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See your world in real color — wide gamut color

NEC 30" 3090 WQXi

’Tis the time of year when bright reds and greens appear, but not on most monitors! If you can’t see it, you’re flying blind. See also my Feb 23 blog comments.

The latest digital cameras have a very wide gamut, or range of colors. Very bright or dark color, particularly reds, are a challenge for most monitors.

For the best shot at true-to-life results, use the ProPhotoRGB color space (or other wide gamut color space). Configure your RAW converter to convert into that wide-gamut color space, and 16-bits is essential when using a wide gamut— more steps (range of values) are needed to span the range of color (gamut).

Even the popular AdobeRGB color space is too constricted for cameras like the Nikon D3/D3x. Colors that don’t fit into will be squashed together or “pinned” to undifferentiated values.

Today’s printers offer gamuts that are wider than AdobeRGB, so if you’re not using a wide gamut color space, you’ve already limited the color that can be printed— before you print! While most images are well within the gamut of AdobeRGB, and even sRGB, many images are beyond those gamuts, particularly those with saturated color. Think red ripe strawberries.

The idea is to “set and forget” by establishing a workflow sufficient for all images, whatever their gamut: that workflow is wide-gamut color in 16-bits.

It’s ironic that some photographers who love color are still shooting JPEGs in sRGB and thinking they’re actually doing well, disavowing RAW as no better than JPEG. Cognitive commitments die hard when you can’t see any difference.

Color gamut of NEC LCD 3090WQXi compared to sRGB
(blue triangle delimits the sRGB color space)

The solution is to get a wide-gamut calibrated and profiled monitor. My #1 recommendation here is the NEC 30" WQXi with its bundled calibrator, which both calibrates and profiles the monitor to 12-bits of precision, instead of crudely tweaking the video card in 8-bits. If the 30" model is too expensive for your budget, consider the 25.5" 2690WU2, with the same quality. Be sure to get the “SV” model, which includes the bundled calibrator and SpectraView II software. It’s not too late if you already bought the monitor by itself, you can get the calibrator and software separately for about $273.

Prices seem to have dropped for the holidays. Get the NEC 30" at OWC (includes free shipping, that’s where I bought mine), or at B&H Photo. Click here for several of the NEC models at B&H.

10-bit vs 8-bit video — the ATI Radeon 4870 supports 10-bit video output through its Mini Display Port (only). With monitors like the new Eizo CG243W also accepting 10-bit video, one would think that would be a terrific move forward. But my information from NEC and indirectly from Adobe is that 10-bit video requires Mac driver support that does not yet exist. A friend spent three weeks in computer hell with that combination (weird USB problems caused by the combo, Mac Pro motherboards swaps, etc), so the 10-bit bleeding edge is definitely not something I’ll be considering before next summer, or whenever its finally supported officially. And I’ll believe it when I see it, too!

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