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I've been playing with my new 600D and one thing is really starting to annoy me. When I view an image on the canon's screen, the image is clear and bright. The same is true also if I'm controlling the Canon via my Tablet (Slate 7) using provided software. However, when I view the images or play videos back using computer software (OS X and Win8) I've noticed the images are significantly darker than how they appeared on the Canon's display. Does anyone know why this is so, and how to get a true representation of the output file on the display?

edit

If you shoot in Raw + L mode, you can see the camera raw file (.cr2) which has a lot more brightness to it. Files are like 20M though

marked as duplicate by mattdm, TFuto, Hugo, dpollitt, Paul Cezanne Nov 7 '14 at 23:20

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    Camera LCDs lie like politicians! – Michael C Nov 7 '14 at 10:26
  • Looooool. Love the politics reference – Luke Madhanga Nov 7 '14 at 10:28
  • Different camera, exact same everything else. :) – mattdm Nov 7 '14 at 16:49
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You can't, you can see why with a simple experiment:

  1. Walk into a very well lit room, set the camera to aperture priority (Av) and select reasonable exposure values (for example, f/5.6, ISO 400) also set the camera to capture raw files

  2. Turn off all the lights so that the room is fairly dark, take a picture of one of the walls (if you don't have a tripod it will come out blurry, that's ok) look at it on the display - it will look very bright.

  3. Turn on al the lights, take the same picture again, look at it on the camera LCD - it will look less bright.

  4. Load the images into a raw processor (like Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, Darktable or Raw therapy) adjust the light balance using the same point and look at the pictures side by side - they will have almost the same brightness !

That shows us that the way we see the image on a screen changes depending on the environment, so, even if we make two screens output the exact same image (and that isn't easy to do) they will look different to us.

And I'm intentionally not going into screen calibration and color calibration because that's a very complex thing and the question is only about brightness.

so, if you want the images to look brighter on the computer you choices are:

  1. Take lots and lots of pictures, learn how the camera behaves and how you can expect the picture to look on the computer, also learn to use the histogram, than compensate based on your knowledge and not the LCD image.

  2. Whenever you view images on the computer, turn off the lights first :-)

  • How does this change when you're recording video? And great answer thank you – Luke Madhanga Nov 6 '14 at 22:33
  • You don't even need to turn off the lights when viewing an image on your computer. Just place the same relatively dark image on a white background and then a black background and compare. – Michael C Nov 7 '14 at 10:25
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In general, most camera LCDs are much higher contrast and much higher saturation than a general purpose computer monitor. They are tweaked this way because it makes the images look more vibrant on a small and low resolution display, but without more careful adjustment, they would look very artificial on a larger, higher resolution display at the same over-saturated and overly vibrant levels.

The difference between camera displays and desktop displays is just something that comes with the territory and is to be expected. It isn't necessarily a bad thing. The camera display gives you a somewhat accurate quick picture of the detail of the image that is quickly and easily visible and is generally more directly backlit than your computer monitor (allowing for more vibrance in general.) To get colors to be accurate and believable at larger size however, you still need to do some color work in post.

It also does help to have a good color quality monitor with calibration as desktop monitors often have notoriously inaccurate and poor color, particularly on the cheaper end. There is a good reason why people that need accurate color end up spending $600 on the low end and $2000+ on the high end for a 24 inch monitor for working with color. Generally either the contrast or brightness just isn't as high on most cheap consumer monitors. Newer LED monitors do allow for pretty strong contrast and brightness, but a lot of consumers still have TN panel LCD monitors. (LED monitors have their own issues as well, but that's beyond scope for here.)

So basically, it comes down to the fact that the purpose and design of the preview screen is very different from the purpose and design of your computer monitor. Additionally, as Nir points out, our perception of color is different based on context even if we have the exact same output from the monitor (though in 99% of cases, we don't.)

It's also worth pointing out that both are reasonably true representations of the output. The most true you could get would be to bring the black and white points well within the range of whatever display you are on so that you can see all the detail that was actually captured, but in practice, the bigger concern should be making the image look good and you should adjust the curves and black/white points such that detail is visible on the screens or prints that you will be using for presentation. The final image matters far more than what was actually captured.

  • You'd think Apple would have got this right with their Retina display. My designer observed the same problem that I have on my win8 tablet that he has on his MacBook Pro with the images – Luke Madhanga Nov 7 '14 at 23:15
  • @LukeMadhanga - the Retina display is S-IPS, but it still needs to be calibrated to get accurate color. Also, back panel LCDs don't have particularly accurate color, but rather are designed to (over) show shadow detail normally. – AJ Henderson Nov 8 '14 at 3:28

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