Since, for the last 2+ years, JVC has been the benchmark for black levels (excluding CRT projectors of course), I can't help but compare the VW85 to the JVC in order to best describe the black level performance.
I'm likely repeating myself, but JVC gets its great blacks without having to resort to a dynamic iris. Even with dynamic irises, though, no projector last year, came really close to the JVC RS20. The new RS25 is just a touch better than the RS20, in terms of blacks.
Last year, I found the VW70 to be well short of the RS20, in terms of black level performance, in fact more in the range of JVC's lower cost RS10.
Not so, this time! I didn't have the RS25 here, but do have my RS20. At its best, on just the right type of scene, the Sony now can match the blacks of the RS20. Most of the time, on very dark scenes, and mostly dark scenes with small bright areas, it can't quite match the JVC, but it's so close that I have to say that, as a black level fanatic, the Sony's blacks are certainly no deal breaker. I could just as easily own the Sony as far as blacks are concerned. Yes, the JVC is a touch better, but most of the time even side by side, the difference isn't evident.
Of course, with a dynamic iris, there are side issues. To operate, they need to compress the image a bit, if there are any fully bright areas. That translates to less punch, but, again, watching the two, side by side, it is rarely obvious.
So, when it comes to black level performance, the RS20, and the RS25, now have a very slight advantage, and I must say, there isn't another projector I am aware of, that can claim that, compared to the VW85.
Immediately below, from The Fifth Element, our favorite starship image - overexposed. And right below it, the same image from the JVC RS25.
Below, the Sony again, but normally exposed, and for comparison, a number of other projectors
For comparison, here's the same image more normally exposed, from the JVC RS25.
Next, the Panasonic PT-AE4000, which isn't really a match for the Sony VPL-VW85, but one fine projector for $2000:
Below you get a look at the VW85 vs. my JVC RS20. The RS20 is above, and the VPL-VW85 on the lower part of the screen (a Firehawk G3). Very, very, similar. Then the next image, below, is the same frame, but seriously overexposed, so you can see the black level differences in the letterbox dark area in between. Even with that level of overexposure, they are both still near black. You can, however see a slight difference if your monitor is bright enough. On my MacBook Pro, I really had to look close on the small image, so click to enlarge - it helps.