Sony VPL-VW385ES True 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Performance

Posted on May 7, 2018 by Art Feierman

Sony VPL-VW385ES 4K Home Theater Projector Review - Performance: Brightness, ECO Mode: Affect of Brightness, Power Consumption, Lens Position: Affect on Brightness


The Sony VPL-VW385ES managed to just beat its claim of 1500 lumens.  That said, in the chart below, all measurements but the first, are at mid-zoom, so inherently less bright.  Even the brightest measured mode - Cinema Film 1, at full wide angle with default settings, clocked in at "only" 1488 lumens, almost 1% short.  The Sony offers so many settings though, and please note, every one of the preset modes has much better color and picture than the brightest mode of any other projector we've measured (except Sonys) - in years.  That is, they don't bother creating some super bright, but unwatchable - too green, too yellow "native" mode. Good for Sony.  No doubt had they wanted to, they probably could have claimed an extra 300+ lumens.

But, back to beating claim.  I did experiment with the many Color temp options.  Most of the modes default to D65 or D75, all but Photo -which uses D55 (for black and white photos), But there are 8 options.  The brightest of the color temps is listed as Custom 5, which isn't the default for any mode. When I applied that, however to Cinema Film 1, I got an increase of just over 4% above the D65 brightness, and that 4% adds about 60 lumens to the 1488 measured lumens at D65, so while I didn't really use that  custom color temp, I can say that it still looked pretty good (a little cooler than D65).

Picture Mode: Mid-zoom unless noted, full powerLumens
Cinema Film 1 (Wide-Angle): Brightest measurement1488
Cinema Film 1 (Mid-Zoom)1287
Cinema Film 21253
Bright Cinema1339
Bright TV1212

It brought the Sony VW385ES up to 1548 lumens - 3% over claim.  Yay for Sony, as most manufacturers tend to come up a bit short - and that's with a a brightest, and ugly color mode.  In this case, Sony topped claims, with very good color!

More to the point, this projector has almost 1500 lumens (with closest placement) with good color, and that's really going to help out with HDR content, which needs every lumen.  Truth is, most of the 4K UHD DLP projectors, including the ones claiming 3000 lumens, serve up between 800 and 1500 lumens.  Consider Optoma's UHD60 claiming 3000 lumens.  It hit its claim, but in a mode that is unwatchable.

No other Optoma modes beat 1650 lumens, while its Vivid and Cinema - the brightest usable modes - measured 1496 and 1468 lumens, and HDR, where you need all the lumens, measured 1329.  So, basically despite the Optoma claiming twice the brightness, for HDR viewing it proved to be a little less bright than viewing HDR using Cinema Film 1 (which is the mode I preferred).

ECO-Mode: Affect on Brightness, Power Consumption

Power Mode (Mid-zoom)LumensLamp Life
Full Power (Cinema Film 1)1287N/A
ECO Mode (Cinema Film 1)9306000 Hours

The Sony VPL-VW385ES is pretty typical of projectors when switching to the quieter "eco" mode. Sony skips the pretense of "eco," by just referring to their low power mode as "Low Power."

All picture modes will behave the same.  Math shows that the Sony drops down about 28% percent when switched to Low Power.  We allow for several percent of error when measuring brightness, so this Sony should nicely fit into the middle of range of being 25%-30% less bright in Low Power.  That's typical, and enough of a drop to be easily visible.

Lens Position: Affect on Brightness

Zoom DistanceLumens
Zoom out 58” Tall1488
Mid-zoom 41" Tall1287
Zoom in 28” Tall896

Having a 2.06:1 ratio zoom lens means that you've got a lot of placement flexibility. But it also means that how far back you mount your VW385ES from your screen, will impact brightness.  If you place the projector as close as possible to whatever sized screen you have, you'll get maximum brightness.

Moving to the mid-zoom position, translates into mounding the projector about 5 feet further back (about 15 feet) if you have a 100" screen.  That mid-zoom will reduce brightness about 13%, which is fairly slight.

But going to the furthest possible mounting - about 21 feet back, brightness drops for that same 100" screen, to 896 lumens or a drop of almost 40%, which is about what we would expect.

As usual with a lens like this, you will ideally place not too far back from the closest possible mounting. No zoom lens can be expected to be at its optical best at either of the extremes of its zoom range!)

Lens Throw Chart for 100" Diagonal 16:9 Screen

Lens Throw - 100" Screen, 16:9Distance
Closest Position10 ft. 1 in.
Furthest Position20 ft. 7 in.
Lens Throw - 100" Screen 2.35:1
Closest Position9 ft. 11 in.
Furthest Position20 ft. 4 in.

These tables show the distance between projector and screen (as measured from the front of the lens to the closest part of the screen).

First are numbers are for a 100" diagonal.  If you choose a larger - or even smaller - screen, it's easy to adapt this chart.  For example, if you went with a 120" diagonal screen - that's 20% larger, so both the closest and furthest distances would increase by 20%.  It's that easy - basic calculator stuff. Or, for you math freaks, just do the math in your heads.

Sony does provide a separate chart in their manual for those going widescreen.  I've provided the throw distances for the 2.35:1 screen info they listed. You just have to remember -  you can't mount the projector as close to a widescreen as the widescreen table allows, and view 16:9 content without overshooting the screen vertically at top and bottom.

To solve this problem, Figure that if you pick a widescreen size - let's say 124", then you should also look at the 100" chart for 16:9 (close - 124" widescreen creates about a 99" 16:9 image.)

If you use 124" as a wide screen diagonal it will be the equivalent of a 99" diagonal 16:9 in height, ti will just be about 25% wider.  , you end up with a minimum distance of 12 feet 3 inches, which would be the closest you could place the projector if using a 124" 2.35:1 screen, but want to use lens memory to fully fill the height of the screen for 16:9 content (letter boxing on the sides).

Keep in mind that a 100" screen (16:9 has a screen height of about 49" inches, while a 2.35:1 screen has a screen height closer to 40".  Since Lens Memory works around screen height, consider that a 99" screen 16:9 has about the same height as a 124" screen that's 2.35:1.

Lens Shift 

The Sony has more lens shift range than almost any competitor.  And it's a lot.  Vertically the specs show that lens shift is slightly unequal.  85% up, vs 80% down. Rounding, that roughly means you can have the projector mounted inverted, with the center of the lens as high as about 40" above the top of your screen's surface.  You'll have an extra 5% if you have the projector mounted "right side up" such as on a high, rear shelf, which on a 100" screen (16:9) would add another 2.5 inches.  Alternately - table top, you can have the projector about 40" below the bottom of the screen's surface...

Horizontal lens shift is also excellent at 33% to left or right - with a 16:9 screen of 100" diagonal, that's anywhere from 29 inches to the left or right of the center of the screen.  Of course, horizontal and vertical lens shift work together.  So, the more vertical, the less horizontal is available to you.  If you use all the vertical, you won't have any horizontal shift available.  Again, that's typical of projectors with both vertical and horizontal lens shift.

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