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Sony VPL-VW600ES 4K Projector: Picture Quality

Posted on March 4, 2014 by Art Feierman

Out of the Box Picture Quality

This Sony VPL-VW600ES offers especially good color, right out of the box, in several modes, most noticeably Cinema Film 1 and Reference.   Some other modes are not so wonderful, especially Bright TV.   Despite the designations of the Bright TV and Bright Cinema modes, they don't measure as bright as Cinema Film 1 or Reference.  But they are punchier.  Of those two, Bright Cinema is definitely the more watchable, and I have used it for sports viewing because it has a more dynamic look and seems to survive a bit of ambient light better.

All of the modes measure within about 12% of each other, and if you don't count Photo mode, all are within 10%.  Since that's very little difference, there isn't a particular "brightest" mode, vs. "best" mode, as we normally designate.

Reference (and Cinema Film 1) look really great, but a bit warm, (and perhaps green down just a touch, compared to blue in the brighter areas).  If this was a $1500 projector, I would say that the default color is so good that the cost of calibrating the projector is probably not a great value.

But as this Sony projector is ten times that price, you will likely spend, to get that last 5% or so of accuracy.


Click Image to Enlarge

VPL-VW600ES Handling of Skin Tones

Before calibration Reference mode handled skin tones very well, if a touch warm (red).  But we're concerned here with the Sony projector's abilities, post-calibration.

The word exceptional comes to mind, also natural.  Some content looks truly flawless, and when content doesn't, the problem is most likely the content.  For example I've never been overly thrilled with the skin tones in the movie RED, although I use it, because I figure it's typical of many movies, in it's less than perfection.  Although I didn't shoot images from RED, I did watch it on the VW600ES, and I have to say, a couple of times Bruce Willis and others skin tones really did look superb, but on other scenes, there was still a very slight orange caste.  I'll attribute the differences to scene lighting.

As you look at these images, they just tend to look right.  Now, I say that viewing them on my MacBook Pro, and with the realization that my camera, software compression and the display hardware and software all detract from what one sees on the screen.  That said, based on what I see on my MacBook Pro, if these photos showing off skin tones don't look really great, then suspect your own monitor or graphics card, not the Sony.

These images are all post calibration. Our settings can all be found on the calibration page, except for the CMS calibration of individual primary and secondary colors.  Those, along with CIE charts and other graphics showing the projector's calibration results are to be found on the Advanced Calibration page, which is available to our subscribers.

If anything the photos show a bit too much saturation.  I routinely dial down the saturation slightly from Mike's settings because it's the camera, not the projected image that comes out over saturated.   In a few of the early ones I shot (like Spiderman's red headed girlfriend, were before I remembered to do that.

Truly, though, these skin tones, post calibration are about as good as one can hope for.

Skin Tones Depend on Lighting

It's important to note that as you look at skin tone images, production values have an affect, but lighting in general has a greater affect.  In our familiar demo, here are images of "Bond" under different lighting.

In the images here, the first image of Bond is with filtered sunlight, the second, is nighttime, then Bond under fluorescent lights, and finally in full sunlight. Four very different skin tones, same person.  And of course, there's also the "director's intent that can have a major effect, right?  (Think the different color castes of the different lands in Lord of the Rings, or, for an extreme example, the Matrix movies.

Sony VPL-VW600 ES Black Level Comparison

VW600ES very overexposed - excellent black level performance
Sony's flagship 4K VW1000ES, with even better blacks
JVC's flagship projector with best native blacks (sorry for the smaller image)
JVC DLA-X35, very good, but not the best black levels around $3500
Sony HW55ES - excellent blacks for around $3500
Epson Home/Pro Cinema 5030ub/6030ub great blacks for $2700-$3500
Epson G6900WU - for media rooms with ambient light, mediocre blacks

Bottom Line on Black Level performance:  The VW600ES counts on a dynamic iris with a lot of range to deliver excellent, “rich” blacks.  Overall, I would put the performance on the same level as Sony’s VW95ES 2K projector, which is Sony’s top of the line 1080p, but not as good as their top of the line VW1100ES which we didn't review but is essentially the same as the older VW1000ES that we did.

By comparison, the VPL-VW600ES produces distinctly deeper blacks than some of the best lower cost (than the VW95ES) projectors like Epson’s UB series, or Sony’s own HW55ES.   We haven’t had a chance to play with the new ones yet, which for the first time have a dynamic iris. If they have a smooth iris action they should be impressive.

This is black level performance I can live with, no problem.  Those of you following my reviews for a few years, know that I'm pretty much a black level fanatic.

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