I finally entered the 21st century and bought an LCD monitor. There’s a lot of debate among photographers about color depth, gamut, and the like with LCD monitors. Most people agree that CRT monitors, properly calibrated, have better, more accurate color and uniform brightness than LCDs. These issues were on my mind as I shopped for an LCD. The trouble with CRTs, of course, is that they are ginormous, power-hungry beasts with color convergence and geometry issues—if you can even find a shop with a decent selection. My old 21″, 72 pound, 1998 vintage Cornerstone CRT was showing it’s age.
I ended up buying a 20.1″ Samsung SyncMaster 204B. It’s a 24-bit panel which means it’s only capable of showing 16.7 million colors (rather than 32-bit “true” color). It’s also true that brightness is not completely uniform across the entire panel and the brightness (and color) shifts slightly as you look at the screen from different positions.
But does it really matter? In my experience, practically, no. When you are seated in front of the monitor, those issues evaporate. If you sit on the floor looking up at your desk or you like to operate your computer from two feet to either side then you might have problems. Photographs on my LCD, to my eye, look just as good as they did on my CRT, with one caveat: because the digital image from the LCD is so sharp and crisp, I see JPG compression artifacts everywhere that I never noticed before on my analog CRT.
My impression is that a lot of the problems people talk about when they discuss the merits of CRTs over LCDs are ghosts from the LCD’s past. In early models, all of these problems were much more pronounced and the LCD gained a bad reputation which has stuck but which is now much less deserved. Modern LCD panels are getting better and better. And for most photographers, will do the job just fine.