Friday, September 30, 2011

Cintiq 24 HD - Monitor Calbration and Profiling

I made a video where you can see a Cintiq 24HD that has been calibrated and profiled with a basICColor Discus Colorimeter and basICColor software, in my opinion the best combo to make monitor profiles.

Just a short review of the monitor-only capabilities of this new product from Wacom,
with particular attention to color management related topics.

I heard many complains about the low quality of older Cintiq monitors and I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed when I tested the 2010 Cintiq 21UX.
Please notice that I make comparisons with “pro-grade” monitors like the SpectraView 301W and the Nec CG275W.

I found this display to be a good one also if it is not excellent. The default color temperature of 6500K is very close to the real value (6700K), the black is deep (with 105 cd/mq) My unit reached less than 0.2 cd/mq using some customs settings. Consequentially the contrast is very good, with a value of about 600:1. The average DeltaE 2000 of the validation is 0.43.

Trying different setting in the basICColor Discus I found that the best results I reached come from CIECAM02 - dark as tonal response curve and I found it a very nice solution (now I can see difference between L*1 and L*0 value in Photoshop). In this way I can clearly perceive shadows and highlights details.

I tested my Cintiq in what could be a realistic usage scenario for a digital artist, with a non-light-controlled light environment.

What I don’t like about the display is the low pixel density (compared to display that we have on mobile phones and cameras nowadays) and the angle of view, which is not very impressive for an IPS panel.

Gamut is wider than I expected. Bigger than AdobeRGB, also if AdobeRGB is not 100% inside the gamut of the Cintiq. Not as big as recent Eizos and Nec, but still good.

I don't know why ColorThinkPRO see the white as "5000K", my setting was D65 (and I can see the D65).

The validation is not extraordinary, but not bad. Please notice that I moved the Discus in another area of the screen before making the calibration (20cm away from initial position) and this could have compromised the results.

The display has a matte/anti-glare finishing that has a texture that for my taste is too much evident (more than the SpectraView series overlay for example). This means that the “perceived sharpness” is a bit low. Not a bad thing for everybody  because it makes it harder to see single pixel. The matte finishing is very useful to work also with non-ideal lighting conditions (it is very hard to see reflection on the screen).

Update (3 October 2011): Inside the Cintiq driver disk that comes bundled with the 24HD I have found an ICC profile. This profile should fit the “6500K” preset inside the OSD screen in the Cintiq.

I made a video 3D comparison between the Cintiq 24HD ICC profile provided with the tablet and the one that I made with the Discus. The software used is ColorThink Pro 3.0.3.
In full colors you can see the gamut 3D graph of the Cintiq 24HD profile that I have made with the Discus colorimeter, using the calibration and profile settings described in the article. In red you can see the profile provided by Wacom. In blue the AdobeRGB gamut is shown.

My conclusions:

The good:

1) Calibration possibilities (you can manually select single values for R, G and B, for example). Good presets (I liked the 6500K one).

2) Wide gamut (you can reproduce a lot of colors and you get good match to many other monitors and devices, if everything is correctly color-managed).

3) With proper settings you can get very good gradients. No more shadow detail lack as seen in some older generation Cintiq.

4) Works nicely also if the lighting conditions are not perfect.

5) Color matching and color critical work can be done, also if there are better screens for this purpose, this display could satisfy the needs of many artists and photographers in terms of color accuracy.

The bad:

1) Angle of view could have been better.

2) Low perceived resolution. Not only because of the low pixel density, but also because of the matte finish that seem to “soften” a little bit too much everything.