Low Cost Colour Calibrated Monitors for Photographic Processing

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Posted 14 December 2012

This discussion is about suitable monitors for photographic work.

Higher end monitors such as NEC and EIZO are recommended and used by professionals and these monitors are really excellent as they have very little drift with time, have consistent quality across the screen area, have 10 bit LUTs (LookUp Tables)(a cheap monitor may have purely analogue control and only 8 bit screens – some have 6 bit screens) etc etc – you get what you pay for. As written previously – notebook screens are diabolically bad for photographic editing – don’t even try. If you use a notebook, buy a good external monitor and a calibrator like a Spyder or Munki or i1 (or borrow the club’s i1) and calibrate your monitor, monthly!

For those who are doing digital photography as a hobby, YOU CAN’T AVOID THIS! What’s the point of spending good money on a great camera, then producing rubbish because what you see is not what you get? There are some lower cost options which are pretty good.

Avoid cheap business monitors or gaming monitors. They are overly bright, cannot be calibrated, have a very small colour gamut.

Absolutely avoid monitors with TN screens (twisted nematic).

IPS technology (In Plane Switching) is used in top monitors and the technology has come down in cost, you can find it in mid-range monitors.

This technology has good viewing angles (without changing colour).

But you also need good internal electronics to drive the IPS screen.

I would recommend the DELL U2410 monitors for a mid-range solution – please read the full discussion below.

As promised, here is the result of the $700 Dell U2410 monitor calibration:

The two monitors are almost exactly the same and have a colour gamut only slightly smaller than AdobeRGB.

Here is an example of the monitor correction curves

The curved blue graph is the target for RG&B

The correction curves for RG&B are shown in Red, Green and Blue, they are nice and linear, which shows that the behaviour is very good.

The final corrected RG&B lie exactly on the Target curve.

When I try the same on a notebook monitor, the correction curves are horribly kinky and when I tried it on a good office monitor like the Samsung LS22A450 (generally regarded as the best colour monitors in the $200 price bracket) I am unable to get a calibration.

Factory calibration is good on the Dell, but not perfect.

I’ll see how they drift with time.

Best regards, Barney

Monday, 5 December 2011 10:05 AM
Subject: ASUS PA246Q vs DELL U2410 monitor

I have ordered two of the Dell U2410 monitors for my new office workstation, where I do occasional graphic work with Adobe products and have found the normal cheap business monitors to be extremely poor in terms of colour capability.

You can find the Dell monitors at

I’ll be setting up the new workstation this week and will calibrate the monitors and report to you.

In the meantime, to confuse your choices even further, the Asus VG248QE is rated quite well – so I came across it and it also speaks the right language:

ASUS PA246Q IPS panel, 98% of Adobe RGB, 12 bit LUT, factory calibrated, $579

See comparison review:

But read this review and comments by Goodbytes

But please be aware that neither is a top-end photographic monitor, for that you have to pay a premium:

Also valuable comments by Pookeyhead:

“The reason why ASUS has been ignored here, is because it not worth it. Review shows the monitor to be OK, and have report of issues form I think 2 people here got (same issue), and they got an abysmal service (impossible to reach anyone for RMA or question) form ASUS Monitor section. So they returned it. A common problem is the monitor producing a high pitch noise if the back light isn’t at 100% (which is very bright). Another issue, is that back light is too clearly uneven. It is to be expected to get uneven backlight on all sub-1500$+ US/Can monitors (for a 24inch range), but this one, for 500$ monitor is too much.”

With monitors like the U2410, when you calibrate them, because you can’t load a profile into the monitors LUT you are doing it at the GPU level instead. The problem with this is it’s at a 8bit level. 8bit output is not a problem normally, until you come to adjust your GPUs settings like gamma, etc. As this is exactly what the .icm or .icc profile will be doing, it can result in banding and poor gradients… plus it’s less accurate.

The other differences is the quality of backlighting. Not only are professional screens wide gamut (not the big deal it used to be), but they are usually designed for uniformity and accuracy instead of the usual consumer game of chasing higher numbers to attract the average buyer. (“Wow… look how bright this one is.. this one is 400mcd/m2… whatever that means”). 120mcd/m2 is an ideal brightness for a moderately lit working environment, so making screens that can sear your eyeballs is pointless.

And lastly, panels are cherry picked for accuracy, uniformity and performance.

In terms of accuracy, a decent U2410 when calibrated properly is actually very good, but one thing I notice with proper high end screens is the way they calibrate. They are consistent at hitting the other important targets, which are colour temperature (white point) and gamma. Correct colour is only one third of the story for an image professional, and this is where a high end screen will score.

Here’s a monitor report for my Eizo created by LaCie Blue Eye Pro.

This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized 634×1010 and weights 161KB.

While the delta E figures are superb as you would expect once calibrated, they don’t beat the U2410 by any amount that would be visible to the eye. What is impressive is the accuracy achieved with white point, luminance and gamma. It hits these targets with this level of accuracy time and time again. This is because it’s being calibrated at hardware level, not at the GPU.

Accurate white point, gamma and luminance are just as important as colour for an image professional, so this is what you’re paying a premium for.

The OP mentions the ZR24W… a great screen, but be aware it is only sRGB gamut, and not wide gamut.

@ the OP… are you aware of the drawbacks with a wide gamut screen in everyday use?

You have a decent calibrator at least, so whatever screen you get you are off to a good start.

at 24″…proper high end stuff I’d go for would be the Eizo CG243W or NEC PA241W

Here are some more nice 5star comparisons of goodies for XMAS

Posted by Barney

Here is an online review of monitor technology Http://

The language is colourful but technically correct.