Sony VPL-HS10 Cineza: Widescreen Magic
January 7, 2003,
At the CEDIA tradeshow in late September, Sony surprised the industry with the announcement of the VPL-HS10 Cineza, the first native 16:9 format, WXGA resolution projector to break the $3,000 price barrier. Based on the demo at the show it looked like Sony had made a major stride forward in home theater price/performance. Our close look at it in the lab has confirmed this. We are pleased to add this little gem to our list of highly recommended projectors in the below-$3,000 price bracket.
The Sony HS10 is a widescreen LCD projector with a physical resolution of 1366x768 pixels. It is rated at 1200 ANSI lumens with 700:1 contrast. As our regular readers know by now, ANSI lumen ratings are usually based on maximum light output before calibration for optimum video performance. As with most other projectors, the actual ANSI lumen output of the HS10 in normal home theater operation is much lower than the published rating.
The HS10 is relatively compact and weighs only 12 lbs., so it is easy to move around in a family room or theater. It can be ceiling mounted or table mounted. It has both vertical and horizontal keystone adjustments that enable it to be placed at an oblique angle to the screen and still produce a rectangular image.
The HS10 is compatible with all major color systems. It will display interlaced and progressive component signals including 480i, 480p, 540p, 575i, 575p, 720p, and 1080i. It will accept computer signals from VGA through XGA.
The connector panel on the rear of the unit has one S-video port, one composite video RCA jack, a 3-RCA component port, a DVI-D port. It also has a custom "PJ Multi Input" port that will take composite, S-video, and component signals all via a single custom 10-meter (33-ft.) "PJ Multi" cable that is supplied with the unit. Using this cable makes it very easy to move the projector around in a family room, setting it wherever you want for temporary use.
There is also a Memory Stick slot in the front bezel of the projector that lets you insert Sony's Memory Stick storage medium and display either still or motion picture digital images recorded thereon. A set of two small on-board speakers will play audio from the Memory Stick, but not from any other signal source. Therefore there is no audio input on the connector panel itself. We don't have a Sony camera or other "Memory Stick" compatible device on hand, so we did not test this feature. Note that digital cameras that use Compact Flash card storage (Nikon, Minolta, Pentax, Olympus, etc.) are incompatible with this projector.
The HS10 has a motorized zoom and focus lens. The 1.3x zoom factor on the standard lens gives you good flexibility to adjust the size of the image thrown. However, the standard lens is not a short throw lens. It produces a 100" diagonal image from a distance of 12.5 to 15.4 feet. The HS10 can be fitted with optional short- or long-throw conversion lenses. These do not replace the standard lens, but are screwed onto the standard lens. For those with smaller rooms, you may need the short throw conversion lens, which will produce a 100" diagonal image at a distance of between 10 and 12 feet. Add one more foot for the projector itself and another six inches for rear clearance/cable connections to come up with the actual distance requirement from screen to rear wall.
The HS10 comes with three factory preset calibrations-dynamic, standard, and cinema. In addition there are three user programmable memories for setting your own calibrations. Controls for each setting in the main menu include contrast, brightness, color, hue, sharpness, black level (off, low, high; leave it off), color temperature (low, middle, high), and Cinema Black (on/off).
The "Cinema Black" mode of operation is essentially equivalent to a low power mode on competing units. It drops lumen output, lowers black level, increases contrast, reduces fan noise, and improves lamp life. The lamp life with Cinema Black off is 2000 hours. It is extended to 3000 hours with Cinema Black activated.
Included with the projector is an optional "Cinema Filter." This is a light magenta glass filter that screws onto the standard lens. The primary function of a magenta filter is to block green light--the reason a magenta filter looks magenta is that it allows blue and red light to pass while blocking light in the green part of the spectrum. In this case the filter is used to block excess green light in the lamp that produces a modest green bias in the image. Thus it produces better color balance. However, it also substantially cuts total lumen output, and thus reduces black level and slightly increases contrast. Overall, the use of this filter is recommended for the best video/film performance.
Note however that the Cinema Filter cannot be used with the long- or short-throw conversion lenses, as they are different diameters. The conversion lenses cannot be attached to the standard lens when the Cinema Filter is in place. If you need to use one of the conversion lenses to accommodate your installation, you will need to find an aftermarket filter. We did not have a set of these conversion lenses for review, so we cannot comment on the best solution.
The HS10 exhausts heat out the front bezel. The good news is that it can be mounted closer to a rear wall without worry of too much heat build up around the unit. The downside is that since the heat is directed into the light path of the projected image, the heat itself could conceivably induce a slight shimmering effect in the projected image when ceiling mounted. If you encounter this situation you may want to attach a deflector to migitate the problem. If you do, take great care not to inhibit the flow of air from the exhaust vent.
The lens of the HS10 is recessed into the bezel a couple of inches. Covering the lens is a plastic lens hood that is flush with the front bezel and provides a continuity of the faceplate. The lens hood keeps dust out of the light engine. It also prevents hot fan exhaust from being sucked back into the unit through the lens opening-without the hood in place some of the heated exhaust exiting the front bezel makes a U-turn and goes back into the projector. This hood must be removed in order to attach the Cinema Filter. It is simple to remove and reattach with a simple half twist if you follow the instructions in the manual.
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