Canon 4K500ST LCoS Projector at NAB 2016

Canon has made projectors for years, but they haven’t been aimed at the home-theater market—they’re intended for simulators, visualization, and museums and theme parks—so I haven’t paid much attention to them. That changed at NAB 2016, where Canon demonstrated the Realis 4K500ST, a 4K (4096×2400), lamp-based LCoS projector with high dynamic-range (HDR) capabilities and 5000 lumens of peak light output.

Announced last September, the 4K500ST is now shipping, and Canon used it in several demos at NAB. I was most interested in the HDR demo, which was presented in a small blacked-out area on a 70″ screen with 600 nits of peak luminance. Using the PQ EOTF (electro-optical transfer function, also known as SMPTE ST 2084), the image had plenty of punch, and the blacks were nice and deep with good shadow detail in the custom footage with a resolution of 4096×2160.

The 4K500ST was also used in a demo Canon called the 8K Ride Experience. In this case, four of the units were set up in a rear-projection configuration and edge-blended to form an 8K image. The footage was captured with a prototype 8K (8192×4320) camera, which has the potential for HDR, though it clearly wasn’t being used in that particular demo.

Canon-8K-Demo
The 8K Ride Experience used four 4K500STs in a rear-projection setup with edge blending; the peripheral images on the side screens had way lower resolution.

Interestingly, the demo included screens on the sides of the room, creating a more immersive experience not unlike Barco Escape. But in this case, the resolution and bit depth of the side images was WAY lower than the front image. When I asked about that, I was told that it was only a concept demo, and the side images were only supposed to be in viewers’ peripheral vision, which has much less resolution anyway. That’s true enough, but I could certainly tell the side images were lower resolution even when looking directly at the front screen.

Canon-DCI-Demo
The DCI demo was not HDR, but it encompassed 100% of the DCI/P3 color gamut.

Finally, the 4K500ST was shown in its DCI mode, which reproduces 100% of the DCI/P3 color gamut. This was a prototype demo in another blacked-out area, and it looked pretty good, though it wasn’t in HDR; the gamma was set to 2.6, which is the standard for DCI. The presenter didn’t know if the projector could reproduce DCI/P3 color and HDR at the same time.

Assuming it can, the 4K500ST is a direct competitor with the Sony VPL-VW5000ES. Both are LCoS-based units that offer true 4K resolution, HDR capabilities with 5000 lumens of peak light output, and 100% of the P3 color gamut. They also cost virtually the same—$60,000 for the Sony and $59,000 for the Canon. The Sony uses a laser-hybrid light engine (blue laser, yellow-phosphor wheel), while the Canon is lamp-based, which gives the edge to the Sony in my book. Still, it was interesting to see this entry in the high-end projector sweepstakes; even though it’s not explicitly designed for home-theater applications, it could do well in that environment.