Monitor Evolution

A bedrock requirement in a discriminating digital workflow is a monitor (or monitors) that exhibit accurate, consistent color. Unless one starts with a known set of parameters (white point, gamma, and intensity), all subsequent adjustments to image files are more or less arbitrary and will likely have a different appearance when viewed on other systems than your own.

Color gamut is another issue. Electronic devices have differing capabilities of recording and displaying colors in the light spectrum visible to humans. The rather small sRGB color space has been the defacto standard for images on the web, though more and more devices are now able to achieve wider gamuts. The popularity of video has also ushered in additional color spaces like DCI-P3 and Rec. 2020 to help standardize capture, projection, and viewing experiences.

I’ve been using a pair of NEC LCD2690WUXi monitors for a number of years with great satisfaction. Among the early wide gamut displays, these units also offered hardware calibration using NEC’s SpectraView II software and a specially tuned colorimeter to ensure color accuracy and uniformity. The calibration is relatively quick and painless, precise, and provides direct feedback each time the process is run, instilling a high level of confidence that all the hard visual work optimizing image files is conducted from a known and repeatable baseline. But technology marches on. CCFL (fluorescent) backlights have given way to LEDs, and the types of LEDs continue to evolve to deliver additional benefits to discriminating photographers.

Until recently, NEC has been using GB-R LED backlights in their high-end PA-series displays to achieve over 99% coverage of the Adobe RGB color space. In their latest new PA243W-BK model they have begun using a W-LED backlight and the color space coverage is even greater than before. Also of note, their specs now list additional video-related color spaces.

The NEC PA-series of displays has a dedicated following among many well-known photographers and has a sterling reputation for critical color accuracy as well as value in this specialized field. I expect to see updates to both the current PA272W and PA302W units soon.

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