Although not quite classed as camera gear, nothing in digital photographic workflow is more important than the computer monitor. If the colours of an image are too cool (too much blue) then the photographer warms up the colour balance (adds more reds) to make the image look normal. If the monitor is showing true colours to be inaccurate, I could be warming up images too much, so my client gets images where people all look sunburned, or a sickly blue.
Colour balance is a really bizarre and very involved subject. Being pregnant, hungover, tired, ambient lighting, diseases… they can all effect how your brain perceives the light hitting the back of your eyes. Not only do my images have to be accurate in colour balance, but the monitor that my client views the image on is also hopefully accurate. Then, if the image is printed in a magazine, the RGB image is converted over to a CMYK version that’s also hopefully accurate to the original.
My workflow has traditionally involved dual monitors. Mostly because I really enjoy the extra screen realestate, using palates and email on one external monitor and full screen image on a MacBook Pro (MBP) monitor. I even went as far as adding an extra monitor to an old MacBook and having two MacBooks next to each other, with a total of four screens! Like I said, I really like my screen realestate. My extra monitors were cheap BenQ monitors from MSY. At the time, I wasn’t too bothered with colour accuracy as that was a job left to the Apple monitors on the MacBooks.
Then I got an email from BenQ asking if I’d be interested in trying out one of their new monitors that are specifically designed for photographers, the SW2700PT. Colour accuracy being a critical point. Of course I said yes!
Spotting the Mac logo on the box had me smiling right from the start. I only use Mac. My first impressions were “Wow, this is big!” It’s 27″ or 68.6cm of screen. The stand is sturdy and adjustable which is really cool. Personally, I’d like just a little more height so I can have a 15″ MBP open underneath the main BenQ screen. I love being able to rotate the screen 90 degrees to show someone a portrait image on a full screen. There’s a little bit of tilting involved because the monitor stand isn’t quite high enough to rotate unless you tilt the monitor as well. No real dramas there.
The other thing I really like is the monitor shades, that even have light absorbing black felt on the inside surfaces so there’s no reflection and glare on the screen. Brilliant. The little sliding opening on the top had me confused for a second until I went to do a setup calibration with an EyeOne2 calibration spider. Ah! The calibration tool comes through the sliding hole. Again, smart design. The puck controller is also really smart. With very thin borders on screens these days, all the control buttons are underneath the screen, which is a hassle. The SW2700PT has a small “puck” controller that can sit in the bottom of the monitor base, or via a small cord, sit on the desk right alongside the keyboard for easy access. This makes it very easy to cycle through settings for a quick look how the image would look or change inputs. With HDMI input, it’d be nice to add a media player or PS4 when I’m not processing..
Thunderbolt cable included=very happy! I hate having to add adaptors, so the Mac logo on the box was well deserved. (It’ll be interesting to see which cables are needed for the new round of MBP’s with USB-C)
All in all, setup was very easy. The side screens were a bit fiddly but once I worked it out, no problems. Good old Mac, no driver needed, just a restart and the monitor came up.
The display looks stunning! The greens look better than the MBP display and it’s very sharp without looking pixel sharp. Great depth in the shadows and the brightness doesn’t change with the viewing angle as much as the MBP. In fact, barely at all unless at extreme angles. I can see this as being a main monitor instead of a side palette monitor. The tables have turned.
One of the most important parts of using a monitor is calibrating regularly. The old CRT monitors were very prone to changing over their lifespan but new monitors should still be calibrated once in a while. I pulled out my old Gretamacbeth EyeOne Display2 calibration spider and downloaded the Palette Master Element software from the BenQ Australia site. Surprisingly the old calibration device came up on the software. Bonus!
Unfortunately about 10 seconds into calibration, the software would crash every time. I called support and a very switched-on guy called Ivan was very proactive in getting to the root of the problem. I emailed him a copy of the crash report data (the page you can send to Apple) and he’s sent it on to BenQ HQ. I’m guessing that running the very recent upgrade to MacOS Sierra might have something to do with it and a V1.2 of the calibration software will help.
I’ll update this page when I hear from them. In the meanwhile, I might try an old white plastic MacBook running OS Lion and see if that makes any difference.