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What Are Lumens? And How to Use Them to Choose a Projector

Lumens come up all the time when you’re shopping around for a projector. But what are lumens? And why are they important? Officially called ANSI lumens, this measurement shows how strong a light source is. In projectors, this relates directly to the environment where the projector will be used. (Don’t worry, we provide a quick guide to how many lumens are required for what scenarios below.)

So read on to answer the question “What are lumens?” and find the best projector for your needs.

When you’re evaluating projectors for your home or business, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the terminology associated with the devices. While we’ve already discussed projector quality elements such as device resolution, something else to consider is the lumen count of the projector you purchase.

So what are lumens? Let’s find out and how they apply to selecting the right digital projector for your needs.

What Are Lumens in Projectors?

What is a lumen?Lumens are the measurement of brightness that a projector gives out. In the industry, the formal term is “ANSI lumens.” ANSI being short for American National Standards Institute.

The Projector Expert reports the following lumen counts of common light sources:

  • Candle – 14 lumens
  • 100-watt light bulb – 1600 lumens
  • Sunset – 400 lumens
  • Fluorescent lighting in office – 400 lumens
  • Lighting on a movie set – 1000 lumens
  • Sunny day – up to 100,000 lumens

There are three key light sources in the projector realm, those being LED, laser, and lamp. It’s an extensive topic that we’ve covered in this article, but a few important points to note are that lamp projectors typically run at least 2000 lumens, while laser projectors can easily provide higher than 3500 lumens – often higher with optional equipment.

That being said, LED projectors often max out at 2000 lumens, but unlike lamp projectors, they’re known for delivering higher quality image perception. This is because LED projectors have improved color saturation and luminous efficiency, which allows LED projectors to appear to have a higher perceived brightness than their ANSI lumen measurement than they may actually possess.

Learn more about LED lumens.

What Brightness Level Best Suits Your Needs?

When you’re shopping for a projector, it’s important to remember that you can’t just go out and purchase a high lumen device and get great picture quality. There’s no one size fits all approach to choosing a projector brightness for your needs.

There are a variety of factors that affect the level of brightness needed for delivering a quality picture. We’ve discussed them in this article. However, a key takeaway is the two factors that impact projector brightness requirements are:

  • Ambient light
  • Screen size

On the topic of brightness, ambient light is worth discussing because when it isn’t controlled, it can ruin the image given off by a projector. By definition, ambient light is light that is already present in a scene before any additional lighting is added.

The most common example of this is natural light coming in through the windows, or normal room lights.

Spaces with lots of lighting need a higher brightness to deliver quality images. In a darker space, you can use a lower brightness, combined with a higher contrast ratio.  The ideal lumen range for multi-purpose spaces is 2000 to 4000 lumens.

Moving onto the topic of screen size, the larger you desire, the higher brightness is suggested for the projector in order to deliver quality images.

Rgb Projector High Brightness Even During Daytime

Home Projectors

In a home environment, you want to ensure that you choose a projector that is rated at under 3000 ANSI lumens. This is enough to project an 80” picture with minimal distortion easily. It’s worth noting, however, that with these projectors, significant effort needs to be placed on controlling ambient light levels.

If you are looking to project large images, then you need a projector with a higher lumen count. Although they are more expensive, the imagery is less affected by ambient light.

Under 3000 ANSI Lumens

It’s easy to project an 80”+ screen size. People who choose projectors in this brightness level are usually aiming for better color performance, but on the other hand, they need to tightly control and reduce ambient light while projecting.

Above 3000 ANSI Lumens

Again, it’s easy to produce an 80”+ screen, but the image quality is less sensitive to the impact of ambient light.

We’re not saying which brightness level of these two is better. It depends on different users’ needs. Both can easily project 80”+ screens and 3000+ lumens projector isn’t always more expensive.

Projectors for Business and Education

To address the diverse requirements of both business and education, specific lumen thresholds come into play when selecting projectors for business and education settings.

Projectors for Smaller SettingsSuggested ANSI Lumens for Smaller Settings

To start, for smaller settings such as a meeting room or classroom, 3000-3999 ANSI lumens is ideal. This setting easily projects an 80”+ screen size, at a value price point. It’s best only to use projectors with these lumen levels when ambient light is minimal.

Projectors for Medium SettingsSuggested ANSI Lumens for Mid-sized Spaces

If you’re in a mid-sized meeting room or classroom, then you’ll want to explore purchasing a projector that is 4000-4999 ANSI lumens. This also delivers high-quality images of 80”+, but the higher brightness means that the user doesn’t have to worry as much about ambient light.

Projectors for Large SpacesSuggested ANSI Lumens for Large Settings

The final brightness level to note is 5000+ ANSI lumens. This provides a 100”+ picture size, making it ideal for large meeting rooms, exhibition halls, auditoriums, and more. The power of these projectors means they work well even with high levels of ambient light.

Making Sense of It All

Although projectors are relatively simple to use, choosing the best one to fit your needs is a bit more difficult. When it comes to striking a balance between value and performance, you need to consider how and where your projector will be used.

If you’re planning to use the device outdoors or in a room with much ambient light, then a high lumen count is essential. The same applies to situations where you’re using a projector in a large space, and/or require a larger screen size.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a budget-conscious solution, choosing a projector with fewer lumens is practical as long as you use it in a setting where ambient light can be controlled, and space of small to medium size.

Want to learn more about projectors? Don’t miss out on our article What to Look for in a DLP Projector.

Lumen Counts for Specific Settings

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