I received some news this morning that Ghosts of the Arctic has just been highly honoured in the 2018 Nature’s Best Photography Awards. Selected from more than 26,000 images and videos from photographers in 59 countries, the finalists in each category will be published in the 2018 Fall/Winter Special Awards Edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine. Approximately 1,000 photos and videos made it into the semi-final round of judging to select the 123 current winners and highly honoured images.
A couple of days ago I published Part One of this two part review of the new BenQ W11000H 4K UHD DLP Projector. Part One covered a brief history of projection for the home from CRT projectors up to the current state of play with 4K UHD Projectors. In part two we are going to look in detail at the BenQ W11000H 4K Projector.
When BenQ offered me the opportunity to review their brand new top of the range 4K UHD THX certified projector I literally jumped at the opportunity. Not only was I keen to see how it compared to the Marantz VP11-S1 I had been using in my cinema for better part of the last decade (see part one of this article) but I was as keen as mustard to see what sort of advantage 4k UHD would offer over high end 1080p presentation in a room and space I was intimately familiar with. I was even more keen to see how I could take advantage of the increased resolution to even better display photographs in my home (skip forward to the conclusion if you want an immediate answer).BenQ W11000H Projector: In brief, the BenQ W11000H is a single chip DLP projector that uses 4.15 million micro mirrors and XPR dual position actuator fast switching to produce its whopping 3840 x 2160 resolution with 8.3 million distinct pixels for each frame. With a resolution that’s four times higher than Full HD 1080p, 4K UHD reduces pixel blur for awe-inspiring clarity and crisply defined fine details. The W11000H is also the worlds first THX certified 4K UHD DLP Projector. THX certification guarantees accurate content reproduction as directors intended. With 100% Rec. 709 color accuracy, precise gamma, ideal colour temperature, enhanced uniformity, super high native contrast ratio and pre-calibration THX mode, the W11000H produces the best and most accurate out of the box picture quality I have ever seen from a consumer projector (regardless of price). But I am getting a bit ahead of myself and we should first look at the chassis and features of the W11000H before we dive in depth into its image quality.
The chassis of the BenQ W11000H is essentially identical to the previous W11000 model. Its quite large (470.7mm wide by 224.9mm high and 564.7mm deep), quite imposing and definitely makes a statement. This isn’t a projector you just plonk down on a coffee table, fire up and then pack away when you are finished. The W11000H is really designed for custom installation and thus its most likely home is going to be in a dedicated space such as a media room or home cinema. The matt black chassis of the W11000H is really built with the sole purpose of delivering the best possible picture quality through the enormous lens centre front. Photographers will appreciate the optics on this projector before they even turn it on. The projector body itself is large and is a nice matt-black finish that wont draw undue attention to itself in a dedicated space. Lets be honest though, you don’t buy a projector like this for the look and design. You buy it for the incredible picture quality that a high end 4K projector can display.
The projector has front facing ventilation that includes an intake and exhaust for cool and hot air. The airflow design is superb and allows for easy installation in tight places. In my own cinema ventilation was somewhat of an issue with my previous projector so I really appreciated the thought and attention to detail BenQ made in this department. If you are planning to install this projector in a hush box (it really doesn’t need one as its super quiet in operation) you will likewise find the airflow design beneficial.The top of the projector includes only two control knobs for the physical 65% vertical lens shift and 27% horizontal shifting of the lens. Although lens shift can be accomplished in software there is no substitute for optical adjustments of this order. The level of adjustment is quite substantial and facilities placement off centre in both the vertical and horizontal planes. This design gives you a lot of flexibility in projector placement. In my own cinema I was able to place the projector on a shelf at the rear of the room and use lens shift to optimise the image. According to the BenQ literature there is no loss of image quality by shifting the lens. In my own tests I found this to be absolutely true. Pixel geometry remains perfect even at the extreme ends of the lens shift.
The W11000H offers a hidden control interface under a sliding cover in the event you need to control the projector without the remote control. The inputs, include power and HDMI and are located on the side and are separated to avoid any video interference. The only other compartment is the bulb replacement panel on top, which given the lamp life you are unlikely to need access to for years.
SetUp: I am going to assume that anyone who purchases a projector of this calibre is either knowledgeable enough to set one up on their own, or plans to have it professionally installed (I would recommend professional installation if you have not tackled something like this before). In my own case, I was able to unbox and install the projector in about 30 minutes. I would wager that hardest part of setup for most people will be mounting the actual projector and aligning it with the projection screen. The projector is quite heavy at just under fifteen kilograms and the addition of a friend to help mount the unit will be appreciated by many. If you are installing into an existing space with a pre-installed screen be sure to use the calculator BenQ provide to work out your projection throw distance before you start drilling any mounting holes in your ceiling.
Features: The list of features included with the W11000H is quite extensive, but setup is extremely straight forward. The W11000H includes 2 x HDMI (HDMI 1: HDMI 2.0 and HDCP2.2; HDMI 2: HDMI 1.4a and HDCP 1.4), PC (VGA), USB (Type mini B for firmware upgrades), LAN, RS232, DC 12 Volt Trigger and an IR port if you need to run an IR extension.
The supplied remote control with the W11000H is of an excellent standard. Its large, with clearly labelled back-lit buttons and feels really solid in the hand. The fit and finish of the remote is of a premium standard and matches nicely with the projector chassis. All of the required controls are easily accessible.
HDR: The W11000H projector is turbo charged with HDR10 support with BenQ including Auto HDR colour rendition and cinema optimised technology. The high dynamic range performance of the W11000H ensures greater brightness, contrast range and overall image depth. The net result is you get to experience every detail of 4K video content for the best possible cinema experience. Dolby Vision is not supported at this time , but is likely to come via a future firmware update.
Image Integrity and Colour Accuracy: The W11000H uses DMD DLP technology to avoid inherent alignment issues that can occur with multiple planes. The projector generates razor blade sharp images and accurate colours free from artifacting such as blur, shadowing and interference patterns for immaculate clarity.
Precision 14-Element 6-Group Lens Array: Photographers will more than appreciate the super high resolution 14-element lens array found in the W11000H. The array is structured into six groups with metal barrel and cell framework resulting in greater light penetration than traditional 1080p projector technology. The results are outstanding color performance, clarity and sharpness across the entire screen. The lens architecture in the W11000H is class-leading and optimised specifically for 4K content. The lens also includeds a fantastic True Zoom function. The W11000H’s lens system uses only the highest grade glass for superior light penetration and optimal image quality. Proprietary low-dispersion lens coatings minimise any chromatic aberration and ensure you benefit from all the clarity in your favourite 4K UHD content.
Immaculate True Zoom: The W11000H’s True Zoom system adjusts focus automatically to deliver visually perfect focus without the need to refocus the projector after zoom changes. The three focusing lens groups adjust simultaneously with the zoom lens group to negate any curved field for immaculate cinemtatic performance and high precision clarity across the entire image. It might seem like a trivial thing but I really appreciated this feature during the setup procedure. You only need to achieve optimum focus once. Once focused you can alter the zoom at your leisure without having to refocus the lens.
100% Rec.709 Color Accuracy: Factory calibrated to 100% Rec.709 the W11000H does indeed look pretty spectacular right out of the box (well done BenQ!). With this performance you can indulge in the truest color image reproduction possible in your home cinema. Those of you who follow my blog will know that its a pet peeve of mine that most displays ship from the factory in ‘flame thrower’ mode. It was a revelation to turn on the BenQ, switch it to ‘Cinema’ mode and find it just about perfect out of the box.
6X RGBRGB Color Wheel: Of all DLP projector components, the color wheel has the greatest effect on color. Achieving perfect balance between color accuracy and brightness requires high precision and stringent quality control. Because even nanometer differences create great differences to color spectrum, BenQ CinematicColor™ uses precise nanometer-level references to test over 20 combinations of color wheel angle and coating. Each color wheel is carefully fabricated with high-pure-color coatings to meet Rec. 709 color gamut requirements and reproduce the true color of Hollywood films. Does all of this engineering show in the final result? Absolutely. I have seen three chip DLP projectors that don’t look this good.
Factory Calibration Report: Using special instruments and software, each CinematicColor™ projector is tested and adjusted for precise D65 color temperature, gamma, black level, white level, neutral gray, RGBCMY color tracking, hue, saturation, brightness and output from different interfaces based on ITU-R Rec. 709. Collecting all data for individual CinematicColor™ factory calibration reports, BenQ are the industry’s only brand to adopt such high standards of colour gamut and gamma calibration to exceed Rec.709 standards. Users who care about colour accuracy (which photographer doesnt?) will really appreciate this level of performance and certification typically only found in very expensive and very high end professional products.
Dynamic Black Technology and Active Iris: Active iris controls the amount of light through the optical system for ideal contrast. Dynamic Black™ analyzes scene brightness levels to optimize light output and contrast. Bringing out subtle details in shadows and preventing bright scenes from washout, W11000H delivers impressive contrast for true blacks and amazing picture depth, details, and clarity.
Cinematic Wide 2.4:1 Anamorphic Format: Available at local BenQ dealers, optional Panamorph Paladin anamorphic lens delivers the immersive 2.4:1 aspect ratio of commercial cinemas without letterboxing, delivering 2 million more pixels for increased brightness and detail to recreate full cinema experiences right at home. *Select “Anamorphic 2.4:1” or “Anamorphic 16:9” in menu with anamorphic lens. * As of this review I have not had access to the Paladin lens to test this feature. In my own cinema I am somewhat limited by a short throw distance of 3700mm and as such would be limited to quite a small screen with the Paladin. The Paladin lens is best suited to those with ample room for longer throw distances.
The projector only has two HDMI inputs (A HDIMI 2.0 and a HDMI 1.4) which is typically not an issue given most people would run HDMI sources into an amplifier or video processor, then a single HDMI out to the projector. While that may be the most common setup, there are two available inputs and switching between them is possible via the remote control (although the projector is slow to recognise and lock onto the new source once switched).
Picture Quality: With its THX certification (certification card included with projector) you can have confidence that even out of the box this projector is going to produce an outstanding image (and it truly does). The built in display modes do a very nice job of providing a jaw dropping experience right out of the box. The projector can of course be custom calibrated to suit the environment it has been installed in and I would assume that most people who purchase this projector will employ an ISF certified technician to custom calibrate the projector for their sources and room to eek out every last drop of performance. That said, the performance I was able to achieve out of the box in ‘cinema’ mode was absolutely phenomenal. BenQ are to be congratulated on providing such a wonderful result straight out of the box.
Years ago (perhaps 20 years or more now) THX released a limited edition laser disc to demonstrate their THX speaker systems called ‘Wow!’ It was an extremely impressive montage of George Lucas film clips cunningly edited together to blow the listeners socks off. I still recall the first time I watched and listened to this disc and I remember it was a serious ‘Wow!’ moment. I relived that moment when I watched my first native 4k UHD DVD through the BenQ W11000H. The picture quality is simply jaw dropping. For lack of a better word… Wow! It should be noted at this point that the black levels on this projector are sublime with inky blacks of seemingly infinite depth. The projector produces the best black levels I have yet seen from a consumer projector in my viewing room.
Whats Missing: While BenQ get a lot of things right with this projector (most notable of which is the incredible image quality), nothing is perfect and there’s a couple of small omissions that could be added in future versions.
Blanking: One feature I really miss on the BenQ W11000H (that was on my Marantz VP11-S1) is ‘blanking’. Blanking gives you the ability to shift (and hide) the edge of each side of the projected image by one pixel at a time. Blanking is extremely useful to ensure a perfect picture to edge of screen match. The lack of blanking on the W11000H means you need to take extra special care to align the projector with the screen during setup. Its not a deal breaker (far from it) and if you are planning to run an external video scaler (such as a Lumagen Radiance Pro or similar) then it becomes a non issue since any blanking can be done internally by the outboard scaler.
Motorized Zoom: A motorised zoom function with lens memory positions would have been a nice addition for those running scope 2.35:1 systems who want to overscan their movies (to avoid having to purchase an anamorphic lens) and need multiple lens position memories. Whilst BenQ do offer an anamorphic lens option, the ability to overscan the image and use lens memory positions to shift between 2:35:1 and 16:9 material would have been a nice option. You can still run a 2.35:1 Constant Image Height setup with the BenQ without an anamorphic lens but you will need an outboard video processor such as the Lumagen Radiance Pro.
ISF Menu: The W11000H includes a password locked ISF menu. When I enquired with BenQ about access to the password I was told that “not even BenQ have it and that it is only for ISF technicians in the BenQ factory”. Fortunately I still have some connections in the Audio Visual world and I reached out to my contact at the Imaging Science Foundation and was able to obtain the password (If you read Part One of this review you may remember that I am actually an ISF certified technician). Hidden in the ISF menu is the ability to set picture parameters for both night and day. ISF simply call this ISF Night and ISF Day. All it really does is give the ISF technician who is calibrating your projector the ability to set parameters for night and day viewing that are then ‘locked’ and not user adjustable.
Addendum – Please don’t write to me and ask for the ISF password. I am not allowed to disclose or share the password (sorry!) You can contact the Imaging Science Foundation or your local ISF technician for further information.
Conclusion: The W11000H sits squarely at the top end of the consumer range and as such, you should set your expectations of pricing and performance accordingly. The BenQ W11000H 4K Projector with HDR, will cost you round $8,999.00 AUD. If that doesn’t dent your wallet and if you have some spare cash, there is also an option to add a 2.4:1 anamorphic lens to the projector to deliver the aspect ratio offered at commercial cinemas (see notes above).
In conclusion, the BenQ W11000H 4K UHD Projector produces an image that is simply jaw dropping. There is no other superlative I can think of that more accurately describes the sensation of experiencing this projector with high quality UHD 4k content. Whilst the premium price tag might scare some away it is worth keeping in mind that just a few years ago the sort of image quality offered by the W11000H was simply impossible in home projection – it was science fiction. Even then the best that was available was horrendously expensive (think exotic sports car pricing) and wasn’t a patch on the W11000H’s performance. The W11000H is simply the best consumer projector I have yet experienced. Wether you are displaying the latest 4K UHD movie, 1080p Blue Ray, 4K Netflix, or photographs from your computer, the W11000H produces gorgeous images that will leave you swimming happily in a pool of your own drool. If you are looking for the best possible performance the buck stops here. I give it my unequivocal and highest recommendation.
A note on Price vs. Performance: Over the last few years BenQ has been consistently (and quietly) producing products that offer performance well above their price points. Their recent batch of colour accurate monitors (such as the SW271) for photographers (recently reviewed on this site) were groundbreaking in their performance for price. The W11000H treads the same path, offering a level of professional performance that far exceeds its very modest price point. Smart consumers will recognise that these products are absolute bargains; offering performance that far outweighs the cost of investment. As someone who has owned displays and projectors that cost many times more than the BenQ offerings I can unequivocally report that I don’t believe you can do better for the money.
Introduction: It isn’t too often you read a projector review on a photographic website but projectors actually have a lot of applications in the photographic industry and over the last couple of years I have found an increasing need and use for projection in my print workshops (as well as using projectors to display photographs to friends in my own home). As a result, I recently updated the projector I had been using and wanted to share my findings on the upgrade as well as comment on how projection technology has matured over recent years in light of this recent upgrade; and lastly how you might utilise projection in your own home to better display your photography.
Because of the length of this review I have broken it up into two parts. Part one is a little about the history of home cinema projection (from my perspective) and how the technology has evolved and Part two is the review of the new BenQ W11000H projector. If you aren’t interested in the history (I think it is interesting see where we came from) then you can just skip forward to Part two (which I will post in the next few days).Where we Came From: By way of a brief history, As well as my photographic background I also have an extensive background in high end home cinema. In my previous life in the 1990’s and early 2000’s I designed a great many home cinemas for clients and was (and still am) both an ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) certified technician and a Level II THX Certified technician. I was also certified by CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) in home cinema design. My designs won several ‘Best Home Theatre of the Year’ awards from CEDIA. When I say I designed home cinemas, I am not referring to your generic home theatre in a box solutions, bur rather to high end custom home cinemas designed to properly replicate (and in many cases significantly improve on) the movie going experience. When I first started designing home cinemas the only real projection option available was 3-gun CRT (Cathode Ray Tube). CRT projectors were extremely large, extremely expensive and extremely dim by cinema standards. In order to get any sort of reasonable light output you either had to run a very small screen in a completely dark room, or stack projectors for additional lumens (light output). Stacking projectors was neither cost effective nor convenient. It took up a huge amount of space, put a huge dent in your wallet and required significant and frequent alignment (CRT projectors were prone to ‘drift’ which meant they needed frequent calibration). In hindsight, they were quite honestly more trouble than they were worth most of the time. However, they were the only game in town before the advent of LCD, DLP, DILA and Laser and if you wanted a home cinema projector, CRT was about you’re only choice. Of course in those days if you wanted to display your photography on the wall you used a slide projector (remember slides?). At the time I was using a Leica slide projector on a portable screen I would set up whenever I wanted to do a slideshow. The result was good, but it was quite a hassle to setup and prepare.
With the advent of advancing digital technologies the game changed in home cinema projection and it was finally possible to get truly bright large screen projection at a reasonable price point (compared to what it used to cost with CRT). The very first projectors utilising these new digital technologies were quite honestly pretty awful by todays standard, but they were a quantum leap in brightness over the previous CRT units.
Fast forward a decade or so from the advent of digital projection and the technology continued to mature to the point where the CRT was completely dead and digital projection (be it single chip or 3 chip DLP, LCD, DILA or Laser) was providing excellent 1080p High Definition content on just about any size screen you could want at a price point that was affordable for many who were constructing dedicated home cinemas utilising projection. Of course, much depended on your screen size, and room application, but there was a product for just about every application and budget. It was also around this time people started using projectors to display their photographs instead of traditional slide projectors. Along with film and the Dodo, slide projectors went the way of the dinosaur.
In the space of just a few years 1080p HD content became the defacto standard for home cinema. It was around this point in time (a bit over ten years ago) I purchased and installed a Marantz VP11-S1 1080p single chip DLP Projector in my house. It was at the time an extraordinary, industry leading projector with a superb Konika Minolta glass lens. It was single chip DLP and not super bright (around 700 lumens), but it was ‘razor blade’ sharp with outstanding on-board video processing. It had a variable f-stop allowing you to tailor the black level to your environment and it provided a great deal of adjustment to obtain the best possible picture. Once properly calibrated it was regarded at the time as one of the finest single chip projectors on the market at just about any price (and it wasn’t cheap at around $17,000 USD MSRP.) I used it for the next ten years on a 92” acoustically transparent SMX THX projection screen in a dedicated light controlled room for both movies and for photographic slideshows. The Marantz VP11-S1 remains to this day an outstanding 1080p projector that stacks up very well against just about any other single chip 2k projector south of about fifteen grand. During the many years of ownership I also used the projector for slideshows of my photography as well as for screening photography documentaries (and general movies).Fast forward to today and digital resolution has continued to increase to the point where now have a number of new projectors coming into the market place offering 4K UHD resolution as well as HDR10 capability (Dolby Vision is also starting to make an appearance). The game has changed; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the game has evolved. With the advent of 4K Projectors capable of HDR it is now possible to obtain image quality in home via projection that was up until this point pure science fiction. Enter the BenQ W11000H 4K UHD THX Certified DLP Projector. The world’s first THX certified 4K UHD projector that is HDR capable and that can display photographs (and movies) in a resolution previously unavailable in the average home. Part two of this review will focus on the BenQ W11000H and will be published in the next few days.
In some very exciting news I learned today that my short film with Untitled Film Works, Ghosts of the Arctic has been selected to be filmed at the highly respected Chagrin Film festival in October this year.“The Festival is a five day celebration of the art of documentary film, at venues in and around the century village of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. This inspiring event draws audiences from all over Northeast Ohio, the US and the world to experience documentary films and the compelling art and culture they highlight.”I will be in Africa when the festival is underway leading my Namibia workshop, but if you stop past please be sure to drop me an email and let me know what it was like.
Of all the many thousands of photographs I have taken of Polar Bears over the last years this one of the large male bear climbing an iceberg covered in snow out on the frozen sea ice in winter as the polar night descends is my favourite. There is something about the bears gesture, the crunchy snow and ice stuck to the bears rear paw, and the simplicity of the composition that speaks to me on a very visceral and emotional level. I think its also that we don’t get to see the full face of the bear, but instead just enough to know its there. We get a hint of it, without getting the full picture and that leaves the imagination to fill in the blanks. Anytime you can successfully accomplish this in a photograph you create something powerful.Recently I was going through some B-Roll footage from the Ghosts of the Arctic short film in preparation for my recent talk at the Victorian Association of Photographic Societies (VAPS) convention and came across a short segment that caught the actual moment the bear climbed the ice and dragged its paw, revealing exactly when the photograph was taken. I decided to share the video (raw, ungraded and without stabilisation straight from the Red Epic – I just added some music) as I think its interesting to see how brief a period of time this moment was and how a few seconds either side would have been interesting, but no where near as powerful. You should be able to pin point the moment I clicked the shutter. A couple of interesting side things to note are how much larger the male is than the female and how the moment the female wakes and climbs over the ice the male immediately rises to follow. My sincere thanks to Abraham Joffe and his team at Untitled Film Works for allowing me to share the footage. Enjoy.