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What aspects should one keep in mind when choosing monitor for photo processing? What about color gamut, panel types, input types, requirements for video card, different gammas, refresh rate, angle of view?

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9  
What aspects? I'd say either 16:9 or 3:2 :) Tip your waitresses, folks! –  ahockley Jul 29 '10 at 19:35
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If any manufacturer would make a square monitor I would buy it immediately. The traditional formats (and especially the widescreens) are a pain when you shoot half your images in portrait orientation. OK, most screens can be turned, but it's a pain. –  Fredrik Mörk Jul 30 '10 at 10:22
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On the one hand, you may want something that makes your photos look better... on the other hand, you might want something that makes them look the same as most other people will see them (on your blog/flickr stream/etc). I tend to think the former is better (since there's just too much variation in the latter), but its definitely worth thinking about whether you want others to see it how you see it or whether you just want to see them looking "right" yourself. –  drfrogsplat Jan 19 '11 at 6:02
    
You should look for "TFT central" on google! –  Matt Grum Jan 19 '11 at 6:36
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I respectfully disagree with drfrogsplat comment that you want to edit your pictures according to the lowest common denominator. You want the best possible monitor you can afford so that you can correctly edit your photos in a no-destructive manner. Once you have the photos edited properly on your monitor you can then enjoy them on that monitor or you can output them to a printer which will take advantage of the higher IQ or you can save them for the web, in which case you convert them to the lowest common denominator at the very last moment possible. Preserve the quality for as long as u can. –  stephenmm Jun 1 '11 at 4:39

5 Answers 5

up vote 29 down vote accepted

There are probably a few things you should look for. Color range is probably the most important factor, and a monitor that is at least capable of representing the Adobe RGB Wide Gamut color space (or color gamut) is important. Most professional cameras will generate images in the Adobe RGB space, while many printers, such as Epson's Stylus Pro line, support a gamut that in some areas extends beyond even the Adobe RGB space. Many photographers like to work in the Pro Photo RGB color space, which is quite a bit larger than Adobe RGB or that of most printers, and often beyond the range of most monitors. If you want the ultimate in color quality, the higher the color range the better. LCD technology on a professional screen (i.e. Apple CinemaDisplay 30" HD or Eizo ColorEdge) will produce fairly accurate representations of the Adobe RGB space, up to around 98%. Newer LED LCD technology on top of the line screens (i.e. LaCie 730 LCD) will produce accurate representations of a considerably greater gamut beyond Adobe RGB (in the case of LaCie, around 120%.)

Second, you will want a monitor that offers a high range of contrast. The color gamut that a monitor supports (such as Adobe RGB) clearly represents color range, but does not always represent the full contrast range. A high-contrast screen will be useful in representing a broader range of tones. I would look for something that offers at least 700:1 to 1000:1. Professional and top of the line LCD and LED screens generally fall within this range.

Finally, the brightness of a screen can play an important role. If you intend to place your computer in a darker area, a moderate brightness of 200-300cd/m^2 will probably be sufficient. However, if you need to place your system where bright glare from lighting or particularly sunlight might overpower your screens brightness, a brighter screen will probably be necessary. I would go for something around 380-400cd/m^2 if you have a brighter work area. Upon calibration, the necessary adjustments to correct a screens gamma will result in a lower operating brightness than the maximum brightness you may see when purchasing a screen. An ideal brightness to support accurate representation of printer gamuts is about 80cd/m^2. A very high end professional screens such as the Eizo ColorEdge CG303W or LaCie 730 are designed for an operating gamut of 80cd/m^2. Middle-grade screens such as the Apple CinemaDisplay start to loose dynamic range at such a low brightness, and operate better at around 120-160cd/m^2 in a properly lit environment.

Once you have purchased a monitor, to get the most out of it, it is important to color calibrate it. Most monitors provide a default color profile that does not accurately represent colors...often by oversaturating. Additionally, the setting in which you use your monitor changes the appearance of the light it emits, so even if you manage to find a properly calibrated monitor, it is only going to be calibrated for its previous environment, not the one you place it in. You can easily calibrate your own monitor with a device like the DataColor Spyder. There are a variety of versions of these types of devices, and they range from $30 up to many hundreds or thousands of dollars. Generally speaking, something along the lines of the Spyder3Pro @ $170 is sufficient to accurately calibrate your monitor. If you spend $1000 or more on a screen, $170 is a drop in the bucket to get the most out of your new beauty.

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Calibration is a must - good tip! –  Johannes Setiabudi Jul 30 '10 at 1:14
    
For photo editing, 300 cd/m^2 is way high. You normally want around 110 cd/m^2 for an LCD, or around 90 for a CRT. –  Jerry Coffin Jul 30 '10 at 16:00
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I think "critical" is overstating it a bit. A wide-gamut monitor is of little benefit (even a hinderance in practice) unless it matches the gamut of the output. On the web, that's sRGB (or an un-calibrated approximation), and in print it depends on the printer, and plenty of perfectly good printers have settled on sRGB as well. If that's your situation, a wide-gamut monitor doesn't gain you very much. –  ex-ms Jul 30 '10 at 18:00
    
@Jerr Coffin: I have an Apple CinemaDisplay 30", which has a brightness of about 400cm/m^2. Most professional screens are rated for their maximum brightness, not their working brightness once calibrated. You want some leeway when purchasing a screen...you don't want to be capped at 110cd/m^2, however once calibrated, its likely you will adjust your brightness down from its maximum. My brightness (or rather, backlight, as there is just one setting) when properly calibrated is just under half its maximum, so its probably around 180cd/m^2. My work area is fairly bright as it is near windows. –  jrista Jul 30 '10 at 18:35
    
@Matt: I've changed it to important. I've worked with LCD screens that did not fully support the Adobe RGB gamut but did support the sRGB gamut. My camera outputs RAW files in Adobe RGB. The result was often posterization in the greens and reds, which was terrible. If you want accurate color representation, its better to support a wider gamut like Adobe RGB than the rather narrow gamut of sRGB, otherwise you are going to end up clipping something somewhere. If you only do sRGB work, a lesser screen might be fine, but I would still recommend something with broader color range. –  jrista Jul 30 '10 at 18:41

Color is the most important part. If possible choose a monitor with a wide color gamut, then get a color profile for the monitor.

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There are a three types of flat-panel monitors (IPS, VA, and TN) and IPS will give you the best results for photography. It's often difficult to figure out the exact type of panel a given monitor uses; here's a list.

Install it somewhere you can provide consistent lighting, and calibrate it with a hardware colorimeter.

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Here's a good article on the details, quite a bit of info. One thing to also consider, when getting a good monitor is a calibration device. I use the Pantone Huey Pro, but there are several other great options out there. You'll want one that stays on and helps to compensate for changes in ambient light if you're working in a room with lots of light sources such as windows.

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If you are getting an LCD you will want to get an 8-bit monitor instead of a 6-bit monitor (a lot of this stuff depends on your budget, but I would say this is the minimum). A lot of LCDs are the 6-bit which have a faster refresh rate for gaming and movies.

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I was surprised that a lot of the MacBook Pros even have 6 bit panels, like my MacBook Pro from late 2006. –  Jared Updike Jul 30 '10 at 22:03

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