One of the most frequently asked questions from our readers and friends is related to picking a good monitor for photography needs. It seems like the market is over-saturated with all kinds of choices, whether you visit a local store or browse through an online catalog. There are so many monitors for different budgets, and some models might leave you wondering why they are so expensive compared to others. Since there is no simple answer to this question, I decided to write a detailed article with my personal recommendations.
Color calibration should definitely be an essential part of every photographer’s workflow. Otherwise, it is impossible to tell whether the colors that are displayed by your monitor are truly accurate and whether what you see will match the print. There are many ways to do it and the process can be fairly simple or complex, depending on how accurate you want to reproduce the colors and whether you are also printing your work in-house. The simple method involves a hardware colorimeter for color profiling your monitor for everyday photo editing and image viewing, and there is also an end-to-end professional-grade color profiling that requires very concise calibration of all display and output devices, such as printers. In this article, I will only focus on simple methods to make your monitor show more or less accurate colors, so that you could rely on it for everyday photography needs.
In the past, hardware calibration feature was limited to premium wide-gamut models from companies like NEC or Eizo. Those models offer wide gamut, great uniformity and advanced calibration features…but at a fairly high price. Affordable wide gamut solutions with hardware calibration started in 2013 with Dell and after that other companies like LG, BenQ and Samsung begun to offer “similar” products with more or less success. It is important to point out that LG and Samsung wide gamut models cannot be properly calibrated internally with the i1Display Pro colorimeter using their software and the same applies to some BenQ models like SW2700PT and its Palette Master Elements software. The main issue with those models is that they bundle an outdated X-Rite SDK (Software Development Kit) in their software without GB-LED support, which is the current main* (see the footnote at the end of the article below) LED wide gamut backlight technology. Hence, their software won’t get accurate readings, which in turn leads to inaccurate calibration. The BenQ PG2401PT and its Palette Master software, on the other hand, come with proper GB-LED support.
After we published our article on 10 bit per channel workflow, our readers requested to provide information on how to calibrate monitors with a built-in Look-Up Table (LUT). Specifically, a number of our readers asked to provide a detailed guide on how to properly calibrate the Dell U2413, U2713H and U3014 monitors, which we have recommended a number of times before due to their affordable price, attractive features and superb color reproduction for photography needs. Historically, true 10-bit and higher monitors with hardware LUT capabilities were extremely expensive, making them only attractive to those with large budgets. With the introduction of sub-$500 monitors featuring professional-grade IPS panels (read our article on best monitors for photography to understand IPS terminology), those with tighter budgets are now seriously considering such monitors for photography work. Unfortunately, many end up even more confused after acquiring such tools due to questions related to proper monitor calibration.
Many photographers have been buying expensive wide gamut monitors in order to take a full advantage of their ability to display over a billion of colors. What many do not realize, is that their actual workflow is most likely limited to just 16.7 million colors due to software and hardware limitations. How does one achieve a true 10 bit per channel, or 30 bit workflow? What are the advantages and is it worth the effort? To answer these questions, I decided to dig into the 30 bit photography workflow in detail and explain its advantages, disadvantages and also discuss its future.
As you know, I have been working on various purchase guides for our readers. Previously, I posted the DSLR Camera Purchase Guide and today I am happy to announce that I have just posted the Monitor Purchase Guide. The guide is accessible on the top of the page, under our “Gear Guide“. Each and every purchase guide that I complete is an interactive system based on your preferences, budget, currently owned systems, etc. Here is a screenshot of a 24” Dell monitor, based on size preference:
I normally do not post any new product announcements, but this one got me excited. I personally own and love two 24″ Dell UltraSharp U2410 monitors in dual monitor configuration, as I pointed in my “best monitors for photography” article. A couple of days ago, Dell announced a new wide gamut 24″ IPS display with LED backlight, the Dell UltraSharp U2412M, which sports some very impressive features at only $399 retail price. That’s a great price, because 24″ IPS panels typically cost $500+.