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The 2017 Monitor Buyers Guide for Photographers: Top Recommendations

The 2017 Monitor Buyers Guide for Photographers: Top Recommendations

Even with all the notes and advice, it’s typically a tough job to find a quality monitor in any price range. This is why I’ve decided to hand you my top recommendations as of November 2017. After sifting through literally hundreds of monitors, I’ve distilled five classes of monitors, among which are Fstoppers top recommendations in either class.

As a photographer, try to think of a monitor as a translator. What you’re doing in post-processing gets translated to what you see. The quality of the translations determines how accurate the feedback loop between doing and seeing is. You certainly wouldn’t want to get anything lost in translation. As such, it's important to invest in a quality monitor.

Calibration and Workflow

There’s a lot more to accurate color and luminosity representation than just throwing money at Amazon or B&H. In the previous article, I’ve laid out some of the foundations that go into post-processing. These recommendations come from my experience as a professional fine-art photographer, where I need a uniform display of color palettes among varying media.

We’ve also discussed what to look for in today’s monitor market and we’ve covered that TN-TFT panels are more responsive and geared towards gamers rather than image-editing enthusiasts. I want to stress again that it’s important to accurately calibrate your monitor if you’re expecting the very best results from either of the following top monitor recommendations.

Budget Photo-Editing Monitor < $200: ViewSonic VX2370SMH

At less than $ 200, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal than this 23” IPS monitor from ViewSonic. It’s been around for a couple of years and its price/feature list ratio hasn’t been surpassed as of this writing. While the monitor doesn’t cover AdobeRGB, it does feature 8-bit color depth, which is quite rare in this price class. This is photo-editing on a shoestring budget.

  • Brand: ViewSonic
  • Name: VX2370Smh-LED
  • Monitor Type: 23" IPS Panel, LED Backlight, Matte finish
  • Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Brightness: 250 cd/m2
  • Gamut: 100% sRGB, no AdobeRGB
  • Color bit-depth: 8 bit
  • Price: $149
  • Date: From 2013

Mid-Range Photo-Editing Monitor < $300: BenQ GW2765HT

There are hundreds of IPS-panels when we enter the mid-range market. But if we’re looking at absolute specs and compare reviews on the web amongst the best-tested monitor in this difficult price range, there isn’t anything that comes close to this popular 27” monitor from Benq. Be aware that the monitor does need a bit of a warm-up period as it uses CCFL backlighting.

  • Brand: BenQ
  • Name: GW2765HT
  • Monitor Type: 27" IPS Panel, CCFL Backlight, Matte finish
  • Resolution: 2560x1440
  • Brightness: 350 cd/m2
  • Gamut: 100% sRGB, 79.1% Adobe RGB
  • Color bit-depth: 8-bit + FRC
  • Price: $ 219
  • Date: From 2014

High-End Photo-Editing Monitor < $600 BenQ SW2700PT

Once we enter the high-end market in photography monitors, the playing field thins out but it gets more difficult to find the best among the ones that remain. However, if we take a glance at the feature list, we find that this is one of the few monitors in this price class that features a 10-bit display and a 14-bit 3D LUT. There has yet to appear a negative review of the SW2700 on the web because when this monitor is properly calibrated, it’s one of the best that money can buy.

  • Brand: BenQ
  • Name: SW2700PT
  • Monitor Type: 27" AHVA (IPS)‎ Panel, LED Backlight, Matte finish
  • Resolution: 2560x1440
  • Brightness: 350 cd/m2
  • Gamut: 100% sRGB, AdobeRGB 99.3%, Rec.709‎
  • Color bit-depth: 10-bit color depth +14 bit LUT
  • Price: $ 595
  • Date: From 2016

Enthusiast Photo-Editing Monitor < $1500 NEC PA272W

Moving into the higher echelons of image editing monitors, a couple of brands remain. Eizo, Dell, and NEC are the long-time players in this area. While Dell monitors in this price range suffer from mixed reviews, Eizo and NEC have in common that their tests live up to the expectations as a result of their rich feature list. I’ve singled out the 27” PA272 because of its lower price point and excellent test results from multiple sources. If you have $1300 to spend, look no further.

  • Brand: NEC
  • Name: PA272W
  • Monitor Type: 27" AH-IPS‎ Panel, GB-R LED Backlight, Matte finish
  • Resolution: 2560x1440
  • Brightness: 340 cd/m2
  • Gamut: 100% sRGB, 99% AdobeRGB, Rec.709‎
  • Color bit-depth: 10-bit color depth +14 bit LUT
  • Price: $ 1,299
  • Date: From 2016

Top of the Line Photo-Editing Monitor > $1500 NEC PA322UHD

Working professionals in the image and video editing business are paid for accurate and uniform color representation. As such, they require the best of the best. Why have I chosen another NEC monitor? Honestly, I don’t care much for brands at all, I’m looking at features first, go on to comparing prices and browse the web for impartial test results. At $ 2800, you get an UHD (3840x2160) monitor that displays 99,2 % of the AdobeRGB gamut, but it’s almost 5” larger than the monitor in the high-end recommendation. If you’re spending more, you might as well get a very tangible upgrade for the increased price.

  • Brand: NEC
  • Name: PA322UHD
  • Monitor Type: 31,5" IGZO-IPS‎ Panel, LED Backlight, Matte finish
  • Resolution: 3840x2160
  • Brightness: 350 cd/m2
  • Gamut: 100% sRGB, 99,2% AdobeRGB, 88.9% DCI P3, 72,1% Rec.2020‎
  • Color bit-depth: 10-bit color depth +14 bit LUT
  • Link:
  • Price: $ 2,799
  • Date: From 2016

The Future Playing Field

Is it worth waiting for a better monitor to come out? Well, I can say that it’s highly unlikely that there will be a good OLED contender in any of the price ranges we’ve discussed. LCD-displays are tried and tested and have a very long lifespan. That can’t be said about OLED technology yet. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a better monitor in any price class if you’re in the market right now. Take the budget and midrange monitors for example – These ViewSonic and BenQ babies have been among the best money can buy for four and three years, respectively. They may well be superseded by better technology for the same amount, but it may take a while. And would you really wait another couple of months to process your photos?

Hopefully, I've made your choice a bit easier. If you have better recommendations than either of these, do let me know in the comments. If you have the data to back it up, I'd be happy to put it up here.

Daniel Laan's picture

Daniel Laan is an outdoor enthusiast, teacher, writer, and landscape photographer. While his dramatic landscape photography has gained international acclaim, his pursuit of the light is primarily a means to get to know himself. Daniel teaches introspective landscape photography around the world through running tours and workshops.

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Some great options in here! Thanks for the reviews ... it's got me thinking 🤔

Any DELL? I can't believe :D :))

The Eizo ColorEdge is surely a monitor used by many pro photographers.

Eizo is what I bought after carefully considering high-end NEC monitors!

With crazy holiday sales right now, the LG OLED TV's are also worth considering. Windows 10 Insider Preview has proper 10-bit HDR support and editing on a 55" or 65" inch screen feels more painterly. Might not be for everyone but I'm incredibly happy with it. The quality difference from my Dell IPS is laughable - haven't touched it since!

Been using the screen about a year now and haven't had any issues. There's a built-in 'pixel shifting' tech (optional) where it subtly shifts the image around every minute to prevent burn in. There's even an hour long 'Pixel Refresher' process, akin to a washing machine, that really clears out stubborn
burn in, but I've yet the need to use it. To be extra safe, I use a dark Windows theme and auto hide the taskbar, so there's not much static info on the screen at any moment.

Never use a TV's for editing!

been a color guy for a long time and have a post company for other pro photographers always been a NEC user but the recent stuff I am seeing form BenQ I do think I am going to give the 2700 a go
for quite a bit less it seems to offer quite a bit compared to the NEC

I was thinking of this one: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1312886-REG/lg_32ud99_w_32_16_9_h...
Any one have thoughts? In addition to decent specs, I like the thunderbolt 3 connection for my Dell XPS 15 9560. BenQ has a similar one, but it only delivers video, not power.
I'm also surprised by the lack of Dells. No 8k option?

Just to note, for 10bit support you need a workstation graphics card from nVidia or AMD. Otherwise you will be stuck in 8bit pipeline with an integrated card or a gaming card.

Not anymore... my AMD R9 280 support 10-bit on both DP and HDMI, there are a few years ago they started to support 10-bit on "normal" graphic cards... think nvidia does it to, but not sure...

But if using Lightroom, it doesnt matter, because LR still only output 8-bit to display.

and not every hdmi can support amount of information that 10bit provides, best bet is display port.

This is a topic we could use another article on because there is a lot of conflicting information.

As best I can piece together, NVidia and AMD support 10-bit on their consumer grade cards only for programs where the graphics use the DirectX API which makes them great for games but they don't support 10-bit for programs that run on OpenGL API which most professional graphics programs do.

Thanks for the update on this...

Not sure why Eizo ColorEdge monitors are not on this list as they are still considered the gold standard for reference color accuracy. Recently I put a new CG 277 into production and side by side with a couple that are more than 4 years old it is impossible to tell the difference between the new and old. Something that I've never seen with any other "reference" monitor brand. In my experience they ALL degrade after just a few months of use. Not EIZO!

Thanks for the helpful article. A side by side comparison of the monitors listed would have been great.

What about Eizo monitor?

What about Eizo ? best in class in my opinion. Color rendition, accuracy... hard to beat. Probably the best monitor I have ever seen for graphics and photography

Great read.

Looking at the specs, it's impressive how the BENQ 2700 and NEC 272 have precisely the same specs. I wonder which company does the inner panels ? A few years ago sony did them for most of the companies throughout the world and was packaging them under samsung, toshiba etc.

I got an EIZO and the BenQ SW2700PT (back then when I bought it it was a bit pricier though) and I got to say I love the BenQ. It is so much cheaper then the EIZO plus it comes with the hood which will run you another 200 Euros for the EIZO (here in Austria)...

I made a hood out of $5 worth of black foam core, black gaffer tape, and velcro. EZ.

I made a hood myself for the EIZO. Yes it is easy, but for the price they charge the hood should be included imho.

Then they'd have to charge even more. Would that make you happy?

No they do not have to! Those hoods cost 5$ in mass production (max.)... I pointed out in my comment that with the BenQ the hood was included and that's how it should be with EIZO and NEC as well.

What no Eizo?

Dupe post sorry

I won't use any display that can't be calibrated with NEC's SpectraviewII. That means I use only NEC displays. Yeah, the calibration kit is that important. The Datacal, X-rite and Eizo calibration kits I've used haven't come close in producing neutrals free of color casts. This is why I wouldn't even consider the BenQ display. The hardware is only as good as the software that drives it.

My favourite site for monitor tests has a mixed review for the Benq SW2700PT: While they say that it is a great option for ambitioned hobbyists, they see two issues for professional use: the color rendition is slightly dependend on the viewing angle, so if you look perpendiculary at the center of a black image, then the center is perfectly neutral, but the corners have a bit of a color cast. The other point they criticise is the calibration software, which seems to be very limited and makes an unfinished impression.
What I'm wondering myself: A monitor is a device that will usually last 10 years or more. With an EIZO or NEC, I have no worries that my monitor will still be supported by the calibration software. Can I be sure that this is possible with the Benq too?
To me the headline "High-End" seems to be a bit over the top for this monitor.

I have been using the NEC 27” monitor recommended in this report for a few years now. It has been the best monitor I have ever used for both Lightroom and Photoshop. The color is always spot on. The colors I see on my monitor is what I see on my Epson printer too. I don’t have to waste large expensive photo paper and ink usage for test prints. I can nail my print on the first or second try. For the price there is no other monitor better and I highly recommend this NEC monitor. They also have great customer service if you have a question on how to set it up or is you need help using the color calibration software. I bought mine from B&H and it was delivered on my doorstep in a few days.

guys would you go dual monitors or one monitor that has type c? both options are the same price