BenQ Knowledge Center

Projectors for Daytime Outdoor Use: How Many Lumens Do I Need? [Updated]

BenQ
2021/06/28

Ever find yourself pondering the all-important question of what makes a projector good for use outside during the day? Not just when it’s nice and overcast, but rather when the sun’s out in full force. We have the answers you’ve been seeking for so long, and are ready to reveal the secret to enjoying movies, TV, and even gaming on a big screen, in daytime. After all, spring is almost here in the northern hemisphere, and summer’s not too far away. You’ll want to be outside to play.

 

There’s this persistent myth that projectors are only good in dark and musty home cinema rooms or at night when camping under the stars. That’s not entirely true. Sure, dark environments are better, but there’s no reason to deprive yourself of enjoyment during the day with your projector. The key is illumination power and viewing conditions! 

Brightness Matters

The key factor in choosing a projector for daytime use is projector brightness, measured in lumens.  As a general rule, the more lumens your projector has, the brighter the projected image will be.

 

Lumens measure visible light for a light source. Total light is measured in lux. A sunny day drenches us in almost 100,000 lux. So, we can’t seriously claim that projectors can outdo the sun. Depending on your projection size, to outdo natural sunlight you will need hundreds of thousands of lumens. Such projectors simply do not exist.

 

Condition Illumination (lux)
Condition
Sunlight
Illumination (lux)
107,527
Condition
Full Daylight
Illumination (lux)
10,752
Condition
Overcast Day
Illumination (lux)
1,075
Condition
Very Dark Day
Illumination (lux)
107
Condition
Twilight
Illumination (lux)
10.8
Condition
Deep Twilight
Illumination (lux)
1.08
Condition
Full Moon
Illumination (lux)
0.108
Condition
Quarter Moon
Illumination (lux)
0.0108
Condition
Starlight
Illumination (lux)
0.0011
Condition
Overcast Night
Illumination (lux)
0.0001

Table Source: www.TheEngineer ToolBox.com

Now, an average bright day measures roughly 6000-10,000 lumens as perceived by humans, and that’s a tough number to match for most entertainment-focused projectors. But not impossible, thanks to the relativity of viewing conditions.

The More Lumens the Better

To project during full daylight outside you need more lumens, and we mean a lot more. Sure, professional projectors deliver up to 10,000 lumens, but they’re hardly portable or affordable since they are primarily designed for large venues like expos and conventions, not afternoon movie sessions for the family.

 

What you need is a capable projector that you’ll be able to easily carry and set up nearly anywhere, but one that has at least 50% parity with a bright day. So, 3000 lumens can be a good starting point for locations with plenty of shade. But 4000 or 5000 lumens will be even better, although these projectors are also quite expensive. 

Tips for Great Viewing

First, for better results if possible choose darker days when illumination from the sun is limited. On such days, depending on your local conditions you can even consider using a portable projector. The very minimum you will need is 500 lumens, which is what good portable projectors offer.

 

Time matters too. If you think 11am-2pm are great for movies you’ll need more illumination or settle for not getting the full picture. We recommend later hours when solar power begins to diminish. If you can’t do nighttime, better the hours just before sunset. Or early morning. It’s tempting to do a lunchtime projection session, but it’ll be more of a challenge for sure.

 

Locations with more shade to block direct sunlight are great. If you insist on setting up in the middle of a huge parking lot, your experience won’t be as good as in the middle of a wooded section of parkland where trees help redirect much of the sunlight. Alternatively, you can think of putting together a shed or use other readily available items like umbrellas to create some shade.

 

Importantly, choose your screen carefully. Slightly off-white screens that aren’t glossy offer the best experience, though an overly matte screen will diffuse light too much and compromise image clarity. Avoid dark-colored screens, as those “soak up” light. The most popular options for outdoor viewing are inflatable screens, which often feature just the right combination of screen color and texture.

 

Enjoying big screen entertainment outside during daytime can be tricky. But it’s possible for sure with careful consideration of your projector, location, and viewing time. And if that’s not your thing, you can always set up a dark and musty home cinema room

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