Canon SX 50 Realis LCoS projector: we review the LCoS high definition HDTV projector

Canon SX50: LCoS Realis Projector review
Using a universal remote control: review by Adrian Biffen, Software For Homes Canon SX 50 Realis LCoS projector -
the first 3 chip LCoS for under $5,000

by Adrian Biffen 
Systems Administrator
AeroHOST Web Systems
November 15, 2005

Canon Unveils the SX50 Realis LCoS projector: 

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LCoS projectors - it's been a long time coming ... When I first started writing about the various home theater technologies a few years ago, the LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) technology was touted as being the up and coming high performance design. But the DLP technology from TI came out way ahead of anything else in terms of price and performance, and I made my own decision to buy the BenQ PB 6200, which I have never regretted, and it is still performing brilliantly today. Just last night we had a great evening watching the extended version of the LOTR (Lord of The Rings) background 'behind the scenes - the making of LOTR' DVD. These projectors are still a great buy, with the price well below $1,000 at this time.

The LCoS technology seemed to stumble for quite a while, and when Intel pulled out of the competition, we began to wonder if we would ever see a consumer version appear in the stores. It seemed that LCoS was destined to stay as a very high end, ultra expensive system for special applications such as venues in Las Vegas.

Canon has just changed all that with the release of the SX 50 Realis projector. Interestingly enough, it took Canon's technological lens know-how to make this work effectively, with the development of the AISYS (Aspectual Illumination System). It wouldn't surprise me if this lens is related to the design in my compact Digital Elph still camera, which has big lens performance characteristics in a pocket sized form factor. Canon states that it is because of the AISYS lens system that they can produce a compact size in a 3 chip design, while still achieving the right balance of contrast, brightness and resolution. The result is an extremely bright and sharp image from an affordable SXGA+ projector that is portable enough for presentation use. The specs speak for themselves:


Native Resolution: SXGA+ (1400 x 1050)

Horizontal Resolution: 1400 TV lines

Supported Resolutions: VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA, HDTV, DTV, UXGA (Compressed)

Inputs: Component, S-video, Composite, VGA, DVI-I, USB

Optical Specifications:

 -Brightness (ANSI Lumens): 2500 ANSI Lumens
 -Canon Exclusive: AISYS Optical Engine
 -Zoom: 1.7 X
 -Screen Size: 40" - 300"
 -Contrast Ratio: 1000: 1
 -Lamp: 200 Watt NSH

For home theater applications, there are a few design considerations that you should know about if you're planning to buy one of these. It seems that the designers of the SX50 were thinking more about the presentation market than the home theater fans when they designed this unit. There are a number of features missing from this unit that are considered fairly standard for home theater use. 

First, if you are a widescreen 16:9 fan and don't care about older 4:3 formats, this native SXGA 4:3 aspect ratio may not suit your preferences, although it has plenty of resolution to support either format. You cannot reposition 4:3 subject matter in the middle of the 16:9 frame like you can on most native 4:3 format projectors designed for home theater use.

Most home theater projectors have either a vertical lens shift or a built-in throw angle offset that accommodates ceiling mounts, but the SX50 lacks this feature. The centerline of the lens intersects the bottom edge of the projected image when placed on a table, or the top edge of the image when ceiling mounted. It requires keystone adjustment to compensate for any further misalignment.

The SX50 has a DVI input, but no HDCP chip, a standard feature on DVI-enabled home theater units; this means  you may not be able to feed copy-protected HD material into the DVI port. There is no separate component video input, or a 12-volt trigger to automatically deploy a motorized screen when the projector is powered up.


Nevertheless, early adopters of the SX50 projector report excellent results, with bright high definition pictures that are hard to beat in the under $5,000 price category, and presentation graphics that are second to none. To quote one of the associated forum participants: "There is nothing in the price range of this projector that can hold a candle to it for brightness and resolution, period." 

If presentation is part of why you are buying a projector, this may be the one to get. Myself, I'm waiting to see how the latest generation of Texas Instruments' new 1920x1080, 0.95", 1080p DarkChip3 single chip DLP systems stack up ... see the next article.

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This series of articles is designed to help you get through the complicated process of choosing and setting up an HDTV home theater system. It is part of our overall website, which is about the X10 home automation system that uses the A/C wiring in your home - you don't need to run any wires. (for complementary home automation products such as lighting control and motorized blinds and shades, see our home automation DIY kit article) Here's a brief topic summary of these home theater articles, with direct links:
Article# Topic
1 HDTV Definitions and terminology used in home theatre systems
2 HDTV news from Jan 2005 Las Vegas CES show
3 HDTV remote control consolidation issues
4 DLP projector decision: My reasons for purchasing
5 BenQ DLP 6200 review -projector setup process
6 HTPC: using home theater PC for DVD display
7 DVD software player review: watch DVD on your PC
8 Upsampling DVD player vs HTPC - comparison with Zenith DVB 318
9 Sony HDRHC1 Handycam review: widescreen high definition 1080i camcorder
10 Wireless video sender solves the 'extra tv' problem
11 SED Toshiba-Canon HDTV display review - the flat panel HDTV race heats up!
12 Canon SX 50 Realis LCoS projector review - first 3 chip LCoS projector under $5,000
13 Optoma H78DC3 'DarkChip3' DLP projector review - first 'Dark Chip3' DLP projector under $4,000
14 Xbox 360 review: best buy for game play online? - Windows Media Center Extender
15 Play Station 3 vs Xbox 360 - Sony and Microsoft Compete for gaming market
16 SXRD vs SED vs DLP - Sony raises the HDTV bar with Qualia and Grand Wega series
17 LED DLP light engine from Samsung vs SXRD, SED - 1080p resolution arrives
18 HD DVD vs Blu-ray: We review the new Toshiba HD DVD players (HD-XA1 and HD-A1)
19 H.264 AVC: High Definition advanced codec for movie downloads and HDTV Online

For the sake of clarity, here is a repeat of some acronym and terminology definitions relating to the various display technologies, used in the other table below to compare the various screen types:
TLA Three Letter Acronym
HDTV High Definition Television. The highest quality video picture available in Digital TV. In the U.S., the 1080i and 720p resolution formats in a 16:9 aspect ratio are the two acceptable HDTV formats. Regular NTSC analog TV is 480i.
HTPC Home Theater Personal Computer. The use of a PC as a processing and source control platform for a home theater system.
RPTV Rear Projection TV. The type of home theater screen system where the image is projected onto the back of the screen. Can be DLP, LCD, CRT projection technology.
Lumens An ANSI Lumen is a measurement of light radiation or brightness. A 3,000 Lumen projector creates a brighter picture than a 2,000 Lumen unit. The ANSI prefix is a standards designation (American National Standards Institute).
Nits Plasma and LCD manufacturers use this term to define the brightness of their screens. Another term for Nits is Candelas per square meter (Cd/m2). One nit = 0.2919 foot-lambert. Nits includes an area definition, unlike lumens, so you can't simply divide by Watts to establish a Nits/watt spec.
480i 720p 1080p resolution measurement in lines, p for "progressive scan", i for "interlaced scan". Conventional TV (e.g. 480i) is interlaced whereby the screen is scanned twice by alternate lines that are interleaved (interlaced), whereas HDTV (e.g. 720p) can scan all lines sequentially (consecutively or progressively).
DVI HDCP Digital Visual Interface technology with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection. Developed by Intel Corporation, HDCP is a specification to protect digital entertainment content through the DVI interface. The HDCP specification provides a transparent method for transmitting and receiving digital entertainment content to DVI-compliant digital displays. Some products, such as set-top boxes and DVD burners will require this connector. Even if you have a HDTV set-top box, if it lacks the DVI, your signal may be degraded.
HDMI High Definition Multimedia Interface. Like DVI, HDMI is another digital interface, and from what we saw at CES 2005, it may become the universal standard. Developed by Sony, Hitachi, Thomson (RCA), Philips, Matsushita (Panasonic), Toshiba and Silicon Image, the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) has emerged as the connection standard for HDTV and the consumer electronics market. HDMI is the first digital interface to combine uncompressed high-definition video, multi-channel audio and intelligent format and command data in a single digital interface.
SACD Super Audio CD uses a new recording technology called Direct Stream Digital. DSD records a one bit digital signal at a sample rate of 2.8 million times per second, 64 times higher than conventional CD's. 
NTSC Existing color TV standard developed in the U.S. in 1953 by the National Television System Committee. NTSC vertical line resolution is 525 lines/frame and the vertical frequency is 60Hz. The NTSC frame rate is 29.97 frames/sec.
CRT Cathode Ray Tube - venerable old style picture tube
PDP Plasma Display Panel, plasma is a physics term for an electrically charged gas
LCD Liquid Crystal Display, same as laptop screens
TFT Thin Film Technology, a type of LCD
DLP Digital Light Processor, a reflective light switch chip developed by TI. Has a very fast response time - no motion lag
TI Texas Instruments Corp., original manufacturer of DMD's and DLP's
DMD Digital Micro-mirror Device - chip for DLP technology by TI
DNIe Digital Natural Image enhancement - chip for optimizing video picture quality, by Samsung (used in their DLP units)
LCoS Liquid Crystal on Silicon, reflective light switch
SXRD projection Silicon X-tal Reflective Display: Sony's incarnation of LCoS technology. Sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel.
SED Surface conduction Electron emitter Display by Toshiba/Canon
FED Field Emission Display: New technology from Sony
OLED Organic Light Emitting Diode display: new technology from Seiko-Epson
D-iLA Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier, LCoS chip developed by JVC
QXGA high screen resolution of 2048 x 1536, attained by D-iLA chip
DCDi Directional Correlation Deinterlacing (a de-interlacing method to eliminate jagged edges (jaggies) along diagonal lines caused by interpolation, developed by Faroudja corp. An important feature to look for, this Emmy® award winning technology was once only available in products costing $20,000 or more, and is now available in numerous products costing well below $2,000
aspect ratio ratio of screen width to height. An aspect ratio of 4:3 is conventional TV and 16:9 is HDTV (and film)
3-2 pulldown a method of film-to-video conversion
twitter and judder   terms describing film conversion related artifacts
anamorphic lens   a special lens that compresses the pixels of a 4:3 screen into a 16:9 format, and allows a projector to use the full brightness of the display, without black bars above and below the image. Must normally be removed for regular 4:3 viewing.
SDE  Screen Door Effect is a term used to refer to the visible pixel structure on a screen.
YADR! Yet Another Dang Remote! A common exclamation heard from people who just bought their third or fourth home audio/video component. And then there are further unmentionable expletives when you find out a component isn't supported, or it's just too complicated to program everything in?? Maybe it's time to read about our experience in the remote control review article.

The following table provides a quick comparison of the display types; "pixelation" refers to the ability to see individual picture elements (pixels) at normal viewing distances (note that all the types below can contribute to the YADR index). Please note that these products are being constantly improved and not all manufacturer's models may be subject to the disadvantages listed below:

CRT conventional
picture tube
Cathode Ray Tube: very sharp and bright, high contrast ratio, good picture view from side, low cost, handles regular analog NTSC channels well, no moving parts heavy and bulky, limited in size to about 36", picture can fade 
CRT projection
low cost, large screens possible, no moving parts heavy and bulky, limited viewing angles, visible raster lines, mis-convergence can be a problem, picture can fade over time 
LCD flat screen panel Liquid Crystal Display: bright, sharp picture, light and compact, can hang on wall, solid state, no moving parts picture can fade over time
LCD projection fairly bright, large screens possible, sharp picture, no moving parts display can fade due to heat damage to organic compounds that some manufacturers use in the LCD, projector bulb can fail
PDP Plasma flat screen panel Plasma Display Panel: bright picture, light and compact, can hang on wall, wide viewing angle, no moving parts, handles fast motion really well expensive, some pixelation, display can burn out.
DLP projection Digital Light Processor: bright, sharp picture, high contrast, no  pixelation, reflective system won't burn out picture element, very fast response time - no motion lag. possible visual "rainbow" artifacts on single chip versions caused by spinning color wheel, projector bulb can fail
LCoS projection Liquid Crystal on Silicon: bright, sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel. projector bulb can fail
SXRD projection Silicon X-tal Reflective Display: Sony's incarnation of LCoS technology. Sharp picture, no pixelation, very high resolution, reflective system won't burn out picture element, "no moving parts" design usually incorporates 3 imaging chips for primary colors, instead of color wheel. projector bulb can fail
SED panel display Surface conduction Electron emitter Display: very bright picture, very high resolution, can hang on wall, very high contrast ratio, can be viewed from any angle, no moving parts, handles fast motion really well expensive at first, not available yet
FED panel display Field Emission Display: New technology from Sony, properties are similar to SED expensive at first, not available yet
OLED panel display Organic Light Emitting Diode display: new technology from Seiko-Epson expensive at first, not available yet

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