Posted on January 21, 2019 By Art Feierman
Sony VPL-VW995ES Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out-of-the-Box Color, Skin Tons, Black Levels, 4K with HDR
All images presented in this review are "right out of the box", as we did not calibrate the 995ES. The only adjustments made were minor adjustments to brightness and contrast.
Journey To Space - 4K Blu-ray UHD
Passengers - 4K Blu-ray UHD (with HDR, of course).
Another Passengers image in 4K/HDR
1080i content from Victoria Secret's Swim Suit Special - over DirecTv. Rich greens, good detail in dark waters...
1080i College football. This image taken with my theater window shutters half open, so a good amount of ambient light, but the 1700+ lumens (from a laser engine) hardly noticed.
1080i from a Florence and the Machine performance at the Glastonbury music festival in the UK. Room was almost fully darkened for this photo.
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!
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.
From Valarian - 4K Blu-ray UHD movie
This photo and the next are from Pacific Rim - Uprising, 4K Blu-ray UHD.
Leeloo from The Fifth Element - 4K Blu-ray UHD. The next two photos also from the same movie.
This and the next photo in the player are from The Hunger Games (1080p Blu-ray).
Ghostbusters 2016 - 4K Blu-ray UHD (with HDR, of course).
Passengers - 4K UHD Blu-ray
This image from Victoria Secret, 1080i.
More 1080i content from Victoria Secret's Swim Suit special.
1080i content over DirecTv. True, skin tones are perhaps the least important thing when watching a football game, but in this case, they do look good.
Cinema Film 1 mode: All these images are 1080i resolution over DirecTv. No adjustments to color, only minor adjustments to brightness and contrast (for the projector overall).
Cinema Film 2
Reference mode! All images in this review (other than most of these model shots, were taken with the VW995ES either in Cinema Film 1, or Reference modes!
User mode (default settings)
TV mode, definitely very cool - her skin has less red, a lot more blue to it, yet, it looks good, as one might expect if the scene itself was very cool white.
Bright TV. A bit more punch than TV mode, but also very "blue-white" whites.
Bright Cinema - geared to deal with some ambient light, although not significantly brighter than Cinema Film 1, Bright Cinema has various other settings chosen to deliver more punch.
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.
The Epson 5040UB can't match the black levels of the VW995ES. Still, it is the least expensive HT projector with really good black level performance so serves as our base for doing it right.
Look for the greater differences between the bright, dark areas. Exposures vary. Look for more contrast, no blow out. Not as good as $8K Sony 4K VW885ES, or Epson UB. Both lamp based.
From The Fifth Element - this and the other photos in this player are all 4K with HDR!
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!
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!
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