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Review: Sony VPL-FHZ120L

All too often, I have a client who has a projection need that falls into the gap between the available options. It may be pricing or features, but I find the available options are less than ideal. This time it was an auditorium that had the need for a projector that was bright enough to fill a large screen and fit a restricted budget. If that were all we needed, there are some options. But since this projector had to be mounted from the ceiling rather than in a projection booth, it left me with the challenges that include access for maintenance, a very high ceiling and the client concern expressed about the amount of noise projector might make when mounted in a very quiet space. In this case, Sony has come to the rescue with the new VPL-FHZ120L projector.

The Basics

Here are the things you need to know about the VPL-FHZ120L. This is a projector has been developed specifically for installations and its size and weight bear that out. It has a 16:10 aspect ratio and a native 1920×1200 (WUXGA) resolution. This projector provides a bright 12,000 Lumen image from a 3 chip LCD engine with a laser light source and produces a modest 42dB of noise at full light output.

The VPL-FHZ120L has a variety of both analog and digital input connections, so it is a candidate for a retrofit into an existing system that has not yet been converted to all digital. In addition to the standard input connections, there is a slot that allows for the addition of an optional 3G-SDI input connection. The VPL-FHZ120L does not come with a lens, but there are a wide range of options available to fit about any application. One other benefit to the VPL-FHZ120L is that Sony backs the projector with a 5-year or 12,000-hour warranty.


Sony has seven different lenses options for the VPL-FHZ120L. They range from a manual zoom lens sporting a throw ratio of 1.0:1 to a powered, very long-throw lens with a ratio of 5.56:1-7.5:1. These lenses also provide a wider than typical range of vertical and horizontal shift. The amount of shift varies by lens, so here is how the stack up:

The significance of these numbers is that the typical vertical shift limits where the projector can be mounted. In this case, many of these lenses allow the projector to mounted well above the screen. This flexibility allows the projector to be mounted closer to the ceiling and to minimize the projected light to shine in the eyes of a presenter near the screen. One final note about these lenses, there is one that provides additional features. When using the 1.30:1-1.95:1 (VPLL-Z4111) lens, the projector provides six memory presets. These presets include picture position, aspect ratio and display image size.


In the case of the VPL-FHZ120L, the light engine has some new features that really help to improve the performance of this projector. First, Sony makes their own chips. In this case, Sony has developed a new 1.0” LCD chipset. These larger chips allow this projector to create a significantly brighter image. To add to the capabilities of the projector, Sony uses their own Large Scale Integrated (LSI) microprocessor chips. Then add some very smart software and the combination is part of what makes this projector quite impressive.

One of the features is an integral ‘Optical Compensator’ that reduces the non-polarized light within the projector from ‘leaking’ out through the lens. The long and short of this cleverly developed feature improves the black-level performance. I will translate: better black levels mean that the image you see looks brighter and more vibrant.

Since I am commenting on color, accurate color is as important as brightness. One of the considerations is how the projector performs over time. We all know that a laser engine will last longer than several traditional lamps, but even with a laser, the color and brightness will shift and diminish over time. What Sony has done is to provide a couple of modes that make the VPL-FHZ120L capable of consistent light and color over an extended period of use. The folks at Sony have developed two impressive features that keep the projector operating at a consistent level. These are an ‘Extended’ light output mode and an internal color sensor.

In the ‘Extended’ mode, the overall light output is reduced from 12,000 Lumens to 10,000 Lumens. This sacrifice in light is offset by the consistent light level for 14,000 hours.

The color sensor, when activated, keeps the image at a predictable standard calibration. The sensor that has been factory calibrated to Rec709 (ITU-R-BT.709). While the calibration to Rec709 may not mean much to you, this feature will recalibrate the color every 500 hours.

For those who might consider using this projector in a healthcare application, the VPL-FHZ120L does provide for DICOM emulation. Just as a reminder, DICOM emulation refers to the capability to adjust the Gamma settings in accordance with the Grayscale Standard Display Function (GSDF) as a part of the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) standards. That is a lot of fancy language that describes the way a projector will support the display of some medical imagery. While this projector is not intended for use as a diagnostic display, it does a credible job of emulation. If your application needs this feature, you are likely to already know what this means. If you have never heard of DICOM, don’t worry, it is likely that you do not need it.

One of the challenges of a large venue is the need to mount the projector in a location that is not easily accessed. With the projector high above the floor, maintenance becomes a serious effort. The location may necessitate the need for tall ladders or scaffolding for service. You could always mount the projector on a lift, but that adds as much as $10,000.00 to the installation cost.

We know that a laser engine light source will last about 20,000 hours (about 9.6 years at 8 hours a day, 5 days a week). However, the light source is not the only thing that needs maintenance. Any projector that has an air filter, requires routine maintenance. The VPL-FHZ120L has the ability to clean its own filter and the filter life is about 10,000 hours. To make this possible, Sony has created a mechanism that taps on the filter to clear the collected dust. This function occurs at 100-hour intervals and when the projector is in standby. This happens automatically, but I found the manual filter cleaning function and I had to try it. I set the mode to manual cleaning and put the projector into ‘Standby.’ A few seconds later there were several unmistakable thumps from inside the projector. It was not the typical sound you expect from a projector.

The combination of the engine life, self-cleaning filter, color correction and extended light output modes, this projector will only need a filter change during its expected life.

The VPL-FHZ120L includes some other nice features that make it worth considering. First, the projector has a mode that allows for side-by-side display of two images. Any two of the input source images may be selected and shown next to each other. There is no need for a windowing processor just to compare two images.

Further, the VPL-FHZ120L has an impressive set of geometric adjustments that provide edge blending and warping. And, the projector even accommodates 3-D projection. This combination of features puts the projector in a class of more expensive projectors that support special applications such as multiple projector for one larger image, or projecting onto dimensional objects.


In many of my designs, remote control is shifting from serial connections to a network communication. While the VPL-FHZ120L does have a serial connector, the projector provides for a Local Area Network (LAN). This is becoming more significant for remote monitoring and management. For me, this option is mandatory as most of the systems I deal with are connected to a network. This provision allows for both local control and the ability to remotely manage the display.

The Sony VPL-FHZ120L projector is a great candidate for larger venues. It is not an inexpensive projector, but with the features and the lenses, it may be a great option. The VPL-FHZ120L does not require much maintenance and is quiet enough to be mounted in a quiet room. With the wide range of lens shift, you can mount this projector closer to the ceiling than many other options. This makes the installation much less obtrusive. Finally, the raised mounting position can minimize image glare in the presenter’s eyes. With its high brightness, accurate color, long-term image quality, the VPL-FHZ120L will support venues with larger screen sizes.



PRODUCT: VPL-FHZ120L 12K projector

PROS: High brightness, color accuracy, Wide lens shift range, extensive adjustments, low maintenance

CONS: Size, weight,

APPLICATIONS: Installed projection for Larger classrooms, larger training rooms, auditoria and other large sized venues

PRICE: $30,000 MSRP (no lens)


Engine Type: Laser Phosphor, 3-Chip LCD

Native Resolution: WUXGA (1920×1200)

Brightness: 12,000 Lumen

Throw ratio as tested: 1.30 – 1.96:1

Input Connectivity: Analog: 5 BNC and HD15 Connector)

Digital: DVI-D, HDMI, HDBaseT

Network Connectivity: Wired and HDBaseT

Lens Shift V: ±30% to ±107%, H: ±51%to ±60%

Fan Noise: 42dB (at full light output)

UNIT WEIGHT: 61.6lbs. (excluding lens)

DIMENSIONS: 21.42in. x 8.1in. x 22.21in. (excluding lens)

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