Over the last few weeks I've been busy making a number of changes to my website, as I felt they were long overdue. One of those major changes were the readability of this blog, and after much feedback, I decided to take it back to white background and black text, it needs to be easy on the eyes so the content can be enjoyed. I hope you like the new design.
If you read my last article on "Useful PC tools for windows photographers" you'd know that I've been trying to write about products that are available that really do make such a different, more notably in the computer-realm. I like to write about products that can do as good a job, or better than their market leaders, potentially saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars, and hours of research.
The underdog products perhaps? I'll let you decide.
The BENQ SW2700PT should be on your wish-list. It boasts some incredible specs for its price; a no-brainer for those looking to upgrade their monitor for dedicated photo editing.
The secret, to my editing workflow, is to inject as much vibrant and subtle colour into an image as possible. Softness and delicacy are traits of an image that I pride myself on, and a reason my images are well received when released.
As a professional creative landscape photographer, colour management couldn’t be more important to me. It wasn’t always this way; I used to believe that it didn’t matter what colours I saw, because someone else would see something different on their screen; so what changed my mind? My photographs and the colours that I was missing out on. How did I know? Colour banding on edits when I viewed them on my pro-labs screens.
As my photography got better, so did my desire to begin printing my many artworks. This proved to be the turning point, and soon I realized that I really did need to educate myself on this, I could no longer afford to keep printing and reprinting to get my images right. I was flying blind, and it was becoming expensive with paper and ink costs, not to mention the slipping patience of my pro-lab.
Turns out there’s a huge difference between an sRGB and an Adobe RGB colour space; not all monitors are created equal! Of course, if money is no issue, industry professionals will gravitate towards an Eizo. They’re the industry leader, but costing around a price of an international adventure for four; they’re not for everyone. I’ve always been interested in finding the equipment that costs much less and performs very similar, if not better than its market competitor.
Enter the BenQ SW2700PT Colour Management Monitor.
As soon as the courier delivers the box, I’m excited. I’m a bit of a screen-geek, I won’t lie. Every screen I have, I’ve researched head to toe before I chose the one I want. With the BenQ, it was an easy decision, it blew away everything else in the field in both technical capabilities and price range. I knew I had to have it. The SW2700PT is also capable of performing yoga-like manoeuvres wherein, it can rotate tall to display in Portrait mode. This is particularly workable for those who read long documents, websites, blocks of code or are constantly working on vertical panoramas.
Taking the screen out of its delivery carton, attaching the base and assembling the shaded hood, the monitor is already looking grand on my desk. It demands attention and the suave brushed-metal detail is beautifully machined, the indentation for the remote holds it snug and the cable management conduit is easily the yin-yang of the setup. BenQ have managed to design a screen that does not wobble or jiggle even when the desk is bumped, this most surely comes from the stable back spine and the solid base.
As if that weren’t enough, there are also two USB3.0 ports built into the left-side of the screen, as well as an SD Card reader. The supplied OSD Remote has three colour presets built in to these switches; sRGB, Adobe RGB and a dedicated Black and White mode. There’s 6 buttons along the right-hand underside which are emboss-labelled which also control the screen if you ever happen to misplace the OSD remote.
Attaching the shaded hood is a moment in itself. As if by magic, the screen appears bigger, braced in a dramatic-black cloak, instantly becoming the alpha of my desk. More overwhelming when you see it from the back, it really is the tall, dark, handsome stranger. There’s a small sliding port at the top for slipping a calibrator through, it’s a nice touch, it is all designed so well.
This gorgeous monitor has been made with thought to all creatives; photographers, designers and videographers who want quality without having to fork out a small fortune.
The BenQ nestles itself comfortably into two key markets; the photographic enthusiast who knows they need colour accuracy, and the professional market, offering itself up as a formidable opponent to any NEC or Eizo currently available. Here, the BenQ comes out as the cheapest option, but this is by no means a negative on its quality. Locally, here in Australia, the SW2700PT is available for $999.00 from popular retailers such as Umart online, Mwave.com.au and JB HiFi.
With professional features like these, it’s vying for attention from the graphic-arts and photographic professional; who knows good colour is not a negotiation, great ergonomics and the important features of the correct editing panel.
Let’s take a look at the finer specifications:
Compatible Colorimeter Devices:
i1 Display Pro
Spyder 4 (any version)
Spyder 5 (any version)
Incompatible / Not Recommended Calibrators
These calibrators are either simply not compatible, or do not measure current monitor technologies reliably. If you have one of these, it's time for an upgrade!
i1 Display V1 & V2
Spyder 1, 2 and 3 (any version)
So what does this all mean?
For those that aren’t quite as tech savvy as they’d like to be, let’s break it down into simple words.
The IPS (in-plane switching) technology in the monitor offers viewing angles close to 180° without any changes in the display of the image in terms of contrast and luminosity. It doesn’t darken or change colours when there is a change in viewing angle or when two people are looking at the same screen while editing the photographs.
The SW2700PT monitor features 109 pixels per inch density across its gorgeous 27 inch screen which can display over 1 billion colours on its 99% Adobe-RGB panel. Most screens that cost you a lot less will be sRGB screens. For beginners to display profiling, it is useful to note that you still cannot reach the same amount of displayed colours with calibration of an sRGB monitor. If your display can't show them, you won't see them, and your final print may not be coloured as you had intended.
While this isn’t a downside for most applications, for photo editing, you definitely need something more. On other cheaper displays, you’re not seeing all the colours your file has, especially if you shoot in AdobeRGB which is an option on many professional-grade DSLR cameras. Most modern day printers are compatible of printing photos in Adobe RGB color space, thus using this monitor would save you from wastage of prints as you have to make estimates while using an sRGB monitor.
The AdobeRGB colour space displays 30-35% more colours than an sRGB display, this is made up in the blue and green spectrum, and are true to colour when matched with a printed lab-grade sample. The monitor offers a 10-bit colour depth, with an excellent 14-bit colour accuracy for showing shades and tones. In comparison a standard 8-bit display monitor can display approximately only 16.8 million colors.
In short, this is an amazing feat for the price and worthy of applause. The high-resolution of the 2560x1440 QHD native resolution means that your screen will be crisp, vibrant and displayed at a high resolution, so you will have plenty of image real-estate on the screen when using editing programs such as Lightroom or Photoshop.
Regarding the connections to your PC, the BenQ offers several different connectivity technologies. Depending on your setup with your computer, your graphics chipset will have a number of display outputs for the connection of monitors. Whether you are running a PC or a Mac, you should at least have a HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort (DP). Here’s a graphic of the types of ports the SW2700PT supports.
If your computer has none of these, you should consider getting a graphics card (GPU) installed if you are using a Windows PC. For Mac and laptop users, it may mean looking at an upgrade. Your local computer retailer can give you advice on how to proceed as each and every system is different.
Just like higher-end displays, the BenQ comes with a black shading hood which is easily assembled out of the box. This helps reduce ambient flare, an essential if you don’t have a darkened space in which to edit. I never fully understood the use of this hood until I examined my ambient-light measurement and saw how it changed the appearance of my colours on-screen... This is especially pertinent because I personally edit across several screens, opting for a second screen to show me web-colours (sRGB) while I edit live.
Calibration with BenQs supplied software, Palette Master Element is an easy process. Simply plug in your colorimeter of choice, load the Palette Master Element software in Basic Mode and follow the guided steps to complete your calibration. Make sure you have the correct Colorimeter before trying to profile your SW2700PT, I use and recommend the X-Rite i1DisplayPRO. It represents the best value for money versus operation. Read more about the i1Display Pro.
A “place calibrator here” shadow will appear, showing you how to complete the profiling:
Palette Master Element, unlike the software that comes with the i1DisplayPRO directly writes the profile into the chipset of the screen. For this reason, be sure that you plug the i1 into one of the USB3.0 ports on the left side. At the rear, on the connections panel, ensure that you have also plugged in the USB cable to the accessories connector:
Those who are more adventurous and want complete control over Gamma, White Point, Luminance and Blacks can select the Advanced Mode and really knock it up a notch, although, if you’re new to this caper and don’t know what those things are, best stick to the Basic mode; it’ll make a perfectly good profile, without confusion. I made sure to set reminders in my calendar to check the profile once a week for optimal correctness. It will run you through a variety of steps to check that your profile is still accurate and ambient-lighting conditions are still the same as originally-calibrated.
I wouldn't have written about a product if I myself wouldn't use it.
This monitor needs to be in so many peoples' processing setups. We as photographers spend thousands on the best photographic equipment, but for some reason the dedication to this falls short when it comes to the computer-side of things. We moan loudly when something fails or something breaks, but we don't speak highly enough, or as often as we should, about a product that works.
So here it is.
Get yourself one, you'll wonder why you didn't get one sooner.
Have you got one of these? Leave your thoughts and experiences below
Are you curious about monitor technology and want to know more? Please post a comment