General notes: I do not consider myself to be a colour management expert but I am fairly switched on technically and I have created a professional image editing facility working to very high standards serving fellow professional photographers throughout the UK. In our normal modus operandi we use the Eye One spectrophotometer in house in conjunction with either the Eye One Match or the BasICColor display software. I’m quite happy tweaking the resulting screen profiles as required. We have a dedicated consistent lighting instillation in our editing room and there are no windows. The walls are all neutral and the desktops are mid grey too. This may seem excessive but trust me the results are worth the trouble. This review was carried out in our normal working environment.
LaCie 724 Widescreen LED Backlit LCD Monitor
My review of this monitor involved the feedback of Marko Nurminen, my expert picture editor as well as my own analysis. Marko spends his life bringing out the best in pictures and shares my passion for ultimate quality. The first thing we did with this monitor was to reset all the controls to their factory preset condition and run a calibration process using the included Blue Eye Pro monitor calibrator together with the proof edition of the software. We then ran the same calibration choices with the same colorimeter on our 30” Apple Cinema display that we were using for comparison purposes. The two screens are not similar in design, technology, construction or price but interestingly though they are aimed at a similar target market - creative professionals using colour managed systems to produce media. To my eye, our test image looked fairly similar in Photoshop on both screens excepting a subtle shift in red saturation. But rather than rely on my eye I asked the software to run a test report of the profiles I had created. The LaCie was shown to have a far higher gamut, easily encompassing all of the Adobe 1998 colour space and going quite a considerable distance beyond it. This is certainly a good thing if you work on colour critical images and documents that are going to be output on wide gamut devices and if you exclusively use colour managed software. The Apple screen was shown to be just short of the Adobe 1998 standard but okay in most other areas.
However, with the monitor in its widest gamut state, using the internet becomes painful, as the saturation of untagged images meant to be viewed in the sRGB colour space is ridiculous, so too is the saturation of icons on your desktop and thumbnails in the finder. They become so vivid they are very hard on the eyes. The LaCie monitor does come with a mode switch that when used in combination with the menu arrows allows you to switch between response gamuts. You have to be very quick though because the menu disappears very fast. It’s a fiddle and a faff if you want to use the LaCie for general use.
There is a sharpness control that goes from very, very fuzzy, to way over sharpened with white halos around dark lines. I’m not sure why this vast range is needed; it sort of implies that over time a big shift might be required. I found that the screen never really became sharp no matter what setting I used and certainly didn’t come close to our Apple cinema displays. Text looks jagged and the vertical width of fine details within the letters seemed to vary considerably. I found it tiring on the eyes to read chunks of text and I swapped back to my usual monitor to write this review. I must say in the screens defence that continuous tone photographs looked good.
Our sample LaCie 724 was supplied direct from LaCie themselves and exhibited alarming screen neutral variation with the top of the screen looking green, the middle looking neutral and the bottom looking red; and trust me, this is a big problem. Marko worked on a number of portrait images after the screen was profiled and found himself removing red from hands that were at the bottom of the frame. As soon as he panned around the image to put those same hands in the middle of the screen the colour was completely different and he then wanted to put the red back. If you buy one of these monitors, do check its linearity right across the screen whilst studying various tones of grey. A simple slideshow of 10 steps of grey should do the trick. Screens at this price point should be near perfect. The one we had for assessment certainly wasn’t.
The LaCie 724 displayed exaggerated red hues leaving skin tones on previously edited images too pink, however they did show more vitality and clarity. It’s hard to put into words what these differences mean. We re-calibrated the screen and the results were the same. These skin tone colours were well within the sRGB gamut and I was surprised to see the variation. I switched the screen to its sRGB setting and it seemed as if all the colours had been heavily muted and not just the reds or out of gamut colours. It’s important to say at this point that the LaCie review screen came with no documentation, manual or instructions so we were left to try and figure out what settings to use. This gave me a chance to see how intuitive the set up process of the 724 is. I wanted this screen to deliver excellence and the extensive menu and sub menus reminded me of the LaCie CRT screens I used for an 8 year period right up to 2007. Our Apple Cinema displays by contrast have an on off button and that is it. All adjustments on these are done at the profile stage both with the settings chosen and the subsequent profile edit. To get the best out of the LaCie you will need to set it up carefully using the menus and I expect a bit of experimentation is required. If all users needed the same settings there would be no reason to have all the menu options. So don’t expect it to look right straight out of the box. Marko was itching to keep hold of the screen for longer so we could really get it to sing with a bit of jiggery pokery.
The included stand is really impressive. There are suction cups on the base to fix it firmly to the desktop and the stand column has a sprung telescopic action that makes it a doddle to adjust the screen height even while seated. The tilt and rotate functions are equally well designed making adjustments easy. This is a great improvement on just about any contraption I’ve ever had to use in the past. The upshot is that this screen can be placed at a workstation that is used by several people without the need for them to compromise their comfort and posture.
The casing of the screen is made from black rigid plastic and is not at all attractive. The texture and feel is not as I would expect for a screen at this price point. Adjusting the screen position had the screen casing squeaking and clicking. There is no reassuring quality about the casing that lets you know that you are using a precision instrument.
Monitors, like cameras, vary considerably. A medium format digital camera might well be needed for the most demanding fashion photography but a decent DSLR will be far more convenient, cost a lot less and do most jobs with ample proficiency. When choosing to have a monitor like this you will have to ask yourself “Do I really need a large colour gamut in a monitor?” Are you prepared to pay the premium and accept the lack of general usability and convenience in exchange for the wide gamut accuracy? If your output is CMYK and you live your life in soft proof mode this screen should definitely be on your short list. If you print your own images using the latest generation of wide gamut ink jet printers then this screen is worth considering also. If, like us, your working colour space is Adobe 1998 and your output space is sRGB using RA4 photographic paper (most pro labs use an sRGB colour space) the extra gamut is far less important than the screen image being restful on the eyes and consistent from top to bottom and from left to right. If your output is web based and within the sRGB colour space then the extra gamut will be wasted and you may well be better off using a good quality general screen designed for graphics professionals.
A final word - Making changes to colourful images that have details beyond the limit of the monitor gamut will result in changes to the file that are just not seen on the screen. This is dangerous if the image is then going to be output or seen on a wider gamut device. If maintaining the integrity in your files is important, do consider your monitor choice carefully. And if long term file integrity is important to you, then seriously consider this screen. I have recently produced a best selling book on wedding photography and I can honestly say that having originally edited all the 500 or so pictures on a decent LaCie monitor paid off when we converted them to CMYK for print. At the time I shot the weddings CMYK output was not on my radar at all. This could well be a long term investment decision for you too.
9/10 Gamut range
6/10 Image quality