eMagin Z800 Dual

July 2014

I picked up an eMagin Z800 on eBay with the dual input option. This means it has a separate left and right eye feed through VGA connectors. These modified Z800’s use a Tekgear board found here. Another interesting aspect of this Z800 is that its from Sim Spray which used to use these HMDs for painting simulators. Looks like they use the Sony HMZ now.

This eMagin Z800 is mounted into a head mount system which includes a rather large face mask like a welders mask or painters mask. It provides quite the immersion visor. hahahaha. Although not nearly as comfortable as the original stock head mount. I had to add a fairly large forehead pad to make the new head mount bearable.

dual input board eMagin Tekgear

The dual input versions are easily noticble by the push button that now exists where the Type B USB port should be. You also have to power it now using an external AC-DC power pack. I used an Enercell from Radio Shack with a letter H head. A 6V should do it as the board has an 7805 voltage regulator on board which means it will need some head room to get 5V out. However more than about 6V or so and the displays flicker from time to time so better stick with 6V. When I get a users manual for the dual board I’ll post it here.

After coming back to the Z800 after so many years I noticed a lot more oddities on the eMagin SVGA 800×600 displays. This is probably because I’ve spent months and months of my life characterizing the eMagin WUXGA 1920×1200 display. There’s a significant amount of flat field non-uniformity on the eMagin SVGA displays. There are also mismatches in colors between the eyes. Black levels don’t always match in each eye. Funny thing is that the WUXGA displays have the same issues. So even multiple generations later eMagin hasn’t corrected some of these issues. The non-uniformity is quite noticeable because otherwise the displays look so good. Of course the non-uniformity isn’t the same in both eyes so in stereo you get a shimmering effect that makes them stand out. For the most part you won’t notice it unless looking at things like a blue sky. The Sony HMZ displays have a much better uniformity for sure.

Rumor has it that the microdisplays in the Z800 are rejects from the normal SVGA product line and the Z800 was a way to use up these displays. Seeing the non-uniformity, it looks like that was the case for sure.

Even with its defects the Z800 is still a great HMD. Especially if you can get it cheaply. Right now they’re going for about $200 on eBay. People are trying to sell them for upwards of $1k but those ones aren’t selling. Probably because people know Oculus Rift DK2 has already started shipping this month. And there’s always the Sony HMZ HMDs, which still have the best displays of any consumer HMD I’ve seen to date.