Projector Reviews

Sony VPL-VZ1000ES 4K Home Theater Projector – Special Features

VPL-VZ1000ES HOME THEATER PROJECTOR – SPECIAL FEATURES: True 4K, Color Space, HDR and Hybrid Log-Gamma, UST and Lens Features

Other than the ultra short throw design of the Sony VPL-VZ1000ES projector, we’ve seen the entire feature set before.  Sony’s top of the line home theater projector, the VPL-VW5000ES which we reviewed many months ago, has all the features we’re going to talk about here.  The VPL-VZ1000ES is different in more basic areas, for example, it’s bargain priced at $24,999 compared to $59,999.  It’s only 2500 lumens instead of 5000 lumens, and it’s physically a different shape, and weight, these two Sony home theater projectors are the biggest, and the heaviest home projectors we’ve ever reviewed, with the VZ1000ES weighing in at a mere 77 pounds!

True 4K resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio

Technically true 4K resolution is the DCI standard (digital cinema initiative) resolution of 4096×2160 – 1.88:1.  However, most home theater projectors stick to a 16:9 aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Basically as DCI is slightly wider (by about 6%) than that.  the vertical resolution is the same for both formats.

In the case of this (and other Sony 4K projectors), The VPL-VZ1000ES uses 4096×2160 panels – true DCI resolution.  That said, so far, consumer content – including Blu-ray UHD – only call for 3840 pixels wide.  That doesn’t mean, however, at some point we won’t see full 4K DCI 4096×2160 content arrive.

Either way, each pixel is 1/2160th of the screen height.

Now that is the important spec.  Because, it means really tiny pixels.

By comparison, 1080p (1920×1080 – which is half the horizontal, half the vertical resolution) has pixels which are twice as wide in diameter, and 4 times as large in area, relative to screen size.  Think softball vs hardball.  Or racquetball vs golf ball, in size difference.

So, even when applying pixel shifting, the problem is, 1080p can’t come close to resolving the detail.  Think this way.  true 4K is like writing fine detail with a pen, while 1080p is like writing that same detail but trying to accomplish it with a magic marker that is a lot thicker!

But today we also have the first generation of 4K UHD DLP projectors, they split the difference between 1080p pixel shifters and true 4K.  Like the 1080p’s they use pixel shifting, and have to overlap pixels on top of pixels to meet the 8.3 megapixel standard created called 4K UHD.

Those 4K UHD pixels are still 50% wider than true 4K pixels on the same sized screen, and each pixel has an area that is 2.25 times that of true 4K.  This time it’s like working with a finer tipped magic marker, but still one that can’t do the detail work of that pen.

At the end of the day, though it’s about the picture.  The big advantage of moving to 4K (and in 5 more years or so, 8K resolution) is more detail – aka sharper image, which allows one to sit closer, and in turn, have the screen take up a larger portion of your vision than with lower resolution devices.  Folks that’s called immersion, and it’s why movies are more exciting in a theater than on a smart phone!    (BTW, Japan will be well on their way to broadcasting 8K content in 2020.)

One other thing worth noting, when comparing a true 4K projector like this VPL-VZ1000ES to a DLP projector with the 4K UHD chip is that single chip DLP projectors don’t have three different color chips (panels) to converge.  So they have that advantage of more precise alignment.  That helps, but it still won’t make up for the bigger pixels, lower native resolution and overlapping of the pixels.

Color Space Support for BT2020

In the theaters they use a wider color space – allowing for richer, more intense colors than we’ve had to live with in the existing world of 1080p display devices. And be sure of this, it makes a real difference to the picture.  BT2020 is the color space used for the best picture quality on Blu-ray UHD discs, but those discs will also serve up the lower quality REC709 standard we’ve “had to live with” since HDTV hit the market.

I’ve compared many scenes – with  images such as these – the first from this Sony, the second from a BenQ 4K UHD DLP projector.  I currently have three of the 4K UHD home theater projectors here in various states of the review process, and they all have one thing in common, they all lack BT2020 color space.  Some support HDR (but not this BenQ)

Sony VPL-VZ1000ES on Ghostbusters scene with very dynamic color. The Sony is supporting HDR and the larger BT2020 color space

Now here’s a similar frame but captured from the BenQ still working from the same Blu-ray UHD disc, but using the REC709 color space, and no HDR:

BenQ HT8050 showing Ghostbusters scene, using REC709 color

Even the quickest glance at these two images and you can’t help but notice how much more intense the blue ghosts are, or the redish lights in the windows, etc.  With the Sony’s ability to do BT2020 (or as close as possible), it leaves those projectors limited to REC709 color in the proverbial dust, when it comes to the intensity of colors and the intensity of the entire scene.

All of the 4K UHD DLP projector manufacturers are talking about BT2020, and how they aren’t there yet, but working on it.  Translation, we’re going to have to (in almost all cases), wait until the 2nd generation of DLP 4K UHD projectors before we see BT2020 properly implemented (hopefully), and our viewing experience taken up a level.

BTW it seems that one manufacturer using the TI 4K UHD chip set, does support BT2020. That would be SIM2.  When they announced a model at CEDIA last year (2016) they indicated over 80% of the range of BT2020 is supported.  Now if I read that correctly (don’t quote me on this) they are therefore providing a BT2020 mode, to do the best they can, whereas the far less expensive competition aren’t even trying to to BT2020, just offering REC709.    Of course SIM2 is an Italian high end projector and display manufacturer who’s 4K UHD projectors are likely to cost even more than this true 4K Sony.  Go figure!

From viewing projectors here that are tackling BT2020 (Sony, two Epsons), and those that aren’t:  BenQ HT8050, Optoma UHD65 and Vivitek HK2299, the advantage of using BT2020 space is HUGE when it comes to having a great, knock your socks off, dynamic, and correct picture.  It’s too bad those liking the idea of 4K UHD projectors are going to have to wait for a 2nd generation to get that impressive BT2020 support.


High Dynamic Range – I won’t go into details here, but HDR is one of the new features supported along with 4K, including Blu-ray UHD disc.

There are three types of HDR – but they all have the same goal:  To make the content you watch be more dynamic, more life like.  HDR10 is the widely used software solution.  All the projectors with HDR at this time support HDR10.  A second standard, from Dolby, is hardware based.  It’s not widely used on the consumer side, but could get built into higher end LCD TV and OLED TVs and perhaps projectors, in the future.

The third type is Hybrid Log-Gamma, a relatively new term in consumer space.  Hybrid Log Gamma apparently has the same goals of expanding dynamic range, but it does it without relying on metadata (if you are having trouble following this, that’s OK – so am I.)

This is beneficial when streaming as apparently the metadata can get out of sync, or lost?

Bottom line therefore is that HLG makes streaming 4K with high dynamic range, more reliable.

HDR – no matter its form, essentially widens the difference between mid and mid-low images and very bright ones.  More pop.

The downside is you need lots of brightness, a challenge for projectors.  Still this VZ1000ES  does a really good job, in terms of providing a picture with a lot of pop, but without seeming fine on scenes that other HDR projectors I have here look dim on.

Ron, my most technical reviewer, recently posted The State of HDR for Home Theaters for those more technically inclined and curious.

HDR, as mentioned is used in almost all Blu-ray UHD discs, although there’s always non-HDR available on those discs.

VZ1000ES UST and Lens Features

This has been moved to our Hardware page (next).