Photography Reviews

15 Terrific Tips to Help Any Photographer Choose a Computer Monitor

monitor-dell-u2711-overview1 image 1.    Most computer monitors have LCD (liquid crystal display) technology of three major types: twisted nematic (TN), vertical alignment (VA) and in-plane switching (IPS).

2.    TN monitors are built primarily for the consumer market since they are usually priced the lowest ($300 or less); but they have fast response times.

3.    VA monitors are typically better than LCD/TN monitors and, not surprisingly, cost more ($400 to $800). Although VA monitors can’t match a TN’s response time, they do have better viewing angles, color reproduction and brightness as well as the deepest blacks.

4.    IPS monitors are generally the best for photographers (and photo editing) because they have the best viewing angles and the most precise colors. The tradeoff for these two advantages is that IPS monitors have the slowest response time, only rate second (behind VA monitors) for the depth of the blacks they produce and costs the most.

5.    Another important bit of information is that LED (light-emitting diode) monitors are also LCD monitors. LED monitors are backlit differently than other LCD monitors.

6.    There are three types of backlight technology for LED monitors. Because it is the least expensive and smallest, EL-WLED backlight technology won’t give photographers what they need. It is most often found on the wide range of low-cost consumer monitors, some notebook computers and a few HDTVs.

7.    The second backlight technology, RGB LED, is more appropriate for photographers since it provides a higher color gamut and more precise colors than the EL-WLED technology.

(Only LED-backlit HDTVs are built with the third type, WLED, so it has no application for photography.)

8.    As mentioned above, RGB-LED backlit monitors have exceptional color gamuts and color accuracy because they can cover as much as 114 percent of NTSC color space, EL-WLED monitors only approximately 68 percent.

9.    A monitor’s capability to produce a high color bit depth is a more meaningful factor in its color precision. Generally, most monitors are only 6-bit panels, but the HP Dreamcolor LP2480zx, for instance, is a 10-bit panel, so it could produce 1.07 billion different colors, an important distinction for a photographer.

10.Although there are many features and capabilities to consider when actually shopping for a monitor for photo viewing and editing, you should focus on a few of the most important.

11.Photographers should look for overall image quality and this starts with the viewing angle. Position yourself directly in front of the monitor, and then change your angle of view to either side and the top and bottom. What you want to notice is at how much of an angle can you view the screen before the colors shift or the screen becomes darker. You may want to compare all three types (TN, VA and IPS) of monitors next to each other to understand the difference well. In most cases, TN monitors won’t allow much of an angle change.

12.If you’re adding text to your images for personal or professional purposes, then it is a good idea to give each monitor a text test. Visit a Web site (maybe yours) to determine how well you can read small text. Specifically, view black text on a white background to determine if any color tinting occurs.

13.Examining any monitors you are considering for color accuracy is critical for photographic purposes. The easiest test is to view a photo from your Web site on your old monitor and compare it to the color reproduction on the monitors on your short list. If you have a fine art or gallery quality print that you know has accurate colors, then you could make this comparison too.

14.Although the black level of monitors may be more crucial for movie viewing, photographers also want as true a black as possible and still retain detail. Again, you can compare your photos to the monitors you’re thinking about buying.

15.As a final tip, the quality of a monitor’s display is also dependent on the age of your graphics card. If you have an older PC and haven’t upgraded the graphic card lately, then you may arrive at the wrong conclusions about the monitors you test, simply because the old graphics card can’t support the production of the monitor’s best image.

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