While the idea of a projector inside a compact camera is a novel idea, the degree of interest in such devices seems to be incredibly niche. From anecdotal evidence we've seen a grand total of zero folk out and about using a projector camera, and about the same degree of enthusiasm from most people when the concept of a projector camera is presented to them. The only other company to venture down the projector path is Nikon, with its S1000pj and S1100pj models.
Design and features
The PJ1 is slightly chubbier than your average slimline compact, with a 3-inch LCD screen and 7x optical zoom at 28mm wide-angle. Standard control buttons are provided next to the screen and to activate the projector, a dedicated button is located near the shutter button. There's also a focusing slider to adjust the image depending on the distance from the projection surface.
GE's designers were clearly thinking of the businessperson when designing the add-ons for the PJ1, as the camera comes with not only a remote control but a stand and built-in fan to cool the unit during long presentations. The Pico projector is able to throw an image up to 70 inches in size and has a brightness of 15 lumens (one more than on the S1100pj). To get the projector to act as a portable display unit for a computer or laptop, you first need to install the bundled software and then switch the camera onto projector mode. It's not particularly intuitive and a plug-and-play option would be much easier, particularly if you're not always working on the same computer.
It's not all for business use though, as the PJ1 also comes with 720p HD video recording and runs the gamut of regular photo features like red-eye removal, blink detection, face recognition and image stabilisation. Shooting modes include full automatic, "manual" (but no shutter or aperture adjustments), automatic scene, panorama, movie and portrait. The PJ1 runs on a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, takes SD or SDHC cards and connectivity is provided via mini-USB out.
The lens positioning means that stray fingers are more than likely to end up in your shots. In particular, the lens is susceptible to smudges and scratches as it's not protected by any cover at all. Meanwhile, inside the menu system, options are difficult to read and text on the screen does not appear crisp, making selecting options more of a chore than a pleasure. There's also no dedicated video record button, which makes capturing spontaneous moments all that more difficult.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- GE PJ18.104.22.168
- Nikon Coolpix S1100pj2.03.10.3
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- GE PJ10.9
- Nikon Coolpix S1100pj0.9
GE rates the battery for the PJ1 at up to 70 minutes of projection time. On occasion, the PJ1 froze during its start-up routine, and refused to move beyond the initial launch screen.
The PJ1 produces shots with saturated hues, particularly in the blue and green channels. It's not entirely a natural look, though some photographers will find it appealing. Lens issues at the wide end are rather prominent, with barrel distortion visible on shots. There's also a degree of chromatic aberration or fringing noticeable at full magnification and, as with most compact cameras, lens sharpness falls off rather quickly from the centre of the frame.
Exposures are not always accurate, particularly when zooming in with the lens as it tends to close down the aperture rather dramatically. The flash is bright and tends to illuminate subjects a bit too much for our taste. Images taken at the full extent of the 7x optical zoom appear fuzzy and are often plagued by handshake even though this camera has image stabilisation.
A portion of the 100 per cent magnification image inset, showing over-processing and noise issues. This image was taken at 7x optical zoom. (Credit: CBSi)
The projector itself is bright, but it needs to be used in a darkened room to get optimum results. When plugged into a computer via USB, the projected image is not particularly sharp at all even at an optimal focusing distance and with the resolution of the computer screen reduced to that found on a standard projector. It's definitely not up to the task for serious business meetings, that's for sure.
While the PJ1 comes with 720p video recording, it has incredibly poor quality. The continuous autofocus is twitchy and constantly seeks focus, while the image itself is grainy, over-exposed and the audio sounds distant.
Exposure: 1/100, f/6.8, ISO 64
Exposure: 1/5, f/4.4, ISO 400
While the PJ1 packs a tasty projector in its slim chassis, it's simply not sharp enough for serious boardroom use.