Welcome Home Old Friends!

Some things you just don’t know how much you’ll miss until their gone.  Such was the case with my professional imaging monitors that went bad several months ago.  I blogged about them then when the rest of my system was crashing around me.

I took both monitors into a Viewsonic Service Center hoping for a quick and inexpensive repair.  This wasn’t to be.

One monitor was turning itself off after a few hours use due to heat problems.  This was eventually repaired but it took over two months to order in the parts because it was an discontinued model.  The other monitor had a display which had dimmed with age and I couldn’t achieve the desired luminance.  This turned out to be the biggest problem.

To summarize, LCD monitors dim with age.  The common repair is to replace the LCD panel and in this case the estimate was baht 22,000.  Below the original cost of these monitors, but almost what a replacement would cost today.  A less common repair is to replace the CFLs, which are like very thin and short fluorescent light tubes and the rectifiers which run them.  This would run about baht 6,000 per monitor for the parts, the labor I’m not sure.

I decided to bring both monitors home, the repaired one and the one which had gone dim.  Both run side by side and I spend many hours per week processing images on these monitors.  They must be profiled correctly or what I see on my monitor probably won’t be what other people see on theirs.

When profiling the monitors you have choices of luminance values, gamma values, and white point values.  After much research and experimentation I discovered that the dim monitor was dim with a white point of 6500, but would meet my luminance level needs at a white point of 5500.  This is totally workable, but it would take some adjusting for my eyes.  Most people would never see the difference, but when you work with this stuff every day you notice.

I could have also just replaced the monitors with new ones.  Unfortunately there are no monitors I like more than these for under $2500 USD’s each.  And, there is some new monitor technology not yet on the market that promises to offer huge advantages over what’s available now, but it will be another 10-18 months before they’re readily available.

Considering all of the above I decided to get used to the new 5500 white point.

I spent several hours carefully profiling the two monitors which I use side by side on a special dual monitor VESA compatible stand.  Two 21.5” 1600x1200 monitors mounted in such a stand are extremely useful.

By the end of the evening I had both monitors back and line and the workstation at 100%.  I couldn’t believe the difference over the standard type LCD monitors I had been using as substitutes. 

The difference is so huge, that I actually spent until the wee hours of the morning looking at many of my favorite images.  On professional graphics  monitors they look many times better, show much more of the true color gamut, and are much better balanced.

What Is a Color Gamut??? 

I get this question from time to time because most people don’t understand what a gamut is and how it applied to their LCD and photography.

I use this analogy:

Look at a gamut as you would a box of crayons.  Some boxes have 256 crayons, some 128, some 64, and some 24 or 16.

The standard gamut used on the World Wide Web is SRGB.  This is the standard gamut most people set their monitors to, their cameras to, and see on the WWW.  SRGB is like a box of 128 crayons.

There are other gamuts much closer to a box of 256 crayons.  More crayons, more shades of color, more of a larger gamut of possible colors.  I use ProPhoto RGB which is a larger gamut than Adobe98.  I capture images in RAW where a gamut has yet to be assigned and the color range the most possible, process the raw files into TIFF files for Photoshop using the ProPhoto RGB gamut, do all my adjusting and saving, and then convert to SRGB for web and email purposes.. and also for local print purposes.

What this means, is there is a lot more color and depth in your images than you can see using  SRGB.  The problem is, most LCD monitors and laptops still only show about 90% of SRGB and only the very expensive monitors can show Adobe98 which isn’t as large a gamut as ProPhoto RGB.  Most home inkjet printers can only print SRGB.

So.. to take advantage of the large gamuts, you need a monitor and printer to do so.  New monitors and printers are on their way, and we’ve known this for years, so most professionals process their pictures in either Adobe98 or ProPhoto RGB (and convert to SRGB from there for web and local printing purposes) so when the monitors and printers do become available.. they’ll have a large amount of images ready to take advantage of the larger gamuts.

How close are we?  Well, the Dell XPS Studio 16 laptop with it’s LED backlit RGB monitor covers 124% of the Adobe98 color gamut!  This is better than all but a very few and very expensive desktop monitors.  And on an inexpensive laptop!  Folks, the technology is here, it’s in the hands of the manufacturers, and they’re planning the release date of the products.  Expect them soon!

For now, I have my old friends back, and I think they’re usable for another 12-24 months.  By then I expect to replace all my imaging monitors (7) with newer ProPhoto RGB compatible high resolution graphics monitors.. I can’t wait!

Until next time...