For photos that are truly bigger than life, digital projectors can display images in exciting multimedia presentations that incorporate music, complex slideshows and, most importantly, bright and big projections of your photography. Whether at home with family or friends or presenting a portfolio of your images to large groups of people, the days of monotonous slide presentations are over. The technology even has improved to the point where capable projectors are more than affordable, and there are so many different models available that making a choice depends less on cost and more on the kind of features that you want to utilize.
CONSIDER YOUR “THEATER”
For photographers, projectors can be a bit confusing thanks to the flood of available models, but there are key factors that are important to the image-intensive displays that photographers present. One of the most important things to look at when comparing projectors is how many lumens it can project. A lumen is a measurement of the overall brightness of a projector. Lumens from 1000 to 2000 are enough for home viewing in dim rooms, while anything above that is adequate for larger rooms. You also want a higher lumen rating if you need to overpower ambient lighting. So, consider where you typically project to decide how much output you need.
Projection distance is important, as well. Many projectors, but not all, have a zoom lens for sizing images to the screen or wall, a much better option than having to move the projector each time you need to make adjustments. Another thing to consider is the aspect ratio of the projector, which refers to the width and length of the projected presentation. Better models often include a variety of aspect ratios in one projector, and selecting the best output dimensions for your photography depends on your images and the screen.
Projection resolution also has had a big boost in recent years because of high definition. While still costly, more consumers are using projectors to watch HD movies. XGA (1024×768) and SXGA+ (1400×1050) resolutions are more than acceptable for photos, and the extra expense of HD resolutions at WXGA-H (1280×720) and HD (1920×1080) may be a good idea if you’re also planning to use the projector as part of your home theater system. HD resolutions offer a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, while the native format of XGA and SXGA+ is in 4:3, the same as the boxy size of classic television sets.
Keystone correction is a somewhat standard feature on most projector models, though not all have it. “Keystone” refers to the trapezoid shape of projected images that appear when projecting from an angle beneath the screen. Be aware that the more you use keystone correction, the more that you’re playing with the image’s true resolution, so you can lose sharpness and distort your image. It’s best to set up the projector as close to perfect as possible physically and then use keystone correction if it’s still necessary.
As for image details, a large contrast ratio means a bigger dynamic range with good contrast and nice color reproduction. Two kinds of projectors saturate the market, LCD (liquid crystal display) and DLP (digital light processing). Both types are fine for photographers, but they use contrast ratios that are based on different specifications. LCD technology cites lower contrast ratio numbers for the same amount of quality, generally from about 400:1 to 1000:1. DLP projectors, however, generally begin at around a contrast ratio of 1000:1. Speaking of color, an extra bonus for photographers is the inclusion of sRGB compatibility, which makes it much easier to calibrate your computer with the colors of the projector.
Compatible with desktop computers, wide notebooks and 16:9 high-definition images in 1280×720, the Canon REALiS SX800 projects in SXGA+ resolution at 1400×1050. The AISYS Optical Engine and Liquid Crystal On Silicon (LCOS) panels offer excellent color, smooth rendition of fine lines and sharp displays without flicker. There are 3000 lumens with a 900:1 contrast ratio, and the 1.5x zoom lens features a 10:0 lens offset that matches the lower edge of the projected image to the optical axis of the lens for a lens shift that performs keystone correction optically instead of digitally. Throw distance is 3.9 to 29.9 feet. List Price: $2,499.
For an environmentally sound projector option, the Casio Green Slim line of projectors dispenses with traditional mercury lamps by using a Hybrid Light Source that includes a mix of laser, LED and fluorescent lights that’s rated to last for an incredible 20,000 hours. Models in the line are equipped with a 2x zoom lens and an HDMI connection. Other options vary by model, including a USB connection that works with or without a PC and a wireless LAN that can connect up to four laptops simultaneously for synchronized presentations over wireless networks. Lumens in the series range from 2000 to 3000, and resolution is offered in XGA (1024×768) or WXGA-H (1280×720). List Price: Begins at $849.
Nearly the same size as a laptop at a weight of only 3.8 pounds and dimensions of 11.5×8.3×1.7 inches (without the feet), the Epson PowerLite 1775W multimedia projector (top) projects in a bright 3000 lumens with a native WXGA 1280×800 resolution. The unit is a wireless solution with a Quick Connect wireless USB key, and automatic keystone correction and the Auto Screen Fit mode quickly adjust the image to the screen size. For $200 less, the 1770W projector (bottom) offers many of the same features while sacrificing the Auto Screen Fit mode and making wireless and networking optional. List Price: $1,199 (1775W); $999 (1770W).
The 2600-lumen Mitsubishi EW270U DLP projector with a native WXGA 1280×800 resolution and 2000:1 contrast ratio supports widescreen computers, laptops and DVD players. At 5.3 pounds, the projector is easily portable, and it features BrilliantColor technology that enhances color reproduction. The HDMI input and dual PC inputs can connect multiple computers and high-definition devices, and there’s a LAN terminal for linking and managing the projector via computer networks. A monitor output and an audio output allow you to play better sound through peripheral speakers. The EW270U is 3D-ready for more sophisticated presentations (3D requires a high-end graphics card and electronic shutter glasses, as well). It also can handle video up to 1080p. Estimated Street Price: $1,019.
For use in tight quarters, the 2800-lumen XGA short-throw Panasonic PT-ST10U LCD projector can project 80-inch-wide images from only 2.7 feet, making it an ideal solution for photographers who like to get up close and personal during presentations. It includes a few features for working best in trade show environments and classroom settings, like the White Board Mode that adjusts brightness to the surface of the screen, and Daylight View technology measures ambient illumination to correct images accordingly. A wired LAN connection allows remote operation. Estimated Street Price: $1,099.
technology has come a long way in recent years. Physically, weight and size are going to matter a lot, especially when frequent travel is involved. The weight of the average projector has dropped considerably thanks to smaller, more efficient components and better technology, but these models, built to be almost pocket-sized, trade lumens and features for convenience and price. While these cameras don’t pack the power for being able to display images in their full high-resolution potential, it’s hard to argue with the convenience of carrying a portable portfolio in your pocket.
The BenQ Joybee GP1 mini-projector packs a relatively large (for a pocket projector) 100 lumens into a portable package that weighs a little less than 1.5 pounds. With the ability to output in SVGA resolution of 800×600, the Joybee GP1 includes a USB reader for photos and movies and a 2-watt built-in speaker. The LED bulb has a lifespan of 20,000 hours and can project images at up to 80 inches. There’s also an optional iPod/iPhone dock for working with media directly from your media player. Estimated Street Price: $399.
Nikon announced the S1000pj, the first camera to also offer an internal projector in August 2009, giving consumers and photographers a way to share their snapshots to groups of people without having to crowd around the LCD screen. Building on the S1000pj with a 40% brighter internal projector, the COOLPIX S1100pj features a built-in single lamp that can present images and HD movies up to seven feet away, and you get a backup camera, to boot! Slideshows can be shown dynamically with music, and the camera can project the contents of a computer screen via the USB connection. Projector brightness offers up to 14 lumens with image projection in sizes from 5 to 47 inches. As a camera, the S1100pj includes a 14.1-megapixel CCD sensor, a 5x 28-140mm zoom lens, ISO up to 6400, 720p video capture and 5-way VR Image Stabilization. List Price: $299.
Measuring 2.75×1.5×2.75 inches, the palm-sized Samsung SP-H03 DLP projector weighs less than half a pound and includes a bulb with 30,000 hours of lamp life. With a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and WVGA resolution of 854×480, the 30-lumen unit can accommodate an 80-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio. It includes a built-in Document Viewer application for projecting photos and files directly from the mini-USB port, and there’s a composite and PC port, as well. The rechargeable Li-Ion delivers up to two hours of battery time. List Price: $299.
| BenQ (949) 255-9500 www.benq.us|
Canon (800) OK-CANON www.usa.canon.com
Casio (800) 962-2746 www.casio.com
Epson (800) GO-EPSON www.epson.com
Mitsubishi (800) 233-7113 www.mitsubishi-presentations.com
Nikon (800) NIKON-US www.nikonusa.com
Panasonic (800) 211-PANA www.panasonic.com
Samsung Electronics (800) SAMSUNG www.samsung.com