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Color adjustment and LCD projectors

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Old 01-30-2008, 07:35 AM   #1
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Default Color adjustment and LCD projectors

Hello. Hope I'm in the right place - if not perhaps suggestions can be made where I can get knowledgeable answers to my questions. My questions revolve around an issue which has been with me for some time. I'm a painter by profession, direct a very serious art school, and travel from time to time lecturing either on my own work or on painting and drawing in an art historical context at various universities and art schools in the US and Europe. Good or as true a color quality possible is of major importance to me.

For the past 4 or 5 years I have been using a Panasonic PT-LC75U LCD projector with various Mac laptops. Though this projector has served me well and I learned to adjust the color offered by the projector's controls, I can't say I was ever really ever happy with what I got. From day one the PT-LC75U would do a hideous job with the color yellow. I pretty much got around the color problems by doing the Photoshop color adjustments to my images by projecting onto a screen rather then on my computer's monitor. I found that the color I got with my Panasonic was better then what I got using LCD projectors at various universities costing up to $20,000 dollars, but always chalked it up to the possibility that they just weren't as pedantic as me about good color. I traveled with my Panasonic therefor wherever I went.

Presently I'm looking to purchase a new LCD projector and naturally would like to see if I can find one with more flexible color adjustments. I call the outfit I bought the Panasonic from - let's say it's a large well known store in NYC that offers a big selection and competitive prices. After getting an LCD projector sales rep on the phone, telling him what I have presently, and explaining my problem as above, he suggests buying the Canon LV-X7. The guy, at least to me, sounded like he knew what he was talking about; claiming that the reason I got better color adjustment options with the Panasonic PT-LC75U is because in had 3 LCD panels and that most projectors today have only one. He explained further that the Canon LV-X7 also has three LCD panels, a bump up in lumens and this feature:
"Enhanced Wall Color Correction, allowing you to project onto non-white surfaces such as a chalkboard or wall. Select from several wall color options including greenboard, greenboard gray, light yellow, light green, light blue, sky blue, light rose and pink for quick adaptive color correction." He felt this would give me even more color and temperature rendition adjustments then what I had on the PT-LC75U. This all sounds great to me, but what's throwing me off besides my total ignorance on the subject of LCD projectors is the price; a mere $699, too reasonable. I paid around $2000 for the Panasonic about 5 years ago. So here's my problem: It would be great to spend only $699 for better color on a projector. If all this sales rep claimed is true I'd buy 3 of them. I'm in the market for a good piece of equipment and would like to have a better idea of what I'm supposed to be looking for, and don't mind spending more to get it. So, I turn to all the experts and folks in the know on this forum for your guidance. I've described my needs and concerns - color adjustment is everything. What do you gentlemen and ladies here have to suggest? Seeking your enlightenment... Many thanks.
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Old 01-31-2008, 02:53 PM   #2
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I'm assuming you're always presenting media in data format...in other words...from a PC in the form of graphic format files (JPGs/TIFFs, etc.). Colors for this material will always vary from projector to projector and from monitor to monitor. You normally calibrate your display to a particular preset color profile provided by companies like Adobe when you purchase Photoshop or similar software so that those monitors are displaying information in a consistent manner from file to file and from file to original work. This profile preset also helps you get very close in printing that same material with the same look that you saw on your display by having the display calibrated to a particular printer model.

If you take graphic files that are say located on a laptop and move from one projector to another...you will never ever see the same color rendition of those graphic files. It's nearly impossible, unless the projectors were of similar specs and calibration in every regard.

I think this is a dilemma that you won't be able to avoid. If all of your presentations/lectures take place with the same projector and laptop, you obviously wouldn't have an issue traveling from one place to another. Most presenters aren't that finicky about getting exactly the same color rendition from one presentation/lecture to the next. If this is an important requisite for you, I suggest you get a portable projector and laptop to take with you at all times and that you insist that those who are hosting your presentation/lecture accommodate your equipment.

However, the logistics for this may become a daunting task for some. For instance, a portable projector may not work in a large theater venue that is better equipped with projectors for long throw distances.

Now getting back to the projectors you mentioned. It is not surprising to see that big a price differential between the Panasonic and Canon. Why? Because projectors have dramatically dropped in price over that past 5 years. The Panasonic is a 6 year-old design and at the time you purchased that PJ, the +$2k cost was common for an XGA (1024x768) projector. The Canon is also an XGA projector and was issued just last year.

The Canon very likely has better adjustment features simply because it's newer and baseline capabilities for projectors have advanced significantly since you last purchased one. What you may want to consider is what your options are for the same $2k budget. I suspect that you're able to get a projector with a significantly higher resolution...a nice feature for dealing with graphic presentations. It also will likely afford you more capabilities with adjusting your images to your liking. Your PC/laptop will also need to be able to support that higher resolution in order to enjoy the benefits.

One thing to keep in mind is the brightness and contrast ratio specs on a projector. The higher the contrast ratio, the more black are your blacks and the more white are your whites. This will provide greater visual "pop" to your attendees and more accurate color rendition throughout the spectrum.

At this point, both the Panasonic and Canon have relatively low contrast ratios for today's projectors (400-500). Projectors designed primarily for PC/data presentations should have contrast ratio specs around 1500 to 2000 and brightness around 2000 to 3000 lumens.

PS...there's no such thing as a single chip LCD. All LCDs are 3-chip designs...its not possible to do so otherwise. Your NYC salesperson may be confusing LCDs with DLPs, which do come in single-chip designs as well as 3-chip versions.

Good luck.
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