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Canon Realis SX50

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Canon REALiS SX50 Projector Canon REALiS SX50
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1000:1 Contrast Ratio
2500 Lumens
Street Price: n/a

Until now, projectors featuring very high resolution, say in the class of 1400x 1050 or more, have been large, bulky, and expensive. So it is understandable that one of the most anticipated releases of the last few months has been the Canon Realis SX50.

The SX50, which just started shipping last month, brings very high 1400x1050 resolution down under the $5,000 price point for the first time in the industry's history. That by itself is significant news. But in addition this little 8.6 lb unit is rated at 2500 ANSI lumens of light output. That much light coming from such a small box is another noteworthy advance for LCOS technology. It is no wonder that the SX50 has attracted so much attention.

Specification Overview

Native Resolution: 1400x1050
Brightness: 2500 ANSI lumens
Contrast: 1000:1
Light engine: Three 0.7" LCOS panels, 200W NSH lamp
Lens: Manual zoom/focus, with 1.67x zoom range
Compatibility: Video: NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL,, PAL-M, PAL-N, SECAM, HDTV 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i Computer: VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA, UXGA (Compressed)
Connection ports: One each-DVI-I (without HDCP), VGA (RGB and component or VGA out for monitor loop-through), S-video, composite
Weight: 8.6 lbs


Canon engineers designed the Realis SX50 with a very specific objective in mind-to drive down the price of high resolution data and graphics projection to levels heretofore unheard of. They have achieved this objective in dramatic fashion. For those who have a need to display detailed text documents, complicated CAD drawings, medical imagery, and high resolution computer-generated graphics or photographs, it is fair to say that at the moment the Realis SX50 has no rival below $5,000 in terms of pure image precision.

The SX50 needs a 1400x1050 high resolution computer source to mate with its native 1400x1050 LCOS display in order to get the best results. But with such a set-up the image quality of high resolution data and graphics material leaves virtually nothing to be desired.

Upon its announcement last fall, several of the SX50's specifications understandably stimulated the imagination of home theater buffs and created some eager anticipation among them. For starters, its high resolution sounds promising for optimum HDTV display, and high resolution LCOS panels always mean NO visible pixelation. Excellent color performance is often a hallmark of LCOS technology, and the lack of a spinning color wheel is usually perceived as a benefit. Beyond that, the high lumen output and low cost for such high resolution have also fueled consumer anticipation.

However, the designers of the SX50 did not have home theater in mind as a target market for this unit. Accordingly, many features that are commonly found on today's home theater products do not appear on the SX50. Consider for example that this native 4:3 product has just two display options: full frame 4:3, and 16:9 centered in the middle of the 4:3 frame. There is no option to reposition 4:3 subject matter in the middle of the 16:9 frame as there is on most native 4:3 format projectors designed for full-time or part-time home theater use.

Home theater projectors often have either vertical lens shift or a built-in throw angle offset that help to accommodate ceiling mounting without having to tilt the projector and use the keystone adjustments. The SX50 has neither feature. The centerline of the lens intersects the bottom edge of the projected image (in table top mode), or the top edge of the image when ceiling mounted.

Furthermore, the SX50 has a DVI input, but lacks the HDCP chip which has become standard on new DVI-enabled home theater units these days. That means you may not be able to feed copy-protected HD material into the DVI port. Other home theater features are absent as well. For example, there is no separate component video input. Nor is there a 12-volt trigger to coordinate the projector's power up with the deployment of an electric screen as there is on most home theater projectors in this price range. Fan noise, while moderate as compared to other very high resolution projectors, is rather loud by today's home theater projector standards, even in eco-mode.

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