Canon SX6000 SXGA+ LCoS Projector
  • Performance
  • 4.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value

The Canon REALiS SX6000 is the latest in Canon's line of high-resolution 4:3 LCoS data projectors. Its native resolution of 1400x1050, or SXGA+, is among the highest available in a native 4:3 aspect ratio. And while 4:3 displays have fallen by the wayside to some extent, it is still a useful aspect ratio in a number of applications including medical imaging, education, and digital signage, to name a few.

The SX6000 shares a lot of features in common with previous SX-series REALiS projectors, including SXGA+ resolution, high light output using a single lamp, an LCoS light engine, and powered lens adjustments. It also shares those previous models' relatively weak black levels, which means the SX6000 performs at its best in rooms with ambient light. If you need a 4:3 projector with high resolution and the ability to function well in ambient light, the REALiS SX6000 might be for you.

The Viewing Experience

The SX6000 is sold without a lens, so you must install one before you can start using the projector. Our test sample shipped along with Canon's Standard lens, a 1.5:1 zoom model with powered adjustments. The lens installation process is more complex than on most interchangeable-lens projectors and requires a small Phillips screwdriver, so be sure to have one on hand before you begin. The "standard" lens has enough vertical lens shift range to place the image completely above or below the lens centerline. It is therefore possible to mount the SX6000 on a conference room table, in a ceiling mount, or on a rear shelf, depending on what would work best in the room. This kind of flexibility makes the SX6000 easy to install across a number of conference or classrooms regardless of the physical differences between them.

The SX6000 creates a bright, colorful picture that stands up well to ambient light. While black level is not strong enough to make the SX6000 a strong photography projector in a darkened room, the projector has enough light output and dynamic range to make ambient light less of a concern. Thus the projector really comes into its own when used in a room with ambient light.

The SX6000 has a variety of pre-calibrated image modes plus a whopping five User settings for custom calibrations. The pre-calibrated modes, by and large, have solid color appropriate for the application in question. Standard mode in particular is a good choice for ambient light due to its gamma settings and slightly blue white balance, while Cinema and Photo/sRGB modes are both good choices for material that requires 6500K white balance and higher contrast. While the SX6000 can be calibrated to near-perfect color accuracy, it also provides a serviceable image right out of the box.

Key Features

SXGA+ Resolution. There are plenty of applications that call for both high-resolution display and a 4:3 aspect ratio, yet those projectors are getting harder to find. The SX6000 fills this niche, creating a bright, high-resolution image that is perfect for classrooms, museums, photography, and medical display. Some applications, like photography, require stronger black levels than the SX6000 is capable of producing, meaning that just because the resolution is a good fit does not mean the projector is, too.

The 4:3 aspect ratio can also be easier to use when you want to have multiple projectors on separate screens. Since widescreen projectors use up a large chunk of horizontal wall space, it becomes difficult to place several projectors side-by-side without making their images unusably small.

Interchangeable lenses. The SX6000 has four available lenses which cover a wide range of throw distances. Taken as a whole, the SX6000 can display a 100" diagonal image anywhere between 10.5 and about 48 feet. There is also an ultra short throw lens that can display that same 100" image from 5.6 feet, but it is a prime lens with no zoom capability.

Lens changes are more complicated on the SX6000 than they are on competing projectors, but lenses typically are not changed very often once one is installed to begin with. Since lens installation can be handled well in advance of the actual installation in the room, it is less of a concern for large corporate rollouts and more of a problem for small businesses who have to do it themselves.

DICOM SIM. The SX6000's DICOM SIM mode is meant to mirror the performance of DICOM display equipment used in medical imaging. While the SX6000 is not actually a DICOM monitor (hence the "SIM"), it does come with onboard calibration tools that make its DICOM SIM mode more comprehensive than those of other competing projectors.

High light output. At 6,000 lumens maximum, the SX6000 can light up a room even when ambient light is present. This makes it a good choice for a conference room or classroom where lights cannot be completely dimmed or a large screen size is required. The SX6000 is built around the idea of high light output -- to the point that the projector doesn't include a low power lamp mode at all.

Performance

Light output. Though it uses just a single lamp, the SX6000 is rated to produce up to 6,000 lumens. Our test sample measured 5584 lumens in its brightest mode, Dynamic, which amounts to 93% of the specification. Dynamic mode, with its slightly greenish white balance, is a great mode for black and white text, data, or spreadsheets.

Standard mode is the projector's default and is geared towards data presentation and other office use. Standard mode has a slight blue cast and produced 4345 lumens on our test sample. The type of content that the SX6000 is best at displaying -- namely complicated spreadsheets, data graphics, and technical diagrams -- Standard mode is very useful. It has superior color balance and dynamic range to Dynamic mode and produces a more realistic, life-like picture.

Video mode, at 3919 lumens, has a very similar appearance to Cinema mode (4570 lumens). Both presets emphasize color accuracy and dynamic range, though in this case Video is slightly more accurate than Cinema. Video mode also features the best black levels the SX6000 is capable of.

Photo/sRGB mode, at 4632 lumens, is both bright and color-balanced. Its gamma curve differs from those of Video and Cinema, which emphasize shadow detail, by instead opening up mid-range grays.

As each lens is different, the SX6000's interchangeable lenses will each lose a different amount of light when moving from wide angle to telephoto zoom. The Standard 1.5:1 lens, which we tested, lost only 21% of its output.

When selecting an image mode, it pays to remember that the SX6000 has no low lamp or Eco mode. As there is no way to reduce lamp brightness, you should select the image mode that most closely matches your lumen output needs.

Contrast. The SX6000's black level is nothing to write home about. While there are certainly LCoS projectors on the market with excellent black levels, none of them are built for business and none of them pump out 6,000 lumens. This is simply an area where compromises must be made. As such, the SX6000 is not our first choice for heavy film, video, or photography use. Then again, film and video are mostly widescreen these days, so those users will not typically go looking for a 4:3 projector.

Dynamic range, on the other hand, is quite strong. With the exception of Dynamic mode, the SX6000's preset image modes do a fine job of keeping deep shadow detail from being lost while also maintaining highlights. Dynamic, as the projector's designated light-cannon mode, does not concern itself with such trivialities.

Color. The SX6000 has an easy to use comprehensive color adjustment system that allows the user to fine-tune both white balance and color gamut. Both systems are easily accessible via the projector's menu. Adjustments feel significant and responsive without being too coarse. That said, the projector's factory default modes are excellent, and in most instances calibration will not be an absolute necessity.

Sharpness and clarity. The absolute sharpest data projectors out there are usually single-chip machines, because the one-chip light engine is not prone to convergence issues. However, that is not all there is to projector sharpness. The SX6000 did not exhibit any convergence issues and has excellent lenses, making detail crystal clear and edges razor-sharp. And while SXGA+ isn't quite 1080p, it is only about 30 lines short of that higher specification vertically, and certainly high enough resolution to do the job.

Limitations

Difficult lens installation. Most projectors with interchangeable lenses use some variant of a "bayonet" mount system, where you insert a lens into the case and twist to lock it in place. These systems have the advantage of being tool-free and typically make it easy to swap lenses without unmounting the projector, should that need arise for some reason.

The SX6000 uses a different, more complex lens attachment system. Lens installation involves the partial disassembly of the projector (the lamp cover must be opened and the top cover removed) and the removal of eleven screws, eight of which are not captive -- meaning they come completely free of the projector and could be lost or misplaced. There's also a cable that must be connected from lens to projector in order to engage the lens's powered adjustments. While lens changes are not usually a common occurrence once a projector is installed, other projectors have managed to make the process much easier than it is on the SX6000. For support staff who have many projectors to roll out, this may significantly increase install time.

No Eco-mode. Eco-mode, also called low lamp mode or low power mode, reduces lamp power (usually by about 20-30%) and usually increases lamp life as well. However, the SX6000 does not include this option. As such, there is no way to reduce lamp power on the SX6000. Instead, users must select different image modes to reduce brightness when required.

Expensive lamp replacements. The SX6000 uses a single lamp to create its 6000 lumens, and as such that lamp is placed under an immense strain throughout its operational life. Lamp life is estimated at 3,000 hours, and lamp replacements cost $579. Several competing projectors produce the same amount of light but have replacement lamps that cost up to $200 less. Over time, this can add up.

Black level. The SX6000 is certainly better than its predecessors when it comes to black levels, but it does not deliver home theater performance in this regard. So it is not the strongest choice for the display of photography or movies.

Conclusion

The Canon REALiS SX6000 comes as a reminder that 4:3, long the dominant projector aspect ratio, still has an important place in many environments. From the schoolhouse to the training room to the hospital, many folks still rely on 4:3 projectors. The SX6000 is a modern, high-resolution projector that produces a clear, sharp, bright image with excellent color. While black level does not rival that of the best home theater projectors, it is more than sufficient for the display of data graphics and technical diagrams in mild to moderate ambient light.

Lens installation is unusually complicated, but you only do that once. And there is no Eco-mode to extend lamp life for those who might want that option. These limitations, however, do not take away from what the SX6000 is truly good at, which is the display of high-resolution content on a large screen in a bright room. If you need these things in 4:3 aspect ratio, the SX6000 is an excellent choice.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Canon REALiS SX6000 projector page.

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