In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of display calibration to ensure that what you are editing ends up looking correct when displayed elsewhere or printed. One of the other less simple challenges is finding a superb monitor for editing your work.
One of the big issues is that most displays that we find can only handle the sRGB colour space. That’s ok for web work, but completely inadequate for serious editing and for preparing to print well. We should be using the ProPhoto colour space in our editing tools of course, but a ProPhoto gamut display is crazy expensive. In fact, finding a reliable AdobeRGB monitor that holds its colour and has strong connectivity has been a challenge.
When we're on a serious budget, I have recommended drawing the line at an IPS or In-Plane Switching design. TFT (thin film transistor) monitors don’t do colour all that well and are built to be both cheap and very fast. They are very popular with gaming enthusiasts because colour accuracy is less important than screen redraw to the gaming enthusiast..
The demands of photographic and video editing are very different. Photographers understand the criticality of getting the colour right and even enthusiast video editors are now learning the skills of the colorist to make their film projects more enticing. If the monitor colour is wrong, well, you’re going to do hard work for pain in return.
I have been using large Dell monitors for a while and my 30” has been showing its age with serious colour drift and difficulty in getting a good calibration where it was rock solid in the past. Monitors age and with that goes colour fidelity. I’ve been looking for a replacement for a while as I use a dual display system. My other display is a Wacom Cintiq HD 24 and I was unable to get the Dell to match it, and my colour tests were showing that the Wacom was correct and the Dell too warm or too green. I've gotten good service from the Dell pro displays and don't think less of them. I needed something new, and while Dell has options, I couldn't find one that fit my needs closely.
I wanted an Eizo. They are killer displays, albeit with a killer price tag. Then fellow photographic artist Mr. Martin Bailey did a review of a display that I had heard good things about, the Benq SW2700PT. Martin is a straight shooting fellow, very humble but always very precise. He really liked the Benq, as had other photographic acquaintances, so I decided to give it a shot. I sourced it from a vendor with an excellent return policy in case things did not work out. I think about this a lot as we are driven more to buying online. One of the former benefits of a local brick and mortar store used to be the ease of return and or exchange. With storefronts carrying more limited levels of inventory, and invoking no return, or egregious restocking fees, they are building the scaffold for their own demise.
But this is not a post on the death of traditional retail, it's about a display. Things have worked out extremely well. The Benq SW2700PT is a 27” display so I have given up 3” diagonally. In terms of sharpness and colour rendition it’s a big step forward. Dell has an excellent reputation in their pro monitors but I would say that the Benq is superior to what I have used. The monitor ships with a specific Adobe RGB configuration and after calibrating the display with the Spyder 5 Elite that I am using at the present, the default was as close to calibration for my working space and lighting that I have ever seen out of the box.
The controls are activated by a small button on the bottom of the front bezel and controlled by a multifunction keypad that connects to the display. Many of today’s displays seem to be required to have cryptic control systems that are hard to leverage. The Benq was so easy I thought I might be missing something. The monitor is height and tilt adjustable. It does tend to go to sleep as required but I find it sometimes slow to wake up, certainly not instantaneous like the Dell it replaced.
It also includes a light shield, a flock lined arrangement that attaches to the top and sides to prevent glare across the front of the screen. The display is LED driven and is a nice smooth matte finish. Glossy displays may look pretty to some but for editing they are a real pain in the butt. When Apple went glossy only, I stuck a voodoo doll with pins for whichever idiot made that decision.
The Benq delivers the full AdobeRGB gamut (>99%) and is a real pleasure to work with. There’s consistent brightness across the range and the contrast is unlike most displays I’ve seen that block up in the whites and blacks really horribly.
Not every photographer or videographer needs to spend nearly $900 on a monitor. However, if this is a serious pastime for you and you enjoy the editing process, or are generating revenue from your work, a great display will pay off very quickly. I can no longer count the number of re-edits I have done for both image creators and their customers who were unhappy with the final colour of the received work, likely due to a poor monitor and often a lack of calibration.
You won’t find the Benq in most computer or big box stores. You probably won’t find a seller who understands what you need either, this is a specialized marketplace with limited reach. Consequently, you will have to do some research to find a qualified and capable seller, and I always encourage seeking a fair return policy if for some reason you are not happy.
Followers of my Google Plus page or other outlets may recall that about six months ago, I was on this display hunt and at that time was really searching for a 4K capable display at a fair price. I could find lots of 4K displays, but none of the ones that anyone had in stock did any better than sRGB except for one that claimed AdobeRGB. Calibration with both a Colormunki Photo and the Spyder Elite advised that it was barely doing sRGB, so it went back in the box and back to the store. They did try to jerk me around on the return but I had the manager sign the receipt that it could come back with no fee if it didn't deliver to its advertised specs. It didn't and with help from the manager, I got a full refund. I did discover that many vendors and their resellers have been playing pretty fast and loose with their wording on 4K displays, so caveat emptor in that regard. I did check on Benq options but like the others I found at reasonable pricing, all the 4K options were maxed out at sRGB. If I had buckets 'o' cash, Eizo does have a 31" 4K display that delivers true DCI 4K, which is different from UHD 4K (DCI 4K is a wider format used by cine cameras, whereas UHD 4K is the common 16:9 aspect ratio) It is rated at DCI-P3 which while very good is still only about 93% of AdobeRGB. There are a couple of manufacturers that say that they can do 4K in AdobeRGB, but one of them is the display that I bought and returned for not delivering on its stated specifications.
If you take your work seriously, it may be time to look into a really excellent display, even if it's not yet prime time for 4K. The Benq SW2700PT is a superb option and I’m very happy with mine.
Until next time, peace.