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Mini-Review: Canon XEED SX50, Toshiba MT8

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by theritz, Mar 9, 2005.

  1. theritz

    theritz
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    Thanks to an invitation from a fellow member on the forums, Muf (Jim), Vexorg (Gerry) and I had the opportunity to see the new Canon SX50 in action last week. This was in a dedicated room, full blackout, running at 1:1 pixel matched.

    The new Canon has already been mentioned on the forums but for those unfamiliar with this new model it is a 1400x1050 LCOS projector, 2500lumens (2000 in eco mode), 1000:1 contrast ratio. For further details, Click Here for the brochure. It is listed by Ivojo at £2449.88. It is a very compact piece of kit, and looks very classy in a dark grey metallic finish.

    The Canon was running in eco mode, firing an image about 8ft wide, and was running at default settings. With 2000 lumens at its disposal, it was easily comfortable at this size. My first interest was seeing the on-screen performance in terms of image structure – effectively there is none. Close up to the screen, one can see the evidence of the structure of the LCOS device, but there is no “screendoor” in the conventional sense of the word.

    The projector was displaying a HD feed from Euro1080 in real-time via satellite, and it is no exaggeration to say that the image was stunning. The increased resolution and smoothness of the image allied to the depth of colour that comes with HD material was extremely impressive. The Canon did show some blue “halo” on screen at the lateral borders of the image, which, I understand, is not unknown with LCOS. The device is 4:3, and when displaying widescreen images we also observed that the area without display (what we would normally call “grey bars”) had a distinctly blue hue. I expected that the image would have a blue “push”, but could not see this in the image displayed. I thought that skin tones were on the warm side of natural, if anything.

    This was a social visit, not a “tweaking” session, so I am unsure of the degree to which this could be “dialled” out of the projector. I hope that we will see one in the hands of professional reviewers (Cine4home, hopefully) before long, when a better account of the projector's ultimate capability will be discovered.

    In a full blackout situation with no image on display, the lack of absolute black performance was evident - the Canon was still throwing sufficient light onto the screen to enable us to find a remote control. In case this is interpreted as an outright criticism, when the projector was displaying an image there was no sense of “mushiness” about its black performance. I thought that this was attributable to its high light output creating a very punchy image, heightening the perception of contrast. There was no evidence to my eye of the increased light output “washing out” the colour performance. We also noticed with low ambient light that the projected image stood up noticeably well – although I think it's fair to say that we would agree on the benefit (if not the necessity) of complete light control for optimum image quality.

    We noticed that the Canon was not quiet in eco mode by any measure, although once watching the screen the noise tends to sink under the background of the soundtrack. However in full mode it was intrusive and I couldn't imagine using it for movie watching. If the projector were ceiling mounted the degree of noise in full mode might be lessened somewhat, but the performance in eco mode was such that I couldn't imagine it being necessary to run in full mode in any event.

    We also had the opportunity to see the Toshiba MT8 (Jim's own projector) in action. The Toshiba is a 1280x720 HD2 DLP 1000 lumens projector (practically identical to the Infocus/Screenplay 7200, IIRC) and I was very interested to see this in action, being interested in upgrading to a HD2 machine. I expected that there would be more evidence of pixelation from the Toshiba in comparison to the Canon, but in effect there was none. Close up to the screen, the structure of the DMD was visible, but at a seating distance of about 12 feet from an 8.5ft wide image, I could not make out any image structure, even in difficult material like the flame of a candle against a dark background. We had the opportunity to view HD material, both off satellite and recorded, on the Toshiba and its performance was extremely impressive. The lack of discernable image structure and the colour performance were the immediately noticeable highs for me and the image had an indefinable quality which gave it an advantage, to my eye, over the Canon. Its black performance was clearly better – in a full blackout screen the difference between the two was not subtle. The Toshiba's outright shadow performance was also very impressive. Having the opportunity to view Gladiator Superbit on a range of machines, the Toshiba really brought the material to life. I was impressed particularly by shadow detail.

    On a side note, one occasionally sees comments to the effect that such-and-such looks like HiDef on a particular projector. I must say that having seen the opening chapters of Fellowship in HD (and being extremely familiar with the material, one of my all time favourites) I don't believe it stands comparison with the material on DVD. This is not solely a matter of higher image resolution and improved background detail - the colour depth also adds distinctly to the final product.

    If I had the choice which would I pick ? The Toshiba without any doubt. I am conscious that there is a considerable price differential between it and the Canon, and while the Canon throws a very impressive image, the 4:3 panel, halo and curiosity about eliminating the blue “push” in the image free area were minus points for me. If one were concerned with watching 4:3 TV, or wanted a projector which could stand up to some ambient light, then it should be on a “to see” list. One other note – we were watching material from a HCPC pixel matched and so were unconcerned with the scaling ability of the projector. We did watch some SD material from SKY through the Toshiba and while this was very different from HD, I thought that the Toshiba did very well de-interlacing and scaling a signal fed by composite video.

    What was the highlight ? Seeing an extraordinary array of material from a motorised satellite dish, HD and SD. The sheer quality of the HD material being displayed from different satellite feeds, as well as recorded material in a faultless technical implementation was extraordinarily seductive and a testament to Jim's technical expertise.

    To close, much thanks to Jim for his invitation and hospitality as well as a 4 hour tour de force which I won't forget in a very long time.

    Sean G.
     
  2. Muf

    Muf
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    Sean,
    I can't believe it is two weeks since you put this in. It really went up like a lead balloon didn't it. Very nicely written I thought.
    I have just a few things to add.
    Before I returned the Canon I had occasion to show it to some people in a brightly-lit room with normal video material, not HD. The picture was amazing considering the level of ambient light in the room. The windows had those vertical venetian blinds, which are translucent. The decor was very bright and with all the blinds closed the room was still very bright. The only screen available to me was white, grey would have been better but at the full 2500 Lumens the picture was impressive. I am obviously not talking about cinema quality in such a bright room but a very viewable presentation without having to go to a lot of trouble darkening the room, making this a very suitable machine for a club or board room in my opinion.
    Another thing we did not try that evening was a digital photo slide show. I thought this would really exploit the high resolution of the SX50 and I was not disappointed. For this application, the more resolution the merrier. Photos looked really great on the SX50, in a dark room of course and the 4:3 AR was not a handicap in this department.

    Jim.
     
  3. Gary Lightfoot

    Gary Lightfoot
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    Great review Sean - I must have missed it the first time so I'm glad Muf gave it a bump.

    I would think adding an ND filter or a colour correction filter and tweaking back to D65 would help a great deal with black level and a CC filter would push up the CR too as well as removing/reducing the blue push. I was curious about this pj because LCOS produces a very smooth filmlike image from what I have seen in the past (Event II), but the overall impression is that it has an overall 'grey mist' look about it. Under £2500 seems like a great price for the technology and resolution, but it's a shame that it still has a way to go before it is more of a choice over DLP. I would think it would be better suited to larger screens so that the image brightness is reduced to cinema levels rather than the 'video' levels you saw it at.

    I would think a grey screen would help with the black level too, as well as ambient light if there is to be any in the room.

    Maybe Gordon will get one for Event III. :)

    Gary.
     
  4. theritz

    theritz
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    Thanks for the kind words, guys.... ;)


    Gary,

    I didn't perceive a "grey mist" in the image itself, it had a good punchy colourful image - it's just that on the night I found the Tosh to have a more pleasing image..... no great scientific underlying basis.

    I agree that the Canon's performance could be improved with some tweaking - ND2 would certainly improve it's absolute black performance but I think the relative contrast ratio would stay the same. Colour correction should help as you say, but it would require a colorimeter to establish exactly what the Canon was doing out of the box - I couldn't see a blue push in the image. Hopefully cine4home or one of the other reputable reviewers (Bill Cushman or Steve Smallcombe for instance) will get their hands on one and we'll see what it's colour performance is like.

    The structure free image of the Canon was impressive and I reckon that if they came out with a 16:9 model which had more cinema-friendly light level and a bit more internal light control to deal with the halo effect then there would be a very enticing alternative to HD2+ etc.

    Regards,


    Sean G.
     

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