Projector Lamps - Untangling the Confusion
While indisputably convenient, some better known online marketplaces have become flooded with dishonest and disreputable resellers. We see it every single day in the AV industry. Sadly, this can leave unknowing consumers stuck with a projector lamp that fails very early…if they’re lucky.
In some cases, extremely cheap/inexpensive lamps have been known to cause fires. The bottom line is that the lack of product control and liability coupled with the high exposure of many well-known marketplaces have created the perfect conditions for counterfeiters. In addition, some lamp manufacturers can be purposefully vague or even downright deceitful when describing their products.
The goal of this blog post is not to strike fear and doubt into consumers, but rather just to clear the air about the major lamp categories and explain exactly what they are. Before we dive in, please see the photo below. In the simplest form, these are the major components which make a projector lamp:
The bulb portion of the equation above is the component which incorporates all the technology and produces the image quality and brightness.
No matter what lamp you have or plan to buy, it will fall into one of these four categories:
- OEM Lamps (Original Equipment Manufacturer). As the name suggests, these lamps are manufactured / produced by an OEM and are branded as such. In the vast majority of cases, these are brand names that you’re already familiar with. A little known and often overlooked fact of many (not all) OEM lamps is that they do not actually use bulbs manufactured by the OEM themselves (see below)
- Original Inside Lamps – Generally speaking, these lamps incorporate bulbs purchased from the major manufacturers that most OEM’s buy from (Phillips, Osram, Ushio or Phoenix) and are coupled with an aftermarket cage to produce the lamp. Some lamp manufacturers in this category will use any of the above bulb manufacturers (often whichever is least expensive) for their lamps, but higher quality manufacturers such as Diamond Lamps will use the exact same brand and spec bulb as the OEM whenever possible. As a result, “Original Inside” lamps perform very similar, if not identical to OEM lamps in most cases.
- Compatible Lamps – In 90% of cases, extremely inexpensive lamps fall into this category. These are full aftermarket lamps and quality can vary wildly. If an OEM lamp is $500+ and you’ve found a lamp online for $30, it’d be wise not to have high performance expectations. Premium compatible lamps, such as Smart Lamps/Smart Choice Lamps will produce approximately 80% of the brightness of OEM/ Original Inside lamps and this is the best performance that can realistically be expected of the category.
- Counterfeit Lamps – There’s not much explanation needed here. Just a word of caution… the counterfeit lamp market in the US and Canada has been rapidly increasing. Please see http://www.counterfeitlamps.com/ for more information on how to spot a fake. Also note, some Original Inside manufacturers are purposely vague or misleading with product descriptions which also borderlines Counterfeiting.
Now that you’re better informed, one final note… the old adage “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more true. With all the fly by night companies taking advantage of the open market, we highly recommend that you find a reputable dealer and stick with them for your AV equipment.