Importance of Lumens/Brightness for a Projector

The brightness or lumens is one of the most important factors to keep in mind before you purchase a projector. It is often expressed in either lumens or ANSI lumens and dominates other selling points in most product descriptions and marketing brochures. Have you ever thought about why? If not, read this article, and we will let you know why brightness matters a lot for a projector. Simply put, the higher a projector features brightness, the better it is for the bright image it produces. So, a projector that comes with higher brightness will deliver crisper, sharper images than the one with lower brightness.

ANSI Lumens Explained

Lumens are used to measure the levels of brightness from any light source. The ANSI abbreviation is a short form for American National Standards Institute. A lamp in a projector is its light source. Therefore, more powerful and brighter lamps will deliver better pictures. However, what you should keep in mind is that ambient lighting can hugely impact the overall brightness of your projector no matter what the documented ANSI lumen ratings of your device are.

Comparing Projector’s Brightness with other Light Sources

In order to get a clearer picture of the ANSI lumens measurement, below are some examples of other light sources and what their ratings are:

  • A projector: 500 to 10000 lumens
  • Candle: 14 lumens
  • Sunset: 400 lumens
  • Sunny afternoon: up to 100000 lumens
  • 100-watt light bulb: 1600 lumens
  • Average movie set lighting: 1000 lumens
  • Well-lit office with fluorescent lighting: 400 lumens

Why Brightness of a Projector Matters

The brightness of a projector tells how much it is going to be affected by ambient light. Moreover, it is also important to know how far away you should be from the display to enjoy the best viewing experience. Pictures from a projector that has a lower brightness level are perfect to be viewed in dark rooms. While judging the brightness of a projector, be aware of the fact that its brightness rating is for the peak performance of the projector. With time, its rating will diminish until the lamp will only produce around half of the advertised lumens levels. In addition to this, running your projector on power-saving modes such as “eco” will also reduce the brightness outputs of your product.

In order to comprehend how its brightness work, let’s take a real-life example. Imagine the headlights of your car or the flashlight of your phone. Both these light sources look brighter as surrounding light conditions darken. Due to this reason, it is impossible to miss flashlights and car headlights deep into the night as well as late in the evening. Besides that, even in the daytime, your flashlight will be more visible than in daylight if you take it to the basement during the day.

However, floodlights in a football stadium will be brighter and more noticeable early in the evening as compared to a car headlight or flashlight. This exactly is the case of how ambient light interacts with your projector. Therefore, if you are to use a projector outdoors, it should come with the right ANSI lumens rating that is optimal for the surrounding. Recommended lumens for outdoor projector are 6000. Except for lumens, you also need to have a good contrast ratio to ensure clear and crispy image quality.

With these things in mind, where you want to set your projector to determine how many lumens you should prefer in a projector. For example, if you want to set up a projector for a home theatre with a 120-inch display in your basement or living room, 2000 lumens are good to go for a projector if your curtains are drawn and the light is dim. However, if you want to keep the lights on, you should look for a projector with 3000 lumens. After this, adjust the brightness to better accommodate your needs.

Below is a rough guide on how many brightness levels of a projector are required for each ambient light situation:

Space ConditionProjected Brightness Required
Commercial movie theatre20000 lumens
Lit living room4000 to 5000 lumens
Enclosed space with moderate light5000 lumens
Outdoors at night3000 lumens
Enclosed spaces with dim lighting3000 lumens
Dark living rooms1500 to 2000 lumens

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