With all the hype around new solid-state projection light sources, namely lasers and LEDs, it might seem that the use case for lamp projection is fast fading from the annals of the industry. history.
However, while LED and laser projectors offer considerable advantages in terms of maintenance and long-term costs, their higher initial costs may come as a shock to some customers, although in the market for projectors under 6000 lumens, the prices have now come down to the point that most will consider a laser projector to be a more economical choice.
Now let's see what makes each technology unique, and when you might choose one over the other.
The time-tested projection lamp has been around for decades and has constantly undergone new innovations, such as brighter light and longer life. However, for most of its history, its lifespan was measured in hundreds of hours; it's only been in the last ten years or so that we've started to see projection lamps that last over 1000 hours.
Along with the evolution of lamps, the need for ever higher light output led to the introduction of dual lamp systems. This achieved the desired effect, but also increased maintenance costs to keep the unit running.
Newer projectors now boast lifespans of 5,000 hours and even 10,000 hours if the projector is used in "Eco" mode, which reduces lamp power in favor of longevity. With numbers like that, it's hard to say that lamp projection is about to disappear.
So why choose a tube solution over a solid state solution? The simplest answer is that lamp projectors are best for those who only use projection intermittently, like movie night once a month or twice a week in a classroom. One could easily argue that churches, especially small churches that don't have much activity during the week, could still find a valid use case in lamp projectors, which are now less expensive.
However, the long-term impact of the need to replace lamps must be considered. Even with a long life of 5,000 hours, when a small church has a blown projector lamp, how available will a replacement lamp be? Will we have to find a replacement lamp in five years? Maybe ten years or more?
Even so, I would say that in many cases lamp projection is still a viable and more affordable solution.
Until fairly recently, most LED projectors didn't deliver impressive numbers: low brightness, shoddy imaging chips producing less desirable imaging, and plenty of foreign and off-brand manufacturers flooding the market with substandard products have left many consumers wary, and for good reason.
However, in 2017, Hitachi was the first to announce a 3,500 lumen LED projector, which paved the way for other manufacturers like Optoma, Panasonic, Epson and Casio to launch full-LED or hybrid-LED projectors. /laser.
As with laser engines, the generally more affordable LED models can claim to operate for 20,000 hours or more and are virtually maintenance free (most still have filters that should be cleaned at recommended intervals) . These projectors can be a great help for those who have projectors installed in hard to reach places or who use their projector every day and therefore would burn out a lamp at a faster rate. In this case, frequent use means better long-term value. Another benefit that may not be immediately obvious is that using a solid state light source can result in a reduction in the heat generated, which can have a significant impact in small spaces or orientations. unique, such as when mounting a projector at a non-standard angle. Museums, art installations, and environmental projection immediately come to mind as potential use cases for this feature.
LED light sources have been around in the lighting industry for a long time, but they are relatively new to the professional projection market and as such still have some way to go before they catch up with projection lamps and laser projection in terms of light output. But, given the incredible amount of money invested in LED research, I wouldn't be surprised to see brighter, even longer-lasting LED solutions hitting the market as early as late 2019 or early 2020. We've already seen new models showcased for the home theater and professional projector segments at CES 2019 and this year's ISE, which feature 4K resolution, ultra short throw capability and 3,500 lumens output.
Arguably one of the fastest growing segments of the professional AV industry, laser projectors feature similar features to LED projectors, such as a 20,000 hour lifespan, virtually maintenance free, lower heat generation, possibility of non-standard angle mounting, etc.
The main difference between laser and LED is that laser projectors can be purchased with higher light output (up to and potentially beyond 30,000 lumens), meaning larger venues can now take advantage of the lower long-term cost of ownership that solid-state light engines provide. Large churches, theaters, schools, exhibits with outdoor projection, and other spaces and applications that require large-format projection can use laser to reduce costs without sacrificing brightness, color saturation, or quality of the image.
Additionally, you can find a laser option in virtually any industry vertical, be it travel, business, education, facilities, touring, etc., while the Specialized professional LED projector options for certain segments are either non-existent or under development.
For the most part, laser projection technology is currently ahead of LED technology in these areas, but I expect that distance to narrow over the next two years.
In terms of costs, we are seeing a downward trend across the industry, with lamp-based projection being at the low end. Why this change? At this point in the history of the industry, we see manufacturers moving away from a model dependent on customer replacement of filters and lamps to simply replacing projectors as a whole.
What is the right choice for you? I would say it all depends on how many hours you plan to use your projector each week, as well as what budget you have. For my own projector, I opted for a lamp model with a lifespan of 5,000 hours because it suited my budget and my use of a few hours a week.
However, if you need your projector several hours a week, and/or if it needs to be installed in a hard-to-reach place, laser or LED may be a better solution for you. Remember, however, that you will probably need to clean the filter from time to time no matter which technology you choose.
Ultimately, it's important to do your research, as buying a projector for home or for a business/institution can be a significant financial outlay. Other factors should also factor into your decision - the number of lumens you need, the ambient lighting in your space, the resolution you require, the content you are displaying (mostly text, mostly images /movies or a mix of the two?), the size of the screen you need, the screen hardware you use or have and how your projection needs will likely change over the next five years . These are all questions you need to ask, and answer, before you make your purchase to avoid buyer's remorse and ensure you're happy with your projection system now and in the future.