Question from a Client: JVC vs. Wolf Projectors?

Q: Looking at the specs on the JVC and the Wolf, the JVC has a lumens rating of 1300, while the Wolf is 750.  How can the Wolf be brighter?  Contrast is the same for each projector.

A: Specs-manship is an interesting game in our business.  Manufacturers often post numbers that may (or may not) have much resemblance to imaging reality.  ANSI lumens is truly one of those unregulated areas that can mean anything and often does.  One video manufacturer I know posts peak white ANSI numbers that could never be achieved, especially with the given lamp wattage and optics in use.  It’s sorta like theoretical top speed of a car . . . on a good day, downhill, the wind behind your back, you MIGHT hit 180 MPH.  

Like politics and statistics, even engineering specs can be skewed for or against a position. In this case, reading measured lumens from a projector on marketing lit makes comparing one projector to another very difficult. They usually leave out what standard of measurement was used (there are multiple standards—both US and International), what distance from the light source the measurement was taken, and how long that brightness can be maintained at that level.  What I like to quote is how many foot-lamberts (fL) of light are reflected off of the film screen using a specific screen, projector, lens, and distance—all under a specific light level in a room.  It seems complicated, but it reveals the truth about the performance of the system instead of just the parts individual specs.

FL?  That’s the right way to measure projectors:  how much peak white light [calibrated to 6500K] measured as reflected off a defined screen surface/size.  The test screen size common in performing baseline fL measurements is a 72” wide 16/9 screen, 1.0 and 1.3 gain surfaces.  The fL numbers are typically posted using the 1.3 gain material.

ANSI lumens has no defined set of standards behind it so it’s more marketing fun than comparative . . . reminds me of receiver/amp wattage before the FTC stepped in and made us define wattage per channel, into what load, what frequency range, total amount of THD etc., etc.

 A lamped product *might* hit those numbers at the beginning, day 1, calibrated to 6500K.  Many manufacturers actually ramp up to ~12,000K since blue-shifted white measures “brighter” [aka bluing in laundry soap – makes white “whiter” huh?].  It measures higher but it’s wrong in fidelity.  A UHP lamp begins its rather rapid decline to half-life output typically within 300 hours or so.  Even after 100 hours, a UHP lamp may be down 30% from the starting point, and will continue to degrade over the next 1200-2000 hours until a lamp replacement is required.

Another concept that relates to visual output is color accuracy and depth.  UHP lamps are significantly red deficient so it takes a great deal more output (plus heavy diachromatic filtering) to achieve the correct chroma balance for HD viewing.   LED emitters are so broad and accurate in chroma imaging fidelity that the eye “sees” what appears to be a bright, more intense image throughout the extended color gamut. 

Last point – Wolf started off around 750 ANSI as measured and published last year.  Each production cycle they’ve achieved +10-15% in peak white performance improvement.  They’re now measuring ~1100 ANSI performance off their lampless LED platform, and will be publishing that number going forward.  Truly astonishing, and it will of course retain that peak white performance over the life of the emitters [30,000 hours under warranty, “a movie a night for 17 years…”].

Before I recommend products I always go to the demos that the manufacturers host. Then, no matter the specs, I can say which unit looks the best to the human eye at a specific price point.

My picks are always changing, but here are the current winners:  1) Epson for entry-level small systems,  2) JVC for the middle-range systems, and 3) Wolf for the premium systems.

I have looked at five ‘high-end’ projector lines in the last two months at events. No one has beaten the price-to-performance of my list yet this year. I have had three JVC projectors in a row in my theater. The Wolf beat them out, so I switched