Whether you are shopping around for an outdoor projector for a backyard movie night or something for a commercial or larger outdoor event, you will have come across the term lumens. What are lumens and what are the best lumens for outdoor projector?
The best lumens for a typical backyard outdoor projector is 3,000 lumens. This will give you the best viewing experience before sunset. Lumens lower than 3,000 will require you to project in near darkness to get a better image.
Lumens are a unit of measurement which measures the intensity of light projected from a source.
For example, that source could be a light bulb, but for the case we’re addressing on this website, it’s all about how powerful your outdoor movie projector can project and how crisp, and sharp the image will be.
The lumen rating of your outdoor movie projector will dictate how large a screen you can project onto, how sharp and in contrast the movie will be, and whether you can start watching before it’s completely dark outside.
If you are interested in how lumens came to be a unit of measurement, then scroll down to the bottom of the page where I give you a short potted history, but for now, if you want to know the best lumens for an outdoor projector, are, take a look at the bullet points below.
Lumens for Outdoor Projector
Not sure how many lumens you need with your outdoor movie projector. This should give you a good idea of what you will need to buy depending on your screen’s size.
- 9×5 foot screen: 1,500 lumens minimum, ideally 2,300 lumens
- 12×7 foot screen: 2,300 lumens minimum, ideally 3,000 lumens
- 16×9 foot screen: 3,000 lumens minimum, ideally 4,500 lumens
- 20×11 foot screen: 4,500 lumens minimum, ideally 7,500 lumens
- 25×14.5 foot screen: 5,000 lumens minimum, ideally 10,000 lumens
- 40×22.5 foot. Screen: 5,500 lumens minimum, ideally 12,000 lumens
Further down the page, I have also presented this information in a table (sortable by columns) if you want to shift things around and compare the data better.
From your perspective as a buyer, you will need first to figure out how large your outdoor movie screen will be. If you’ve already got it and you can measure it, then do that, and it’s then possible for you to use the data above to understand how many lumens for an outdoor projector you will need – and, therefore what spec you need to purchase.
If you already have an outdoor projector and know the lumen rating, then it will also help you in deciding how large you can go with your screen.
Why Buy a Higher Lumen Rating Projector?
From my perspective, the more lumens you can afford to purchase, the better.
It will future proof you, should you decide to go larger with your outdoor movie screen, but it also means you have a far stronger light source coming from your projector.
This means you can start to watch backyard movies or outdoor movies when it’s still not completely dark.
As a general rule of thumb, an outdoor movie projector with a lumen rating of 3,000 plus should be able to project an image you can see before sunset.
Ideally, you want to buy a model that is bright enough to display crisp and sharp images in standard ambient light.
So that’s just one benefit to a projector with high lumens for outdoor use.
There’s also the issue of wanting to still have some lighting on outside whilst you are showing a movie.
To put this more into context, you will probably remember being at school or college where a projector was used indoors. To see the images clearly, the teacher would turn down the room lights or switch them off completely. By doing so, the contrast was greatly improved.
When it comes to outdoor movies, I always want to have some degree of lighting on so that my guests can walk around safely. I can set up lanterns in the backyard and also have lights on in my house but still, see the movie – based on the high number of lumens I am using with my outdoor projector.
Best Lumens for Outdoor Projector – Sortable Data Table
Here’s that table I promised you that lets you sort the data in a columnar format if that helps you understand what lumen-rating you need to buy for showing outdoor movies.
|Screen Size||Minimum Lumen Needed||Ideal Lumens Needed|
How Many Lumens For Outdoor Projector
The larger your projector screen the higher the lumens you will need for your projectors. Below are two examples of an outdoor movie event and the lumens needed.
Best Lumens for Backyard Movie Projectors
My recommendation is always to buy a projector with at least 2,000 lumens for backyard movie use. For larger events, see the explainer a little further down the page.
But, that type of rating means it will need to be completely dark for you to watch movies outside, and you will also need to reduce any interference from additional light sources such as those coming from your house or outside lighting. If you don’t, then the contrast might not be great.
I also recommend that you try to spend as much as you can to get the best lumens for your outdoor projector that money can buy.
If you need guidance on what you should be buying, then take a look at my recommended gear section, in particular the recommended outdoor projectors.
There is something there for everyone, and all products have been tested and reviewed to ensure you get the help you need in buying the most suitable product.
If you need a quick product recommendation instead and one that will work best for backyard movie nights, I would suggest you take a look at the BenQ HT2050.
Do you want to know more about the BenQ HT2050? Click here for the latest prices on Amazon.
It offers high-definition and 2,200 projector lumens for outdoor use. It’s also affordable, very simple to use with a plug-and-play set-up, and is truly portable.
Due to the lumens on offer with this product, it will work best in near darkness, but once it’s up and running, I’ve been able to cast an HD image of up to 180 inches wide (15 feet) – making it a great backyard movie projector where you have a large screen size.
Best Lumens for Projectors at Larger Outdoor Events
My advice is to go for a projector with more than 4,000 lumens. This is powerful enough for most commercial or corporate outdoor events, where you are using screens 16 feet wide.
You will need the power that comes with a more expensive outdoor movie projector, and you will also want something reliable that isn’t going to break down on you.
However, you might be planning on something even larger, so if that is the case, refer back to the table further up the page, which shows the best lumens for your screen size.
My recommended product here would be the Optoma EH500 – see prices on Amazon.
It’s a 1080p high-definition projector with a massive 4,700 lumens meaning it can project clearly and crisply onto a screen that is at least 20 feet wide – it’s ideal for use in large-screen applications.
With a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, it offers a stunning picture and is commonly used for DIY drive-in movie nights and corporate or public outdoor events.
This projector has such a high lumen rating that I have seen it being used to cast massive three hundred-inch images onto walls.
Want to Calculate How Many Lumens are Needed for an Outdoor Projector?
If you are still not sure or want to get a little bit more into the science of things, then please take a read of this blog post I put together, which lets you calculate lumen ratings all for yourself.
Personally, I don’t recommend that you need to know how to calculate the lumens needed for an outdoor movie projector as this article and the data presented should give you everything you need to know if you want to buy one.
Why are Mini Projector Lumens so High?
Have you been searching online, specifically Amazon for projectors and came across mini projectors claiming to have 7,500 lumens or 9,500 lumens and too good to be true price?
The sellers are hoping you confuse the high lumens they are claiming to have with ANSI lumens. You might want to take this claim with a grain of salt.
When I talk about lumens in this article I am talking about ANSI lumens. When you search for name brand projectors and they say 2,200 lumens. They are talking about ANSI lumens as well.
When you look for a projector lumens especially a non name brand projector make sure to look for ANSI lumens. Some listings will mention both lumens and ANSI lumens.
How To Convert Mini Projector Lumens to ANSI lumens
Heres how to roughly convert mini projector lumens to ANSI lumens.
Mini Projector Lumens x 0.02 to 0.04 = ANSI Lumens
So for example if a mini projector claims to have 9,500 lumens. 9,500 lumens converts to 190 to 380 ANSI lumens. Essentially this 9,500 lumens is actually 190 to 380 ansi lumens. Not very bright at all unless you use it in very dark environment.
Lumens as a Measurement
I did promise a short history of lumens as a unit of measurement, so if you are even remotely interested, here’s the background.
What are lumens?
“A unit of luminous flux in the International System of Units, that is equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating equally in all directions”
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Or at least not entirely clear.
In the olden days, lumens used to be referred to as candlepower, with the measurement unit being taken in candelas. Scientists used to calculate candelas by seeing how fast whale blubber candles would burn.
In more modern times, we can measure things more accurately, and one candela is now the equivalent of the luminous intensity of monochromatic radiation emitted by a predefined source at a frequency of 540THz with a radiant intensity of 0.001464128 W/sr.
Still not that clear, is it? Unless you have a background in science.
But never fear because the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has standardized how we measure light sources.
Manufacturers of outdoor movie projectors will list their ANSI lumen rating on their products. As consumers, all we need to do is read the box or technical spec.
In simple terms, it’s just about how bright something is. While brightness isn’t entirely what a lumen rating describes, it’s good enough for the end consumer to understand and recognize.
Essentially a movie projected via a high lumen outdoor project will look brighter and clearer than one with a lower lumen rating.
Want More Guidance and Help? Take a look at the essential guide to planning an outdoor movie night.