The EIZO ColorEdge CG318-4K is a 31 inch 4K display designed primarily for the movie, TV editing and special effects market. However, the features that make it a viable alternative to much more expensive broadcast monitors – wide colour gamut, high contrast ratio, self-calibration and high quality standards – also make it very attractive for editing and retouching photographs. This review will focus on using the CG318 for photography.
4K refers to the number of horizontal pixels on the screen – 4096. There is also a standard called UHD that has 3840 pixels. True 4K is used in the cinema industry where ares UHD is used in TV but both are generally referred to as 4K. The CG318 is a true 4K screen. That many pixels on a 31 inch screen gives the CG318 an exceptionally sharp picture but comes at a cost. Driving a 4K monitor demands a lot of bandwidth from the graphics card and so you must ensure that your computer/graphics card can handle not only the resolution involved but also be used at a workable refresh rate. Most monitors are used a refresh rate of 60 hertz but some graphics card can only drive a 4K screen at 24 or 30 hertz and this may make your computer seem a bit sluggish. It pays to do your homework before you buy a 4K/UHD screen so that you are sure your set up can handle it. To understand more about 4K click here.
Calibration & Accuracy
The ColorEdge CG318 has all the quality and colour accuracy features you’d expect from an EIZO CG screen. It has a wide colour gamut (99% Adobe RGB) so that you can see more of the colours in your images. It comes with a shading hood to stop unwanted ambient light. It has a high 1500:1 contrast ratio for deeper blacks. The high quality IPS panel with uniformity compensation ensures accurate colour from corner to corner and the built-in calibrator updates the 16 bit 3D look up tables for very, very accurate calibration and smooth tonal reproduction. The CG318 comes with ColorNavigator calibration software which communicates directly with the monitor and the built-in calibrator. ColorNavigator saves an ICC profile onto your computer so all your applications know exactly how your screen displays colours. For a tutorial on using ColorNavigator click here.
I used the CG318 in it’s full 4K resolution (with another screen at a lower resolution for text based tasks). Photoshop has an interface text size preference that I set to large so that I could read the menus etc. Both Windows and the MacOS have options to scale the display so interface elements look bigger but everything is still output to the monitor at 4K/UHD. The downside to this though is that you loose some of the display space that may have attracted you to 4K in the first place.
The first time I opened an image in Photoshop on the CG318 I was immediately struck by how big the screen was. I usually use a 27 inch EIZO and the leap to 31 inches seemed like a lot more room. Also the CG318 has a 17:9 aspect ratio rather than the more normal 16:9 so you get a bit of extra width for palettes etc. Converting raw images or retouching on such a large monitor was a joy as you could see the whole image but still at really high levels of detail. The second thing that struck me about the CG318 was where had the pixels had gone. Even on 27 inch screen you are aware that you are looking at a pixelated image but with a 4K screen the pixels just cannot be seen. The display looks crisp and very, very smooth – more like looking at a good inkjet print than a monitor.
I calibrated the CG318 using ColorNavigator. The monitor needs a USB connection from the computer to enable communication but with the built-in calibrator you don’t need to connect a colorimeter. The built-in sensor swings down from the bezel when the calibration starts and then you can go and make a cup of coffee while it does its stuff. I checked the calibration both with ColorNavigator’s validation function and visually and with our own CC Test Form image. The greys were perfectly neutral, the colours rich but natural and the gradations very smooth with excellent shadow and highlight detail.
I then put an Epson print of our test image into our GTI view booth and selected the printer profile in Photoshop’s soft-proofing set up. The match was probably the best I’ve seen. I’m used to the colours being close on an EIZO but the pixel-less resolution of the CG318 gave the soft-proof the same look as the print in a way I hadn’t seen before. I went through a number of other images and soft-proofed them all. They all looked excellent, especially the black and white images that benefitted from the extra contrast of the screen and the deep blacks.
Many retouchers like to work on images at Photoshop’s 100% display size where one image pixel is represented by one monitor pixel. This enables them to spot any textures that are introduced by editing and to judge sharpening accurately without any interpolation between the image and monitor. However, I found that on the CG318 that this wasn’t necessary. The screen has so many pixels that other zoom factors can be used and still look as sharp, I could display more of the image and still judge the sharpness and see all the little details.
Some of the factors I’ve mentioned in this review would be common to any 4K or UHD monitor but what really sets the CG318 apart is the quality of the panel and the accuracy of the calibration. The EIZO ColorEdge CG318-4K makes a truly excellent monitor for editing your images, but of course it comes at a price both in terms of cost and bandwidth needed from the computer to drive it. The only downside to it was that on my Mac I couldn’t get it working well enough with the Mac OS scaling features to make the type bigger and so had to rely on having a second screen as well. The CG318 would be a big investment for any photographer but I think if you are a medium format or high megapixel DSLR user that does very high quality work it does have features that may benefit you in terms of accuracy and detail. Once you see the CG318 it may be difficult to accept anything less.