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What are lumens, ansi lumens and marketing lumens?

Understanding the lumens and brightness levels offered by projectors can be a minefield, with fake lumen ratings rife on Amazon, Ebay and across the web.

To illuminate the issue we've put together a helpful consumer guide to understanding ANSI lumens, the only certified measure of brightness you can trust!

Always remember, if you buy it cheap you usually have to buy it twice! LED projectors of any decent quality usually start around a minimum of 50 True ANSI lumens start and a price point of £150 / €180 / $195.

A good place to start as examples of a genuine projectors around the entry level would be the Pico Genie P200  or the powerful Acer C200, both 200 ANSI lumens.

If you are seeing lower price points it might be due to any of the following reasons :

  • second hand
  • fake lumens
  • fake resolution
  • not true resolution eg they quote HD, full HD or 1080p when they are in fact not even HD
  • not LED
  • not DLP (this component from Texas Instruments is very expensive)
  • usually LCOS  (lower quality generally than DLP at this end of the market)
  • lack good connectivity eg HDMI, good wireless, Bluetooth or wireless audio

What are ANSI Lumens?

An ANSI Lumen is a unit of measurement devised by the American National Standards Institute to measure true brightness.

If a projector doesn't list its ANSI lumens it is likely it will be lying about its true lumen rating, even if it just offers a generic 'lumen' rating you should still look for the ANSI lumen rating.

How are ANSI Lumens Measured?

At the National Standards institute they test the brightness of a projector under several different conditions and rigorous tests, they then combine all their results to create the True ANSI lumen rating for that product.
Amazon Fake Lumens

We once asked a Chinese Supplier "why do you rate your lumens 6 times higher than the true ANSI lumen rating?" He looked confused and replied "our competitors would sell more than us if we mentioned true ANSI lumens, how would we sell any products?"

The practice of ignoring true ANSI lumens has left the market spiralling out of control. These fake lumen standards are often called 'marketing', 'peak',  'useful', ISO or chinese lumens so keep an eye out for those terms.

Anything other than the ANSI lumen rating is likely to be a lie.

Below there is a comparison between a Pico Genie P55 True 50 ANSI lumen projector (bottom image) and an  Elephas Full Colour 130" which is stated as "1000 lumens". The Elephas is well priced at £54 on Amazon which is impossibly cheap for a projector of "1000" lumens.


If anything, the Pico Genie P55 is brighter and also has a better resolution. This is fairly shocking when you consider the Elphas is being listed as 20x brighter than the genuine Pico Genie? Yes, 20 TIMES! Amazon’s top 15 projectors state they have 800-1500 lumens which is simply false, Try a genuine 800 Lumen Projector here.

How to compare like-with-like

The ANSI Lumen rating should be your core comparison figure, we include both ANSI and 'marketing lumens' on our site to help consumers understand how the true brightness levels are manipulated on other sites like Amazon.

What are marketing lumens

"Marketing lumens" is the generic term used for non ansi lumens. Ansi lumens is the true/real measure of the brightness of a projector. When lumens are used for marekting purposes they tend to be overstated and are also referred to by a number of other different terms including:

  • lumens listed on Amazon, Ebay and other sites that do not state Ansi lumens
  • peak lumens
  • ISO lumens
  • chinese lumens
  • lumens (with no reference in the description to ansi)

For the purposes of helping our customers understand the market better we are displaying 'marketing lumens' as 6 times the ANSI lumens but on some sites the lumen levels can be overstated by as much as 20 times the true ANSI lumens!

Brands overstating the lumen counts on their products can negatively effect your shopping experience, how are you to know which brands you can trust? Don't worry, we have done a lot of the hard work for you and have compiled a list of these fakers which you can find here.

While lumens are an important factor in choosing a projector there are many other things to consider, we have written a handy guide on how to choose a projector which you can find here.

10 thoughts on “What are lumens, ansi lumens and marketing lumens?”

  • Herb Pena

    I had figured out by making comparisons of lumens and ansi lumens of many projectors found on line that the ratio was 6:1 lumens to ansi lumens. Thanks for confirming my calculations. Now I have to get used to judging projectors brightness by ansi lumens and forget the lumens.

    • admin

      Hi Herb,

      We are glad to have helped, if you have any other questions in your hunt for a projector please email us or use our live chat feature.

  • Mario Ray Mahardhika
    Mario Ray Mahardhika March 15, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Nice info, I already knew about the fakeness, but I don't have anything to compare so it's still hard for me to choose. The real image of how 50 lumens should look like would be a nice reference. It would be better if you also say the ambient lumens and distance from the projection surface as my current chinese projector is bright enough in room lightened by a 9W LED bulb from around 1.5 m distance, at least brighter than Pico Genie P55 above. I want to measure the approximate actual lumens by comparing with your image above, but missing some information.

  • Saf

    This was so helpful! A Chinese supplier mentioned her 6000 lumens would not suit me for professional use while another recommended using two 5000 lumens for my big screen. Only on inquiring further she mentioned that her 6000 lumens was the 'market brightness' and not ANSI. Her ANSI for the same was only 160!
    I would like to read on this further and educate myself. Could you let me know what I should be looking for before investing in a high ansi lumens projector?


    • admin

      Hi Saf, We are glad to have helped. The best thing to do would be to contact us through live chat / email with your requirement for the projector, i.e. what you'll be using it for. Then we can advise you.

  • KeveneveK

    Hi there. I want to have a bright enough projector to project live events like boxing. I was wondering what would be the ANSI brightness I should be looking for? And what kind of projectors you would recommend and where to get it from? Please email me.
    Thank you

  • goodman

    "Ansi lumens is the true/real measure of the brightness of a projector."
    "...with fake lumen ratings rife on Amazon, Ebay and across the web."

    Thank for very good and helpful article.
    I do agree that consumers liking myself are mislead by those various advertisement 'tricks'. However, since when only the American standards are only TRUE standards in industries.

  • Williams

    i need a projector to teach my student so what should i get please.

  • Mary

    Hi. The link to the list of fakers is not currently working.

    • admin

      Hi, we have now update the link on the article.

      You can also find the list here: https://www.personalprojector.co.uk/blog/2019/12/the-truth-behind-bestselling-amazon-projectors/

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