One of the highlights of the just-concluded Projection Summit was the hybrid side by side demonstration. This featured four hybrid projectors, sometimes called lampfree, lampless, laser, alternative light source, zero-lamp or solid state projectors, running the same content so attendees could do a fair comparison of the image quality. Projectors from Casio, Panasonic, Sony and Mitsubishi were on display and attracted a large crowd.
To facilitate the demonstration, Brawn Consulting put together a 24 minute video of static test patterns and images as well as selected movie trailers to exercise many image quality aspects of the projectors. This was played back from a PC to all four projectors in a room that used two levels of illumination: normal and dim.
Each projector illuminated identical 90” matte white screens. Manufacturers were told to optimize the image as they saw fit to showcase their projector for the provided content.
The Sony projector featured a 3LCD engine while Casio, Mitsubishi and Panasonic were DLP models. The Mitsubishi model was an ultra short throw. Resolution ranged from 1280×800 to 1920×1200 and brightness from 2,500 to 4,000 lumens.
Since this was not organized to declare a winner, I will not reveal comments on specific models, but will instead provide a collection of comments I heard about specific models or the showcase in general. These are shown below.
- The contrast was low
- The black level was high
- One projector was noticeably brighter than the others
- The gamma was set correctly, showing no crushing of the blacks as whites as well as the red, green and blue test patterns
- The gamma was not set correct so the blacks and whites were crushing at the ends of the range
- No single color looked the same on any of the projectors
- The flesh tones looks good
- The flesh tones looked a bit grey
- The color break-up was bad
- The color break-up was noticeable but not too bad
- There was little noticeable color break up
- There was some banding on some images
- The image actually looks sharper when the gamma is not set correctly
- The white points varied widely
- There was not a lot of difference in the perceived resolution of the images
Remember, these comments come from a pretty discerning groups of experts, so it is not unexpected they will find all the flaws. However, I also think most would agree that the overall image quality was quite good.
Prior to the demonstration, the manufacturers presented and participated in a panel discussion. All agreed that hybrids are early in their development cycle but the growth in sales looks very promising. And, they agreed that improvements in performance, lifetime, features and light output will all be coming.
When asked about the top reasons that end users buy a hybrid projector, panelists cited improved total cost of ownership and peace of mind that the lamp will work. Pricing for hybrids will continue to carry a premium with the price set at the cost of an equivalent lamp-based projector plus the cost of two replacement lamps. However, they also acknowledged that this total cost of ownership proposition can be a hard sell in some markets.
Sony revealed new details about the architecture of their new device. It is based on a standard 3LCD architecture with the lamp replaced by a blue laser illuminating a white light phosphor wheel. All other makers use phosphors for individual colors, not white light.
Mitsubishi’s James Chan said the industry needs to do a better job of educating the channel and end users about hybrid projectors and evaluating them in a different way. When the panel was asked if all the various names manufacturers use for this class of product was creating confusion, they said yes. But they all like their names and seemed reluctant to build consensus around a common name for this class of projector.
The bottom line is that this is a segment of the projection industry that is growing very nicely and is one that manufacturers will be focused on and channel partners and end users will be hearing a lot more about.