For a number of front projection installation applications, the typical throw distance of today’s projectors isn’t sufficiently short or long. While virtually all front projectors offer some degree of zoom adjustment, either manual or motorized, they’re spec’d for the most common installation situations.
Older CRT-based front projectors were typically equipped with lenses featuring short throw ratios, and owners looking to replace them with a modern HD equivalent face removal and re-installation of the ceiling mount, as well as re-positioning wiring, among other challenges. A rear projection system also benefits from a very short throw ratio, saving valuable space behind the screen.
Others may wish to have the projector mounted at the extreme rear of the room for a variety of reasons, including aesthetics, minimizing fan noise from intruding into the prime seating area, or even putting the projector in a custom soffit or hush box, and for them, only a projector with a very long throw distance will suffice.
Optoma, makers of a range of popularly-priced HD projectors (including their marvelous HD20 1080p DLP model, which is priced at an amazing $999 list), have taken up the challenge and now offer their HD8600 with three lens choice options, at a price far below that of other projectors that offer interchangeable lenses.
Consider this projector if: you need a projector with either a very short or a very long throw ratio that’s well outside that of the typical throw range of fixed lens front projectors. In addition to the standard throw lens option, Optoma offers a fixed short throw (0.77:1 distance/width) lens and a zoom-able long throw (1.93~2.90:1 d/w) lens.
Look elsewhere if: your situation doesn’t require either a short or long throw lens. There are a host of lower cost alternatives, including Optoma’s own HD8200 model, which is a very good performer at a price of roughly $1,500 less than that of the HD8600 with the standard throw lens.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced projectors):
High definition front projectors with interchangeable lenses have typically been offered by the premium tier custom installation-oriented brands, such as Runco, Digital Projection, and Projection Design to name three of the better known brands in the interchangeable lens segment. The price tag for this class of gear typically starts in the five-figure range and escalates upward from there. With the introduction of the HD8600, Optoma dramatically lowers the cost of entry into this exclusive front projection class.
Shipped without a lens, the HD8600 is a step up from the firm’s HD8200 model (reviewed in Playback 22), with a brighter lamp (280 watts vs. 220 watts), an additional HDMI input, along with premium all-glass lenses offered among the interchangeable lens options. We tested the unit with the standard throw lens, which is a wonderfully machined affair that connects to the projector body in an instant via a bayonet turn and lock insertion. On the removable lens barrel is a four-pin connector that mates with a partner connector in the projector’s lens hole for motorized iris control, and it automatically links up with its mate when the lens is twisted and locked into place.
The long throw lens option (a $1,000 premium over the standard throw lens) offers variable zoom, while the short throw lens (a $1,500 premium) is a fixed throw ratio affair. As with other Optoma projectors, the focus and zoom (or focus only on the short throw lens) are manually adjusted.