality - The Experience

Posted on January 29, 2017 by Art Feierman
OK, the picture is awesome. (Gawd, I hate repeating myself, where's that thesaurus?  There is virtually nothing to complain about.  No projector has immersed me more than this Sony on great HDR content. The VPL-VW5000ES is amazing at everything but black level performance and it's darn good there.  But it's the color and the dynamics of the Sony that are superb.  I picked this Sony up right from one of Sony Corp's demo rooms, at their HQ in San Diego. The color was, if not dead on the money, then it was close enough. I can't tell you though, how dead on, as I didn't have Eric calibrate it.  I can say that after well more than 100 hours of viewing I never noticed a skin tone that looked off, (there's always variation from one piece of content to another, decisions by the director and the colorist, but never did I think that the Sony was not doing it's job right.  Nor did I see a projected primary or secondary color that didn't look right either.  I only once put up color bars, stared at those colors for 15 seconds and said to myself, these look good, so go watch something.  Now different Color modes are geared for different results, so don't take my meaning that all the modes were identical looking. I've written about the effects of HDR in the Special features section. Therefore I'll try not to repeat.  Instead I just want to say, that the only time I notice the "projector" is when I run across one of those really dark scenes that have made deep "black levels" the "holy grail" of HT projectors for many years.  The rest of the time with HDR content your world disappears and you are immersed in the world of the movie or other content you are watching.  BTW, absolutely, positively get yourself Journey to Space and Rocky Mountain Express Blu-ray UHDs.  You want more breathtaking?  Go to the Rockies or sign up for a trip to the space station!
 

This Photos Can't Do the Sony Justice

These are all 4K images (and all from HDR content).  These images are heavily compressed, moving in the exact opposite direction of what HDR brings to the party, less dynamic range not more - yet...  Consider these photos from HDR movies to be a pale shadow of the reality.  We always have this problem even with 1080p content on $2K projectors, so understand, the differences between what's on your computer screen and what's on my projection screen are pretty close to "night and day".  Depending on the resolution of your display you may not see these images at the 2000 pixel wide resolution they are saved at (still far less than the 3840 res of the projector) because of our player.  For that reason, I'll repeat a couple of the closeups at the bottom of the page, with luck they will give you a larger pixel for pixel image.

You must admit, if you are a regular reader of our reviews, that these images came out looking stunning.  I love Saturn, NYC at night, and the closeup of Lucy's eye.  OMG!  Enough said.

I've already mentioned though, many of the differences between standard SDR (1080p, 4K without HDR) and HDR.  Quite honestly Sony has trailed JVC at black levels they remain the king, but, with this HDR, even the best JVC can't produce black levels on HDR content that are as dark as their least expensive projector with standard 1080p running.

So, let's just get used to black levels being really good, but something the world, for now has sacrificed to get a whole new world of dynamics.  For you fanatics out there you might even want to pair the Sony VW5000ES with a lower gain, high contrast seen to lower black levels  I would have loved to run the Sony with my Slate, but that room is never dark like my theater, so I wouldn't have learned much.  But I can see pairing this Sony with a .8 gain Slate.

But back to overall picture for one more moment.  There is one small flaw to mention, it is chronic across Sony's lineup- that is, this Sony, does have problems with one certain slow pan speed that causes, a lot, that's a lot, of judder.  It's the scene near the opening of the movie Red, panning the neighborhood. A reader found second scene in one of the Transformers movies, which I confirmed. I haven't found other projectors that handle those two scenes with as much judder than the Sonys, but then, if you have 2 minutes of heavy judder in a movie library with a few hundred titles, I think we can all live with that. (BTW other projectors have also shown judder on those scenes, just not as much.)  That's my BIG Complaint!   It's one I can live with.

Simply stated, all things considered, the VPL-VW5000ES is by far the best overall experience yet.

What about good old 1080 resolution movies and HDTV?

Closer look at highly cropped 4K HDR content photos

vw5000es_4k_shuttle_floorplan_2_closeup vw5000es_4k_credits_closeup vw5000es_4k_shuttle_pad_closeup vw5000es_4k_saturn_closeup

 

Once you click on one of these, your cursor will change to a magnifier, so you can click to further enlarge.  Impressive detail!

First of all, when not using HDR (even on 4K), the Sony is an exceptionally bright projector boasting 5000 lumens.  That folks is about 10X the brightness called for if you have a nice dedicated home theater / cave and a typical 100" screen.  For 1080 content, I never had to use full power, even for my football viewing, with my window shutters open most of the way, even on very sunny days.  As is typical, I find my photos (shot with a Canon 60D) to come out a little oversaturated when viewed on my MacBook.  Adjust the saturation of your display so that saturation looks right - it certainly did on the projected screen.

In the 1080i and 1080p images above, I selected one close-up of a Victoria Secret model from their Swimsuit show to show you the major color modes, so you can see the differences.

The Sony VW5000ES like all other Sony's has their Reality Creation detail enhancement feature.  For all these images it was set to default.  The Sony does a nice job of producing an image that seems sharper than a standard 1080p projector, but it's 4K where the Sony shines in that regard.  Pixel shifting 1080p projectors can use an abundance of their own detail enhancement schemes to appear comparable in sharpness to the Sony, but typically by creating a slightly harder, less natural image which a videophile might state is "over processed."

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