Sony VPL-HW50ES 3D Projector Review

2D Calibration

Note: Our Sony VPL-HW50ES review sample was calibrated using Calman Professional, the industry-leading video calibration software. These measurements reflect the projector shooting into the lens of our colorimeter.

Greyscale

Greyscale tracking was a little difficult to measure on the Sony HW50, because our review sample had some uneven panel uniformity, which essentially means that the mix of red, green and blue making up the colour of grey is not consistent across the entire image.

The overall image had a red-deficient greyscale in the best quality preset mode (which is called “Reference”):

Pre-calibration RGB Tracking
Pre-calibration RGB tracking and delta errors (dEs)

The projector controls on the VPL-HW50ES allow for 2-point Greyscale tracking (low end/high end). There are several preset modes (including D65 and D55) and several Custom memories, which are derivatives of the presets (“Custom 3″ mirrors “D65″ before adjustment). We used these controls to achieve the best red/green/blue balance at each stimulus level.

Consistently with other SXRD projectors we’ve calibrated in the past, achieving flat greyscale tracking on the VPL-HW50ES was not quite as easy on standard 3LCD projectors. If we looked at only the 20% and 80% stimulus positions, we often ended up with “bow-shaped” curves in the chart, rather than the ideal flat lines (which indicate consistent greyscale tracking). In the end, with only two controls available, we had to trade off the differences: it is no use having measurably perfect greyscale tracking from 30% stimulus and brighter, if your shadows are coloured beetroot red (unless you plan to address such problems later with some sort of advanced greyscale correction processing). This still resulted in very good quality, with only a couple of points containing just-visible tints.

It actually is technically possible to achieve flat greyscale tracking on the HW50ES. We’ll explain how, and why we haven’t done this, just below.

Post-calibration RGB Tracking in [Reference] mode
Post-calibration RGB tracking and dEs in [Reference] mode

Gamma

Pre-calibrated Gamma tracking in [Reference] mode Post-calibrated Gamma tracking in [Reference] mode
Pre-calibration gamma tracking (2.2) Post-calibration gamma tracking (2.4)

The Sony VPL-HW50ES does not have a gamma adjustment menu built into the projector. Instead, Sony’s solution is to provide software called ImageDirector, which runs on a Windows PC, to retrieve and send gamma curves from the projector’s memory over a serial cable (remember those?). This is a common way of interfacing with projectors and other high-end display devices in home theatre environments, but if you’ve never used the RS232 interface before, it’s not exactly convenient, and seems fairly archaic given that most projectors have very capable gamma curve editors built into the menu which are operable with the remote control. Apparently some Sony projectors can interface with ImageDirector running over a native USB or Ethernet connection, both of which we’d be happy to use.

Sony ImageDirector
Sony ImageDirector

However, from calibrating SXRD projectors in the past, we know that ImageDirector allows gamma curves to be tailored individually for the Red, Green and Blue components, meaning that it’s possible to use it in the same way you would use a 10-point or 20-point “White Balance” control.

Of course, modern laptops don’t have serial ports, so this process will involve a USB to Serial converter. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get everything working in time for publication, and had to resort to selecting one of Sony’s gamma curve presets in the menu instead. We imagine that, if you can wrangle with the outdated interfacing method, perfection (or something even closer to it) shouldn’t be too far out of reach.

Colour

The “Reference” mode has outstanding out-of-the-box colour reproduction, tinted only by the slight greyscale inaccuracies:

Pre-calibration CIE chart in [Reference] mode
Pre-calibration CIE chart with reference to HD Rec.709
Pre-calibration Luminance levels in [Reference] mode
Pre-calibration colour luminance (coloured bars = targets; black bars = measured values)

Calibration using the [RCP] menu allows for a near-perfect result:

Post-calibration CIE chart in [Reference] mode
Post-calibration CIE chart with reference to HD Rec.709
Post-calibration Luminance levels in [Reference] mode
Post-calibration colour luminance (coloured bars = targets; black bars = measured values)
Colour saturation tracking
Post-calibration colour saturation tracking

3D Calibration

As in 2D, 3D calibration is vital for the best, tint-free images possible. By default, the “Reference” mode on the VPL-HW50ES, combined with the tint of the 3D glasses themselves, resulted in a greeny-blue picture. Although it was still enjoyable, we set about calibrating it to get the best possible result.

3D Mode Greyscale

With one pair of Sony’s supplied active shutter glasses attached to the front of our Klein K-10 lensed colorimeter, we measured greyscale shades as being red deficient:

3D Pre-calibration RGB Tracking
3D Pre-calibration RGB tracking and delta errors (dEs)

In 3D, the Sony VPL-HW50ES allows separate picture settings to be stored, which is vital for calibration. However, the custom Greyscale offsets are the same in both 2D and 3D, meaning that we couldn’t use the same “Custom 3″ memory bank in 3D, instead opting for the next best alternative for our particular projector and glasses. Calibration gave us the following, which resulted in considerably healthier skin tones and more natural images:

3D Post-calibration RGB Tracking in [Reference] mode
3D Post-calibration RGB tracking and dEs in [Reference] mode

3D Mode Colour

Pre-calibrated colour in 3D was excellent, although not quite to the same extent as in 2D:

3D Pre-calibration CIE chart in [Reference] mode
3D Pre-calibration CIE chart with reference to HD Rec.709
3D Pre-calibration Luminance levels in [Reference] mode
3D Pre-calibration colour luminance (coloured bars = targets; black bars = measured values)

Calibration gave us outstanding colour quality in 3D, however, because the [RCP] mode is stored independently of the standard picture settings, we had to manually switch back and forth between the “User 2″ and “User 3″ modes (which we calibrated for 2D and 3D respectively).

3D Post-calibration CIE chart in [Reference] mode
3D Post-calibration CIE chart with reference to HD Rec.709
3D Post-calibration Luminance levels in [Reference] mode
3D Post-calibration colour luminance (coloured bars = targets; black bars = measured values)

Benchmark Test Results

Dead pixels None
Panel uniformity Top redder than bottom, visible with grey test screens
Primary chromaticity Excellent
Motion resolution (approx.) 300 lines (native), about 600 lines (Film Projection mode), see notes
Digital noise reduction Defeatable
Sharpness Forced high-frequency sharpening (subtle) if Dark Frame Insertion enabled (bug?), Defeatable edge enhancement without
Luma/Chroma bandwidth (2D Blu-ray) Full Luma, Full Chroma
1080p/24 capability No judder in 2D or 3D
Input lag 16ms compared to lag-free CRT
Full 4:4:4 reproduction (PC) Yes, in [Photo] and [Game] modes

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