The NEC SpectraView II Color System; Is This The Best System For The Price?

One of the most important aspects of this product package is that it’s the first to offer ideal color reproduction for digital photography in an integrated package at a cost many individual photographers can afford. As I was writing this report I checked online and the price for the MultiSync P221W LCD display with SpectraView II was $725, which includes the LCD display, along with adjustment, calibration, and profiling software plus a colorimeter to match.

(Top): The NEC MultiSync P221W with SpectraView II proves to be an easy to use and affordable color-managed environment for digital photography. (Bottom): The NEC/X-Rite iOne Display 2 colorimeter is designed to be used with both standard and wide color gamut NEC displays with custom calibration sensors to read each. It is included with the SpectraView II software with all SpectraView-designated NEC LCD displays. Both the new SpectraView II colorimeter and the SpectraView II software can be purchased individually from NEC and its dealers.

Let’s begin with some basic premises. A display and a computer are two separate and distinct products that must work together to accurately get a digital photo image to look the same on screen and in print, or any other media chosen. This involves the adjustment of the display, matching it to the output of the computer video card (calibration), and the profiling of the display.

The first function is setting up the brightness of the display, which is really the range of light values it reproduces. In this case, this is not adjusted primarily by a manual “brightness” control found on many displays, but by the contrast/gain control, used to achieve a white luminance value—the light emitting range of the display. For printing, the display white luminance should match the white of the paper used. I have found that the typical white luminance of now obsolete CRTs of 90.0 CD/m2, in practical terms, provides a display that will reproduce prints that match the display image. (Here, for photography, there may be an apparent difference with the 140.0 CD/m2 that is the SpectraView’s default, apparently based on user photographer preferences). This adjustment to the white luminance value aim point set in the software is accomplished through a part of the (DVI) cable connection between the computer and display. This is an NEC proprietary DDC/CI link; the computer, through the SpectraView II software, actually adjusts the internal settings of the display.

(Top): After launching the NEC SpectraView II software with the NEC colorimeter plugged into a USB port, a small, simple Target Settings screen is the first to show. Each of the four settings can be used at default or your own choice aim point can be easily input, and for a photographer, the Photo Editing selection should be chosen at the top. Then White Point, Gamma, Intensity, and Contrast Ratio are selected. You are then ready to click on the Calibrate button and let SpectraView do the rest. (Bottom): After SpectraView adjusts, calibrates, and profiles an NEC display, an on-screen read-out of the detailed results are provided, so you can see exactly what numeric values were achieved relative to your selected aim points.

If you have read about display profiling, the term “calibration” is included, and seldom explained. Each computer’s video (card) can have a slightly different signal than another. The SpectraView II software with the colorimeter in place measures this and compares the video output to an ICC color standard. It then determines what the video card output should be for the display to operate consistently with this ICC color standard. This is the basis of all color management. The result of calibration is an executable information file that is installed in your computer’s Start-Up folder. This file is launched as part of computer boot-up and adjusts the output of the video card to provide a basis for the display’s profiled operation.

From the top of the results window, the menu bar has breakouts, including a graph that displays the measured color gamut of the display relative to the entire viewable gamut and a specific gamut like Adobe RGB, as shown.

Profiling is then conducted by the SpectraView II software that displays a series of different colored and gray patches on screen that are read by the colorimeter. These readings are matched with what the ICC color reference says they should be. The result is essentially a text file that we call a profile that details the differences between the color the display produces and the ICC target, which then defines, for a color-managed application like Photoshop, how the application should display an image on screen. It also provides a reference specifically to the source of a color image file with an embedded display profile. For example, if you make a screen capture and then open the file, you will find the display profile reference as part of the file information.

The NEC MultiSync P221W-BK-SV is a 22” widescreen LCD display that provides a large color gamut that is 95.6 percent of the Adobe RGB color space. It has internal 10-bit LUTs (Look Up Tables) that support displaying 16.7 million colors out of a palette of 1.05 billion for lossless, smooth image display. With many other displays color management is accomplished through the LUTs in the computer video card rather than in the display itself, which is done with NEC with SpectraView II support. The NEC P221W has a resolution of 1680x1050 pixels in a substantial and fully adjustable stand. Detailed information is available on the NEC website at:

The read-out graph of most immediate interest is one that defines the accuracy of the profile as produced in Delta E values.


Some of the important values of an LCD display for photography are an evenness of density/brightness across the entire screen, as well as a truly neutral gray. Fine detail and contrast and easily read palettes and work window dialogs are also essential to critical efficient image editing. In all of these basic attributes of performance the NEC P221W SpectraView II system more than meets the requirements.
Photos © 2009, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved



Accurate color correction of digital photographic images is made more effective and efficient if subtleties in color and image densities can be fine-tuned, like making the fog in this winter mountain scene a clean, neutral gray while maintaining the saturation of the subtle mossy growth on the tree trunks.