The last 6 months have been quite revolutionary for the display technology with the new iPad & Retina Macbook Pro and their 200+ ppi displays that double the typical pixel densities. I have seen them both in action and compared them side by side with their predecessors, and found that the image sharpness is in a different league. They have certainly taken display technology closer to the print medium quality. This also means that the displays are finally closer in pixel density to the camera LCDs that we use to view the images. Smartphones are already on this path, and other hardware makers also seem to be following suit with full HD displays becoming options for tablets & laptops.

I was wondering what impact this will have on photography, as most of the time we spend viewing and editing the images are on laptops\desktops. I'm sure photo editing for printing will be positively affected. In addition, we will need to start using higher resolution images with the displays themselves coming in the 3-5MP range.

  • 1
    FWIW a 1080p display is about 2 MP Aug 26 '12 at 4:57
  • 6 years later... although 8mp displays are more common and affordable, most people are still using 2mp or lower. Meanwhile, my camera from the time still produces excellent images with a sensor that is only a single generation behind.
    – xiota
    Aug 29 '18 at 5:06

There won't be an impact to photography itself. The display medium is changing and that means that better details in displayed images but prints require more resolution still.

This is not as new as you think. Over 10 years ago, I had a loaned IBM T220 on my desk which is a 9 megapixels display. The precision was incredible and while the list price dropped from $27,000 to $9000 USD, it got discontinued when Sony acquired the fabrication plant in 2005. I was truly impressed with the resolution and sad to see it disappear. Apple has a new multi-resolution display API which I think solves the problems of these displays very nicely, so I expect an uptake over the next years. If Microsoft goes in the same direction, things should accelerate.


Note: in this answer the word 'resolution' is used in the optical sense: "the ability of an imaging system to resolve detail" (Wikipedia).

I think your question has some of the answer in it:

They have certainly taken display technology closer to the print medium quality.

I think that is the goal. What would a perfect display be?

  • Be visible in both sun and darkness.
  • Have a pleasing texture.
  • Require little power
  • Update instantly with no impact on product life
  • Have accurate color that spans the full human gamut
  • Have no visible pixels

Apple is tackling the last time. NEC is working on the second to last item. Barns and Noble is working on the first two

Higher resolution displays will put a higher focus on quality images, and make their production less of a fight with the tools. Any time a product specification becomes common place above what is required, it is no longer a specification. Example: Megapixels on point and shoots- even Fry's store employees will tell you not to pay attention today. There is more than enough pixels in any of those cameras. High resolution displays will eventually place the focus off the pixels and onto other less exposed parameters like color quality and wide gamut.

The other impact I foresee is an effect on the web. High resolution displays will mean that images used on the web will have to have more pixels. Which will also mean that websites will require more bandwidth. If something can look better, then people expect it to.

  • It will also have an impact on storage. For example, I can output an 800px wide image which looks fine on a standard monitor, but it looks rubbish on my iPhone with Retina display; I need to output a 1500px wide image for the best image quality on the latter, which a subsequent jump in file size. Thank goodness we can store stuff in DNA these days :) Aug 26 '12 at 7:17
  • Apple has also improved the colour gamut with the new iPad display.
    – ab.aditya
    Aug 26 '12 at 7:26
  • The NEC wide-gamut displays are stunning and an excellent for color critical work. I own 3 o them and the only trouble something is that the discrepancy between what I and others see (viewing my images on their own displays) is now greater.
    – Itai
    Aug 26 '12 at 12:55

I don't think it will have any effect on photography, in any case displays will always lag significantly behind camera resolution. By the time we actually have 5 megapixel displays we'll probably have 80 megapixel cameras!

Fundamentally size and viewing angle are more important than resolution (in terms of numbers of pixels). Unlike digital images, which are frequently viewed at 100%, people aren't going to do the equivalent with screens, i.e. they aren't going to push their nose right up against it to see all of the detail, it's just uncomfortable.

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    Well, the Retina Macbook Pro already has a 5 MP display
    – ab.aditya
    Aug 26 '12 at 17:19
  • 1
    And PhaseOne already have a 80 MP camera ;) but such specs aren't the norm yet...
    – Matt Grum
    Aug 26 '12 at 17:53
  • Don't forget the Nokia 808 Pureview with its 41 MP sensor either
    – ab.aditya
    Aug 27 '12 at 4:01
  • 6 years later... There are 8+ mp displays. While there are 100mp cameras, most are still puttering around at less than 50mp, and dynamic range is still disappointing.
    – xiota
    Aug 29 '18 at 5:10

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