Horse Sense #75

Do You See What I See?
What camera or monitor should you get?  The answer is always the same. Look at what you are doing first.  Then ask someone knowledgeable to help you.  Give them an idea of your budget.  Why waste time looking at what you cannot afford or at less costly sub-optimal solutions if you can afford better?  If you tell me your child wants to take lots of snapshot pictures and you want the camera to do all the work, I will steer you away from the more professional grade cameras and point you at an inexpensive camera that might withstand rougher use.  If you tell me you have $100 and want a very high end camera or monitor, I will tell you that you either need to reset your budget, save up, or spend your money elsewhere.
More pixels on a camera are not always better.  These days many cameras have 5 megapixels or more that they can use to capture your image. However, camera principles still apply.  If the lens is dirty or just does not focus well (inexpensive), then the image will not look good. If you do not have enough light, your picture will look dark.  If the camera tries to compensate by raising the ISO setting, the picture may be less dark, but more grainy.  As always in the computer business, the weakest link determines the result.  If you are shooting pictures for a web site, usually anything over 640x480 dots will not be usable.  Large images take a long time to upload, download, and manipulate.  If you take high resolution pictures, you will want to lower the resolution for many output devices or the web.  Matching the resolution to the intended output device is usually a better idea, but if you do not know what the output device will be, take higher resolution pictures.  You can always throw some pixels away, but you cannot create more after you have taken the shot.  For example, you can crop and blow up a section of a high resolution photograph and it can still look good.  Blow up a low resolution image and it will look grainy.  However, when you crop, blow up, or otherwise edit a photograph, the software has to make some decisions as to what something should look like.  If you have 4 pixels you want to combine into one for posting on the web, and three are red and one is blue, can the software choose the correct shade?  If you can take the pictures with the appropriate lighting and resolution, they will look a lot better than any edits you try to make to them later.
Monitors have very poor resolutions when compared to cameras or printers.  My 1680x1050 22 inch monitor has a total of less than 2 million pixels to play with.  That is less than most cameras.  A 600 dot per inch (dpi) printer is 44 times as sharp as my 90 dpi monitor! Almost all monitors have less than a 100 dpi image.  And, without a special monitor and calibration software, you cannot tell if the colors you are seeing on the screen will match your printed output.  If you are working with an image, you want to think about the display device.   If people are going to view it on a monitor, you do not need many pixels for a good looking image.  However, printed material will require much higher resolution images to look good.
These days, you probably want to buy the biggest monitor your desktop can accommodate.  More screen real estate means more pixels to create an image.  Remember, though, that the image is likely to be just as grainy with a larger monitor as with a smaller one because the image will be spread out over more screen real estate.  To get the best image, always tune a flat panel LCD monitor at its maximum resolution.

-Run monitors at their maximum resolution to get the clearest picture.
-Check the dots per inch (dpi) at the maximum resolution.  Higher dpi monitors will look less grainy.
-Digital video connections produce steadier images.
-If you will be changing monitor resolutions frequently, be sure your monitor can handle the resolutions and display them well.  Although all LCD monitors look less crisp when viewed at less than their maximum resolution, monitors with more capable scaling electronics will show better pictures at lower resolutions.  This is most important with monitors that you use with both your computer and TV.
-Make sure your video card supports the same resolution that your monitor does.
-Higher dpi monitors are not necessarily better monitors.  As you raise the dpi and keep the monitor size the same, typewritten characters, graphics, and other features shrink and become harder to see.  They can also look dim compared to a lower dpi monitor.  This is one reason why you might not want to buy the high resolution version of a laptop screen.  You might not be able to read it well.
-LCD monitors take less power and desk space than tube monitors.
-Numerous studies show large, high resolution monitors and more than one monitor increase productivity markedly.
-ALWAYS ask a professional, like one of the guys at Iron Horse, when looking for a camera, monitor, printer, or scanner for the best fit for your needs.
-Seeing is believing.  If you have the chance, always take a look at a monitor before buying it.  Specifications and consumer reviews can be deceiving.  What looks good to someone else may not look good to you.
-Look for brighter monitors for high light environments.
-Large, glossy monitors may look great until you bring them home and see the glare they give off.  Anti-reflective treatments will help you see your monitor better, but may fuzz out the picture, distort colors, or narrow your effective viewing angle.
-Anti-reflective coatings can be damaged by glass cleaners.  Clean your monitors with dry or damp cloths or sponges or specially formulated cleaners for cleaning monitors.
-Video cables often have "chokes" on them.  These are magnets that go around the cable to keep outside signals from interfering with your video transmission.  While they help, it is not a good idea to run video and power cables next to one another.  The electromagnetic radiation emitted from the power cables can interfere with your video signal, most often resulting in ghosting on your screen.  If you have problems with ghosts, color shifts, or color dropouts, check your connections and make sure your power and video cables are not running parallel to one another.  I just fixed a signaling problem with my own monitor by taking parallel power and video cables and moving the video cable so it was at right angles to the power cable.
-Save lots of money and space with keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) switches if you have multiple computers you want to control.

All you really need to remember is this:   Call Iron Horse.  We have been doing this for a long time and can help make sure you see what you want to see!

©2008 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse