Monitor Calibration Update

Monitor Calibration Update

Okay, so I no longer NEED a new monitor, because I’ve got one – and my wallet is in Leighton Hospital Intensive Care Unit on the critical list..

What have you gone for Andy?  Well if you remember, in my last post I was undecided between 24″ and 27″, Eizo or BenQ.  But I was favoring the Eizo CS2420, on the grounds of cost, both in terms of monitor and calibration tool options.

But I got offered a sweet deal on a factory-fresh Eizo CS270 by John Willis at Calumet – so I got my desire for more screen real-estate fulfilled, while keeping the costs down by not having to buy a new calibrator.

%name Monitor Calibration Update

But it still hurt to pay for it!

Monitor Calibration

There are a few things to consider when it comes to monitor calibration, and they are mainly due to the physical attributes of the monitor itself.

In my previous post I did mention one of them – the most important one – the back light type.

CCFL and WCCFL – cold cathode fluorescent lamps, or LED.

CCFL & WCCFL (wide CCFL) used to be the common type of back light, but they are now less common, being replaced by LED for added colour reproduction, improved signal response time and reduced power consumption.  Wide CCFL gave a noticeably greater colour reproduction range and slightly warmer colour temperature than CCFL – and my old monitor was fitted with WCCFL back lighting, hence I used to be able to do my monitor calibration to near 98% of AdobeRGB.

CCFL back lights have one major property – that of being ‘cool’ in colour, and LEDs commonly exhibit a slightly ‘warmer’ colour temperature.

But there’s LEDs – and there’s LEDs, and some are cooler than others, some are of fixed output and others are of a variable output.

The colour temperature of the backlighting gives the monitor a ‘native white point’.

The ‘brightness’ of the backlight is really the only true variable on a standard type of LCD display, and the inter-relationship between backlight brightness and colour temperature, and the size of the monitors CLUT (colour look-up table) can have a massive effect on the total number of colours that the monitor can display.

Industry-standard documentation by folk a lot cleverer than me has for years recommended the same calibration target settings as I have alluded to in previous blog posts:

White Point: D65 or 6500K

Brightness: 120 cdm² or candelas per square meter

Gamma: 2.2

Screen Shot 2017 04 02 at 13.04.25 Monitor Calibration Update

The ubiquitous ColorMunki Photo ‘standard monitor calibration’ method setup screen.

This setup for ‘standard monitor calibration’ works extremely well, and has stood me in good stead for more years than I care to add up.

As I mentioned in my previous post, standard monitor calibration refers to a standard method of calibration, which can be thought of as ‘software calibration’, and I have done many print workshops where I have used this method to calibrate Eizo ColorEdge and NEC Spectraviews with great effect.

However, these more specialised colour management monitors have the added bonus of giving you a ‘hardware monitor calbration’ option.

To carry out a hardware monitor calibration on my new CS270 ColorEdge – or indeed any ColorEdge – we need to employ the Eizo ColorNavigator.

The start screen for ColorNavigator shows us some interesting items:

colnav1 Monitor Calibration Update

The recommended brightness value is 100 cdm² – not 120.

The recommended white point is D55 not D65.

Thank God the gamma value is the same!

Once the monitor calibration profile has been done we get a result screen of the physical profile:

colnav2 Monitor Calibration Update

Now before anyone gets their knickers in a knot over the brightness value discrepancy there’s a couple of things to bare in mind:

  1. This value is always slightly arbitrary and very much dependent on working/viewing conditions.  The working environment should be somewhere between 32 and 64 lux or cdm² ambient – think Bat Cave!  The ratio of ambient to monitor output should always remain at between 32:75/80 and 64:120/140 (ish) – in other words between 1:2 and 1:3 – see earlier post here.
  2. The difference between 100 and 120 cdm² is less than 1/4 stop in camera Ev terms – so not a lot.

What struck me as odd though was the white point setting of D55 or 5500K – that’s 1000K warmer than I’m used to. (yes- warmer – don’t let that temp slider in Lightroom cloud your thinking!).

1000k Monitor Calibration UpdateAfter all, 1000k is a noticeable variation – unlike the brightness 20cdm² shift.

Here’s the funny thing though; if I ‘software calibrate’ the CS270 using the ColorMunki software with the spectro plugged into the Mac instead of the monitor, I visually get the same result using D65/120cdm² as I do ‘hardware calibrating’ at D55 and 100cdm².

The same that is, until I look at the colour spaces of the two generated ICC profiles:

profile Monitor Calibration Update

The coloured section is the ‘software calibration’ colour space, and the wire frame the ‘hardware calibrated’ Eizo custom space – click the image to view larger in a separate window.

The hardware calibration profile is somewhat larger and has a slightly better black point performance – this will allow the viewer to SEE just that little bit more tonality in the deepest of shadows, and those perennially awkward colours that sit in the Blue, Cyan, Green region.

It’s therefore quite obvious that monitor calibration via the hardware/ColorNavigator method on Eizo monitors does buy you that extra bit of visual acuity, so if you own an Eizo ColorEdge then it is the way to go for sure.

Having said that, the differences are small-ish so it’s not really worth getting terrifically evangelical over it.

But if you have the monitor then you should have the calibrator, and if said calibrator is ‘on the list’ of those supported by ColorNavigator then it’s a bit of a JDI – just do it.

You can find the list of supported calibrators here.

Eizo and their ColorNavigator are basically making a very effective ‘mash up’ of the two ISO standards 3664 and 12646 which call for D65 and D50 white points respectively.

Why did I go CHEAP ?

Well, cheaper…..

Apart from the fact that I don’t like spending money – the stuff is so bloody hard to come by – I didn’t want the top end Eizo in either 27″ or 24″.

With the ‘top end’ ColorEdge monitors you are paying for some things that I at least, have little or no use for:

  • 3D CLUT – I’m a general sort of image maker who gets a bit ‘creative’ with my processing and printing.  If I was into graphics and accurate repro of Pantone and the like, or I specialised in archival work for the V & A say, then super-accurate colour reproduction would be critical.  The advantage of the 3D CLUT is that it allows a greater variety of SUBTLY different tones and hues to be SEEN and therefore it’s easier to VISUALLY check that they are maintained when shifting an image from one colour space to another – eg softproofing for print.  I’m a wildlife and landscape photographer – I don’t NEED that facility because I don’t work in a world that requires a stringent 100% colour accuracy.
  • Built-in Calibrator – I don’t need one ‘cos I’ve already got one!
  • Built-in Self-Correction Sensor – I don’t need one of those either!

So if your photography work is like mine, then it’s worth hunting out a ‘zero hours’ CS270 if you fancy the extra screen real-estate, and you want to spend less than if buying its replacement – the CS2730.  You won’t notice the extra 5 milliseconds slower response time, and the new CS2730 eats more power – but you do get a built-in carrying handle!


Gamma Encoding – Under the Hood

Gamma, Gamma Encoding & Decoding

Gamma – now there’s a term I see cause so much confusion and misunderstanding.

So many people use the term without knowing what it means.

Others get gamma mixed up with contrast, which is the worst mistake anyone could ever make!

Contrast controls the spatial relationship between black and white; in other words the number of grey tones.  Higher contrast spreads black into the darker mid tones and white into the upper mid tones.  In other words, both the black point and white point are moved.

The only tones that are not effected by changes in image gamma are the black point and white point – that’s why getting gamma mixed up with contrast is the mark of a “complete idiot” who should be taken outside and summarily shot before they have chance to propagate this shocking level of misunderstanding!

What is Gamma?

Any device that records an image does so with a gamma value.

Any device which displays/reproduces said image does so with a gamma value.

We can think of gamma as the proportional distribution of tones recorded by, or displayed on, a particular device.

Because different devices have different gamma values problems would arise were we to display an image that has a gamma of X on a display with a gamma of Y:

Ever wondered what a RAW file would look like displayed on a monitor without any fancy colour & gamma managed software such as LR or ACR?

Rawdump 900x299 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

A raw file displayed on the back of the camera (left) and as it would look on a computer monitor calibrated to a gamma of 2.2 & without any colour & gamma management (right).

The right hand image looks so dark because it has a native gamma of 1.0 but is being displayed on a monitor with a native gamma of 2.2

RAW file Gamma

To all intents and purposes ALL RAW files have a gamma of 1.0

CamGam 900x705 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

Camera Sensor/Linear Gamma (Gamma 1.0)

Digital camera sensors work in a linear fashion:

If we have “X” number of photons striking a sensor photosite then “Y” amount of electrons will be generated.

Double the number of photons by doubling the amount of light, then 2x “Y” electrons will be generated.

Halve the number of photons by reducing the light on the scene by 50% then 0.5x “Y” electrons will be generated.

We have two axes on the graph; the horizontal x axis represents the actual light values in the scene, and the vertical y axis represents the output or recorded tones in the image.

So, if we apply Lab L* values to our graph axes above, then 0 equates to black and 1.0 equates to white.

The “slope” of the graph is a straight line giving us an equal relationship between values for input and output.

It’s this relationship between input and output values in digital imaging that helps define GAMMA.

In our particular case here, we have a linear relationship between input and output values and so we have LINEAR GAMMA, otherwise known as gamma 1.0.

Now let’s look at a black to white graduation in gamma 1.0 in comparison to one in what’s called an encoding gamma:

LinVsHum31 900x272 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

Linear (top) vs Encoded Gamma

The upper gradient is basically the way our digital cameras see and record a scene.

There is an awful lot of information about highlights and yet the darker tones and ‘shadow’ areas are seemingly squashed up together on the left side of the gradient.

Human vision does not see things in the same way that a camera sensor does; we do not see linearly.

If the amount of ambient light falling on a scene suddenly doubles we will perceive the increase as an unquantifiable “it’s got brighter”; whereas our sensors response will be exactly double and very quantifiable.

Our eyes see a far more ‘perceptually even’ tonal distribution with much greater tonal separation in the darker tones and a more compressed distribution of highlights.

In other words we see a tonal distribution more like that contained in the gamma encoded gradient.

Gamma encoding can be best illustrated with another graph:

EyeGam 5 900x705 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

Linear Gamma vs Gamma Encoding 1/2.2 (0.4545)

Now sadly this is where things often get misunderstood, and why you need to be careful about where you get information from.

The cyan curve is NOT gamma 2.2 – we’ll get to that shortly.

Think of the graph above as the curves panel in Lightroom, ACR or Photoshop – after all, that’s exactly what it is.

Think of our dark, low contrast linear gamma image as displayed on a monitor – what would we need to do to the linear slope  to improve contrast and generally brighten the image?

We’d bend the linear slope to something like the cyan curve.

The cyan curve is the encoding gamma 1/2.2.

There’s a direct numerical relationship between the two gamma curves; linear and 1/2.2. and it’s a simple power law:

  •  VO = VIγ where VO = output value, VI = input value and γ = gamma

Any input value (VI) on the linear gamma curve to the power of γ equals the output value of the cyan encoding curve; and γ as it works out equals 0.4545

  •  VI 0 = VO 0
  •  VI 0.25 = VO 0.532
  •  VI 0.50 = VO 0.729
  •  VI 0.75 = VO 0.878
  •  VI 1.0 = VO 1.0

Now isn’t that bit of maths sexy………………..yeah!

Basically the gamma encoding process remaps all the tones in the image and redistributes them in a non-linear ratio which is more familiar to our eye.

Note: the gamma of human vision is not really gamma 1/2.2 – gamma 0.4545.  It would be near impossible to actually quantify gamma for our eye due to the behavior of the iris etc, but to all intents and purposes modern photographic principles regard it as being ‘similar to’..

So the story so far equates to this:

GammaEncode1 900x749 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

Gamma encoding redistributes tones in a non-linear manner.

But things are never quite so straight forward are they…?

Firstly, if gamma < 1 (less than 1) the encoding curve goes upwards – as does the cyan curve in the graph above.

But if gamma > 1 (greater than 1) the curve goes downwards.

A calibrated monitor has (or should have) a calibrated device gamma of 2.2:

EyeGam7 900x705 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

Linear, Encoding & Monitor gamma curves.

As you can now see, the monitor device gamma of 2.2 is the opposite of the encoding gamma – after all, the latter is the reciprocal of the former.

So what happens when we apply the decoding gamma/monitor gamma of 2.2 to our gamma encoded image?

EyeGam8 900x705 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

The net effect of Encode & Decode gamma – Linear.

That’s right, we end up back where we started!

Now, are you thinking:

  • Don’t understand?
  • We are back with our super dark image again?

Welcome to the worlds biggest Bear-Trap!

The “Learning Gamma Bear Trap”

Hands up those who are thinking this is what happens:

beartrap 900x445 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

If your arm so much as twitched then you are not alone!

I’ll admit to being naughty and leading you to edge of the pit containing the bear trap – but I didn’t push you!

While you’ve been reading this post have you noticed the occasional random bold and underlined text?

Them’s clues folks!

The super dark images – both seascape and the rope coil – are all “GAMMA 1.0 displayed on a GAMMA 2.2 device without any management”.

That doesn’t mean a gamma 1.0 RAW file actually LOOKS like that in it’s own gamma environment!

That’s the bear trap!

GammaFlow 2 900x402 Gamma Encoding   Under the Hood

Gamma 1.0 to gamma 2.2 encoding and decoding

Our RAW file actually looks quite normal in its own gamma environment (2nd from left) – but look at the histogram and how all those darker mid tones and shadows are piled up to the left.

Gamma encoding to 1/2.2 (gamma 0.4545) redistributes and remaps those all the tones and lightens the image by pushing the curve up BUT leaves the black and white points where they are.  No tones have been added or taken away, the operation just redistributes what’s already there.  Check out the histogram.

Then the gamma decode operation takes place and we end up with the image on the right – looks perfect and ready for processing, but notice the histogram, we keep the encoding redistribution of tones.

So, are we back where we started?  No.

Luckily for us gamma encoding and decoding is all fully automatic within a colour managed work flow and RAW handlers such as Lightroom, ACR and CapOnePro etc.

Image gamma changes are required when an image is moved from one RGB colour space to another:

  • ProPhoto RGB has a gamma of 1.8
  • Adobe RGB 1998 has a gamma of 2.2
  • sRGB has an oddball gamma that equates to an average of 2.2 but is nearly 1.8 in the deep shadow tones.
  • Lightrooms working colour space is ProPhoto linear, in other words gamma 1.0
  • Lightrooms viewing space is MelissaRGB which equates to Prophoto with an sRGB gamma.

Image gamma changes need to occur when images are sent to a desktop printer – the encode/decode characteristics are actually part and parcel of the printer profile information.

Gamma awareness should be exercised when it comes to monitors:

  • Most plug & play monitors are set to far too high a gamma ‘out the box’ – get it calibrated properly ASAP; it’s not just about colour accuracy.
  • Laptop screen gamma changes with viewing position – God they are awful!

Anyway, that just about wraps up this brief explanation of gamma; believe me it is brief and somewhat simplified – but hopefully you get the picture!


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