Which Monitor for Photo Editing 2010 ?

Started Oct 15, 2010 | Discussions thread
NewsyL Veteran Member • Posts: 5,698
Monitor for image editing Part 1

williams-pics wrote:

I have been using CRT monitors ...

I found that even the modestly priced ones had moved on in quality since I last looked and decided that there is a lot of hype attached to the very expensive ones, I ended up getting an AOC 21.5" and I found it easy to calibrate.

They have gotten much better but the monitor you acquired is not ideal for image editing though it is certainly usable - it is more of a gaming monitor. For a moderate premium, you can find a monitor that is better suited for image viewing and editing.

The AOC unit uses a "TN" panel and is NOT wide gamut.

Here's part of a guide I put together for people new to LCD monitors who want a monitor for image editing.


TFT LCD Panels

In terms of image quality for photo editing, these are the TFT LCD panel types from best to worst:

IPS (newer variants are S-IPS, AS-IPS, H-IPS, e-IPS, etc)
PVA (newer variants are S-PVA, c-PVA)
MVA (newer variants are A-MVA, P-MVA, S-MVA, etc)

If you would like some background on these panels, read this article:


IMHO, current IPS and PVA monitors can be very close in image quality with units from the top tier manufacturers; IPS do show more detail in dark areas of an image but a number of users are finding that middle to low end IPS panels show unwanted "tinting" noticeable on white or gray backgrounds. Others object to the anti-reflection treatment on the matte screens of some IPS monitors.


Viewing Angles

IPS and PVA are preferred because, typically, when you look at the screen from where you sit while editing, the gamma/color does not shift noticeably at the edges of the screen. With a TN panel the gamma/color shift is noticeable both at the sides and top and bottom.

You will see that most of the better monitor review sites will have a collage of photos showing the monitor from various angles in each review.

You can also search on YouTube for "IPS vs TN" videos to see examples of color fidelity at angles off centre.

Typically, current IPS and PVA panels have viewing angles specified as 178° horizontal and 178° vertical.

Typically, current TN panels have viewing angles specified as either 170° or 160° horizontal and 160° vertical. A sure tell tale of a TN panel if you're checking them in a store is to look at the panel from below. As your angle off centre increases you should see the screen darken and the image flip so that it almost looks like a film negative.


Bit Depth

IPS & PVA panels are 8bit or pseudo 10bit, while TN panels are for the most part pseudo 8bit - they are a 6bit panel which uses electronic techniques (Frame Rate Control & dithering) to emulate an 8bit (aka 24bit RGB) color depth.

6bit > > 6bit Red + 6bit Green + 6bit Blue > > 18bit RGB > > 262,000 colors

TN pseudo 8bit > > 16.2 million colors, many mfg's now list as 16.7 million

8bit = 8bit Red + 8bit Green + 8bit Blue > > 24bit RGB > > 16.7 million colors

10bit > > 10bit Red + 10bit Green + 10bit Blue > > 30bit RGB > > over 1 billion colors


You want a higher bit depth as, generally speaking, the higher bit depth and better quality brand of monitor will hopefully have higher quality electronics that process the image, thereby decreasing the potential to have issues with banding and/or posterization in the image on screen.


Contrast Ratios

Don't pay much attention to manufacturer's claims for contrast ratios. You'll see a number of monitors promoting ratios like 50,000:1. Frankly it is marketing bullpoop - meaningless for image editing but possibly desirable for watching movies.

These high ratios are for Dynamic CR and for image editing you'll be using the monitor in a Static mode. After reading a few dozen reviews of better quality image editing monitors you'll see that typically, the measured contrast ratio (static) after calibration falls within a range of 600:1 to 900:1.




Most LCD monitors offer at least a standard color gamut covering close to 100% of the "sRGB" color space. This equates to about 72% of the NTSC standard which is a specification you'll sometimes see listed. This is usually adequate for people editing images for posting to web sites like Flickr, Smugmug, Zenfolio, and others and/or where they upload images to off site printers like Costco and others.

"Wide Gamut" sRGB + AdobeRGB

A number of LCD monitors on the market offer a "wide gamut" covering about 100% of the sRGB color space and about 100% of the AdobeRGB color space. This is roughly equivalent to about 104% of the NTSC standard. For people who edit images in the AdobeRGB o ProPhotoRGB color space, it is essential to use a wide gamut monitor to see all the true nuances of color on screen.

However.... wide gamut monitors require a complete understanding of color management. ICC profiles must be identified and assigned for use in viewing and printing images using color managed software. Viewing images on a wide gamut monitor using software that is not color managed often shows a image with certain colors noticeably over saturated - typically reds and greens are what stand out initially.


continued in "Part 2" ....

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