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provides short throw lenses that can project off-axis with lens shift, we have seen an increase in the use of our projectors and lenses where space is tight or where there are obstructions such as pillars.” Flexibility is, in many cases, the key in projector deployment – and that’s invariably provided by a zoom lens. Whether powered or manual zoom depends, it seems, on where the projector is to be sited – and cost and weight. “For portable projectors, a manual zoom is cheaper, lighter and easier to use,” points out Hsu. “For some large projectors, where it is difficult to access the lens once they are installed, motorised zoom would be preferable and can often be adjusted with a remote control.”

Optoma provides manual

and powered lenses – but as Halls points out, if an integrator is expecting to install a projector only once, he will typically not need a zoom option, and will save cost. It is typically projectors that will see multiple installs, or that will be located in such a way that manual access is impracticable, that justify the additional price of a zoom lens.

“It all depends on the application,” says Kaiser. “A powered zoom lens is fine for rental/staging with many changes of projector set-up and location. It’s not necessary for fixed installation, because the screen and picture size never change.”

MAKING A CHOICE There is a bewildering array of lens options to choose from – something of which projector manufacturers are aware. Panasonic provides an online simulation/visualisation tool in which variables such as room size, lens shift and zoom can be modified. Optoma also provides an online tool, and both companies expect to support their customers via expert guidance from their sales channel. Barco has a projector and lens calculator available on its website which is even capable of calculating a multichannel blended set-up, notes Marple. A downloadable version is also available. Vivitek offers a mobile app, as well as a web-based tool, to help determine requirements, while Digital Projection supports its lens range with a web-based capability, extensive documentation

30 June 2014

‘A good lens is an incredibly important part of any projector’ James Hsu, Vivitek

and application engineers. NEC’s website features a lens calculator, and this is supplemented for offline users with an Excel spreadsheet.

The theory of selecting a lens is fine – it’s a starting point, at least. But Jeffreys, long a proponent of AV in the real, rather than theoretical, world, is clear. “The challenge for

integrators is to understand that each lens option gives a variation in quality, brightness, uniformity and other image attributes relative to the ‘ideal’ projector/lens combination that one sees in the projector specification,” he says, “and to understand that a projector and its lens comprises a discrete system in itself.” “And then,” he concludes,

“to factor that into the overall system deliverable: the delivered image quality in the actual environment the user will see it in.” It is apparent that, even if lenses are easily overlooked by end users, they are a major focus for manufacturers and installers alike. Not only is significant attention paid to their optical qualities, but also to their functionality. And, in many cases, they represent a significant cost – especially in the rental/staging market – such that manufacturers will ensure that lenses are interchangeable from one generation of projector to the next. Quality, flexibility, innovation, low cost of ownership: lenses are the projector industry in microcosm. 


Horizon Community College is an Advanced Learning Centre in Yorkshire, UK, specialising in sports and creativity. The college shares its facilities with the local community, including, at 420 seats, the largest theatre in the area. For the theatre stage, the

college wanted a backdrop solution that was more cost effective, and allowed greater creativity, than a traditional installation would offer. It turned to NEC reseller Osborne Technologies, which proposed three NEC PA800X 6,000 lumen projectors in

a stacked, rear projection configuration using NEC’s automatic stacking set-up application. The projectors were fitted with NEC’s NP30ZL short zoom lens with a throw ratio of between 0.79 and 1.04.


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