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As a working professional photographer, I am regularly asked how important a good monitor is in my workflow and the production of my images. My answer to this is always the same. “A good colour managed monitor is possibly the single most important piece of hardware a photographer should purchase”.
My reasoning for this is quite simple, your monitor is the first place you properly view your images and where all the adjustments needed to make an image reach its full creative potential are made. If you are performing these adjustments on a substandard monitor that is not colour calibrated or profiled the file will never reach its true potential and you will be unexpectedly surprised and more often than not disappointed with the final outcome. Ask yourself, how can you possibly make an accurate assessment of your image if your monitor is not accurately displaying it? A colour managed monitor is an investment and it needs to be carefully considered. All monitors are not equal, and the specs required for a photographer differ from those required by a gamer, graphic designer or film maker.
Good photographers’ monitors as you would expect are more expensive than standard monitors, and the prices vary quite dramatically, but there are monitors that tick all the boxes without having to “sell the farm” to afford. For my money you cannot go past the BenQ series of photographer’s monitors. My personal recommendations being the SW321C and the SW270C. The build quality and specs of these monitors are every bit as good as monitors costing double the price.
My editing monitor of choice is the BenQ SW321C. This big 32” monitor has everything I could possibly need for clean accurate editing of my photography.
Firstly, and importantly, the SW series of monitors have hardware calibration. There seems however to be some confusion surrounding the term “Hardware Calibration”. Hardware calibration doesn’t mean the monitor has the measuring device built into it, but put more simply, it means that we actually calibrate and profile the monitor (the Hardware) as opposed the computers video card. This achieves a cleaner unaltered signal from the computer The result? More accurate colour. This method also allows for calibration to be created in a higher bit depth, providing greater tonality. Essentially, the higher the bit depth the better the tonality.
Then there is colour space.
The BenQ monitor can display 99% of the Adobe RGB colour gamut. This colour gamut represents the colour contained within my files and Adobe RGB is widely regarded as the industry standard “colour space” for photography. Again, in laymen’s terms this means that on my BenQ monitor I can see 99% of the reproducible colour within my file, enabling true and accurate assessment of the image. You may be surprised to know that expensive high end monitors not specifically designed for photographers are generally unable to do this. Even the best laptop screens are not really suitable for accurate colour assessment.
Color uniformity and consistency across the screen is also extremely important.
Without colour uniformity you would see a different result depending on what part of the screen you were viewing the image. Fortunately, the BenQ SW321C employs Uniformity Technology, ensuring accurate colour from corner to corner so that the colour you see is accurate regardless of where on the screen the image is positioned
The screen on the SW321C also has a unique glare free finish to eliminate unwanted colour reflections that could influence your judgement of an image. A special roller to keep the screen surface clean and in pristine condition is included with the monitor.
At 32 inches the SW321C is a big monitor and that suits me perfectly. This provides plenty of space to have all the tools I need openly displayed and still have ample room to view my image at a size large enough to make those important decisions, and as this monitor is 4K it has the resolution for me to be able to see every minute scrap of detail.
There many are more features that really round off why I think this is the best value photographers monitor out there, like the included viewing hood. This smart looking hood attaches to become a fully integrated part of the monitor and helps aid in the blocking of unwanted light “polluting” the screen. Some more expensive brands actually charge extra for a viewing hood of this quality.
The base of the monitor is perfectly sized to adequately support the screen without taking up too much valuable desk space, and sitting in the middle of the base is the “Hot Key Puck”, a control unit that enables quick adjustment of the monitors settings, like changing colour space for different workflows or for quickly viewing an image in Black and White as just a couple of examples.
Finally, the BenQ SW321C has all the connections required to seamlessly connect to today’s devices, including an SD card reader, 2x USB 3.0 ports and an audio port so you can connect some decent speakers.
New to the SW “C” series of monitors is a USB-C connection that supports Thunderbolt 3 for a simple one cable connection to any supporting laptop, such as a MackBook Pro. This connection supports video, data, sound and power all through just one cable.
All of this adds up to a feature packed monitor that just simply cannot be beaten for value, so if you are looking for a serious photography monitor that won’t break the bank check out the 4K SW321C or its smaller counterpart the 2K SW270C, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Commercial & Fine Art Landscape Photographer/ Australia
Ian van der Wolde is a commercial photographer based in Melbourne Australia.
He is a Master IV Photographer, Life Member, Honorary Fellow and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography & Photography Lecturer at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology.
Ian is also a brand ambassador for BenQ, Ilford, Profoto and Calibrite.
Photography Website www.alteredimages.com.au
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