Sony Digital Cinema Not Ready to Embrace Laser Projection Yet

Sony Dual 4K projectors

Sony’s Digital Cinema group was at CinemaCon 2016, but it did not announce any new projection products. While the company says it is working on laser-based solutions for cinema, it says the current lamp-based 4K system offers better value than laser-based solutions.

The company has an interesting point – at least in one respect – contrast. Its SXRD-based projectors offer contrast of 8,000:1, which is far higher than most DLP-based cinema projectors. Xenon-based DLP cinema projectors are typically 2000:1, RGB laser projectors boost that to 3000:1 and new high contrast models from Barco, introduced at CinemaCon, can get to 6000:1.

Contrast is a very important parameter for the exhibitors, but the Sony projectors fall short in other categories. For example, while the Sony projector can achieve the required DCI-P3 color gamut, RGB laser projector have the ability to display the much larger BT 2020 gamut, if needed.

The laser projectors also have a much longer lasting light source and consumer a lot less power than Xenon-based equivalents. Sony’s 4K SXRD projectors use efficient, low-maintenance HPM multi-lamp arrays that less expensive to operate than Xenon-based solutions (saving up to $13K per year on large screens).

Finally, the Sony projectors’ 3D performance is typical of the brightness of current 3D – 4.5 fL, while the 6p RGB laser solutions can offer the full 14 fL in 3D mode without having to use a 2.4 gain silver screen.

These RGB laser advantages are not lost on Sony and the company said it is working on solutions in the laboratory now, but it is not ready for commercial release. In the meantime, Sony lamp-based projectors fill a certain need for exhibitors who want 4K resolution and high contrast, but with a more manageable capital expense.

“Let’s be clear—laser is going to be a game-changer, but right now it’s of questionable relevance when Sony 4K still outshines costly, unproven first-generation laser technology on factors like cost and contrast that really matter to exhibitors,” said David McIntosh, VP, Sony Digital Cinema 4K Solutions for Europe and the Americas. “And when you see what our engineers are fine-tuning in Japan, you’ll realize that the next chapter of laser is looking very bright indeed.” – CC