Musings on Photography

Drift

Posted in equipment by Paul Butzi on January 23, 2007

Well, the snow is mostly gone.  There are just a few isolated spots with crusty, icy snow hanging around. No more snow drifts.

Yesterday, I got to deal with a different sort of drift.

I’ve always thought that LCD displays didn’t suffer from the ‘drift’ that CRT’s do, so if you profile them, you can use the profile for a LONG time before the display drifts enough to make a difference.

Well, that might be true for some LCD displays. It sure isn’t true for the display on my Sony laptop, which was looking kind of, well, weird. One of the effects of calibrating every single display in my home is that I’m now exquisitely aware of what color things SHOULD be, and when they’re not that color, I notice. The fact that lots of stuff now (e.g. IE 7) has background with very subtle gradients has also made it much easier to spot problems, even on machines where I don’t do any photo editing.

So yesterday, while I was updating software on all our machines, I just wrote off the day to computer maintenance, and rather than clicking past the ‘your profile is old’ dialog that the Gretag-MacBeth software throws when you boot your machine, I got out the puck and calibrated the display on my laptop. It made a HUGE difference.

I don’t know if this means the display is failing – could well be. It seems equally bright, etc. But the colors were weird before, and they’re back to normal now. I’m wondering if it’s actually a matter of ambient temperature or something.

Anyway, it’s probably worth recalibrating monitors more often than I have been, which is something like every six months. At least for laptops.

4 Responses

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  1. Gordon said, on January 23, 2007 at 9:40 am

    One thing that comes to mind is that LCDs use a light source for the backlight, which ages (and thus changes colour temp)

  2. Dave New said, on January 23, 2007 at 9:45 am

    One thing to watch out for is repeatability. LCDs don’t tend to be as fussy as some CRTs, but I had found in the past that simply doing the calibration over again a couple of times would sometimes produce noticeably different results.

    Sometimes it’s just a problem with the exact spot you placed the puck on the screen. Particulary with laptop screens, you must angle the display so that the puck is not resting too heavily on the screen, or it distorts the colors under the puck. Use the supplied counterweight so you don’t have to rely on gravity or those useless (and damaging to LCD screens)suction cups.

    On the other hand, if the puck is not in good contact with the screen, room light can leak in and cause problems. I tend to do the actual calibration step (with the dancing screen colors) with the room lights off, to prevent any light leakage from affecting the process.

    It’s educational to compare sucessive calibration runs on the same display in a profile viewer. If you get two that don’t really closely match, you should run it again, until you are satisfied that you have a stable, repeatable process.

  3. Howard Grill said, on January 23, 2007 at 10:57 am

    You are undoubtedly right about the need for recalibration, but I also suspect that the LCD screen on a laptop is not going to be of the same calibre as a higher end LCD that one might purchase for editing work for their desktop. I do wonder how much drift there is in higher end LCDs compared with CRTs. I am currently using a CRT but suspect my next will be LCD.

  4. Dave New said, on January 23, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    One of my critical parameters for an LCD display, be it laptop or desktop, is the viewing angles. The only ones I’ve found in the PC realm (leaving out the Apple Cinemas for the moment, which are way beyond my pocketbook), are the Sony Eco* (Brite, whatever they want to call them this week) display technology.

    I chose a Sony VAIO laptop specifically because I can view the screen from various vertical angles (thus, the actual tilt of the display lid is not critical) without a large change in the perceived screen brightness or contrast.

    I also have an external Sony LCD monitor, which operates along the same lines. Unfortunately, it is so much brighter than my one-year-older laptop display, even when the brightness is turned all the way down, that I can’t really get the laptop and desktop LCD display brightness levels to match. As long as I can keep all my non-image menus on one monitor, and all the images I’m working with on the other, it’s tolerable, but I’d like a good excuse to upgrade the laptop now, to get the current generation screen, so the brightness levels can be matched.


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