Best Monitors for Photographers in 2018

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Putting together this review of the best monitors for photographers has been a rather time consuming operation.

For the past 2 months the tiny Shotkit office has been overrun with a selection of 27″ monitors, with cables running to and from various computers, as we tried to find the best screens for photographers in 2018.

If you’re looking for a great monitor for a Macbook Pro, or need a supplementary screen to add to your existing computer set up, keep reading to discover which monitors we recommend and why.

Best Monitors for Photographers

Image Product Details
shk2-table__imageDell U2715Q#1 All ROUND
  • 3840 x 2160
  • High Colour Depth
View Price →
shk2-table__imageBenQ SW271POPULAR
  • 3840 x 2160
  • High Dynamic Range
View Price →
shk2-table__imageEizo ColorEdge CG277PRO CHOICE
  • 2560 x 1440
  • Wide-Gamut LED
View Price →
shk2-table__imageSamsung U28E590DGREAT VALUE
  • 3840 x 2160
  • 28" UHD LED Lit
View Price →
shk2-table__imageAcer R240HYBARGAIN!
  • 1920 x 1080
  • Cheap 2nd Monitor
View Price →

 

Before we delve deeper into the best monitors for photographers, it’s important to remember that the majority of this review is aimed at the average professional or amateur photographer.

If you’re a commercial photographer or someone who requires the very best colour accurate monitor for editing regardless of price, I’ve included one monitor by Eizo that should fit the bill.

However, for the rest of us who simply require a great monitor for both editing and everyday computing tasks that won’t break the bank, any of the monitors reviewed below should be spot on.

No matter how much you invest in a monitor for photography, you should consider calibrating it frequently with a product such as the X-Rite ColorMunki, particularly if you rely on consistent colour accuracy (which all professional photographers should!)

Personally, as a wedding photographer delivering files mostly digitally, I’ve found that frequent monitor calibration isn’t actually necessary for me, especially when considering the colour inconsistencies that naturally exist between my monitor and my clients’ monitors. I do calibrate occasionally though, to make sure my monitor isn’t straying too far out of line!

If you make a lot of prints, monitor calibration will be necessary, regardless of how much your monitor cost, and what calibrated state it left the factory in – all monitors lose colour accuracy over time.

Best Monitor Reviews

Dell U2715Q

best monitors for photographers - Dell U2715Q

Display (max): 3840 x 2160 pixels
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Screen Size: 27″
Dimensions: 25.2 x 21.2 x 8″ (640.08 x 538.48 x 203.2 mm)
Weight: 7 kg 575 g (16.7 lbs / 267.2 oz)
Price: Click here for the latest price

If you’re researching affordable 27″ monitors for editing and general computing tasks, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across a screen by Dell.

Dell has dominated the multi-purpose monitor market for over a decade, with high quality/low cost monitors that appealed initially to office workers, and more recently to photographers, gamers and all those looking for an affordable way to display vibrant images and clear text.

While the Dell U2715Q isn’t the very latest offering by Dell, (check out the newer Dell U2718Q), it’s still our all round pick as the best affordable monitor for photographers here in 2018.

There’s good reason why Dell is still selling this monitor on Amazon over 6 years since its release – it’s a reliable, high quality, great value for money 4k monitor that offers all that most photographers really need.

If you can get past the outdated thick bezel design of the Dell U2715Q, you’ll appreciate the flexibility of viewing options, with a 50° left/right swivel, 5° forward and 21° backward tilt, and plenty of vertical travel to suit all tastes. You can also wall mount the monitor easily with its removable stand.

IPS panel technology is pretty standard in monitors in 2018, but viewing angles are particularly impressive on the Dell U2715Q. How useful this would be for the average photographer sat alone editing at a desk is arguable, but it may be if you have clients viewing images over your shoulder or from one side.

Picture quality straight out the box is excellent, with deep blacks, great contrast and very sharp outlines at 163 pixels per inch.

The gamut spans 100 percent of sRGB and 79 percent of AdobeRGB while maintaining a contrast ratio of 690:1 at maximum brightness.

Concentrating on stats alone, you may not be impressed when comparing to more recent models, particularly from Dell’s Ultra Sharp Range, but it has to be said that during real-world testing in Lightroom and Photoshop, we didn’t feel like we were missing anything – images looked vibrant and colours looked accurate.

Colour accuracy and gamma on the Dell U2715Q is impressive for a monitor at this price, and the wide contrast ratio provides for a pleasurable and intuitive editing experience. If you plan to watch the odd movie on this monitor, you won’t be disappointed – the range from black to white is similar to a decent TV.

If you have time to calibrate the Dell U2715Q with something like the X-Rite ColorMunki, you can get even more out of it. In testing we were able to lower the average colour difference from a straight-out-the-box 1.76 (which is already pretty good), down to 1.39, while keeping the gamma curve and gamut pretty much the same.

If all that sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you, don’t worry – those adjustments won’t make any difference to what you can perceive with the naked eye – it’s all just readings from the calibration software that may not be important to the majority of photographers reading this.

Those who do want to delve deep into colour calibration settings on the Dell U2715Q, may be a little disappointed. As the monitor isn’t aimed specifically at photographers per-se, you’re a little limited as to what can be adjusted when compared to some other, more expensive monitors.

However in testing on a 2015 MacBook Pro we found that the basic adjustments were more than enough, largely thanks to the accuracy of the monitor straight out of the box. Unless you need minute control over specific colour channels, you’ll be happy with the control you have over the Dell U2715Q.

Another advantage of using a Macbook Pro with this monitor is being able to plug directly in via a Thunderbolt (Mini Display Port) connection, for the full 4k experience.

One thing that’s particularly impressive on the Dell U2715Q is the brightness, with a maximum output of 332 lux – much higher than anything most people would need to use, especially for editing. It could be useful in certain brightly back-lit environments, or when used outdoors, for example.

I’m a big fan of anti-glare screen coating, especially coming from an old Apple Thunderbolt display which acted like a mirror in the wrong lighting. The Dell U2715Q soaks up all reflections, lending to a very pleasant editing experience no matter your location.

Another big plus point of the Dell U2715Q is the wide variety of input ports, which include DisplayPort and Mini-DisplayPort for video-in as well as DisplayPort-out, meaning the monitor is daisy-chainable with another display.

Dell P2715Q review
The Dell U2715Q supports a wide range of port options for Windows and Mac users.

There’s also HDMI, audio out and 1x USB3 Upstream and 3x USB 3 downstream ports, meaning plenty of options to plug your external hard drives directly into the monitor.

All ports are located on the rear, which I actually prefer for tidy cord management, but it would have been nice to have a couple on the side for easier plugging and removal of temporary USB drives.

The built in menu system on the Dell U2715Q is very basic, and everything is accessible via 4 buttons on the front of the display. While more recent models have reduced the amount of physical buttons, it’s nice to have something tactile still there when you do need to change something.

Being a 4K monitor, viewing precise detail while editing your photos without the need for zooming can be advantageous, especially at the maximum 3840 x 2160 resolution.

However, if you need to read a lot of text, or don’t want to be squinting at the UI elements of Windows or Mac OSX, it’s recommendable to adjust your DPI settings to 125 or 150% scaling – this gives you the best of both worlds, with enough screen real estate to take advantage of the 4k but large enough text to be easily readable (check this video for more information on setting up a 4k monitor).

All in all, even though the Dell U2715Q has never been marketed as a monitor for photographers, we recommend it as such, particularly if you’re on a tight budget, and don’t need all the bells and whistles of more recent models.

Image quality is excellent and per-calibration colour accuracy is more than enough for the average photographer looking for an affordable, reliable monitor to plug into a laptop or to be used part of a multi-monitor set up. The only issue may be finding one still in stock – click the button below to find out.

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST PRICE OF THE DELL U2715Q

BenQ SW271

BenQ-27

Display (max): 3840 x 2160 pixels
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Screen Size: 27″
Dimensions: 19 x 13 x 25″ (482.6 x 330.2 x 635 mm)
Weight: 9 kg 300 g (20.5 lbs x 328.05 oz)
Price: Click here for the latest price

A special shout out to BenQ and Image Science who sent us a couple of monitors to test and keep. Their generosity will in no way affect this review, but it’s still interesting to see how eager companies are to get their products in front of the right audience.

The audience for the BenQ SW271 is the professional photographer and videographer market – those who desire better colour accuracy and fine-tuning than budget monitors, but still at a price lower than traditional pro monitors.

The BenQ SW271 is a 27″ 4k 16:9 IPS monitor which arrives in a huge box containing all the usual wiring as well as two proofing hoods (portrait and landscape orientation) and an unusual control ‘puck’.

At first examination the puck is a rather ugly, wired gimmick that doesn’t seem to offer much more than shortcuts to the various menu options that can be reached via the screen’s physical buttons. However, it actually becomes a rather useful gadget the more you edit with the monitor, particularly if you’re someone that needs to proof a lot using various colour spaces.

Being able to switch between sRGB, Adobe 1998 and Black & White at the press of a (desk located) button is actually rather nice, and the puck can sit neatly in the foot of the BenQ SW271‘s stand, with the wiring and USB connection concealed at the back – no need to clutter up your desk unnecessarily.

As for the monitor’s menu, there are numerous options to fine-tune and calibrate various display elements to your heart’s content.

Since the BenQ SW27 supports hardware calibration, using something like the Datacolor Spyder5PRO is a quick and easy way to get your colours spot-on in a couple of minutes, without having to delve into the monitor’s manual settings.

BenQ SW271
BenQ SW271 with 13″ Macbook Pro (USB-C)

One great feature in the menu is the ability to create a Picture by Picture display, effectively duplicating your current screen, displaying it one beside the other. Using the puck, you’re then able to quickly switch colour profiles to compare them next to eachother – really useful for photographers and videographers when proofing, or even just experimenting with colours to find a specific ‘look’.

In terms of hardware, the BenQ SW271 features a thin-ish bezel with a practical, if rather mundane stand, allowing the screen to swivel, tilt and rotate from landscape to portrait resolution. The height can also be adjusted more than the other monitors we tested, and the handle on the stand and hole to accommodate wires are thoughtful design touches too.

Ports are plentiful on the rear of the BenQ SW271 monitor, with support for dual HDMI 2.0, Display Port 1.4, USB-C and audio out.

On the side are 2 USB 3.0 ports which offer a simple way to quickly attach and remove smaller USB drives, and my favourite addition – an SD card slot! It seems like fewer and fewer monitors offer this these days.

If you’re the owner of a newer (dongle-gate!) Macbook Pro or Macbook, you’ll probably be happy with the inclusion of the SD card slot on the BenQ SW271, but probably a bit miffed that the USB-C port doesn’t support charging – it’s purely there as a display input.

We’ll ignore the crummy built-in speakers which seem to have been a last-minute addition, since anyone serious about video editing or music will have an external speaker set up anyway (or use headphones!)

As for the picture quality, well this is where it all becomes very clear as to why you’d invest around a thousand bucks (see latest price here) into this monitor…

The BenQ SW271 includes a colour calibration report in its box, which confirms that it can display 99% of the Adobe RGB colour space, along with 93% DCI-P3 or 100% sRGB / Rec 709. If that’s all Greek to you, just know that everything looks pretty damn good straight out of the box!

Blacks are gloriously deep, outlines are sharp, colours are vivid without looking overly saturated, and colour uniformity is excellent, as to be expected on a pro-grade monitor aimed at photographers and videographers.

The BenQ SW271 is marketed as an ‘HDR’ monitor, meaning that in theory it should allow you to view a greater dynamic range between the black and white points, lending to an image that’s much closer to what you’d see with your eyes in the natural world.

Reviewing the real-world benefits of HDR on the monitor proved to be a little difficult, but we will say that it’s a great monitor to look at, with colours and tones that look as accurate as we’d ever need as professional photographers.

If you’re a videographer who shoots in an HDR picture profile, you’d no doubt benefit much more from the BenQ SW271‘s support for HDR 10.

As with other 4K monitors for photographers, having so much additional screen real estate is a bit of a double-edged sword – it’s a fine balance of making the resolution large enough to take advantage of the additional room/increased image detail, while keeping text elements large enough to read. Up-scaling to around 150% DPI seems to be a nice mid-point if you’re a heavy text user.

All in all, the BenQ SW271 offers a great deal for a competitive price. The proofing hoods and fast colour profile switching puck are nice touches that aren’t normally seen on a monitor at this price point, and the excellent image quality and fine-tunable colour calibration will satisfy even the most demanding of creative professionals.

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST PRICE OF THE BENQ SW271

Eizo ColorEdge CG277

EIZO-CG277 monitor

Display (max): 2560 x 1440 pixels
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Screen Size: 27″
Dimensions: 28.85 x 24 x 14.15″ (732.79 x 609.6 x 359.41 mm)
Weight: 8 kg 799.7 g (19.4 lbs lbs x 310.4 oz)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Let me make this easy for you – if you’re doing anything where colour accuracy is of prime importance, this is the monitor you should buy. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s the also the very best monitor for professional photographers in 2018.

A monitor’s colour accuracy can be a hard concept to get your head around, especially when you’re just starting out with photography and image editing.

One way to think about it is that a monitor with perfect colour accuracy will display an image exactly as your camera captured it – it will be able to perfectly translate the data in your image’s file to the screen.

Now, monitor colour accuracy is only one piece of the puzzle towards getting a perfect print, but it’s an essential first step… and with the Eizo ColorEdge CG277, you’ll have it covered.

The Eizo’s IPS panel has a 6ms grey-to-grey response time, and a backlight system which ensures absolute output uniformity, with brightness dropping by a max of just 3 Delta E… i.e. nothing you’d ever notice!

It offers 99% Adobe RGB, 99% DCI-P3 and sRGB, combined with a 10-bit panel and 16-bit LUT for the ultimate in colour accuracy.

In layman’s terms, all you need to know is that the Eizo ColorEdge CG277 offers the most incredible colour range, with your images representing on screen exactly what your camera captured.
Eizo ColorEdge CG277
Eizo ColorEdge CG277 with 15″ Macbook Pro and Wacom Tablet

While other monitors may claim to have near-perfect colour accuracy, impressive contrast ratios, HDR, UHD, 4K and whatever other buzzword in their list of statistics, this rarely gives the complete picture, with some measurements being taken from the centre of the screen, ignoring the surrounding edges.

As with a high quality lens, the way that is resolves an image at its extreme edges is just as important as how it fairs in the centre, and a high quality monitor should be no different.

With the ColorEdge CG277, a monitor recommended by Howard Kim, one of the world’s leading professors in colour management, you can expect that no corners have been cut to deliver the best edge-to edge performance and colour accuracy for the most demanding of professional photographers.

In fact, the Eizo ColorEdge CG277 prides itself so highly on delivering the most accurate colours of any monitor on the market, that it includes a built-in calibration device – it’s almost like Eizo doesn’t trust you to use a 3rd party screen calibrator… so it brought it’s own to the party!

Using the included monitor calibration software, you’re able to choose a frequency for the built-in ‘colorimeter’ unit to pop up from the front of the screen like a windscreen washer, and run a quick fully-automated test to see if your colours are still 100% accurate.

It may seem like overkill, and to most photographers reading this it probably is, but for the select few who demand perfect results every time they make a print or send a file to a client, the Eizo ColorEdge CG277 really is the gold standard.

All monitors lose their colour accuracy over time and need to be calibrated. By including an inbuilt calibration tool which can perform tests even when the monitor is not in use, the Eizo ColorEdge CG277 stands head and shoulders over any other monitor for photographers we’ve seen.

With all the excitement surrounding 4k monitors, it’s interesting to see that Eizo doesn’t actually offer 4k in this 27″ monitor. This supports the theory that 4k resolution doesn’t necessarily lend well to this size display (as I’ve alluded to previously in this review), and should perhaps be reserved for larger monitors.

In terms of the hardware itself, the Eizo ColorEdge CG277 won’t win any design awards – its chunky bezel and overpopulated button panel certainly aren’t there to look pretty! Add on the modular proofing hood with anti-glare interior and you’ve got the ideal proofing station, ready to switched into vertical orientation with a few small adjustments.

On the rear of the screen sit a small selection of ports: DVI, HDMI, Display Port and 2 USB inputs. Testing with a 2015 Macbook Pro meant attaching the Display Port cable from the monitor to the laptop’s Thunderbolt port, plus an additional USB cable in order to access an external drive attached to the back of the monitor.

There’s no USB-C input for newer Mac laptops, so you’ll need to invest in a USB-C to Display Port cable, as well as a USB-C to USB dongle if you haven’t already got one.

In summary, the Eizo ColorEdge CG277 is non-4k, offers rather limited connectivity options, is completely unattractive to look at, and has a rather hefty price tag, but it’s unapologetic and quite deservedly so.

This is a monitor with one sole purpose – to display colours as accurately as possible, and for this, it excels.

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST PRICE OF THE EIZO COLOREDGE CG277

Samsung U28E590D

Samsung-U28E590D

Display (max): 3840 x 2160 pixels
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Screen Size: 28″
Dimensions: 29.13 x 5.55 x 18.14″ (739.902 x 140.97 x 460.756 mm)
Weight: 5 kg 261.7 g (11.6 lbs lbs x 185.6 oz)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Now we’re getting to the budget end of the pile of monitors for photographers, with this competitively-priced number from Samsung.

Actually, calling the Samsung U28E590D a ‘monitor for photographers’ is a bit of a stretch, since it’s in no way specifically suited for editing photos.

Rather, it’s a hugely popular monitor for all-round use, that’s slightly outdated now but still remains an absolute bargain, particularly if you need a second monitor to use in conjunction with your main editing screen.

The monitor and stand have been designed to be appealing, and do look relatively attractive when compared to other monitors in this price bracket. However, the stand wobbles about when the height is altered, and offers no swivel, which is unusual since it isn’t an IPS panel (so doesn’t offer wide viewing angles).

The 28″ UHD display delivers impressively bright performance, with vivid, sharp image reproduction and decent colour accuracy after calibration. Ultra High Defintion means 4 times higher than full HD, so basically offers the same detail/screen real estate advantages as a 4k monitor.

For videographers (and gamers), AMD FreeSync dynamically syncs the screen refresh rate with the frame rate of your content, resulting in less image ‘tearing’ and stutter. Incidentally, most of the positive teviews of this monitor are from gamers…

As for connectivity options, the limited number of input ports is in keeping with the budget nature of the Samsung U28E590D, with support for two HDMI inputs (30Hz and 60Hz) and one Display Port input.

One thing we liked about the monitor was the omission of physical buttons from the front bezel, resulting in a smooth, uncomplicated appearance that’s typical of Samsung. On the rear, there’s a small knob that can be moved around like a joystick, to control the various menu options and turn the monitor on and off.

One of the menu options is Picture-in-Picture, which allows you to watch your video content (for example) in a completely separate window on the screen, while working on something else in another. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a gimmick brought over from TVs, and probably not the most useful feature for photographers.

This brings us back to the point that while the Samsung U28E590D is clearly not a monitor which has been marketed to photographers, it can quite easily serve the function as being a monitor for image editing.

The image quality is good, and colours can be easily calibrated with an external device. Edge to edge sharpness/contrast/colour accuracy won’t be as good as a more expensive monitor, but for some, this won’t really matter.

If you’re looking for a good bang-for-the-buck computer monitor with hundreds of positive reviews (see here), look no further than this one.

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST PRICE OF THE SAMSUNG U28E590D

Acer R240HY

Acer-R240HY

Display (max): 1920 x 1080 pixels
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Screen Size: 23.8″
Dimensions: 21.3 x 7.3 x 16″ (541.02 x 185.42 x 406.4 mm)
Weight: 2 kg 903 g (6.4 lbs lbs x 102.4 oz)
Price: Click here for the latest price

Only got around 2 hundred bucks to spend on a monitor? We’ve got you covered, with the great value for money Acer R240HY.

Similar to the Samsung monitor above, the Acer isn’t a monitor for photographers as such – it’s just a decent, all-round monitor at a very attractive price point that can easily be used for your photo retouching.

I decided to include the Acer R240HY in this roundup, since aside from the Eizo (which is in a class of its own), this monitor is the only other non-4k monitor recommended here.

As you’ve probably gathered in reading this article, 4k can be an advantage in some instances, but may be a hindrance in others, particularly when a lot of text is involved – at full 4k resolution on a 27″ monitor, text and UI elements of your screen become so small as to be pretty much illegible.

It’s great to have the additional detail of 4k when viewing photos or editing video, but you’ll need to compromise a little, or choose a happy midpoint DPI resolution for mixed usage.

With the 1080P resolution of the Acer R240HY, this is no longer an issue! I’m actually not a huge fan of 4k monitors, choosing to stick with my dinosaur of a 27″ Apple Thunderbolt display, with its resolution of 2560×1440.

The 1080P resolution of the Acer looks just fine to me, and doesn’t give you the feeling that you’ve paid for something you’re not using,  like when up-scaling your desktop by 120-150% DPI with a 27″4K monitor.

As photographers, we immediately assume we need the latest technology. 4k, even 5k monitors are marketed as the new norm, but in reality, you can happily edit away in Lightroom or Photoshop on a much lower resolution monitor, as long as your colours are accurate.

In addition, if you’re using an older computer, it may not actually have the required power to run a 4k monitor properly – a regular full HD monitor may be the only way to go, unless you’re ready for an expensive upgrade.

If you’re doing any kind of editing on the Acer R240HY, I strongly recommend you invest in a calibration device such as the simple-to-use X-Rite ColorMunki. While colours look vivid on the Acer straight out of the box, without actually calibrating it, you’d be editing your images without any true reference point.

Connectivity-wise, the Acer R240HY is rather limited, with 1 HDMI, 1 DVI and 1 VGA input, meaning some dongling will be in order if you have a Macbook or any computer that relies on a Display Port connection.

There aren’t any USB ports either, so using the monitor as a dock for your external drives isn’t an option.

On the plus side, the thin bezel means that the Acer R240HY is a great option for a multi-monitor set up, with the edges melting into each other unobtrusively. Due to its attractive, uncomplicated design, the monitor also looks great as a secondary unit, next to your fancier main screen.

This is one thing I’ve actually noticed more and more photographers do with their home office set up – that is, have one main, high quality editing monitor, and one or two far cheaper options such as the Acer R240HY set up next to it for all the other administrative tasks that are part and parcel of being a photographer.

I came across one such photographer who uses two Acers flanking his main Eizo monitor, reaping the best of both worlds.

One thing to note with the Acer R240HY is its complete inability to swivel or adjust in height – the stand is fixed in place, with the screen only allowing a slight up/down tilt. While this may be a deal-breaker to some, I’m used to similar ‘static’ screens such as the Apple Thunderbolt Display, and choose to stack the monitor on top of a hard drive to help reach eye level.

It’s worth noting that all the monitors in this review including the Acer feature VESA bracket mounting screw holes, so wall, or arm mounting is always an option.

All in all, it’s rare to find a good quality, 27″ IPS monitor with a nice external design for around $200, but Acer have done it with the R260Y.

Whilst connectivity options are lacking, and edge to edge performance is obviously quit far behind more expensive monitors, for some photographers willing to invest time into regular colour calibration, this is a fantastic choice.

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST PRICE OF THE ACER R240HY

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post contain affiliate links which help support Shotkit.

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