PROJECTOR EXPO REPORT
Here it is - the final report on The Screening Room's big Projector Expo event, comparing four of the top 4K UHD projectors from JVC and Sony. Many thanks to those who came out, especially those who traveled great distances to join us!
Despite being exhausted after three weeks of prep, zero days off, and thousands of dollars spent putting on the show, we all had a great time hosting everyone and getting to see these projectors put through their paces. This report is based on my subjective observations and input from both the attendees and our special guests Kris Deering (Sound and Vision magazine, Deep Dive AV), Craig Rounds (CIR Engineering), Chris Deutsch (JVC), and Russell Warnhoff (Kaleidescape).
JVC DLA-RS2000 / DLA-NX7 (MSRP $7999)
Sony VPL-VW695ES (MSRP $9999)
JVC DLA-RS3000 / DLA-NX9 (MSRP $17999)
Sony VPL-VW995ES (MSRP $34999)
Top to bottom - Sony VPL-VW695ES, JVC DLA-RS2000, Sony VPL-VW995ES
All projectors were calibrated by our special guest Kris Deering. Kris is currently a writer/technical editor for Sound and Vision magazine and a calibrator and consultant through his own company, Deep Dive AV. He has also been a writer and editor for various other publications, both in print and online, including Home Theater magazine and Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity. Kris has done work for some of the biggest names in the AV industry, offering a wide range of services including calibration, product development, product testing and training. I have interspersed his comments and measurements in italics.
Kris Deering Calibrates the Projectors
First off, here are some quick notes on the comparisons, updated with the actual measurements. Screen used was a Stewart 120" 16:9 StudioTek130, located in our downtown Colorado Springs showroom - a totally light controlled room with dark walls and ceiling.
The JVC DLA-RS2000 / NX7 and the DLA-RS3000 / NX9 had the best native contrast, and measured almost identically. Both had approximately 2 - 3X the native contrast of the Sonys in their respective best modes. Here are the actual contrast measurements taken by Kris, ranked highest to lowest:
JVC DLA-RS3000 / DLA-RS2000 (tie): 22,000:1 native contrast ratio, high lamp, iris wide open; calibrated contrast 37,000:1 with the manual iris stopped down to hit 22 footlamberts (24 FL on the RS2000)
Sony VPL-VW995ES: 15,000:1 native contrast ratio at peak light output, calibrated contrast 8,800:1 with laser light output reduced to hit 22 footlamberts
Sony VPL-VW695ES: 8800:1 native contrast ratio, high lamp iris wide open, calibrated contrast 10,100:1 with the aperture closed down to hit 22 footlamberts
The Sony VW995ES by a tiny margin had the best lens of all the projectors at the event, with the JVC RS3000 coming in an extremely close second. Pixel definition was outstanding (as it was with the 3000), but keep in mind the difference between these two projectors was only noticeable with a single pixel test pattern right up literally inches away from the screen. A note about this lens – the improvement this lens brings over what can be found in Sony's VW295, VW695 and VW885 is pretty substantial at any seating distance. Sharpness, depth and apparent contrast are considerably improved.
Projectors ranked in brightness: VPL-VW995ES, DLA-RS2000, DLA-RS3000, and VPL-VW695ES. One should not be too surprised by the slightly lower brightness of the RS3000 vs. the 2000 – these are often sample variances. Here are the numbers:
Sony VPL-VW995ES: Peak output 49 footlamberts
JVC DLA-RS2000: Peak output 46 footlamberts (high lamp)
JVC DLA-RS3000: Peak output 41 footlamberts (high lamp)
Sony VPL-VW695ES: Peak output 31 footlamberts (high lamp)
The JVCs had the best color reproduction / saturation, with subtle shadings that were missing from the two Sonys. Both JVCs looked almost identical in this regard, which is not surprising when you look at the numbers:
JVC DLA-RS3000 and DLA-RS2000 (tie): measured at 99.8% of the P3 / DCI color gamut, color filter in place.
The Sony VPL-VW995ES: measured at 90% of the P3 / DCI color gamut.
The VPL-VW695ES: measured slightly lower at 89% of the P3 / DCI color gamut.
The Sony VW995ES had an extremely pleasing “pop” and clarity, most likely due to its high brightness output and outstanding lens.
Both JVC projectors also had excellent HDR "pop," with the 3000 essentially equaling the VPL-VW995ES from a clarity standpoint The Sony was still capable of higher brightness, however, which could be a benefit if paired with particularly large screens. Where the JVCs stood out in the HDR department, though, was in their auto tone-mapping ability (more on this in a moment).
JVC DLA-RS3000 hanging in our reference showroom
JVC RS2000 vs RS3000 – with generic picture content, often the two projectors looked almost identical. However, when there were areas of fine detail in an image, the superiority of the RS3000’s lens became clear (no pun intended). Fine details were easier to make out, and to re-coin a phrase I used from last year’s shootout, the overall image had a greater “purity” than the 2000. The 2000 had an ever so slight “haze” to the picture when compared to the RS3000 when watching motion video. TO BE CLEAR, this was not a night and day difference and I do not mean to imply that the RS2000 had a hazy image in any way, just that when comparing A/B with the 3000 that’s the best word I can think of to quantify the difference. The 3000 just had a slight boost in depth and clarity overall, which is what I mean by "purity."
The Sony VPL-VW695ES seemed to struggle with the HDMI signal splitter we were using, and sometimes showed a large amount of banding with certain footage. As this is NOT typical of the performance of the 695, we removed it from the comparisons Sunday afternoon. NOTE: picture parameters other than banding could be fairly judged against the other projectors, however we felt the banding issue was distracting enough that it prevented the VW695ES from getting a fair shake (which is why we took it out of the comparisons for most of Sunday).
Kris Deering explains tone-mapping to the crowd
The higher native contrast of the JVC projectors was pretty obvious during dark scenes, much less so during bright video footage where the JVCs and Sonys looked very similar. In bright footage, the most obvious differences were seen in fine details with the projectors sporting high-end lenses looking best. In bright scenes with intense greens and reds the richer saturation of both JVC projectors became noticeable.
Both Sony projectors had visible banding in wide swaths of even color, though usually it was pretty subtle (the most obvious example being some of the undersea sequences in THE MEG, where the entire screen would be made up of very subtle shades of blue, green, and teal - a tough challenge for any display to render properly). As mentioned above, the VW695 really struggled in this area, but we are confident the major problems we saw were due to an HDMI issue, as the cartoony looking banding would go away after we power-cycled the projector. When rebooted and operating properly, both still Sonys had subtle banding visible in the scene described above.
Both Sony projectors had some uniformity issues, where green and yellow mottling could be seen in the fog at the opening of BLADE RUNNER 2049 and in the skies of THE MEG. Most people would probably not notice this (they would probably think it is part of the video transfer), but when we switched to the JVCs it was obvious that the JVCs did not share this artifact. FWIW, Kris Deering finds this artifact more distracting than I do. 😊
THE MEG, Chapter 8, approx. 58:02 into the film -
torture test for banding and tone mapping
BLADE RUNNER 2049, Chapter 1, approx. 4 minutes in.
Torture test for uniformity and banding
Another thought regarding the RS2000 vs RS3000 – the RS3000 also had better apparent picture contrast than the RS2000, even though they measured almost the same in terms of native. Kris thought this was likely due to the better MTF of the RS3000 lens. The image appeared to have more depth overall, and in some scenes we examined from the outstanding new transfer of ALIEN on Sunday afternoon, this manifested itself with an uncanny ability to convey all the fine textures and object shadings in the many dark scenes of this film.
Our Saturday crowd
Question I know we are going to get – do the new JVC projectors have comparable contrast to the previous generation eShift models. Answer is yes and no. Yes in that the blacks were rich, deep and pleasing, no in that they were not as deep as one could achieve with the previous generation models such as the RS640 / X990. However, as far as we could tell the new projectors still lead the field in terms of native contrast, and the black floor was lower than the two Sonys (most clearly revealed in black letterbox bars).
The JVC auto-tone mapping seem to do a really good job, and in many ways accounted for how well the JVCs acquitted themselves against the Sonys (and would be the biggest justification to upgrade from an eShift JVC model to one of the new units). To get the best results from the Sonys sometimes required adjusting the HDR contrast level depending on the title. For example, we set the HDR contrast on the VW995ES at maximum while viewing BLADE RUNNER 2049, but had to turn it down to 43 to get THE MEG to tone-map properly. When we set the HDR Contrast at Sony’s recommended value of “80” when watching THE MEG, whites were blown out (clipped) to an extreme degree, and banding became extremely obvious. Turning down the HDR Contrast setting to 43 solved the clipping issue and reduced the banding artifacts, but at the sacrifice of quite a bit of brightness / image pop. With the above mentioned titles the JVC auto tone mapping was able to compensate for these differing HDR mastering levels quite well, all on its own.
NOTE: these tone mapping “issues” with the Sonys (which in many ways also apply to previous generation JVCs as well) can be mitigated by pairing the Sony projectors with a Lumagen video processor, or a Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-ray player with tone-mapping controls.
Here are Kris Deering's thoughts on the event:
I calibrated all four of the projectors to deliver the best possible presentation from all and to give attendees the best chance to see all four on equal footing. I told everyone at the event what levels were calibrated to and discussed the measured values. I discussed with all the groups the settings and why I chose them, and Craig Rounds from Chicago (a professional calibrator owns CIR Engineering) was there and verified all and was quite pleased with the results as well.