The 10 best projectors for photographers in 2018

A living room with a projector casting a bright image on the wall

If you want to share your photographs en masse then it’s time to go massive. A video projector will cast your images 100 inches across (or more), and are a great way to serve up JPEGs (and videos) at presentations, events or club meets.

Whether you want to display your shots from a USB stick, or cast wirelessly from a mobile device, projectors make supersizing simple and fun. They come in various shapes, sizes (and prices), so buying the right type is crucial.

DLP or 3LCD?

There are two key projection technologies. DLP models use a digital micromirror device (DMD) allied to a spinning colour wheel to create images. They tend to be competitively priced and because they use a single device, can deliver very sharp pictures. However, that colour wheel can cause an artefact known as rainbow fringing (particularly on cheaper models), where colour flashes can be seen in areas of high contrast. If you specialise in monochrome, they may not be the best choice.

3LCD projectors use a trio of aligned LCD panels. These projectors give the most cinematic of images, with naturalistic colour, but often don’t seem quite so sharp as DLP.

In most rooms, you’ll need at least three metres (ten feet) of space to cast a 100-inch display. If that’s not possible, consider an Ultra Short Throw projector. These sit up close to your screen (or wall), often less than 10cm, but use mirrors to throw a large projection. Remember, in all cases, image resolution will determined by the projector hardware in use. 

UHP, Laser or LED?

Finally, consider light sources. Most projectors use UHP lamps. These have a lifespan of around 4,000 hours; they’re bright but will need replacing. Alternatively, a laser light engine will run undiminished for 20,000 hours or more. Low-brightness LED light sources are typically used in ultra-small models. 

OK, enough preamble. Here’s our guide to the very best video projectors you can buy right now... 

front view of the Optoma UHD51

1. Optoma UHD51

This versatile all-rounder boasts excellent UHD picture quality

Resolution: 3840 x 2160 | Brightness (claimed): 2,400 lumens | Contrast (claimed): 500,000:1 | Zoom: 1.3 | Dimensions: 392(w)x281(h)x118(d)mm | Weight: 5.22kg

Copious image adjustments
Sharp, dynamic picture quality
It needs a dark room to really shine

This low-cost UHD projector uses an XPR (eXpanded Pixel Resolution) 0.47-inch DMD chip to produce 4K images. It’s a sharp performer, with a strong colour performance and low noise. 

There are two HDMI inputs, as well as PC VGA and USB. There’s a fair amount of additional configuration on offer. Multiple gamma settings are available, and there’s variable colour gamut selection. A six-segment RGBRGB colour wheel claims to cover 100% of the BT.709 colour space.   

Images are pin-sharp and colour accuracy is superb. Black level can be tweaked using the Dynamic Black setting. We preferred it Off, however some might like the denser blacks it produces. For the greatest contrast, keep the lamp setting on Bright.

front view of the Epson EH-LS100 projector

2. Epson EH-LS100

This Ultra Short Throw laser projector is perfect for big-venue presentations

Resolution: 1920x1080p | Brightness (claimed): 4,000 ANSI lumens | Contrast (claimed): 250,000:1 | Zoom: 1.35 Ultra Short Throw | Dimensions: 494(w)x188(h)x437(d)mm | Weight: 11kg

Sensationally bright
Long-lasting laser light engine
Limited to 1920x1080p resolution
Large and quite noisy in operation

Not everyone will have room for a conventional projector, but that doesn’t mean you can’t supersize your images. An Ultra Short Throw model can be positioned just centimetres from a wall or screen, and still cast a huge image. 

Epson’s EH-LS100 is one of the most advanced UST projectors out there. With a laser light engine, it offers ease of use and longevity, and is amazingly bright at 4,000 lumens, more than bright enough to be used in moderate ambient light. That’s because it’s based on the brand’s EB corporate UST projection range. This also explains its size. This is no compact, and it’s a bit on the noisy side!

Resolution is Full HD. There are three HDMI inputs, as well as VGA, USB  and composite video. The projector works from a distance of just 6cm, but we could effectively fill the best part of an entire room wall from 48cm. 

An LCD projector, it uses a T 0.67-inch 3LCD device with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Contrast is rated at 2,500,000:1. It’s perfect for club houses and larger rooms.

BenQ W1050 projector

3. BenQ W1050

This compact low-cost 1080p projector is amazing value for money

Resolution: 1920x1080p | Brightness (claimed): 2,200 ANSI Lumens | Contrast (claimed): 15,000:1 | Zoom: 1.2 | Dimensions: 332(w)x99(h)x214(d)mm | Weight: 3kg

Highly detailed DLP images
Bright and simple to use
Not exactly quiet when on full lamp power
Awkward little remote control

You don’t need to spend big to get huge images. This bijou BenQ offers an excellent performance for far less than you might imagine. Finished in trendy white, with a 1.2x zoom, it’ll cast a 100-inch image from between 2.8 and 3.36m.

The lamp output is adjustable between Normal, Economic and Smart Eco, which automatically adjusts lamp brightness based on content. For the best results stick with Normal, which casts really bold imagery.  

The projector is a single chip DLP HD model that uses a six-segment RGBRGB colour wheel. Source inputs include two HDMIs and PC VGA. It’s a brilliant budget option.

Acer 6820i projector

4. Acer V6820i

Alexa, is this 2160p 4K DLP projector really ready to respond to voice control?

Resolution: 3840x2160p | Brightness (claimed): 2,400 lumens | Contrast (claimed): 10,000:1 | Zoom: 1.3 | Dimensions: 398(w)x127(h)x297.5(d)mm | Weight: 5.5kg

Versatile wireless connection options
Alexa voice control is a novelty
Not the sharpest image for a 4K model
You'll need a light-controlled viewing room

Acer’s UHD resolution V6820i isn’t just distinguished by its good looks, it’s also the first projector to land that’s compatible with Amazon Alexa voice control. Once set-up you can use Alexa to change image presets and select sources (useful if you can’t be bothered with the backlit remote control). Connectivity comprise two 4K capable HDMI inputs, twin USBs and VGA. 

Using the supplied Wi-Fi dongle, you can also stream images directly from a mobile device, using the EZCast app. With a zoom of 1.3x, you’ll need around 3m to throw a 110-inch image. If you have problems running physical leads, the projector can also be used with a Wireless HD connection kit.

A DLP XPR model, image quality is good, although perhaps not quite as sharp as rival 4K models available. Colour vibrancy is high and contrast reasonable. It’s not that bright though, so you’ll want to use it in a light-controlled room.

The Acer VL7860 projector

5. Acer VL7860

Expensive laser-light beamer delivers a sensational UHD performance

Resolution: 3840x2160p | Brightness (claimed): 3,000 ANSI lumens | Contrast (claimed): 1,500,000:1 | Zoom: 1.6 | Dimensions: 457(w)x157(h)x289(d)mm | Weight: 8kg

Superb colour vibrancy
Long-life laser engine
You pay a premium for laser longevity
A bit on the noisy side

Most projectors use a conventional UHP lamp. At some point, they’ll dim to unusability and need replacing. A laser light engine, like that in this Acer, will never need replacing. Life expectancy is 20,000 hours, rising to 30,000 when run in Eco mode. 

There are other benefits from laser. The projector offers near instant-on, and has sensational colour richness, as well as decent near blacks. 

The design is techno-chic. There are two HDMIs, but one is 4K capable. There’s also a PC VGA and USB connectivity. 

A 1.6X zoom should suit most viewing spaces. Brightness is rated at a creditable 3,000 lumens. Images are extra sharp, thanks to XPR (eXpanded Pixel Resolution) DLP technology. A Super Resolution mode gives an extra boost to fine detail.

For the cleanest fine detail projection, with no obvious edge enhancement, keep the Sharpness setting on a tight lease, no more than 1 on the sliding scale.

The Optoma HD39 Darbee Special Edition projector

6. Optoma HD39 Darbee Special Edition

If you want a 1080p projector with eyecandy appeal, this Darbee model will do it

Resolution: 1920x1080p | Brightness (claimed): 3,500 ANSI lumens | Contrast (claimed): 32,000:1 | Zoom: 1.6 | Dimensions: 314(w)x114(h)x224(d)mm | Weight: 2.8kg

Darbee Visual Presence processing is a fun gimmick
Gloriously bright
Colours can look a bit garish

This mid-range Full HD projector has Darbee Visual Presence processing built-in. For those not in the know, Darbee is used to give images extra bite or deepen colour saturation. It features three presets, each with variable processing strength. 

Essentially this enhancement lifts white highlights, gives contrasty edges more definition, and cleans up colour. Whether it’s of any genuine benefit is up for debate, but superficially the end result can look impressive.

Overall, we rate this a solid performer regardless. Beneath the lid is a standard 0.65-inch DMD chip. Tweaks to improve black level performance include Dynamic Black and variable Gamma.  

With 3,500 ANSI lumens peak brightness, the projector can be used in a reasonably bright room. Source inputs cover two v1.4a HDMI inputs and USB. Overall, it’s quite the crowd pleaser.

The Sony VPL-VW550ES projector

7. Sony VPL-VW550ES

Stunning high-end SXRD model offers a class leading ultra HD performance...for a price

Resolution: 4096x2160p | Brightness (claimed): 1,800 ANSI lumens | Contrast (claimed): 350,000:1 | Zoom: 2.10 | Dimensions: 496(w)x202(h)x464(d)mm | Weight: 14kg

Unbeatable 2160p image resolution
Excellent colour and black level performance
Frighteningly expensive
So big it should be paying rent

For the ultimate in image clarity, look to a UHD SXRD projector. Unlike cheaper DLP models, Sony’s SXRD panels are natively UHD, with no clever interpolation required to deliver pixel-dense images.  

You’ll need a big space for it, though. While beautifully built, the VPL-VW550ES isn’t small. It tips the scales at a formidable 14kg, so you won’t be pulling it from the sock draw to show your holiday snaps – it warrants, nay demands, permanent installation. Connections include twin HDMI inputs plus USB. 

Image quality is high, as it should be given the price. Sony’s proprietary Reality Creation Pro image processing really emphasises detail and texture. Contrast ratio is rated at 350,000:1.

The LG PH450UG Minibeam projector

8. LG PH450UG Minibeam

Portable with an Ultra Short throw, you can use this battery-powered beamer anywhere

Resolution: 1920x1080p | Connections: HDMI (1.4), USB | Brightness (claimed): 1,450 ANSI lumens | Contrast (claimed): 10,000:1 | Dimensions: 132(w)x200(h)x80.5(d)mm | Weight: 1.1kg

Reasonable battery life
Ultra Short Throw design
720p resolution limits potential screen size
Not particularly bright

Offering a sharper image than many rival Pico projectors, LG’s Minibeam UST (Ultra Short Throw) LED projector has a resolution of 720p and a brightness of 1,450 ANSI lumens. That’s impressive for projector not much bigger than a ready meal.

Connections are limited to a single HDMI input and USB reader. Focus is manual, via the wheel above the inputs. There’s also a simple Screen Share mode for compatible smartphones, which is an easy way to share jpeg stills.  

Image quality if good given the convenience. Colours are bright enough to impress, while contrast is rated at 10,000:1.

You need just 7.5cm to cast a 40-inch display. Move it 16cm from the wall and you get the equivalent of a 50-inch display. If you want something more dramatic, move back to 60cm and you’ll fill a wall. 

Of course, the bigger you go, the more pixel break-up you’ll see. You can defocus a little to hide the coarseness, but it's not really a recommended strategy.

Genuinely portable, the Minibeam’s battery will run for around 2.5 hours fully charged. And with an Ultra Short Throw projector you never have to worry about casting a shadow by walking in front of the light.

The BenQ W1700 projector

9. BenQ W1700

This budget 4K DLP projector is well worth an audition

Resolution: 1920x1080p | Brightness (claimed): 3,500 ANSI lumens | Contrast (claimed): 32,000:1 | Zoom: 1.6 | Dimensions: 314(w)x114(h)x224(d)mm | Weight: 2.8kg

Easy to use
Good colour performance
Needs a dark room to look its best

Another budget 4K resolution offering, BenQ’s W1700 combines a curvaceous design with plug & play simplicity. Beneath the hood is a standard lamp which offers a 2,200 lumens output, so it’s best used in light-controlled rooms. Contrast ratio is modestly rated at 10,000:1.

With a 1.2x zoom, the projector will throw a 100-inch image from 3.25m. The projector features the familiar 0.47-inch XPR DLP DMD chip, allied to an RGBRGB colour wheel. Fidelity is impressive, courtesy of BenQ’s CinematicColor processor, however there’s a limit to just how much detail this model can extract from the shadows.  

Connections include two HDMI inputs, plus PC VGA. The remote is helpfully backlit.

The ViewSonic M1 projector

10. Viewsonic M1

Bargain battery-powered portable projects big pictures in a pinch

Resolution: 854x480p | Brightness (claimed): 250 lumens | Contrast (claimed): 120,000:1 | Zoom: 1.2 | Dimensions: 148(w)x40.5(h)x126(d)mm | Weight: 1.8kg

Generous battery life
Truly pocketable design
Not particularly bright
Limited image resolution

Pocket projectors were all the rage when flatscreens cost more than the monthly shop. But while interest has dulled, they’re still a good option for impromptu screen shows. 

The ViewSonic M1 is one of the cutest. This ultra-portable LED projector can stand upright on its own carry handle, and comes with a basic remote, yet still finds room for on-body controls. Connections include an HDMI output and USB, but there’s no Bluetooth support. There’s a MicroSD card slot, and 16GB of onboard storage.

It will run for up to six hours off batteries, but can be powered via the mains.

Resolution is limited to 854 x 480 WVGA. Brightest is pegged at just 250 lumens, with a dynamic contrast of 120,000:1, so it’s best used in a dark environment. It has a fixed zoom and a throw distance of 40-inches to 1m. The LED light source is rated at a whopping 30,000 hours.

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