Today, Leica — yes, the camera company — announced its first ultra-short throw (UST) laser projector at the big IFA show in Germany, capable of producing a 4K image of up to 100 inches with Dolby Atmos sound.
This isn’t Leica’s first foray into digital projectors, which it once sold under the Pradovit brand. It’s also collaborated with other projector makers, including this obscure UST model from last year.
The announcement was light on details, so my colleague Jon Porter chased down a demonstration of an early Cine 1 prototype at the Leica booth. Here’s what we learned from Ross Slavov, head of product management in Leica’s newly formed smart projection business unit, about the company’s current thinking about specs, pricing, and delivery dates, all of which Slavov cautioned could change ahead of release.
The first thing to know about the Leica Cine 1 projector is that there are actually two of them in development, both using Leica lenses. One can produce about 2500 lumens to project a 100-inch 4K 60Hz image at a distance of 30cm (almost 12 inches) from the display wall, while the other can produce 2100 lumens to project an 80-inch image from a distance of 15cm (almost six inches). Leica notes that each projector is tuned for each display size and doesn’t recommend moving them closer or further from the wall. USTs look best with ambient light rejection (ALR) screens, which Leica will also be happy to sell you for about $1,800 for a big screen or around $1,600 for an 80-inch screen.
The 100-inch Cine 1 model is expected to sell for $7,900, while the 80-inch projector will probably cost around $6,900, according to Slavov. Yes, that’s expensive for these specs, but this is Leica.
Leica partnered with Hisense for the triple RGB laser light engine, which is something of a trend as the originator of the laser TV. It uses a DLP chip from Texas Instruments. Latency is around 30ms, which is fine for some casual gaming.
As to the ports, the prototype has three HDMI total (one HDMI 2.1 port with eARC), one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0, a built-in TV tuner, and a Common Interface slot. The US version will “probably” run Android TV. Leica is hoping the projector ships with 4.2 Atmos-certified audio.
Remember, all of this is current thinking at the company and, therefore, subject to change. Leica is targeting a Q2 2023 release for Europe, Q3 for China, and Q4 for the US.