There are just so many reasons why it's important for photographers to have the best monitor possible for viewing, organizing and editing images. Some of them are obvious, some aren’t. Just remember, though, if you’re using a sub-standard monitor, then half the editing work you do could be compensating for problems your photos don’t actually have.
We’ve rounded up six high-resolution, high-quality monitors for photographers to see what you can get for your money. Some are designed specifically for photography, while others have specs that make them suitable.
How we tested
All of these monitors went through our rigorous lab test process. We used the best monitor calibrators to get each one as close as possible to ‘standard’ colour and then they were checked for any residual colour errors using 24 different colour patches. They were also tested for brightness uniformity across the whole frame to produce brightness contours, or ‘heat maps’.
1. BenQ SW271
A monitor that's hard to fault - it's our go-to screen for photo editing
Size: 27in | Ratio: 16x9 | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): 99%
This BenQ screen has a 27-inch panel size with a 4K UHD native resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. It also boasts the usual 10-bit colour depth, equivalent to more than a billion colours. It’s well built with a sturdy case and a particularly rigid stand, which keeps the monitor wobble-free throughout the range of its tilt, swivel, height and pivot adjustments.
Factory preset sRGB and Adobe RGB modes are available, along with an HDR mode. BenQ claims 100% coverage of the sRGB range and an impressive 99% for Adobe RGB. Palette Master Element calibration software comes with the monitor, to maintain optimum colour accuracy. Other supplied extras include a hotkey puck control dial for easily switching between sRGB, Adobe RGB and advanced B&W display modes.
The SW271's factory presets proved highly accurate for colour rendition, with just a very slight green colour cast. After calibration, colour rendition proved excellent, with superb coverage of the Adobe RGB colour space.
2. Eizo ColorEdge CS2730
If you can do without 4K, this monitor is the colour purist's choice
Size: 27in | Ratio: 16x9 | Resolution: 2560x1440 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): 99%
4K resolution may be de rigueur these days for monitors and televisions, but this Eizo ColorEdge sets its sights a little lower at 2540x1440, resulting in a pixel count of about 3.7MP instead of 8.3MP. The pixel density is also lower for a 27-inch screen, at 109ppi rather than 163ppi, but image quality still looks absolutely super-sharp.
Ports at the rear include DVI, HDMI and DP, along with two upstream USB 3.0 ports. There are three downstream USB 3.0 ports behind the left-hand side of the case. Bundled software includes Quick Color Match, to enable easy colour matching between screen viewing and printed output. It also comes with ColorNavigator software for use with independent calibration hardware (not supplied).
Colour accuracy of our review sample was pretty much spot on, straight out of the box. The Eizo ColorEdge also delivers excellent gamut for both sRGB and Adobe RGB, with presets available for both colour spaces, direct from the menu system. Uniformity across the screen is particularly good, and there’s very little backlight bleed.
It may not set any resolution records, but this is the benchmark for every other measure of screen quality.
3. LG 27UD88-W
A sexy screen for the style-conscious
Size: 27in: | Ratio: 16x9: | Resolution: 3840x2160: | Brightness: 350cd/m2: | Contrast ratio: 1000:1: | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): Unspecified
With a slimline design and slender crescent-shaped silver base, the LG 27UD88-W makes most desktop monitors look comparatively clunky. The only real compromise is that, while tilt, height and pivot facilities are available, there’s no swivel mechanism built into the base.
There’s a good range of input ports, including DP, dual HDMI and USB Type-C, along with a USB 3.0 hub that has two downstream ports. Instead of a row of physical or ‘virtual’ touch-sensitive buttons along the lower edge of the bezel, there’s a neat joystick-like controller under the bottom of the screen. This enables easy selection of wide-ranging display modes including sRGB, but, unfortunately, there’s no dedicated Adobe RGB preset.
In our tests, the monitor scored very highly for colour accuracy in sRGB mode, gaining virtually nothing from a custom calibration. However, gamut for the Adobe RGB colour space is a little lacking compared with some competing screens from BenQ and Eizo. Detail in very dark lowlights also tends to be slightly disappointing.
4. NEC MultiSync EA271U
It’s a quality display that’s also good for business
Size: 27in: | Ratio: 16x9: | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): 78.1%
The NEC MultiSync EA271U monitor has a slightly corporate feel to it, supporting ‘cost saving device management’, whereby all connected NEC devices can be controlled from a central location. There’s also a wide range of eco-friendly settings.
Standard and ‘photo’ viewing modes are accompanied by text, gaming, movie and dynamic modes, but there’s no preset for the Adobe RGB colour space. Connection ports include DP, DVI and HDMI, along with a USB 3.0 hub. Unusually, the MultiSync EA271U also features built-in speakers, though with an output of only 2W each, they're of limited aural appeal. Touch-sensitive virtual control buttons are easily accessible on the lower bezel.
Used in its sRGB preset, the NEC proved disappointingly inaccurate for colour rendition, with a noticeably red colour cast. Switch to the default viewing mode, however, and this monitor really shifts gear, producing spectacularly accurate colours. Brightness uniformity is boosted by a dedicated uniformity-enhancing mode. Gamut for the Adobe RGB color space is good, but not great.
5. ViewSonic VP3268-4K
A solid choice if you need maximum space for image editing
Size: 31.5in | Ratio: 16x9 | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1300:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): 77%
This 31.5-inch screen is notably larger than a 27-inch model, yet the ultra-thin bezel keeps the overall size from being intimidating, while the full 4K UHD resolution maintains pin-sharp image quality despite the pixels being spread thinner than on a 4K 27-inch screen.
Around the back, there are DP, mDP and dual HDMI inputs, as well as the practically ubiquitous treatment of a USB 3.0 hub. The 350cd/m2 maximum brightness rating is typical for an LED-backlit panel, while 5ms response time (grey-to-grey) and 178-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles are respectable.
Distinctive features include an HDR mode and a 1300:1 contrast ratio. On the negative side, there’s no preset Adobe RGB mode and ViewSonic only claims 77% coverage of the full Adobe RGB gamut.
Image quality looks a little dull when using the sRGB preset, which locks out any brightness adjustment. Colour accuracy is good but gamut is a little lacking for the Adobe RGB colour space and brightness uniformity could be better.
Overall, however, image quality is very satisfying, and once you step up to a screen of this scale, you might wonder how you managed with anything smaller!
6. Dell UltraSharp U2718Q
Good value if you're on a budget, but colour accuracy could be better
Size: 27-inch | Ratio: 16x9 | Resolution: 3840x2160 | Brightness: 350cd/m2 | Contrast ratio: 1300:1 | sRGB gamut (claimed): 100% | Adobe RGB gamut (claimed): Unspecified
An attractively-priced panel compared to equivalent screens from the likes of Eizo and NEC, the Dell UltraSharp still packs full 4K UHD resolution, 10-bit colour depth and some neat extras, all inside a smart case with an ‘InfinityEdge’ ultra-thin bezel. There’s no preset Adobe RGB mode, but the standard viewing mode is accompanied by game, movie, custom colour and several additional presets, which include an HDR mode.
Video ports include HDMI, DP and mDP, and there’s also a built-in USB 3.0 hub with two downstream connectors at the bottom left hand side of the case. Control buttons on the underside of the case have a tactile feel and work well with the intuitive menu system. The maximum contrast ratio is higher than many rivals, rated at 1300:1
However, image quality is good rather than great, especially in terms of outright colour accuracy. One plus point is that there’s very little bleed from the backlight, making for good, strong blacks, although detail can be lost in very dark lowlights.