Sony VPL-HW50ES Focus Nonuniformity - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 65 Old 10-31-2012, 06:12 PM - Thread Starter
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I wanted to document a case of severe focus nonuniformity on my Sony VPL-HW50ES. And not even in the traditional sense of corners or sides being out of focus. In my scenario, everything's in focus save for a region in between the center & extreme right.

I've documented and sent this over to Mike at AVS & Sony; hopefully I'll get a replacement soon. Mike is awesome & said I'll be taken care of.

But here's what it looks like (please open link in new window & view at 100%):


Essentially, while good focus can be achieved for most of the screen, including the center, the left, & the extreme right, a huge patch in between the center & the right side of the screen are wildly out of focus. If I focus that region instead, then the center, left, & extreme right are wildly out of focus. In other words, there's a huge patch in between the center & right that focuses on a plain completely different than everything else. I wonder if the chip itself is bowed out or has a defect in that region that causes it fall on a different focal plane. It's unlikely that it's a lens defect since it's not like one side is out of focus... the center & extreme right are fine, but the space in between is not.

Otherwise, it's a very sharp projector, with an incredible pixel fill ratio, which is why I chose it over Epson (which has an unacceptable screen door effect at my viewing distance).
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post #2 of 65 Old 10-31-2012, 07:19 PM
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Good job of documenting your problem.

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post #3 of 65 Old 11-21-2012, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Wanted to report back here on the replacement HW50ES I received due to the terrible focus non-uniformity of my 1st unit.

Below, I compare both the replacement & the original HW50ES, and show how they stack up against an Epson 8350 I briefly owned.

Would appreciate feedback from any other HW50ES owners... do you find the focus uniformity acceptable? I realize it's hard to compare focus uniformity across units on a forum, but any other HW50ES owners out there can probably take a similar 22MP image using a zoom lens to fill up most of the field of view... and post back here for comparison.

Note the text being displayed in the test image all have a width of 1 pixel. Also, all shots taken at same focal length/distance, so images should be comparable. Links are provided for you to download the full-resolution images.

1. Sony HW50ES (#1100001) | Large soft patch right of center (really poor focus uniformity)

Full-res image here: http://cl.ly/L1MP/Sony%20HW50-BadCopy.jpg

2. Sony HW50ES (#1100196) | Random patches that are softer than others (somewhat poor focus uniformity)

Full-res image here: http://cl.ly/L0wG/SonyHW50-Replacement.jpg

3. Epson 8350 | Acceptable focus uniformity

Full-res image here: http://cl.ly/L1Qe/Epson8350.jpg

I realize focus uniformity comparisons between the Epson & Sony are a little hard here since you can see the pixel structure on the Epson but you can't really see it (at this distance/focal length) on the Sony... but hopefully you can still somewhat judge focus across the field.

I'm thinking I can live with the HW50ES replacement (1100196), but I'm curious if others expect better focus uniformity. You can clearly see the focus nonuniformity even in the replacement Sony in the center of the screen in this further zoomed in shot of the center of the screen:

Focus Nonuniformity even at Screen Center (Sony HW50 #1100196):

Full-res image here: http://cl.ly/Kzou/SonyHW50-Replacement_CenterCloseup.jpg

100% crop of Center Left (soft):

Full-res image: http://cl.ly/L0j8/SonyHW50-Replacement_CenterCloseup_Bad.jpg

100% crop of Center Right (sharp):

Full-res image: http://cl.ly/Kzub/SonyHW50-Replacement_CenterCloseup_Good.jpg

Again, do note the text here has a width of 1px, so this sort of test is very revealing. Most of the text does look sharp from normal seating distance, though b/c of my visual acuity, I can still tell which areas of the screen are softer from my 1.15x SW viewing distance (10.4ft for 120" diagonal screen). However, my point is: the low end Epson appears, to me anyway, to have better focus across the screen.

Do you agree? Thanks in advance for any feedback!
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post #4 of 65 Old 11-21-2012, 04:05 PM
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when you show it like that, it's very noticeable. I'm guessing since you had this problem with more then one unit, that this must be a common problem with this model.
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post #5 of 65 Old 11-21-2012, 04:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks. Just don't know if I should keep sending units back to Sony until I get something with better uniformity. Or if such a unit just doesn't exist. It's a real pain to constantly swap out units. These are huge/heavy boxes.

I wonder if the lenses they're using just aren't ground well & have random pockets of different effective refractive indices, or the surfaces of the lenses are not being ground perfectly so as to have an evenly constantly curved surface, causing patches/areas that have different effective focal lengths?

I should note: the soft patches NOT in the corners of the screen can be focused; they just focus at different planes than other spots (in other words: you can rotate the focus ring and get them in focus).

The upper left & general left side, however, can never be focused perfectly, no matter where you turn the focus ring to.

So those are two separate problems; the latter is a common problem with short focal length lenses. The former problem, i.e. random patches throughout the screen focusing at different planes, just seems strange to me and, in my opinion, really shouldn't be a problem with a $4000 projector.
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post #6 of 65 Old 11-22-2012, 12:56 PM
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I have a VW95, and that amount of variation you show from best to worst doesn't look that unusual. It could be chromatic aberration as much as lack of focus. Can you see it from a normal viewing distance? If you cannot, forget about it.
Even the best $3000 cameras and $2000 lenses have some variation in sharpness from center to edge.
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post #7 of 65 Old 11-22-2012, 01:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A.West View Post

I have a VW95, and that amount of variation you show from best to worst doesn't look that unusual. It could be chromatic aberration as much as lack of focus. Can you see it from a normal viewing distance? If you cannot, forget about it.
Even the best $3000 cameras and $2000 lenses have some variation in sharpness from center to edge.

If it were chromatic aberration, I would see the color separation, no?

I personally can see it from my viewing distance, yes, but I admit I have pretty high visual acuity (20/15 or 20/10 last I got checked).

Sure I know very well that even L-series lenses from Canon have copious amounts of variation from center to edge (why I refuse to buy any Canon wide-angle zooms).

But this isn't even center to edge softness. This is random patches of softness all over the screen, even in the center.

Furthermore, it appears to me that the $1299 Epson is more uniform than the Sony; that's what really surprises me.

Last time I saw such poor left corner performance, btw, was with a Benq W7000, which I promptly returned...
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post #8 of 65 Old 11-23-2012, 10:46 AM
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The nonuniformity is odd.
I have to say, I enjoyed both of my projectors more after I put away the test disks, as it seems that every brand and projector has some weaknesses that get exposed by these patterns & tests. But if something is still noticeable and bothersome in real world viewing, that's a different matter. My experience is that buying 2nd and 3rd generation iterations of technology is the safest bet. The Sony 50 seems to be a bit first generation, with some clear improvements, but some problems
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post #9 of 65 Old 11-23-2012, 10:57 AM
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At least the lens should be xth generation (since HW10 or so?).

Ok, one pixel text is a very hard challenge. I'd say the secon unit is OK.

I think in real movie scenes you wouldn't see these issues that much, even when switching directly between the first and the second unit.
These are no data projectors...

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post #10 of 65 Old 11-23-2012, 05:51 PM
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The first time Sony used this lens which is manufactured in China and is entirely made out of plastic lens elements was in the HW30. The same lens isuysed in the 50. Sony's better projetors have glass element lenses made in Japan.

This lens simply can't compete. It is sharp enough for viewing at normal viewing distances by people with normal vision but ill always look unsharp when viewed with one's nose two inches from the screen. It just won't sharpen up like a more expensive glass lens. Sony has made the lens appear to perform better in the 50 than it did in the 30 through electronic trickery (RC) . In relevant part, the RC enhances the contrast transitions in the picture and makes the lens capable of resolving them because they are enhanced. So it looks like the lens is better but it really isn't. Use of a plastic lens was a necessary design compromise to meet target price points, pure and simple. Every projector at a given price point has design compromises. It ALWAYs could be made much better and higher performing and more reliable yada yada yada, but not for the given price point. Improve one lower another.

Instead of spending your moneyo shipping trying to get a lens that somehow works and performs like an expensive glass lens, giove up if the lens performance bothers you. All your lenses are within spec I suspect.

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post #11 of 65 Old 11-23-2012, 07:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audiohobbit View Post

At least the lens should be xth generation (since HW10 or so?).
Ok, one pixel text is a very hard challenge. I'd say the secon unit is OK.
I think in real movie scenes you wouldn't see these issues that much, even when switching directly between the first and the second unit.
These are no data projectors...

The first unit was so bad I actually saw it in movies/content. I mean, that patch is wayyyyy out of focus.

Secondly, my point was more that the Epson appears to me so much better. But, then again, the Epson had its share of problems. To me the motion handling was terrible; I think the response time of their panels were terrible. But that was the 8350 & now I'm wondering if I should've bought the 5020... Mark, I'm assuming at least the 5020 has a glass (coated) lens?
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post #12 of 65 Old 11-23-2012, 08:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark haflich View Post

Use of a plastic lens was a necessary design compromise to meet target price points, pure and simple.

A $4000 projector can't even have a glass lens? It's plastic? Wow.

How come the $1299 Epson 8350 appears to have a much better lens?

How do I 'give up'? I can't return it... I'd probably lose a ton of money selling it... *sigh*. Plus, I like it otherwise.

Now that you mention it's plastic -- the lens did look a little odd when looking through it. I'm used to looking through lots of L series (Canon) glass, and didn't immediately notice the coatings or the clear look of the glass. But even the Epson 8350 looked like it had multi-coated glass.

I just don't buy that a plastic lens was needed to meet the target price point, one that's ~4 times higher than a cheap Epson. You can't tell me SXRD tech costs more than 4x the price of Epson's LCD tech.

Anyway, sadly my complaining isn't going to do anything here. zombie had a point: they should really release the VW95 replacement w/ the HW50 enhancements.
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post #13 of 65 Old 11-23-2012, 08:57 PM
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They are.

And yes its plastic and yes it was a design compromise to meet the price points of the 30 and 50. Just accept what I say because it is factually accurate. Many things were done to meet the competition including using the same chasis on the 30 and 50 as the predecessor to the 30. It was also a considerable challenge to provide the increased cooling necessary for the 30. There are many elements to projector design and manufacture that are just unknown to the masses here.

Why would a plastic lens be used if not to save money in the manufacturing costs of a projector?

I fully concur in Sony's decision here as much as I am a proponent of fine glass being used in any projector I own. Myself would and did spend more and if I didn't own the 1000ES would be a customer for the 95 replacement. But if my budget were in the $3K region, I could accept the 50 because at my viewing distance of 1.5 screen widths, the unsharpness of the lens does not affect the ultimate PQ delivered. Use the RC of the 50 and add a Darblet. The end result is the only thing that is important and Sony achieved it with its electronic lets call it sharpness enhancement and improved optical efficiently allowing more light out without anew chasis to provide motre colling if wattage output were increased.to provided more light.

The consumer has choices. If lens sharpness is a high criterion for whatever reason, the Sony 50 should not be a choice. If ultimate PQ is the deciding factor, than it should be seriously considered.

The JVCs have better lenses. But they don't handle motion as well or do 3D as well. You ain't going to get perfection at the sub $5K price points. You ain't going to get it at the $25K price point either but you will get a lot closer.

We bitch and bitch about the end result of design compromises here and think the blame lies with the manufacturer. How could they. Why didn't they make it better and yet sell it cheaper. What were they thinking.

Sony projectors are made in japan. That means better quality and higher labor costs. Sony projectors come with a 3 year warraty and a no bitch replacement policy for ES products. But the lens performance you are complaining about is not a defect.

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post #14 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 03:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Yes, I understand it was a compromise; I'm not arguing against that.

I'm simply pointing out my surprise that a cheap $1299 Epson that can be had for $999 still found a way to be better optically.

I understand compromises have to be made. But that doesn't mean that things are never overlooked, or that each unit is properly QC'd, or that something doesn't get messed up during shipping, etc.

I don't think anyone in their right mind would've called the first unit I received acceptable. From my seating distance, even the FBI warning at beginnings of movies had a gaping soft patch right of center... Not to mention a HTPC desktop, a test pattern, or Sony's own installation & focus pattern available when you hit the 'pattern' button on the remote.
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post #15 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 06:41 AM
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I don't pretend to be of right mind, just like anyone with zillions of AV Science posts, definately severly warped.

I will concede that your first lens could have been so bad as to fall out of the err specs for the Sony lens. I really didn't study the pictures posted. I just know in general about the lens and my utter failure to obtain sharp focus with that lens unassisted by electronic adjustments to the image projected through the lens. This is an interesting concept and I think could be akin to feedback correction in an audio circuit. The lens distorts, you measureand map the distortion and then adjust the image to inject a reverse didtortion. Now RC and the Darblet don't do that of course, they adjust the image electronically with out knowing the precise distortions and locations. IIts also interesting that optical distortion (not geometric but focus) and the the limitation a lens has to resove contrast measured by its MTF which of course is a measure of the contrast it can resolve, are so related. I have seen the fix brought by RC and then couples with a Darblet. This really makes it a non issue for what a normal viewer will see.

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post #16 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 07:03 AM
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I just received my HW50 on Monday. Since my HT isn’t ready SOWK invited me over to test out the projector. The first thing we checked was the focus uniformity. All I can say is my unit does not have this issue. The focus was crisp and very uniform throughout the image only going slightly out at the corners. I’m not thrilled with the plastic lens, I would have preferred a glass lens but as long as it does not distort over time, I am very happy with the picture this projector throws.
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post #17 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 10:38 AM
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I used the test patterns above on my sony 50. I also have a slight focus problem with the text. I only notice it if i am very close to the screen, i do not detect it at normal seating distance ( 1.4 ) I wish i had not used the test pattern to point out the flaws in the projector, however i have no problem living with them as long as i dont spend all my time looking at test patterns. I have owned more than a dozen projectors and this sony 50 is by far the best i have owned. I hope it keeps me happy until 4k becomes affordable.

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post #18 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 10:58 AM
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these slight variances are not going to be visible with video content at seating distance. If we put other projector's lens under the same microscope, we'll find other anomalies like noticeable CA. I've seen lens from different manufacturers where the CA was obvious even at seating distance.
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post #19 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 12:12 PM
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That's exactly what I have been saying. Regarding CA, a lens with the proper optical coating will have very very little at the sweet spot in the center of the lens. The smaller the lens diameter and the more one employs lens shift away from center, the more CA will become visable because the coatings would have to vary by the curvature of the lens.
For best optical performance with these type machines, one wants to be at long throw where the size of the exit image is the smallest and the use of lens shift can be minimized.

Now Zombie. I do find it somehow amusing how you can easily throw out focus nonuniformityand tell others not to worry about (and I completely agree with you here) but you can not throw out 3D ghosting. You have trained yourself to see it and are perverse in pointing it out so that we all will know no where to look and subsequently always look for it. You know exactly what I mean. Joe Consumer could watch any movie on any of your 3D projectors and probably not notice any ghosting even on that tree in the grand canyon and certainly not a chance in hell of the lamp posts in Despicable Me. I can sit through 3D on many of the ghosting projectors and be blissfully unaware of any ghosting. Just food for thought.

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post #20 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 12:37 PM
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A slight imperfection in uniformity at close up range is different to my eyes than visible ghosting from seating distance.

I think this will become a non-issue this year (at least for 3D frame packed bluray) with the early feedback on the new JVC models. 3D Bluray is already quite good on the Epson and Sony.

However, the gamers have already raised concerns with SBS and 720P 60hz content on the HW50. This was quite noticeable on the HW30 last year and does not appear to have been improved. SBS and 720P 3D on the Epson is very good in comparison. There is still some progress that needs to improve in these areas.
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post #21 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 12:55 PM
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Of course ghosting is quite visable compared to focus non uniformity at normal seating distances with normal eyes. My point once again is that ghosting usually occupies only a small portion of the total frame and the director or whoever is careful not to present images likely to ghost in screen center. Most ghosting appears peripherally and even if severe will not present a problem until one trains himself to spot it. Unfortunately, it is easy to train yourself and then become a permanent member of the bitcher's club.

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post #22 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 12:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mark haflich View Post

Of course ghosting is quite visable compared to focus non uniformity at normal seating distances with normal eyes. My point once again is that ghosting usually occupies only a small portion of the total frame and the director or whoever is careful not to present images likely to ghost in screen center. Most ghosting appears peripherally and even if severe will not present a problem until one trains himself to spot it. Unfortunately, it is easy to train yourself and then become a permanent member of the bitcher's club.

Now people will start bitching about the Sony lens being plastic and not focusing so well when it really shouldn't bother them at all.

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post #23 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 01:27 PM
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Not everyone is watching 3D blurays. Ghosting with SBS and 720P 60hz content is much more noticeable than the occasion it's seen in regular frame packed bluray content.

The HT projector market at this price point has drawn the interest of video gamers. Some of the manufacturers responded by bettering their lag times.

This is a valid talking point for those who are interested in 3D gaming and non framed packed 3D playback. From the feedback so far, the 5010/5020 can handle SBS / 720P 60hz content better than the HW30/HW50. This includes the 1 / 2 gen 3D JVC's which also had issues with SBS content.

The 3D DLP's have no issues with crosstalk regardless of the 3D format.
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post #24 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 03:13 PM - Thread Starter
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A couple of things:

  1. My first copy didn't have 'slight variation'. It was obvious from any reasonable sitting distance. Based on my experience of measuring MTF/resolution for cameras/film, I'd say that patch right of center resolved ~25% of the resolution of the sharpest area on screen. That's well below 720p, and only slightly above DVD resolution, for that patch. If that's what we're to expect for $4k professional home theater equipment, I think I'll go back to a large LCD screen & just sit closer. All I'm saying is that a HW50 owner may want to check focus uniformity for their unit to see if it's largely out of spec... as the first unit I received should never have been shipped by Sony.
  2. Yes RC can help recover some loss of local contrast due to a bad lens, but this will never be as good as having a better lens to begin with (on top of which you can add sharpening algorithms). For example, 'Breaking Bad' has so much grain that RC even set at minimum is too much (w/ MPEG NR=Low). Here, I have to keep RC off for the most part... in those situations, you're stuck with the performance of the lens. Same goes for some of the 35mm shots in 'The Dark Knight'.
  3. I'm with zombie on the ghosting. I see it very easily, & it detracts from my viewing experience b/c my eyes automatically jump to it. For example, my eye always jumps to the ghost of the right wing of the black bird here (2 second exposure through left lens, glasses brightness 3; 2s exposure ensures I'm recording the average of what the eye would see):

And BTW: I'm using a 15ft throw for 120" screen, & barely using any lens shift as the projector's pretty much aligned to center of screen. So this should be the optical 'sweet spot'...

Finally-- zombie are you saying that 720/60p framepacked 3D gaming on the Epson is better than on the Sony (e.g. Crysis 2 from a PS3)? I find that hard to believe... as that, in my mind, would indicate that the Epson panels can respond much more quickly than the Sony. Maybe because of their 480Hz overdrive technology?

I can't comment on SBS; I have no SBS sources whatsoever.
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post #25 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 03:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TedO View Post

I just received my HW50 on Monday. Since my HT isn’t ready SOWK invited me over to test out the projector. The first thing we checked was the focus uniformity. All I can say is my unit does not have this issue. The focus was crisp and very uniform throughout the image only going slightly out at the corners. I’m not thrilled with the plastic lens, I would have preferred a glass lens but as long as it does not distort over time, I am very happy with the picture this projector throws.

Thanks TedO. What did you use to judge the focus uniformity? A test pattern? The included pattern Sony provides?

I don't really mind out of focus corners. But out of focus patches near the center of the screen...
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Originally Posted by dan webster View Post

I used the test patterns above on my sony 50. I also have a slight focus problem with the text. I only notice it if i am very close to the screen, i do not detect it at normal seating distance ( 1.4 ) I wish i had not used the test pattern to point out the flaws in the projector, however i have no problem living with them as long as i dont spend all my time looking at test patterns. I have owned more than a dozen projectors and this sony 50 is by far the best i have owned. I hope it keeps me happy until 4k becomes affordable.

Thanks for your input Dan as well. I'm trying to ignore it as well, but I can see the focus nonuniformity from my seating distance (~1.2x SW) on my PS3 home screen (I guess b/c it has a detailed wallpaper).

Oddly enough, the 1st Sony had good uniformity mostly everywhere except for that huge patch right of center. The newer one doesn't have any patches as soft as the first one, but seems to have more areas that are out of focus. Or, conversely, only one or two small patches that are really sharp (in comparison to everything else).

Which leads me to think that there's probably a copy out there with a more acceptable lens than either of the two I've owned. Perhaps better QC on the lenses are in order, if that's really the issue here.
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post #26 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by sarangiman View Post

Thanks TedO. What did you use to judge the focus uniformity? A test pattern? The included pattern Sony provides?
I don't really mind out of focus corners. But out of focus patches near the center of the screen...
Thanks for your input Dan as well. I'm trying to ignore it as well, but I can see the focus nonuniformity from my seating distance (~1.2x SW) on my PS3 home screen (I guess b/c it has a detailed wallpaper).
Oddly enough, the 1st Sony had good uniformity mostly everywhere except for that huge patch right of center. The newer one doesn't have any patches as soft as the first one, but seems to have more areas that are out of focus. Or, conversely, only one or two small patches that are really sharp (in comparison to everything else).
Which leads me to think that there's probably a copy out there with a more acceptable lens than either of the two I've owned. Perhaps better QC on the lenses are in order, if that's really the issue here.

We used the exact same NEC Display pattern. smile.gif
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post #27 of 65 Old 11-24-2012, 03:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SOWK View Post

We used the exact same NEC Display pattern. smile.gif

Argh. So you're saying I should try & swap it out again :-P

Makes me annoyed yet happy that the projector is capable of better performance...?
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Originally Posted by SOWK View Post

We used the exact same NEC Display pattern. smile.gif

SOWK, I know it's hard to judge, but if you look at my full-resolution image of the replacement Sony (http://cl.ly/L0wG/SonyHW50-Replacement.jpg), or the closeup of the center (http://cl.ly/Kzou/SonyHW50-Replacement_CenterCloseup.jpg), do you really not see this across your screen on your unit?

Many thanks. Cheers.
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I did not spend a lot of time looking for imperfections in focus but I could see the pixel structure all the way from left to right of the screen with no area in between blurry enough to not see pixel structure. I would not replace your 2nd unit, and I say just enjoy it. I did the same thing with my Sony 95es. (Replaced because I felt chromatic aberration was to much for my liking.) in the end I was going a little crazy over stuff I could only see at screen level. And should have just enjoyed it and kept a few more good nights sleep instead.
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I did not spend a lot of time looking for imperfections in focus but I could see the pixel structure all the way from left to right of the screen with no area in between blurry enough to not see pixel structure. I would not replace your 2nd unit, and I say just enjoy it. I did the same thing with my Sony 95es. (Replaced because I felt chromatic aberration was to much for my liking.) in the end I was going a little crazy over stuff I could only see at screen level. And should have just enjoyed it and kept a few more good nights sleep instead.

Ha, yeah I keep telling myself that.

My pixel structure definitely disappears in a number of places, so that's disconcerting in light of your experience.

Also, when I turn the projector on, initially most places don't have any pixel structure at all b/c it takes at least a half hour to come into acceptable focus. A full hour to come into full focus. I verified this with 10 minute interval shots with my camera smile.gif Just sharing the info; I didn't realize projectors had this much focus drift. Maybe due to the efficient cooling that Mark talked about on this unit, haha. It does come into focus a little faster with high lamp setting.
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