I am on my second video projector. My first was an InFocus Screenplay. I went with InFocus my initial experience with a home projection system was when I had access to my work’s projector. I would borrow it on occasion, tape a sheet up with duct tape and screen movies for friends . However, after doing this a few times I was worried that something would happen to the unit while I had it at home, then I would be stuck with the cost of replacing it or worse get fired. I did some research and found that the InFocus had the best ratings for projectors under $700.
My first Infocus served me well for nearly four years. I took down the sheet and bought a real screen. You can get them for about $100. I was completely hooked. How did I ever watch movies before on my tiny 36 inch tube television? It picture quality with the Screenplay was far superior to the one we used for presentations at work. And it was light enough that I could move it outside to show movies in a friend’s backyard.
However, as time passed, after the forth year, I began to notice that the picture quality was just the slightest bit dimmer. I checked my “hours used” in the settings and found it at nearly 4000 hours of bulb time! I looked into getting it cleaned and having the bulb replaced. I had never changed the filter on the projector even after my ceiling in my bedroom was replaced and my apartment was covered in plaster dust. The little projector who could just kept running and running, although it would occasionally make a little wheezy sound as the fan desperately tried to keep the system cool. There are a may electronic shops that clean and change bulbs for $250 to $300. I weighed the benefits of getting the old system cleaned or upgrading to the next level. It was at this same time that Netflix offered BluRay’s for rent, so I thought it was time to upgrade.
I ended up going to Abt Electronics, one of the best places in the Chicagoland area for electronics. Their video projector department is a Home Projectionist paradise. The first thing you see when you walk in is a huge projection screen 20 feet tall surrounded by massaging, leather chairs. As you wander around there are four rooms of projector set-ups to simulate how the system will look in different size rooms. It’s quite intoxicating.
After a lot of room sitting, I decided on the Panasonic PT AX 200U; an HD projector, which was on sale that week. The salesman said that this was the model he had in his home. Whether it was a salesman pitch or not; after the demonstration of the system I was sold. The total cost for the BluRay and the Projector was $1700. Ca-ching!
When I got the system home and set up and put in the BluRay of South Pacific I was startled at the quality. I’d never thought that I could have an image that crystal clear in my own home. This was the quality of a real movie theater. The film version of South Pacific is awful, but the colors are wonderful and it was the perfect choice to test run the system. (I think the most impressive looking film I’ve seen since I’ve upgraded was UP; the picture quality is so sharp that it looks like 3D. )
That was nearly three years ago. A month ago I turned on my projector and suddenly I got a horrifying message in the left corner of the screen “Change Lamp”! What! How could this be possible! It felt like it was just yesterday that I took it out of the box and set it up. A friend suggested that perhaps it is the projector wanting me to redecorate in my living room and the next message will be “I hate your couch”. I went to the settings and checked and I was at 1700 hours on my bulb. After some web searching I found that Panasonics need their bulbs changed every 2000 hours, not 4000 like the Insights.
I’m a little nervous about this procedure and I could take it back to Abt for them to change the bulb and filters, but I feel that I’ve lived with projectors for so long that I should know how to do at least some basic maintenance by myself. The suggestions on the home theatre boards are varied. The go from dire. “…the bulbs can explode if they are left in too long” to blasé. “… just reset your bulb counter to zero and forget about it.”
I think to be on the safe side I’m going to change the bulb, if only to get that ominous message to disappear. I’ll try to post a video of me doing the bulb change but until then this is the best explanation on how to do it. I welcome all advice and suggestions. Anyone ever had any disaster stories of bulbs going out. My greatest fear is that I’ll have a movie night planned and it will pop in the middle of the film!
Postscript: The InFocus Projector is still running fine and is often used for outside events at other people’s home or for summer backyard movies.