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Is IPS the Best Display Technology for Photographers?

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For photographers and visual artists, viewing a piece of work in its most beautiful form is crucial. For this, you will need the best available tools.

One of the most important tools in photography is the monitor you use. This is especially true if you are serious about post-production.

But, what monitor should you choose? Is an IPS monitor the best choice for photographers? And if so, why? We’ll soon find out.

Two monitors on a desk, one of the screens shows an image being edited
Photo by Joao Silas on Unsplash

In this article, I will discuss different types of monitors, particularly the IPS technology.

A Short History of Display Technology

To understand where display technology is today, we need to take a quick look into its past.

In the previous century, general technological developments came at a fast pace. Devices with monitor displays have become part of our everyday lives.

The first electronic display in the world was the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT, in short). It was first used in oscilloscopes in the late 19th century. In the early 1920s, it gave the base of black-and-white television. Later, around 1950, the first color CRT display was released.

An old CRT TV
An old CRT TV. Photo by Aleks Dorohovich on Unsplash

CRTs were popular throughout the second part of the 20th century. Other display types were either unpractical, expensive, or underdeveloped. Many manufacturers experimented with new approaches, but few of them reached commercial use.

After various monitor types came and went, the success of LCDs began. LCD display technology was developed in the early 60s and went into the spotlight around 1985. Japanese companies, including Sharp and Epson were pioneers. The LCD display conquered the market by being thinner and cheaper.

They offered better colors, brightness, and resolution. Since then, LCD has been developed further to types that are prevalent today.

Common Types of LCD Monitors

Different types of monitors exist, but the two main popular types of LCD are twisted nematic and in-line switching monitors.

What Is LCD and How Does it Work?

LCD stands for Liquid-Crystal Display. But what does that term mean?

Liquid crystal is a particular state of matter. It has the characteristics of both liquids and solid crystals. Imagine it as a bunch of small crystal stones, that flow together like a liquid.

Depending on orientation, liquid crystals have different optical properties. It is possible to modulate their direction by electric signals. This modulation makes them suitable for use in displays.

LCDs don’t emit light. Some illumination, such as a backlight LED, is required.

Twisted Nematic (TN) Monitors

TN monitors contain liquid crystals that can twist to a varying extent. Different voltage levels control the twist and light emittance.

Their main advantages are cheap production, low power consumption, and fast response time. As such, they are suitable for applications like high-speed monitoring and gaming.

But they offer poor color representation and viewing angles. Often a TN display only covers around 40% of the sRGB spectrum (we’ll talk about that later in this article). And if you don’t view them straight from the front viewing angle, colors get distorted.

In-Line Switching (IPS) Monitors

So, what is an IPS monitor? IPS monitors improve on TNs in color and viewing angles. But, they don’t offer so fast response times.

You can find IPS in mid-range and high-end monitors, smartphones, cameras, and many more. Monitors designed for graphic work all use IPS.

Hitachi developed IPS in the 1990s, under the name of Super TFT. It improved on all previous technologies and offered superb image quality, but manufacturing was expensive.

Super IPS solved color shift problems. Then, IPS-Pro came, offering even better contrast. IPS-Pro is the version most used today.

In recent years, prices have dropped, and the IPS technology is now widely available.

OLED: The Competitor to IPS

OLED is a display technology developed in recent years. It stands for Organic LED. This type of display is different from LCD. In OLED, the pixels themselves produce light.

There’s no need for backlighting. Black levels are darker since you can turn off pixels. OLED offers a better display contrast ratio and better colors than LCD.

OLED has notable disadvantages compared to LCD. One is its shortened lifetime. Organic materials are more susceptible to UV light, which degrades their quality with time. They can’t display such high dynamic range (HDR) as some advanced IPS display types.

They are also more expensive to make. Manufacturing OLED screens comes with a lot of waste of faulty parts. But this is set to improve, and OLED is already the most active competitor to the IPS monitor.

You can find OLED displays in smartphones and premium TVs. Mirrorless camera electronic viewfinders also utilise OLEDs to achieve darker blacks.

What Should You Choose?

Today, IPS and its improved iterations provide the most accurate display of colours.

They offer high brightness levels, great dynamic range, and almost 180° viewing angles. They are everywhere, from entry-level smartphones through monitor displays to enormous TVs.

Manufacturers’ best products universally utilise IPS panels. We don’t expect OLED take over in the upcoming years on the professional market.

If you’re on a constrained budget, you can find IPS monitors for very reasonable prices. OLED, generally, costs much more.

Thus, we recommend choosing an IPS monitor for visual work. Head over to our guide to choosing the best monitor for your needs.

 

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