Why ANSI Matters: Shining a Light on Projector Lumens

This article is contributed by @Adam Jeffery

So you know you want a projector, you’ve even found a few you like. Each has good features and looks awesome, but will the one you choose be bright enough for what you want to use it for?

Light output can be measured in a number of ways, but when it comes to projectors the standard is to use lumens. You may be familiar with this as unit from household lightbulbs, torches etc.

Therefore if you want a bright projector, one that will work with ambient light or even outside, you buy the one with the most lumens, right? Well kind of; there is a catch though – in projectorland not all lumens are equal.

Why ANSI lumens can prevent you feeling antsy

Different manufacturers report projector brightness levels in different ways – you will see terms such as ANSI, ISO, LED, marketing, light source and plain old lumens – and yes, you guessed it – they are not equal or comparable.

In truth what each of these terms refers to is how and where the light was measured. Most reputable manufacturers nowadays will report either ANSI or ISO lumens as each uses a standardised measuring process, ensuring that comparisons are fair and the numbers reported actually mean something.

Generally if you see lumens, led lumens, marketing lumens or lux in the specs – this is a red flag. A claim of 7000 lumens is likely to be equivalent to something like 200-400 ANSI lumens while lux has nothing to do with lumens and should probably be avoided. If the projector you are looking at is quoting brightness using one of these measures then the advice is to find a review online which gives the ANSI spec so you know what you are buying and can compare projectors in a meaningful way. The nerd bit

ANSI lumens is a trusted standard as manufacturers using this method test projector output in nine specific places across a projected white image and the average of these is the value quoted. ISO is similar in its approach but takes data from multiple tests – a value of 100 ISO lumens would tend to be slightly dimmer than 100 ANSI lumens.

There is one more consideration – as with cars and efficiency figures, some manufacturers have products which deliver values during the tests that they do not really offer in real life – again the advice here is to find a trusted reviewer online who has tested the projector you are looking at with a light meter and reported the real-world ANSI lumen value. Doing this will give you reassurance as to what your potential new super-powered entertainment light box can do.

So how many ANSI lumens do you need?

Based on my experience with projectors you can use this as a rough guide:

  • 100 – 400 ANSI lumens: Capable of a small (40” or less) image in a room with ambient light or a larger (80”) image in a dark room
  • 500 – 1000 ANSI lumens: Will deliver a medium image (up to 60”) in a room with ambient light and a bright large (80-100”) image in a dark room
  • 1000 – 2000 ANSI: Usable for a large image in ambient light and will produce a super large image (100”+) in a dark room
  • 2000+ ANSI: Perfect for a super large (100”) image in ambient light – will be vivid in a dark room, capable of some outdoor use in the daytime (not in direct/bright sunlight). Know more details our 2100 ANSI lumens projector.

So is there anything else you need to know?

Two more things. Laser light is perceived as brighter by the human eye than LED or bulb sourced light. Many of the Wemax projectors available utilise laser light engines and this means 1000 ANSI lumens from one of these is likely to look brighter and more striking than 1000 from an LED-based or traditional projector.

What you are projecting on to makes a difference too – based on how much useful light it reflects back. While you can get special paints, a general rule of thumb is that a screen will deliver a brighter image than projecting on a wall and an ALR screen (ambient light reflecting) takes this a step further, offering the best image that your projector will be capable of producing.

What do I do now with all this information?

Given that you are on the Wemax site reading this, there is good news. Wemax has made quoting accurate and achievable ANSI lumens one of its core principles, so you can trust the specs that are quoted against each projector. Other reputable companies known for this include Benq and Optoma.

The takeaway: Three key things to remember

Brightness matters in the world or projectors – buy a projector which offers a brightness value high enough for how you want to use it. If the projector specs don’t include an ANSI lumen value then buyer beware. Make sure you know the ANSI lumen figure before making your decision to buy – otherwise it may not be suitable for what you want to use it for.

Check reviews online to confirm real-world ANSI brightness if you are buying a projector which is not from a manufacturer known for reporting accurate ANSI lumen values.

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