Like many of you, I get tired of hearing industry buzzwords that should have meaning. Today, in the AV field, the word is “solution.” A company shouldn’t be ashamed of saying that it builds a product and not a “solution,” especially when the product does its job well and exceeds the customer’s expectations. However, if buying the right product solves your need, then perhaps a product can be a solution.
I have in my possession the new Canon REALiS WUX400ST Pro AV short-throw compact LCOS projector that truly is a solution. Because in the end, if the word and the reality match, then using the word is appropriate in this instance.
The Canon REALiS WUX400ST is a compact installation projector that uses LCOS technology featuring the highest fill factor in the digital display industry. It boasts a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, produces 4,000 lumens of light output and features a 0.56:1 short-throw lens. The short throw means that the projector can fill a seven-foot screen from a distance of only four feet away.
Brightness and resolution only work well with a strong contrast ratio, and which measures 2,000:1 on the WUX400ST. The projector has a built-in speaker and a monaural audio amplifier with 5 Watts of power. It weighs a bit less than 14 lbs. (6.3 kg) and measures roughly about 16.5 x 13.5 x 5.5 inches (L x W x H).
With healthcare being one of the fastest-growing segments of the display industry, Canon offers a REALiS WUX400ST D version of this product that includes a Dicom simulation mode ideal for viewing medical images such as X-rays and CT scans for educational and training purposes (not to be used for diagnostic applications).
Under the heading of nice to have, there is picture-by-picture capability, a USB memory stick port for directly playing a presentation, a decent-sounding built-in 5-Watt audio amplifier and extensive IP control using the projector’s Ethernet port. The WUX400ST consumes less than 0.081 Watts per lumen, and the standby power consumption was a mere 0.2 Watts, which are both very favorable when compared to similar products. Furthermore, the projector’s filter design provides for up to 12,000 hours of operation before needing replacement.
Connection panel for the Canon REALiS WUX400ST projector
After spending two weeks with the projector in both the lab and out in the real world conducting training seminars in all sorts of environments, we can state at the outset that the WUX400ST does not disappoint in any practical sense. Based on LCoS technology that uses the best of both reflective and transmissive elements in the core chip, we achieved excellent resolution and high contrast.
What we found is less of that dreaded screen door effect on screen where individual pixels are hard to ignore, combined with a contrast level that retained more content information often lost with other technologies we have tested. Let’s pause just a moment and look at optics and light, and how this relationship produced what we saw on screen.
As we tested the unit, its projected geometry and convergence was nearly perfect with little to no distortion or lens flare. This can be traced back to Canon’s newly improved Aisys optical engine.
Curiosity got the best of me and I opened the projector to examine all the optical components to see how they all fit together. What I uncovered was a whole set of optical groups in close proximity and alignment, obviously designed to work as a system to collect, combine, control and maximize the light. It was clear that this led to snappy projected performance.
While we are still speaking about the inside of the projector, I want to address the concept of color processing and the performance we encountered. You can have great optics and the most advanced core chip technology, but what if the color processing is inferior?
To the first order, this is related to color bit depth stated as so many bits. For the uninitiated, a bigger number is better. Many projectors use 8-bit processing, yet others are more advanced and use a 10-bit system. The folks at Canon evidently take their resident bit depth very seriously and use12-bit processing that is sophisticated in terms of how it handles each color.
In side-by-side comparisons with several projectors using lower bit depth processing, we found the difference to be quite noticeable. On most projectors we test, the basic reds, greens and blues come out fully saturated. However, with 12-bit processing you get nuances of the secondary colors, making photos and videos look more natural. With the Canon WUX400ST, graphics replicate the full range of Pantone colors that are used as a reference guide in advertising.
Combine the inherent film-like quality of LCoS imaging with advanced color processing and enhanced contrast, and it produces image fidelity that is unusually accurate. With a broadcast reference monitor as our guide, we saw that the image and the original content matched perfectly in most cases. The result is that the WUX400ST produces an outstanding picture.
The price of entry in the upper echelons of this projection category is image quality to be sure, but in our tests we found more than just a great picture. Since this is a short throw design, we would be remiss if we did not speak of the physical nature of short throw capability in some detail since this is a key application.
The specification states that this is a 0.56:1 lens, which translates into a projector that can produce a 100-inch image from as little as four feet away. Pretty impressive numbers, but we did not stop at the numbers on a spec sheet. What takes this projector to a completely different level is the mechanical lens shift capability that provides for the image to be raised vertically from 0 to 75 percent and horizontally plus-or-minus 10 percent.
This compares with other short-throw projectors on the market that have as little as 50-percent vertical lens shift. Canon’s extreme lens shift comes with apparently no effect on image quality—in our testing with both crosshatch and geometry test patterns, the WUX400ST performed extremely well with virtually no distortion.
We tucked the projector underneath the lip of a traditional conference table and got it completely out of the line of sight, and it could still be adjusted to produce an image above the table level with perfect image geometry.
Alan C. Brawn
Another of my favorite applications was to mount a series of these projectors along the ceiling and, thanks to the built-in edge blending with an overlap capability of 0- to 960-pixels horizontal and 0- to 600-pixels vertical, we created a continuous and seamless series of images as far as we had projectors. Because of the WUX400ST’s short-throw capabilities, the viewers are out of the light path of the projectors. Admittedly we only had a couple of units to test for the edge blend, but in this case the more the merrier—we could have gone hundreds of feet.
One final point on lensing is the fact that the 0.56:1 lens has a light transmission value of f 2.7. Before I lose you, this actually is extremely important and relates to depth of field. This should allow the projector to remain in focus as the screen surface curves.
To test this, we placed the projector on a curved screen and measured focus and uniformity in the center of the screen and on the curved extremities. With typical projectors having less depth-of-field capability, the curved areas become out of focus. However, curved areas stayed in focus with the Canon WUX400ST.
Some features on a projector often go unnoticed, and so it is with keystone correction. The assumption is that all keystone correction is the same. However, Canon’s four-point independent keystone correction in its REALiS product line is different.
We were able to adjust the WUX400ST to handle rather extreme projection angles, while still maintaining a sharp and evenly projected image. In addition, on some other projectors, keystone correction has a tendency to degrade the image in some manner. Although digital keystone correction has improved over the years, by design this feature uses fewer of the available pixels on the display (which should always be avoided if possible).
Canon has taken this to the next level of performance—the WUX400ST’s four-point system actually permitted us to take each corner of an image and adjust it independently, allowing for true diagonal projection. Couple this will high-quality moiré reduction and you get clear images without the loss of apparent resolution.
MORE INFO MODEL: Canon REALiS WUX400ST projector
PRICE: $4,500 (street)
Setting up the WUX400ST in different rooms and on different screens is fairly straightforward. The unit has five color temperature options and more than 25 built-in test patterns to assist in the calibration of the projector, so no external test pattern generator is required.
The benefits of the test patterns became obvious when we calibrated the projectors for side-by-side comparisons with other technologies, but the five color temperature options may not be so obvious.
Depending upon the source material, we were able to select individual color temperatures that matched the color temperature of the content. In this case, one size did not fit all and this was a benefit we could tangibly see on screen.
Our parting thought is this: Take a look at some of the problems you face in AV design and also look at some of the things you have wanted to do but didn’t have the right solution to accomplish the task. Now consider the Canon REALiS WUX400ST.
If the specifications don’t convince you, get a unit to look at for yourself. You will see what we saw, which is outstanding performance with installation options that open up new opportunities to satisfy your projection needs.