How to pick the right monitor for photo and video editing

The average computer user doesn’t have to worry about ultra-premium and sometimes obscure specifications when choosing a monitor. If all you’re doing is word processing and surfing the internet, a low-cost, reasonably capable display should do the trick. Even gamers have many great options to choose from with reasonable prices and good feature sets.

However, anyone who edits photos or videos needs to pay close attention to advanced features such as color volume and consistency. If this is the case, you should consider a premium monitor designed for content creation.

As a content creator, consistent color accuracy, effective HDR performance and precise calibration are important. In the past, dedicated multimedia professionals could expect to shell out thousands of dollars for a high-performance monitor that would make the best of their work. Thanks to moderately priced yet well-engineered models such as the new Samsung Viewfinity S8, that’s no longer the case.

What to look for in a monitor for photo and video editing

Wide color gamut

Also known as the color coverage, color volume and color space, color gamut simply describes how many colors a particular monitor or TV can display. Several common color gamuts found on TVs, projectors and computer monitors include sRGB, Adobe RGB, Rec. 2020 and DCI-P3. 

Commercial film production works mostly in the DCI-P3 color space, which more high-end displays support a large percentage of every year. In other words, 100% DCI-P3 coverage (or better) is the gold standard for content production. You don’t necessarily need it for entry-level and midrange work, especially if most of your viewers use common displays such as gaming monitors, which rarely support the entire cinematic color gamut.

If you’re just starting to create content, a quality sRGB monitor can get the job done. If it displays more than 100% of the sRGB gamut, you should be able to deliver good-looking, accurate visuals that viewers will enjoy. But if you’re working on a professional portfolio or actively working in the industry, you need a wide color gamut.

Do I need an Adobe RGB monitor?

Adobe RGB contains a wider array of colors than sRGB but fewer than DCI-P3. It also trends toward blues and yellows slightly, containing hues of each that aren’t required for DCI-P3 coverage.

While you can trust that an Adobe RGB monitor will help make great web content, they tend to cost a lot and aren’t strictly necessary. Workflows that end in print media require Adobe RGB most often, so don’t search it out on a monitor if you only produce digital content.

Color accuracy and calibration

 SpyderX color calibration tools

Photo and video editing require a display to deliver accurate colors consistently across the entire panel. Your content will benefit from a monitor that’s calibrated at the factory, although you can do it yourself with devices such as the SpyderX color calibration tools.

Look for a factory-calibrated monitor with a Delta-E rating of less than two. That’s a mathematical way of representing how true the display’s colors are to what the human eye normally sees. 

High dynamic range

HDR is an increasingly popular way to enhance contrast levels in certain content and displays. By dynamically increasing contrast levels, you can bring out subtle better in especially light or dark scenes. This goes a long way toward bringing a more cinematic experience into the home.

To take advantage of HDR, you need to master HDR content and reproduce it on a screen that supports it. An increasing number of monitors and TVs support the technology, so more content creators are taking advantage of it.

If you decide your workflow requires HDR, there are a few things to know. Official Display HDR certification is a decent indicator of support, but the requirements for the basic 400 level aren’t very strict. DisplayHDR 500 and up promise a respectable improvement, while pros often opt for monitors with DisplayHDR 1000 or even 1400 certification.

The different tier levels represent increasingly wider color spaces, higher peak brightness, better local dimming and 10-bit image processing. All of those are critical for the commercial production of HDR content.

If you do high-level content creation, consider an OLED video editing monitor. Since OELD panels can dim and shut off individual pixels, there’s none of the light bleed or color shifting of an LCD panel. OLED monitors are usually quite expensive, though.

Size and resolution

A high resolution is important to making good content. A resolution of 1440p or one of its ultrawide relatives is as low as you should go. Since there are more great 4K monitors available than ever, though, it’s worth looking into the high resolution.

A 27-inch monitor with a 1440p resolution has a good entry-level pixel density. Busy creators with complex content will appreciate the increased work space and higher clarity of a 4K monitor up to sizes of roughly 40 inches. Most video editing monitors aren’t curved, though, so displays over 32 inches are too large for some people to use comfortably.

Glare reduction

No matter how good a display is, it won’t be accurate or consistent under direct light. Shading hoods are popular for reducing glare, and while they work, not all content creation monitors have a matching hood. Some people also find them distracting or overly bulky, and they make it tough to collaborate with colleagues in person. Nonetheless, you can find universal shading hoods that do work with many popular monitors.

Screen treatment is another, more common way to fight glare. A matte screen, like the one on the Samsung ViewFinity S8, minimizes the effect shining lights have on color accuracy and contrast. It won’t eliminate the issue, but it does make a difference.

What is the Samsung ViewFinity S8?

The ViewFinity S8 is a midrange photo and video editing monitor that packs several great features but doesn’t cost a fortune. It comes in 27 and 32-inch versions, both with a 4K resolution and 60-hertz refresh rate. The 32-inch version boasts an above-average peak brightness of 600 nits compared to 400 nits on the 24-inch model.

Otherwise, the monitors are identical. The S8 sports various connections, including an Ethernet port and a USB-C port with 90 watts of Power Delivery. Its 98% DCI-P3 color space coverage really stands out for content creation. It also sports Pantone color validation, a third-party assurance of top-notch factory calibration.

Should you get the Samsung ViewFinity S8?

On the surface, it’s not terribly different from several other high-quality video editing monitors. The most encouraging part of the release is that, while it’s not out in the US yet, the initial prices on the South Korean market were roughly $550 for the smaller version and $650 for the larger one. If those price points are anywhere near what they’ll be in the US, either Viewfinity S8 would be a great choice for an up-and-coming video blogger or YouTube star.

Samsung ViewFinity S8 alternatives

There aren’t many others that compete with the S8’s color coverage, HDR support and premium calibration at a similar price point. If you need additional features and are willing to make an investment, though, there are plenty of great alternatives, some of which are suitable for the most demanding professionals.

LG 27UP850

LG 27UP850

This is one of the rare models with near-complete DCI-P3 coverage and also a low price tag. It sports good ergonomic adjustment and up to 400 nits of brightness, making it a good choice for those on a budget.

Sold by Amazon

Aorus FI27Q

Aorus FI27Q

While it’s marketed as a gaming monitor, its wide color gamut and reasonably high resolution make it one of the most affordable monitors for photo editing, too.

Sold by Amazon

Asus ProArt PA329CV

Asus ProArt PA329CV

This 32-inch, 4K display offers the calibration, contrast ratio and HDR support needed to make good content. It’s not ideal for most professional use, though, as it’s limited to the sRGB color space.

Sold by Amazon

BenQ SW271C

BenQ SW271C

This is one of the most advanced models, complete with 95% DCI-P3 and 99% Adobe RGB coverage into addition to multiple proprietary calibration and realism settings. There’s also a 32-inch version, in case you want more real estate at the cost of pixel density.

Sold by Amazon

BenQ PD3220U

BenQ PD3220U

This one’s a great midrange choice if you only publish online and don’t need to worry about mastering content in HDR. It has a wide color gamut, high accuracy and various connection options, but its 300-nit brightness leaves a bit to be desired.

Sold by Amazon

BenQ PD2700U

BenQ PD2700U

The PD2700U is one of the few low-cost photo editing monitors that can compete with the new ViewFinity S8 in terms of value. It does a decent job with HDR content and features Pantone color validation to verify its great factory calibration.

Sold by Amazon

Eizo ColorEdge CG319X

Eizo ColorEdge CG319X

Eizo is practically a household name among video professionals. This commercial-grade display boasts the rare True 4K resolution in addition to unrivaled color volume, accuracy and black levels. It also costs a fortune.

Sold by Amazon

Alienware AW3423DW

Alienware AW3423DW

With a resolution of 3440 by 1440 and a peak refresh rate of 175 hertz, this premium gaming monitor can pull double duty as a photo or video editing display. It’s the first gaming monitor to place a layer of quantum dot filtration over an OLED panel, which results in an impressive color volume and nearly unmatched HDR performance.

Sold by Dell

 

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