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Sony VPL-VW365ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review - Picture Quality

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Art Feierman
VPL-VW365ES 4K PROJECTOR - PICTURE QUALITY:  Out of the Box, Skin Tones, HDTV and Sports

The Sony Projector's Out of the Box Picture

For about the fourth Sony home theater projector review in a row, our calibrators (first Mike, now Eric)  came back telling me that the Sony's best picture - Reference Mode - is almost dead on the money in terms of color accuracy without any adjustment.  Excellent grayscale balance and no real need to tweak the individual colors (CMS).  In all cases they (the calibrators) provided minor changes, but as Mike pointed out.  He really couldn't see any obvious difference in the picture comparing the default to the minor adjustments - that is differences in color are barely noticeable. Of course there's some lamp variation, and that too will change over time. Bright TV is a little over-the-top, and a couple of the specialty ones aren't what you would want to use for movie viewing but overall none of the modes is ugly, and most look great for the job intended, such as tackling extra ambient light, or gaming.

In the small player (you can expand the image size), the first three images - of the ref - are showing Bright Cinema, Bright TV and Reference.  The exposures were the same.  I believe I had reference in it's default low lamp mode, which explains why its quite noticeably darker than the other two.  

There isn't a drastic amount of brightness difference between the various modes when measured, such as between best modes like Reference or Cinema Film 1, and modes like Bright TV. In fact, the brightest modes are mostly about more "pop", accomplished by different sub-settings such as gamma, contrast enhancers, etc.  Also the color temp of some are cooler than the ones more movie oriented.   Still all are pretty well-balanced - no screaming greens, etc.  I find I've been using Bright TV, for my sports viewing, with the Color Temp set to D75.  Bright Cinema is warmer, and overall better for movies on HDTV etc., with ambient light present.  

4K content is a whole different world, with the broader BT2020 color gamut and HDR.  For that, I'm using User 1 based originally on Reference but with major changes:  I have BT2020 running, and HDR on. There is no gamma with HDR.

Bottom Line - not a really ugly mode choice in the batch.  You can choose from several modes when you are fighting some ambient light, or just want more "wow" and "pop" to the image.  Still for great movie watching, you'll want to use Reference (with minor calibration changes as desired).  That, of course is all about 1080p content.

Skin Tones

Sony always seems to me to be the best (if only by small amounts) when it comes to handling skin tones as naturally as possible. Hard to say why, but I had an epiphany moment the other day when I put on the movie Lucy for the first time.

In the images above, the first three are, in order:  Reference mode, Bright Cinema mode, Bright TV mode.  (note in the sports pictures where I'm using Bright TV, I have the color temp set for D75).  For this image comparison, it was set to Color Space 3 (similar to D65) - the default for this mode.)

Skin tones in Reference were excellent.  Very natural.  Skin tones in various content with different production qualities looked consistently good, implying accurate color.  (Think stereo speakers - there are some  touted as great for rock, others for classical, others for jazz, vocals, etc.  But great speakers do not add or subtract - so they faithfully reproduce all types of music, from instrumental to vocal.)  I'm saying that the Sony looks good on pretty much all skin tones, because it's a pretty faithful reproducer of what it's being fed..

Then, at the end of this batch of images is our usual reminder (backed by four James Bond/Daniel Craig images) that under different lighting - sunlight, fluorescent, night, and filtered sunlight, skin tones vary drastically.  That reminder is that is that the skin tones all look so different because of the very different lighting (and possibly the" director's intent."). An accurate projector should still make them look right, and natural.

Bottom line in Skin Tones - Awesome!  That pretty much covers it.

HDTV and Sports

Any projector that can do great skin tones should be able to handle most things well.  On HDTV and sports in particular the VW365ES had no issues.  Football fields looked natural, as did faces and uniforms.  The two flag image scenes looked great.  At first I was concerned about the red in the flag - in the shot of the whole field.  The reds didn't seem pure enough. But when they cut to the close-up camera of the flag material, voila' the red looked right - like I would expect.  On an assortment of music videos and festivals from the late Paladia - now the MTV Live channel, all my concert content looks great.  Of course, stage lighting is anything but natural.  Your mind has to tell you if a face looks right, when the stage lighting on it, say, is red.

Since it relates to the picture quality, as previously stated, I found CFI on low worked well on sports.  I stuck to the Low setting.  That worked out great for a lot of football, the first week of the season!

Bottom line on HDTV and Sports:  Great picture, Reality Creation running set to 40, running Bright TV mode (for sports), for the Victoria Secret and other non-sports HDTV, the projector was run in best mode - Reference, which was, as mentioned, barely calibrated, with no CFI, and Reality creation on 20.  Not a complaint about color handling.  I like a lower gamma for sports and some TV than movie gamma, but choose what works for you.  I assume most don't watch HDTV in a really dark room, so adjust accordingly.  If I had but one wish to improve sports viewing, it would be for the VPL-VW365ES to have an extra few hundred lumens under the hood.

As of this writing, I have not yet started working with DirecTV's single 4K channel, nor any 4K sports/TV streaming.  (But I just bought the Roku Ultra a 4K capable streamer (about $130), I just haven't gotten to firing it up yet.

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