The more serious you are about photography, the more important it is that you have a monitor that can accurately display and represent your pictures. A monitor that cannot accurately represent your pictures will cause you to adjust your colors or levels incorrectly, which then means that what you see on your computer monitor will not match what you see in the printed photograph. Also, if the monitor cannot properly display your picture, you will waste a lot of time editing your pictures and need to re-edit them at some point to correct the problems. If you are not yet this serious and rarely do more with your pictures than a bit of cropping and an exposure adjustment, then most monitors might be adequate.
For me, I needed a new monitor so I knew that all of the hours I was putting into editing pictures would not be wasted and I would have a better chance at being pleased with my results when I printed my pictures. I had an 18-inch Sony LCD monitor that was well over 10 years old. Back when I purchased it, it nearly cost a $1000, but I needed it and spent the money. Today, a thousand dollars can buy a lot more monitor.
In buying a new monitor, I had no real idea where to start. A friend told me that there were different types of LCD panels and that some were better than others for photography, but he could not remember what was good and what was not. I searched on Google trying to find some recommendations for good monitors for photography. There is a lot out there, but I finally started seeing the light. There are three main types of LCD monitors: S-IPS, S-PVA, and TN.
The consensus seemed to indicate that the S-IPS and S-PVA monitors were the best for photography, but might be a bit slow for gaming. The TN monitors were the best for gaming but the worst for photography. I read a lot about this and felt comfortable that I should look for an S-IPS or S-PVA monitor, since I have no interest in gaming. The difficulty is that many manufacturers do not tell you what types of LCD panels they use. You have to dig around a bit on the Web to find this information.
A little more digging revealed that a 24 inch monitor can range in price from about $300 to $3000. Well, I expected to pay more than $300, but certainly not more than $1000. Of course, some of the S-IPS and S-PVA monitors were the pricey ones that were out of my price range. By the way, I decided that a 24 inch wide monitor was ideal for me. It had the same vertical space as my old non-widescreen 18 inch monitor and a lot more width for landscape shots. In many ways I would have preferred a 24-incha non-widescreen monitor, but these are rare these days and when they are found, they are not the best value for the dollar.
So, I was a bit overwhelmed and decided to start with the Dell UnltrSharp series. I read that Dell sells a lot of LCD monitors and a lot of people seemed to be pleased with them. The Dell UltraSharp 24-inch monitors use the S-PVA panels and were fairly well liked, so I immediately started using this monitor as my default monitor to compare others against. I also started searching and waiting for a coupon, which is so common from Dell, that would lower the price of this monitor to around $500.
Because there were no coupons I could use to get the Dell monitor at that time, I did a bit more research; I found a site that listed the currently available S-IPS monitors, which more reading indicated were the best technology for photography monitors. I found a site that listed the currently available monitors that use S-IPS panels:
In looking at the list, I could quickly eliminate many models because they were the wrong size or too much money. I finally narrowed it down to one monitor, the HP 2475W monitor. There wasn’t a lot of information on this monitor, since it had just barely been released about two months ago. Those that had the monitor seemed to like it a lot and those that did not were amazed that you could get an S-IPS monitor for what they were charging. The price was about $650, about the same price as the Dell monitor without a coupon and $150 more than the Dell monitor with a really good coupon. I read a great review of the monitor at TFT Central:
This review convinced me. This was the monitor for me. It might be a bit more, but I am getting the S-IPS technology and I did not need to hope for a coupon from Dell. Also, the Dell monitor has received some complaints about the quality of the picture that worried me a bit, so I decided to bet on this relatively unknown monitor. I shopped around a bit and ended up purchasing it from Amazon.com:
In about a week, my monitor arrived and it seems great. I hooked it up and was impressed at how much sharper it is than my old monitor. I also like how easy it is to pivot. Although, I do not really like the way the stand adjusts for height. It is basically really high, or really low. There is no in-betweens. Maybe I am spoiled by the Dell monitor stands that let you adjust them to any level.
Now, I want to emphasize that I am a photographer and really like my new monitor, but I am not a monitor expert, nor did I run and tests on the monitor., I just wanted a nice monitor to replace my old monitor and this is what I came up with. I am writing this in case it can help anyone else out there who is in a similar situation or just looking for experiences with monitor shopping. Please do your research and homework.
Disclaimer: I am not recommending a monitor or otherwise endorsing it, I am merely sharing my personal experiences with a monitor purchase.
As I was doing my research, I came across some descriptions of the different types of LCD panel technologies and thought I would include them here for your reference. I did not write this material.
S-IPS/H-IPS (In Plane Switching) panels are generally considered the best overall LCD technology for image quality, color accuracy and viewing angles, but this comes at a price. They are well suited for graphics design and other applications which require accurate and consistent color reproduction. S-IPS panels offer the best viewing angles of any current LCD technology, with wide viewing angles up to 178 degress. The response time of S-IPS is adequate, ranging from 6ms to 16ms with current panels. This is only slightly slower than TN panels. However, gamers should take this into consideration. Fast paced games may suffer from motion blur or ghosting with S-IPS panels that have a response time higher than 8ms. S-IPS panels can be identified by a slight purple hue on blacks when viewed from a wide angle. There are currently few manufacturers using S-IPS panels in comparison to the other panel types making choices limited and they often carry a premium price tag. H-IPS is a newer variation of S-IPS with a different pixel structure that improves contrast ratios and lowers pixel pitch to provide better picture quality.
VA (Vertical Alignment) technology such as S-PVA/MVA are middle of the road LCD panels. They offer better color reproduction and wider viewing angles than TN panels, but have slower response times. They are very similar to S-IPS on paper. They also offer large viewing angles and good color reproduction, though not as good as S-IPS. The response times are generally worse than TN or S-IPS panels and there have been reports of a few panels that suffer from input lag, so VA technology may not be the best choice for fast paced gaming. VA panels have the advantage of higher contrast ratios compared to other panel types, which leads to better black levels. The biggest disadvantage of VA based panels is color shifting. Color shifting is when the image viewed from one angle changes or “shifts” when viewed from a slightly different angle, making various uneven brightness levels across the display. This bothers many users to the point they will not even consider buying a VA based panel, while other users don’t notice/aren’t bothered by the color shifting. Color shifts also cause a loss of shadow detail in dark scenes when viewed directly from the center. VA panels are much easier to find compared to IPS because so many manufacturers use them. They offer better image quality than TN at lower price than IPS based panels.
TN (Twisted Nematic) panels are the most widely used panel type as they are cheap and offer excellent response times, making them perfect for fast paced gaming. The response times of current TN panels range from 2ms to 5ms. However, color reproduction, viewing angles and contrast ratios of TN panels are the worst of any LCD panel technology. Unlike most 8-bit S-IPS/S-PVA/MVA panels, TN panels are only 6-bit and unable to display the full 16.7 million colors available in 24-bit true color. They can mimick the 16.7 million colors of 8-bit panels using a technique called dithering, but the results are unimpressive. TN panels have become popular with the average user because they are very inexpensive. They are also the only panels currently being used in 22″ widescreen monitors, a very popular size. Many of these 22″ TN panels are around the same price or cheaper than other 20″ monitors with different panel types, so it is easy to see how how they gained popularity. Afterall, the average user buys a monitor based on price and size.