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Friday, September 1, 2006

Living With A Digital Projector

Are today's digital projectors ready for photographers? Are slideshows back?

Living With A Digital ProjectorThe slideshow has a long tradition for outdoor photographers. From the single-trip show ("My Visit to Yellowstone") to photo clubs to pros giving lectures and seminars, projecting images onto a screen has been an important part of displaying nature photos.

I've been using digital projectors for a few years with mixed results. Up until recently, they were quite expensive and seemed more suited to images in Power-Point than photos of Zabriskie Point.

That has changed. There's a whole range of possibilities now with digital projectors, both in technology and price. To explore what it might be like to have a digital projector on hand over a period of time, I got a long-term loan of a three-LCD Epson PowerLite 755c projector. This is a moderately priced unit with a street price of approximately $1,599.

This projector has XGA resolution of 1024 x 768. There has been a lot of talk about what a photographer "has to have" in a digital projector. I can tell you honestly that after using this projector with many audiences who were both near and far from the screen, no one complained about the resolution or even mentioned anything about it.

Polite? I don't know. I do know that they liked the photos and were impressed with seeing the images projected.

Too many advanced photographers try to define "quality" projection based on arbitrary numbers and not what audiences really see. No normal person goes up to a projection screen and says they can see pixels or some facet of sharpness—only obsessive photographers. The average person responds to the photographs and how they affect him or her.

That isn't to say that resolution isn't important. Resolution in the digital world is always directly related to size. Beyond a certain point in enlargement, any resolution commonly available in affordable projectors will start to show its limitations. But with the right projector in a small room, even SVGA (800 x 600) will give a quality slideshow experience.

I haven't lined up a lot of projectors next to one another to pick a "best." Generally, that doesn't interest me. I'd prefer to have a good product I can afford and will use rather than worry if I got the "best" and not enjoy the fun that projecting images offers.


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