IMAX Laser vs 70mm: Which One Is Better? 

Updated on: December 19, 2023

Were you planning a movie night out with your friends? And you came across these rather novel terms; IMAX Laser and IMAX 70mm. Want to know the difference? You’re in the right place! 
In this article, we’ll discuss all the differences between these two movie formats. Also, decide which one is superior to the two. So read on to find out which movie format is worth your money.  

What is IMAX?

What is IMAX?

IMAX abbreviated for “Image Maximum” has made its way through to be the most hyped and advanced theatre proprietary of the modern days. The IMAX experience, with its curved screens and laser projectors, takes you into another realm.

No other theatre system plays the 3D movie format better than IMAX. The 3D images are presented in unparalleled brightness and quality that takes you out of this world.  

A Little About IMAX Laser

IMAX Laser

The IMAX with laser technology, specially designed and introduced in IMAX screens, features a 4K laser projection system with a new optical engine. It delivers images with enhanced resolution, higher brightness, deeper contrast, and exotic colors never seen on a screen before. 

Equipped with the latest 12-channel sound technology with new side and overhead channels, the IMAX laser offers you a more immersive audio experience. 

Brightness and Resolution:

Owing to the cutting-edge laser projection technology, the IMAX Laser delivers spectacular 4K picture quality. The laser lighting increases the brightness, resulting in more vibrant and lifelike visuals on the big screen.

Color Accuracy:

One of the standout features I love about the IMAX Laser is its exceptional color accuracy. The laser technology allows for a wider color range, resulting in clearer details of the visuals that might be missed by other projection systems.

Contrast Ratio:

IMAX Laser boasts an impressive contrast ratio, enhancing the clarity and depth of both dark and bright scenes. This plays a special role in delivering a captivating visual experience in movies with a wide range of lighting conditions. For instance, action war movies or Batman series. 

Flexibility in Aspect Ratios:

IMAX Laser projection system is quite flexible and can adapt to different aspect ratios without any manual adjustments. This allows filmmakers to experiment with various storytelling techniques and visual compositions. So you get a plethora of options to watch your next movie in IMAX Laser. 

Advanced 3D Technology:

IMAX Laser is equipped with advanced 3D technology, providing a more immersive and visually impressive 3D experience. High resolution combined with high brightness contributes to a 3D experience that makes it superior to other from other projection systems.

Cons of IMAX Laser technology 

  • Limited Film-Based Content:

IMAX Laser is not compatible with film-based content originally shot on traditional film stock. While most modern films are produced digitally, some cinephiles may miss the unique characteristics of traditional film projection.

  • Less Nostalgic Experience for Film Enthusiasts:

For those who appreciate the nostalgic quality of traditional film projection, IMAX Laser’s digital nature may lack the tactile and authentic feel associated with physical film reels.

A Little About IMAX 70mm

IMAX 70mm

The 70mm IMAX version has the highest picture quality in the cinema industry. It is the largest and the most detailed film print ever made. If we talk about the digital equivalent of this film print, it means watching a film in 12K resolution. How crazy is that? It also features a 12-channel sound system, so you can expect the same audio experience as the IMAX laser. 

Sadly, there are only about 20 to 30 theatres in the whole US that have this 70mm print. This is because movies are usually not shot in this style. 

Film Grain and Texture:

IMAX 70mm film provides a unique texture and film grain that makes it more realistic. There’s no doubt the IMAX laser provides amazing clarity and details, but it’s still not as gorgeous as the IMAX 70mm. The IMAX 70mm has an inexplicable “Earthy” touch to the image quality providing life-like visual texture that can’t be put into words. You’d have to experience it on your own. I recommend watching Christopher Nolan’s recent hit “Oppenheimer” in the IMAX 70mm format. 

 Immersive Screen Size:

IMAX 70mm is usually projected on larger screens giving you a more immersive viewing experience. The sheer size of the film frames, combined with the scale of IMAX screens, will teleport you into the heart of the action.

Authentic Cinematic Heritage:

IMAX 70mm film projection has a warm cinematic heritage, with iconic films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” originally shot and presented in this format. For cinephiles who appreciate the historical significance of the film, IMAX 70mm holds a special place in their hearts.

High Dynamic Range:

Thanks to the analog nature of IMAX 70mm film. It has a  high dynamic range, especially in terms of highlights and shadows. This dynamic range can be particularly striking in scenes with extreme contrasts, providing a vibrant picture quality.

Cons of IMAX 70 mm

  • Incompatibility with Some Modern Productions:

There’s no denying that many classic and iconic films were shot in IMAX 70mm. Some modern filmmakers may choose digital formats over traditional film. This limits the availability of new content in the IMAX 70mm format.

  • High production and projection cost: 

The production and projection of IMAX 70mm projection systems can be very expensive. The equipment needed to handle any project large-format film, along with the costs of film prints, can pose financial challenges for theaters. Because of this reason, most cinemas tend to avoid using 70 mm projection systems. 

  • Film Fragility:

Film reels are more fragile than digital forms. Film reels can degrade over time, resulting in a loss of visual quality. Scratches, grime, and other flaws can also degrade the viewing experience. The quality of IMAX 70mm prints must be maintained regularly and handled with care. 

Now that you know every difference between the IMAX laser and IMAX 70mm, the question is which one is better. 

In my opinion, the IMAX 70mm would be the right choice, owing to the more immersive and nostalgic experience. But that’s only possible if you have a cinema with IMAX 70mm around you. If you have, then you’re in for a real treat. However, if you have to take a long trip to an IMAX 70mm cinema, I would suggest you settle for the digital IMAX Laser cinema. 

If you still have any queries about the IMAX laser or 70mm, you’re welcome to leave a comment below. I’m here for you

I’m Shaun Conroy, an audiophile & founder of HiFi Audios. Holding a Bachelor’s in Sound Engineering, I bring deep expertise in audio devices and offer insights & recommendations to fellow enthusiasts.

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