Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 19mm — 1/15 sec, f/3.5, ISO 400 — full exif
A bad photo of my new multiple-monitor goodness
I found myself suddenly lusting for a second monitor (Lightroom 2 supports two monitors), and with visions of a tax writeoff dancing in my head, I opted for the mid-level Eizo FlexScan SX2461W, a 24" widescreen that offers a 1,920 × 1,200 desktop in luscious relatively-wide-gamut color.
(If I'd had visions of hitting the lottery dancing in my head, I'd have gone for the $6,000 Eizo ColorEdge CG221)
I had trouble setting up my XP box for dual monitors until I installed the latest drivers for my ATI graphics card — ATI's new “Catalyst Control Center” made it trivial to set up the two monitors to work in concert just as I wished.
The new Eizo is in the center of the crappy snapshot shown above, with the Dell running a pretty-pictures slideshow on the side (currently showing an image from this Cherry-Blossom post), and my MacBook sitting in the lower center. The Eizo looks much smaller than it actually is – it positively dwarfs the tiny laptop – due to the perspectives of the closer-quarter shooting that a wide-angle lens affords (as seen here).
Anyway, after getting things set up, I calibrated and profiled the new monitor with my GretagMacbeth Eye-One hardware spectrophotometer. I also redid my old (and still excellent) Dell 2001FP, the 21" 1,600 × 1,200 LCD I've been using for the last four years.
The difference in color quality between the two was immediate and shocking.
No monitor can display every possible color, so every monitor is necessarily a compromise. If you compromise more on the budget, you can compromise less on the quality, and so my mid-level Eizo (it cost about $1,300) can show a wider range of colors than the lower-level Dell (which four years ago cost $1,000, but now costs much less).
The image at right is a false-color representation of the chromaticities that each monitor can produce. “Chromaticity” more or less means “color without regard to brightness”, and the chart shows that the Eizo can show reds that are a bit deeper than the Dell can, and richer greens. Oddly, the Dell actually has a slight edge on the blues.
(For those few of you actually inspecting the diagram, it's important to remember that it is a false-color diagram – the colors shown are wildly off – and by necessity they must be because the chart aims to signify in part colors that no monitor in the world can reproduce. Also, due to the mathematical nature of how the plot is derived, differences in the green area of the plot seem exaggerated. For more about these kind of shark-fin plots, see my writeup on chromaticity diagrams.)
Many photos look exactly the same on the two monitors, because both monitors can reproduce equally well wide swaths of the spectrum. It's only when colors fall outside the Dell's ability – outside the black triangle in the (false-color) diagram – does the Eizo show its stuff. However, it just so happens that the flowers in my previous post have some of those rich colors, and so they look glorious on the Eizo. Absolutely Glorious. My Dell pales in comparison, and now the LCD on my MacBook seems downright dull.
The diagram shows only a small difference in the red area covered by the two monitors, but the practical difference is huge. The Eizo can produce reds that I've not seen on a monitor before... deep, rich, intense reds that burn into the retina. I'm not talking about “brightness” or “saturation”... I could turn both controls on my Dell to their maximum and it still won't be able to produce colors that it can't produce. This is a whole new flavor of “red”.
Most photos don't have these deep rich reds, but one odd byproduct of this is that non-photo reds (such as the Yahoo! logo) almost dance off the screen to sear your eyes. It's a bit of a simplification to explain it this way, but basically, these kind of reds translate into “the reddest red your monitor can produce”, and so I see these glorious colors everywhere.
The “gloriousness”, of course, is that I'm not used to seeing them on my monitor, and so its the novelty that's most wonderful. I'll eventually get used to it, but it's important to remember that these (and better) colors are all around in real life. Perhaps I should check it out sometime 🙂