Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VW995ES Projector Review – Picture Quality 1

Sony VPL-VW995ES Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out-of-the-Box Color, Skin Tons, Black Levels, 4K with HDR

Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality

Sony has been pretty consistent the past few years, in that almost all of their many picture presets produce between very good and excellent color.   Some of Sony’s best pre-set modes are more accurate “right out of the box” than some other projectors are after calibration.  As you would expect, Sony’s new flagship fits that description.

Each of the presets varies with different settings for features like Color Temp, Gamma, (Or EOTF/Contrast for 4K with HDR), dynamic contrast, etc.

No matter, the point is this projector serves up some great picture quality without needing any adjustment, just pick one of the better modes.  Reference on the Sony is great.  Want punchier (a little) try Cinema Film 1.  Cinema Film 2 (falls somewhere in between.

In the case of this VW995ES review, we did not calibrate the projector – let’s just say I gave Eric (our calibrator) the days off.

So, with the exception of adjusting the EOTF/Contrast (set to 70 or 75 depending), and playing a bit with a few controls (like the dynamic contrast), all my observations are basically based on “right out of the box viewing.” Sure, if this projector was fully and properly calibrated there would be some minor improvement, but, after well over 100 hours of viewing 4K with/without HDR, 1080p movies and HDTV, and a ton of 1080i sports, I never really missed having it calibrated.  Compared to the Epson I have ceiling mounted (which was calibrated), the two pictures look near identical in terms of color (Sony Reference vs Epson Digital Cinema), in terms of color balance.

Oh, the Sony looks immediately, and noticeably better, but that’s not because the color is more or less accurate, but because the overall picture on the Sony, is, by comparison – “next level.”

It just looks clearer, richer, more dynamic, etc.  but similar.

All the images therefore on these two pages (and the rest of the review are basically “right out of the box”.  Any minor adjustments (none to color) that I made are more subtle than you could see in our photos, due to compression, etc. The exception is the 4K HDR EOTF/Contrast adjustments which are easily discernible, but have no effect on color they just lighten up the lower and mid ranges to prevent HDR dimness), when raising the setting.  I recommend 70 or 75, but I have tried 80 at times.

Bottom line:  This Sony puts a picture up on the screen, without any calibration, that should still wow even the most hard core enthusiast!

Skin Tones

Since the color is almost right on the money, so are the skin tones. This first photo player contains a wide range of faces, etc. All images were taken with either Cinema Film 1, or Reference modes.  Only brightness and contrast have been slightly adjusted, color is strictly “right out of the box” with no changes.

All of the 4K images shown in these players have HDR.

The player finishes with three Daniel Craig photos from Casino Royale (1080p) – for the purpose of demonstrating that “skin tones” are what the director intends, and they should look very different under different lighting, in this case: Night, filtered sunlight, and fluorescent.

Bottom line on skin tone handling (no calibration) – pretty awesome.  I imagine there might be a slight noticeable improvement if we calibrated this Sony, but all considered, these are probably about as good a collection of skin tones as we will ever see on a non-calibrated HT projector, or a TV for that matter!

Reference produces the most natural look and likely the most accurate. Cinema Film 1 is very similar overall but does dial up the punch – the dynamics just a little bit.

The second player has our 1080i images from Victoria Secret’s Swim Suit special.  They show you how the same model’s skin tones (same frame) look in each of the Sony VPL-VW995ES’es different picture preset modes.  Most are great, but some modes, like TV, are very cool white compared to the rest.

Black Level Performance

It has been a long time since I’ve seen black level performance that looks this good.  I think I have to go back a couple/three of years to the old flagship JVC.  The last JVC (they are legend for black levels) I reviewed was the RS440 last year. That’s their old entry level, my take being this Sony beat it, but it should be close. Therefore it is quite possible, even likely that JVC’s flagship projector today (similarly expensive to this Sony) probably can beat the Sony, but “seeing is believing.”  I’ll bring one in for review one day, if JVC will provide a loaner.

Other than the JVCs, nothing I have worked with can match this Sony. With my 1.3 gain screen and over 1700 lumens hitting my screen, I admit, black levels could be a bit darker.  If I owned this projector, I might just change out my screen.

Let me put it this way:

The Sony’s black level performance is excellent, but it probably isn’t the best in the world of projectors, just close.  On the other hand, Sony has pretty much everything else nailed, which is why I keep coming back to that it has the best picture yet to grace my home theater!

4K with HDR

Let’s talk 4K content with HDR!  Plenty of images to view, of course.  Here’s my take.  4K with HDR looks pretty spectacular.  I figure the only way to beat this Sony, in my theater, would be to find a 124″ OLED TV.  Now if one actually existed, it surely would be three time the price (at the very least) of this $35K Sony projector.

That notwithstanding, this is about as good as it gets.   Paired with my Studiotek 130 (1.3 gain) in my theater, essentially every 4K movie I viewed looked outstanding.  Even with HDR eating up brightness, personally, I would likely pair with a different screen with less gain, perhaps a great, but light grey surface.  That, of course for a dedicated theater with all dark surfaces..

Please don’t forget when viewing the photos in this player, that they were all taken without us doing any color calibration!