Setting the VW95ES up reveals it to be an impressively flexible beast. It boasts a good x1.6 level of optical zoom and a useful degree of vertical and horizontal optical image shifting. Both these features - along with the projector’s focus - are motorised and adjusted with impressive accuracy and stability via the remote control.
Sony has also introduced a ‘picture position memory’ feature to this projector, via which you can store five different zoom, focus and shift settings for viewing different aspect ratios. This system works well after the initial effort required to set it up, and is a heck of a lot cheaper and more convenient for people who own 2.37:1 cinemascope screens than buying an external anamorphic lens adaptor.
Next, there’s a very impressive amount of flexibility within the VW95ES’s menus for calibrating the picture to look exactly how you want it to. Sony’s Real Colour Processing system provides pretty much all the colour options you need (albeit via a rather strange menu system that’s not as intuitive as we’d like it to be).
There’s also plenty of gamma correction (with 11 presets on offer, as well as a manual black/white level adjustment) which proves unusually good, for instance, at letting you boost the image’s brightness without severely impacting its black level response. The VW95ES also sensibly provides separate picture adjustments for 2D and 3D playback, in recognition of the very different image qualities each dimension requires.
As with all of Sony’s relatively high-end projectors, the VW95ES carries a variety of frame-interpolating motion compensation settings, including an interesting Film Projection mode (not found on the HW30) which inserts a black frame into the image to deliver a picture that ‘feels’ more like something you’d see with a traditional celluloid projector. As ever we’re bound to say that the VW95ES’s motion processing won’t suit everyone thanks to the way it tends to make films look more like TV shows. But at least it can be said that Sony’s processing systems are good in the sense that they do what they do without generating many unwanted side effects.
Although the VW95ES’s 3D performance is notionally its most interesting element, we’re actually going to start our tests with its 2D performance. Partly to make sure you keep reading to the end (!), but mostly because it’s actually the VW95ES’s 2D performance that has got us most excited. Basically, the VW95ES’s 2D pictures are easily the best we’ve seen to date from an SXRD projector. Furthermore, they’re also suddenly up there with the sort of pictorial magnificence consistently offered by arch rival JVC.
The main reason for this is the leap forward the VW95ES delivers with its black level response. Dark scenes look quite gorgeously natural and refined thanks to the richness and depth of the projector’s black colour reproduction. Making this all the more remarkable is the fact that dark scenes are also stuffed with subtle shadow details and tonal variations, ensuring that they look every bit as rich and dynamic as bright scenes.
This is a truly exceptional achievement for a projector technology that’s traditionally had to rely on quite aggressive dynamic contrast systems to achieve deep blacks, with all the instability and ‘crushed’ shadow detail that tends to produce.
With the VW95ES’s ‘native’ black level performance so impressive, it’s also able to produce a more dynamic colour palette and contrast range than any SXRD projector before it, making images look far punchier and brighter than the 1000 Lumens quoted brightness figure would suggest.
Colours are, furthermore, the best we’ve seen from an SXRD projector, being able to deliver near pin-point accuracy if that’s how you roll, but also having infinite flexibility for making them look exactly how you want them to if, say, your tastes lean towards richer tones.