Big sweeping landscapes can be an astonishing sight. That first break of sun in the morning that stretches long shadows in valleys and welcomes your eyes with golden calm is a memorable moment. Photographs allow us to revisit the aesthetic spirit of such scenes. Image quality is everything in this medium and being able to see your work, with vibrant color, in large form, can be as astounding as the moment itself.
Slide projectors were a mainstay for many of us as the ideal means of displaying images to a group, but change happens and it facilitates new beginnings and better ways of doing things. Today, digital technology is taking over. New units display crisp, clean, saturated images and offer unique and convenient functions that the old way of projecting never could. Say good-bye to abrupt slide-tray changes and the risk of damaging your originals.
Digital projectors aren’t merely a replacement for slide projectors; they’re an improvement in almost every category. In the last five years, projectors evolved from low-resolution, dim displays with a truncated color gamut to bright units capable of showing the rich colors and vivid details of your best images. Digital projectors deliver high quality at reasonable costs, and most are small and light enough to fit in your bag. They allow you to show your images larger than prints ever could, and engage a roomful of people into your work.
The technical features of these units play a significant role in their performance. Understanding them will assure that you use a projector best suited for your needs.
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors work differently, but both are capable of delivering great image quality. LCD technology passes light through glass panels that incorporate three different colored pixels of red, green and blue while DLP projectors utilize an optical semiconductor called a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD). Consisting of tiny, individual mirrors, the DMD reflects and refracts light through a rotating color wheel. LCOS (Liquid Crystal On Silicon) is a newer technology that works like a DLP; instead of employing mirrors, liquid crystals are positioned on the surface of reflective chips that open and close, reflecting, blocking and modulating the light to create an image.
Resolution The key to knowing how sharp your images will be when projected, resolution is the spec that determines if you’ll see the fine detail on the eagle’s feathers crisply. Simply, the higher the resolution, the better images look. Projectors with an SVGA resolution of 800 x 600 are popular in the business market or for PowerPoint presentations because of their affordability. This resolution is considered too low for producing accurate, sharp pictures, however, and not recommended for photographic type work.
Higher-resolution projectors will produce the sharpest-looking image. XGA and SXGA projectors have a resolution of 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024, respectively. Both create greater detail so there’s less chance your image will look pixelated. One of the newer standards in the projector market is the resolution of SXGA+. At 1400 x 1050, it’s just a bit higher than SXGA and kicks up image quality without becoming too costly. Important Features Aspect ratio, contrast ratio, zoom lenses, throw distance and keystone correction are among the features that determine the quality of your projected image.
Aspect Ratio. This is the ratio of an image’s width to its height. While most units support multiple aspect ratios, match your intended viewing material to what the manufacturer geared the product for.
ANSI Lumens. A measurement of the overall brightness of a projector, the higher number of ANSI lumens means that if you’re in a bright room, you’ll still be able to see your image, and the colors in your flowers will stay saturated. ANSI lumens also can help improve image quality in a projector that has a lower resolution or contrast ratio.
Contrast Ratio. Because of the different technologies, contrast ratio measurements differ from LCD to DLP and LCOS units. High contrast ratios of 1000:1 and up in DLPs and LCOSs deliver accurate detail and render saturated blacks, while a ratio of 400:1 is standard for LCD technology and also can deliver the same attributes as a DLP’s higher number. In addition, lower contrast ratios can be sufficient if the room you are in is dark and the screen onto which you’re projecting is designed to help increase image quality.
Zoom Lens. This is as necessary as it is convenient. Without a zoom lens, you’ll be manually moving the projector forward and back to achieve a proper image size. If you’re traveling with your projector and don’t know the size of the room in which you’ll be presenting your work, then a zoom lens will save you a lot of frustration.
Throw Distance. A convenient feature, a unit that can project from a short or long distance prevents you from moving it around to achieve a big image—another asset when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings.
Keystone Correction. Not a standard feature but extremely convenient, keystone correction automatically fixes the picture on your screen or wall so that it accurately shows it in proper form. Without it, a trapezoid-looking image is possible. Keystone correction also is beneficial if you need to have your projector placed to the side of your viewing audience. Weight. Without sacrificing quality and performance, newer models are being made weighing 10 pounds and under, making them extremely light and portable. The latest buzz in the projector market are the ultra-light models, which provide the same quality features at under four pounds.
Wireless. WiFi connectivity limits tangling cables, and if you want to be free from carrying a laptop around, there are units that support USB connections and PCMCIA cards. These features are considered a luxury, but for a bit more cash, they can simplify your technical life.
Color Control. This feature is becoming important to those who use digital projectors. If you don’t know the color of the wall or the screen quality where you’ll be displaying your work, you may want to use a unit that allows quick color correcting. Some models have these controls right on the unit so the adjustments are a snap.
Will anyone really miss slide projectors? Big, cumbersome, notorious image-killers, they’re generally a pain to use. The digital projector, by comparison, is a compact, elegant device that does a better job—and it doesn’t destroy your precious original image. It’s a win-win situation.