Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Duel" Monitor Dilemma

Just so you guys don't think I can't spell, I had to put them in quotes.

This past weekend I visited my buddies up in San Jose. Eugene was actually the one who convinced me to get a Macbook in the first place and we have the same 13 inch aluminum unibody Macbook (now Macbook Pro). I got my Macbook to manage all my pictures and it's where I do all my databasing (Lr) and editing (PS CS3).

Upon visiting him, I saw that he had a dual monitor setup (Macbook LCD and external monitor) in the form of a 20" Dell FPW LCD. I have a similar monitor in the form of a 24" Dell FPW LCD. Working on his 20" over the weekend was amazing. I had never had that much workspace in Photoshop to be able to see all the details up close but still see the entire frame. I vowed to get one upon returning to LA.

Macbooks a la Apple have a bullshit proprietary external display port called Mini DisplayPort. This simply means Apple couldn't leave the industry standard DVI connection well enough alone and unless you had a Mac display which accepts Mini DisplayPort, you were now forced to purchase an adapter that converts Mini DisplayPort to DVI. I am a huge hater of all things proprietary which means I have tons of gripes with Sony and Apple and all other companies that try to lock their consumers into their own standards. While I won't get into it here, I do want to put it out there that I absolutely abhor these practices. Anyway for $30 you get an adapter that converts the Mini DisplayPort signal into either VGA or DVI.

I actually purchased the VGA version of the adapter first. My original plan was to use my 12-year-old Gateway Vivitron 21" CRT that weighs 90 lbs. and sits upstairs in my office unused. However after purchasing the adapter, lugging the behemoth down to my workstation and hooking it up, I quickly realized that this was a poor solution. Gone are the days of convex displays and analog signals and 4:3 aspect ratio that I forgot even existed until seeing my work on the old CRT. But I could have lived with all those things if it weren't for the color. The Vivitron was very bluish in tint and that made me cringe.

So I returned the Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter and exchanged it for the DVI version. After buying a DVI cable, I hooked up my Dell 2405 and I immediately liked how much better things looked on the monitor. But the color was still off. This color cast of the monitor reminded me exactly of how Eugene's 20" looked with a slightly green tint. This got me thinking. What is the correct color?

All this time I assumed that my Macbook (being an Apple product) had a better LCD display than other notebooks and was thus one of the better displays for color accuracy. For this reason, I have never thought about investing in a colorimeter such as my Spyder 3 Pro (which is now on its way). However after hooking up 2 Dells and a Vivitron, I can now admit that I'm truly confused. I have no idea what is "right". As I mentioned above the 2 Dells were greener in tint and the Vivitron had a bluish tint, which means my Macbook has a red tint and saturated colors and lower gamma (brightness). But what is "correct"?

So I did some research and finally decided to invest in a Spyder 3 Pro colorimeter. These seem to be the standard consumer-grade color calibration products readily available at any electronics store. I purchased mine from Adorama and while cheaper must now wait a full 8 days to take delivery of it. So for the next 6 days, you won't see any finished pictures from me. It's bad enough to think that all the pictures I've previously submitted were all "off" but now that I know what I know, I'm not going to waste any more time finalizing pictures that are potentially wrong in color.

On the brighter side of things, the dual monitor setup really lets me work through my pictures better because of the workspace. I love it. That and I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico...

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