Projector Photography involves projecting patterns, shapes, textures, or photos onto objects, people, and/or landscapes to create interesting effects and accentuate form.
- Lumens: 800 lumens when plugged in, 400 lumens on battery
- Native Resolution: 1280x800
- Contrast Ratio: 2,000:1 (this basically means that a white pixel with RGB values maxed out at 255,255,255 is 2,000 times brighter than the darkest black pixel with RGB values of 0,0,0.)
- Inputs: HDMI/VGA/AV/USB/Micro SD 🙂 (I prefer the Micro SD card because it remains inside of the unit, whereas USB protrudes out)
- Onboard Battery (90 Minute)
- Can project images onto surfaces 9 to 150+ inches away from projector. When the projector is X centimeters away from the projection surface, the projected image will measure as X centimeters in length, diagonally.
- Tripod mount on bottom of unit 🙂
- Keystoning: auto and manual, vertical only (I'll show you what keystoning is later on in the article)
- Manual focus only
- Dimensions: 8.3" * 5.3" * 3.1", small enough to fit in a camera bag 🙂
- Weight: 2.44 lbs, lightweight enough to confidently put on any tripod or light stand 🙂 Attach a Giottos Mini Ballhead to enable vertical orientation if using a light stand.
- Can read PNG, baseline rendered JPEGs (not progressive), BMP, and MP4 video files.
- No zoom, so there is no rotary dial for that
The M5 is the same thing as the M4 except that it is more rectangular, so it can be placed vertically on a table. The M5 is 100 lumens brighter, has 70 min battery, and is smaller.
Not all projectors are perfect, here is what I mean...
The Aaxa M4 does have the screen-door effect and is more pronounced when projecting images onto surfaces that are further away from the projector. The screen-door effect can be reduced by slightly defocusing the focus ring on the projector, however the projection is then slightly defocused.
The Aaxa M4/M5 projector could be improved in that:
- A gapless video looping option would be very useful, as well as the ability to display animated GIFs. (email them and tell them to update the firmware!)
- When displaying an image with a small resolution of say 4x4 pixels, it will resize that image to be 800x800. There should be an option that allows you to stretch it to fit screen (in this case 800x800) OR to display it as 4x4. (Email them!)
- Keystoning should be more expandable.
With all that being said, you can do some pretty cool stuff with this projector. Here are some ideas:
Techniques and Ideas
Projecting patterns onto humans, landscapes, flora, and objects all work well.
You can hook the projector up to a laptop (or tablet/phone) and use Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator (or whatever else), live, in real-time, to draw light onto surfaces with maximum precision. You can do the same thing using animations as well. Just hit the F key twice to enter Full Screen Mode when you are in Adobe programs.
You can project a pattern onto a model, and have the model move around to create an interesting long exposure light painting abstract. You can also project a video of a moving pattern onto a model or anything else, and have them move around (or not) to create another type of long exposure light painting. Here is a long exposure of white dots/stars spiraling inward, with a model on the right.
You can take a long exposure image of a person walking in front of the projector a few meters away, walking from the left side of the projection to the right side of the projection while projecting a video where a white scan-line starts at the top row of pixels, slowly slides downward, and ends up at the bottom row of pixels. This is known as slit-scan photography. More information about this specific technique will be in the image pack.
You can use the projector as a light painting device for long exposures, being able to project any shape or color of light onto any surface, and be able to change the color of the light as it is moving at any speed.
There are projectors out there that are brighter and higher res than the M4, however they are larger, heavier, more expensive, and do not come with an on-board battery. Here is a comparison of the most relevant projectors that are 'better' than the M5 that I could find during my research. As far as I know right now, LCoS/SXRD technology (as opposed to DLP or LCD) reduces screen-door effect and eliminates rainbow effect, and using lasers instead of LEDs as the light source also reduces screen-door effect and requires no focus ring. Comment below if you know otherwise.
The instruction manual for the VPL-HW65ES states that it you should avoid aiming the projector up/down more than 15 degrees, for some reason, so that is a bit of an issue.
There are cheaper and smaller projectors available as well but they are not as bright.
Other than that, I have not looked into other projectors that could be used. If you have any specific recommendations for something you feel is better than the M5, feel free to leave the name of the projector down below in the comments and a reason or two of why it is good/better.
If you don't have $500....
A gobo is a physical stencil or template slotted inside, or placed in front of, a lighting source, used to control the shape of emitted light. You can make the shadows of the projection sharper by making the lightsource smaller in relation to the gobo stencil, use non-diffused light sources, and/or increase the distance of the gobo from the light source. Miniature krypton light bulbs that are used in Maglites can produce extremely sharp shadows because the light source is so small. Non-diffused tungsten light bulbs can also be used and create decently sharp shadows.
The Light Blaster is a type of gobo/light combo system that converts your portable speedlight flash into a slide projector. I prefer the Aaxa M4 because of the unlimited amount of patterns and sizes of projections that can be projected, however a speedlight would be better if you wanted to capture highspeed images of say fog or rain, where you could see each individual particle very clearly with no motion blur.
Theoretical Features the Ideal Projector Would Have....
- have an on-board battery
- have the ability to quickly manually adjust the lumens output by rotating a physical knob on the projector
- have no screen-door effect
- have a greater contrast ratio so that blacks render with no noticeable illumination
- have at least 1080p native resolution - 1080p is more standardized and inclusive than 1280x800.
- have no rainbow-effect
- have no chromatic aberration ie. uses a lens that has no chromatic aberration. A projector that could accept DSLR lenses would be very, very cool. I would want to try mounting a circular fisheye to the projector and get a full 180 degree spread projection, or a macro lens to project to project the finest details onto a very small object!
- be small enough to put in a camera bag (not as important, but still... 8x6x3 would fit in most bags)
- have 1,000+ lumens
- Be able to project infrared and ultraviolet light (just kidding... sort of)
I've created an image pack which contains hundreds of images/videos that can be used with the Aaxa M4 projector (or any projector, really). The image pack contains a variety of shapes, colors, patterns, half-tone patterns, slit-scans, and videos, all organized in their appropriate folders with the filenames titled for ease-of-use.
After downloading the image pack, simply extract the folder onto a micro SD card or USB stick, put that in your projector, and you now have hundreds of images to work with! Boom done!
The Projector Photography Image Pack should be able to be purchased here within the next few months.
To get notified when the image pack is released, enter your name and email here.
Projector Buying Guide: Broad over-view of projector types. Reviews all of the vocabulary involved in the second half of the article.
And that is that! The bottom line is, you can use this projector for all kinds of stuff! It has many applications for photography! Hopefully the technology will improve with time as well, and some of the features I listed out will soon become a reality.