LaCie’s 320 LCD Monitor; Three New Professional Display Models From LaCie

The very first LCD display that was designated "professional," and specifically intended for use by photographers and graphic artists, was a LaCie Photon Blue model, which I reported on in the past. So when LaCie announced a new 300 Series of three different sized models for professional use, I thought it time to look at LaCie's LCD displays again.

The three models are 19, 20, and 21". I chose the middle 20" model to report on, but all three share features, including enhanced performance that reproduces 72 percent of the NTSC gamut, a wide viewing angle, and integrated circuits with 12-bit Look-Up Tables (LUTs). All this provides smooth color gradients, brilliance, and rich color reproduction. All three models also include support for both landscape and portrait viewing, a fitted hood to reduce ambient light contamination, and the option of a LaCie blue eye pro colorimeter and software for easy calibration and profiling.

LaCie recently released a new 300 Series selection of LCD display models, featuring high-performance suitable for pro-graphic, pre-press, publishing, content creation, and photographic use. All three model sizes are quite similar in specifications. The 19, 20, and 21" sizes are available at a range of prices (for example, the 20" is $1349 list) with or without an optional LaCie blue eye pro colorimeter for calibration and profiling in one easy step.

LaCie 320 LCD Features And Functions
The LaCie 320 is a 3:4 aspect ratio format screen, standard for CRTs, so this 20" LCD has the same image dimensions as a 21" CRT monitor. It has a 700:1 maximum contrast potential, and a 12-bit gamma correction, for reproducing very smooth tonal gradations. I am told that each LaCie 300 Series display is corrected at the factory for uniformity of brightness and chromaticity across the entire surface area of the screen. The maximum luminance of the 320 LCD is 280 cd/m2. The maximum and native resolution is 1600x1200 pixels. The LaCie 300 Series LCD displays provide a full complement of on-screen adjustment controls for brightness, contrast, color balance, and a selection of standard color temperature presets, including convenient on-screen function titles adjacent to the control button locations.

While impressive, specifications are not always indicative of how the monitor supports effective editing and adjusting of image values to reproduce color-matched output. The reason for this discrepancy is in part due to the fact that any LCD display must be calibrated (and adjusted) to lower levels of brightness and contrast than the maximum it can support. For instance, a calibrated and profiled white point between 110 and 120 cd/m2 is essential to reproduce photographic images for effective color-matching output. This requires setting both brightness and contrast lower than maximum.

The new LaCie 320 LCD display features 12-bit Look-Up Tables (LUTs) and 12-bit gamma correction, providing extremely smooth tonal and color gradations.

Once calibrated and profiled, the LaCie 320 provided a screen reproduction quality that was exceptionally smooth, with fine distinctions between subtle color and tonal variations. This fine result stems from the 12-bit support for LUTs and gamma correction functions. When creating a 2D graph from the display's profile, the color gamut is in fact greater by a small amount than a pro quality CRT's. In practical tests, image files corrected on the monitor resulted in closely matched prints using two high-performance inkjet printers.

Using The LaCie 320 LCD Display

It is essential to calibrate and profile the display. In the past, and especially at the beginning of the series of LCD tests and evaluations I've done, the challenge was dealing with the very high brightness and contrast LCD displays are capable of producing, and which are usually set to Default mode. Early on I would use the display controls to reduce brightness and contrast manually by a trial-and-error method, and then calibrate and profile. Although that method worked pretty well it was time-consuming and it was not always the ideal setting, or way to achieve it. When relying on perceptual values my prints, of well-corrected images on screen, were usually too dark, due to the screen image being too bright.

Photographers who produce pictures of people often in vertical format will be advantaged by the new LaCie 320's pivot capability to rotate the display to Portrait mode and fill the screen area with their images. Software supporting the pivot function is supplied with the display for Windows PCs and is built into the operating system of Apple Macs like the new Mac mini.

This was never a problem with CRTs because their brightness was inherently limited to a white point of about 90.0 cd/m2. However, calibrating an LCD to the same white and black point values typical of a CRT is not a viable option and actually results in a very poor quality, muddy-looking screen image. Fortunately, after a number of LCD tests and a lot of trial-and-error adjustments, calibrating and profiling over and over again, a set of black and white point values became evident that would provide both a good quality perceptual screen image with an LCD and would support accurate color and brightness matched print output. Those target values for my work environment are black 0.50 cd/m2 and white 115.0 cd/m2.