I belong to a small camera club – 30 to 40 members. Our projector was several years old and had a 1024 x 768 resolution. Time to upgrade, and it fell to me to do the research and make the choice.
So here’s what I learned in case it’s useful to other camera clubs. No doubt it’ll be out of date in a few months, but anyway…
We ended up buying the Epson EB-U32 for about £600 incl sales tax. It’s much much better than what we had.
Here are various things I wrote to our club committee about various considerations at the time. Much of what I am about to summarize was excellently presented by Projector Point, from whom we ended up buying the projector.
- Resolution. The next step up from 1024 x 768 is 1400 x 1050. However, most UK clubs and federations are already moving up to the next level of 1600 x 1200, so if we didn’t want to get left behind immediately we had to aim for 1600 x 1200. (Which in practice meant buying a projector that could put out 1920 x 1200.) One slight caveat is that the laptop used to display must have a graphics card capable of displaying at 1920 x 1200.
- Brightness. Brightness is a key feature for business projectors and large screens because they have to function well in bright rooms and far from the screen. It was not important for us because we have a relatively small screen and we project in a darkened room.
- Contrast ratio. This was probably the key measure for us. A better contrast ratio means “subtle colour variations show up more clearly” and therefore “subtle textures are more visible” (according to Projector Point). Our old projector tended to “block up” colours meaning that we lost detail – my read of the advice was that a higher contrast ratio would improve that.
- Display type. There are three kinds, DLP, LCD and LCoS. The general conclusion was that we wanted LCD. DLP is weak on colour accuracy, and provided we could get a reasonable contrast ratio LCD should be fine. LCoS is the best, but was out of our price range at £2,000 and up.
When I did my research, there were very few outlets that specifically designated any projectors as “suitable for camera clubs”. The vast majority categorised projectors as either home cinema or business – neither of which corresponded with our requirements. The exception to that was Projector Point who pop up in quite a few places as being recommended for sound advice and service to (UK) camera clubs.
Looking at the projectors they described as “for camera clubs” and selecting only those that could produce a resolution of 1600 x 1200, they offered a choice of 5. The cheapest was the one we bought, the Epson EB-U32 at £640. The next cheapest was the Epson EB-1980WU at £1,265. All the others were £1,700 plus which were out of our price range.
I talked to someone at Projector Point who confirmed that the Epson EB-U32 should be fine for us because we project in a darkened room and onto a small screen. He only thought it worth upgrading if we were working with a brighter environment or a larger screen.
I did come across a potential issue with the LCD type of projector. Apparently you can get a slightly pixelated image which is often referred to as the “chicken-wire” effect. Having talked to Projector Point they thought it wouldn’t be an issue with modern LCD projectors and it certainly isn’t with ours.
You do definitely need to make sure that you have a laptop with a video card capable of running at the necessary resolution. I have a mid-range PC laptop which can do the job, but I only found out in advance by checking the specs online. The Windows screen resolution options do not necessarily tell you what it can do. Without the projector attached my max resolution is 1920 x 1080. But once the projector is attached I then get the option to display at 1920 x 1200.
A small point, but my laptop can’t display at 1600 x 1200, so we display at 1920 x 1200 but zoom the projector so that the display is larger than the screen – so that the images of 1600 x 1200 fill the screen.
That’s it. All I know about projectors that might be useful. This article from the PAGB is a bit old but contains some useful thoughts too…