4K Monitors: A truly impactful upgrade for Photographers

Photographers are well-known equipment junkies and gear-heads.  I’m certainly guilty.  God only knows how much stuff I’ve bought over the years…but to be truly honest, it’s rare for any new gizmo to provide anything more than a minor or incremental improvement.

There have been two exceptions.  The first was when I bought a Nikon D800E.  That incredible camera had a 36 megapixel sensor, which was a 3x improvement over my old (and beloved) D700.  I would pull up new photos on my monitor and exclaim “Holy Crap” (well,  something like that)…truly, the improvement in resolution and the resulting amount of detail was absolutely staggering. 

The second exception just occurred this month.   It was a complete surprise to me because I was just replacing an old piece of equipment that had busted and I didn’t really expect the new item would be all that much better.  Basically, my monitor died on me and I had to get a new one.   Before it broke I had read about the new 4K monitors but thought my old one got the job done and didn’t think there was a good reason to upgrade.  Well, I was wrong

My new monitor is about the same size as my old one (27″…although this really means about 19″ wide).  The difference is the resolution.  My old monitor had a resolution of about 1920 x 1080 pixels.  My new BenQ SW 271 has twice the resolution (3840 x 2160).  Which sounds nice, but so what?  Well here’s the thing, modern cameras have incredible resolution.  My current Nikon D810, for example, produces images that are 7360 × 4912 pixels.  So when I was looking at one of my images on my old monitor, it could only display about 25% of the actual resolution contained in my image…my new monitor displays twice as much.  See below.

4K Monitors: A truly impactful upgrade for Photographers 4K monitor for photographers

The resolution upgrade is dramatic and incredibly helpful for photographers

 

Ok, but what does that really mean to a photographer?

Put it this way, I have a portfolio that features the cream of my work…150 shots or so that I use to ‘wow’ my clients.  Since I got the BenQ, I’ve had to rework nearly 20% of those shots because of imperfections I had never seen before.  Keep in mind, these images were the absolute best I had…with countless hours devoted to making them (I thought) flawless .  When I first saw them with the BenQ I was stunned.  Flaws, artifacts and issues jumped off the screen that I simply hadn’t seen with my old monitor.

Not only was the resolution a revelation, but the color accuracy was as well.  I have calibrated my monitors for years to ensure accurate color but even with calibration, most monitors can’t capture the full range of colors.  The BenQ can display an impressive 99%+ of Adobe RGB colors which means you can really see all the colors captured by your camera 

Again, so what does that really mean to a photographer? 

Well, in my case I had never noticed before that my photos appear over-saturated on the web when viewed via Internet Explorer.  In other words, the same photograph looks significantly different if one source is the web (via Internet Explorer) and the other is one of my internal files.  Why?  Because Internet Explorer often fails to use the correct color space a photo was processed with.  And if you use the wrong color space, the colors can be messed up (I use Adobe RGB as my color space and my images look fine on other browsers, like Chrome or Safari).  My assumption now  is that my old monitor’s inability to show the full color spectrum effectively hid  the over-saturation issue I now can see on Internet Explorer.  As a professional photographer, it was mind-blowing that the 15% or so of the public that use Internet Explorer as their web-browser were seeing nearly cartoonish versions of my work (I’ve since switched over to Chrome as my personal browser and taken steps to address the issue for those of you that use Internet Explorer).

Now perhaps most of you are way ahead of me and have already invested in a 4K monitor.  But my guess is that although photographers are ‘gear-heads’, we tend to concentrate on cameras, lenses, tripods and the other ‘fun’ stuff and only spend what we absolutely have to for the ‘boring’ items like computers and monitors.  If that sounds familiar and you have top-notch equipment, display your work on the internet and/or sell large prints, you might want to learn more about 4K monitors.  I wish I had years ago.

Jeff

PS:  The reason I wrote this article was to highlight the advantages of a 4K monitor for professional photographers.  This isn’t really an equipment review, you can check out the web for those.  Plus, this isn’t a product testimonial.  To be honest, I had never even heard of BenQ before my old monitor broke, but my internet research indicated the specs were excellent, the reviews were solid and the price was significantly lower than the competition.  And to ensure total transparency, BenQ didn’t give me money or a price break on my monitor….darn it. 

 

4K Monitors: A truly impactful upgrade for Photographers 4K monitor for photographers

My workstation with my new BenQ and my secondary monitor.

 

 

 

4K monitor for photographers

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3 Comments

  1. Thigr March 1, 2018 at 10:09 am #

    Jeff Stamer, thanks so much for the post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

  2. Leon Kolenda February 22, 2018 at 1:55 pm #

    Well Jeff, I have a 40″ 4K monitor, that I have had for 2 years now. I also have a Nikon D750 and some Nikon lens’s. When I started editing with my new monitor, I was blown away also! I can stick my face up with in 6″ of my monitor and still cant see a Pixel when viewing any of my 24 Meg, images. What I love about using a 4K Monitor is once my selected images are edited, ( I try to edit them to be as close to what I saw when I snapped the shutter.) is they really look just like I visualized them when I was there. Great stuff!

    However, I still believe, that benefit is mostly for my personal viewing enjoyment. I don’t print my work anymore on my own large format printers, I out source, That takes a while to find a good one, that can work with my monitors calibration, and I’m very selective as to what gets printed. The other large audience, “The Internet” is a whole different ballgame. You have so many color viewing variables in the on-line world, that many will not see the same thing that we see, until, the general world population starts using 4K, 6K, 8K, monitors, and that won’t be until we see the price point of them that says ” Yeah I have to have one!”, and even then, there are the the other factors of, each different monitors technology, color settings, size of the monitor, which is comprised of each individuals preferences.

    So yes, I love my 4K monitor, and enjoy working on my images. I concur with you Jeff, It was a game changer for me, ” Had to have one.”

    PS: Love your work.

    • Jeff Stamer February 22, 2018 at 5:49 pm #

      Hi Leon,
      Wow…a 40″ monitor…I’m impressed…maybe when mine dies I can get one that size! We are in agreement that a 4k monitor was a significant upgrade…which all the stuff I buy to support my Photography addiction made as large an impact.
      Thanks again,
      Jeff

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