Monitor Too Old?


Today’s Question: Is there a point in the life of a monitor when it is too old to calibrate? I’ve had my Apple Thunderbolt display for more than 10 years, and I wonder sometimes (even though I get affirming feedback when I ask another photographer if my image color looks right).

Tim’s Quick Answer: For a modern LCD display the only indication that the display should not be relied upon for evaluating photos is if the display can’t be calibrated. That would generally mean that the display has gotten too dim, rather than having any issue with color fidelity.

More Detail: Back in the days of big and heavy CRT monitors there was a point that the monitor would get too old and no longer be able to present color accurately. The primary issue is that over time as the color display faded the three colors would not fade evenly. Eventually the three colors were so far from each other in terms of their full-strength potential that accurate color became impossible. This would be clearly indicated during the calibration process using a colorimeter.

With LCD displays that color fidelity issue is essentially not an issue. The more common issue is that the illumination source for the display starts to dim over time. Eventually the display may get so dim that you can’t accurately display bright tonal values. This too would be indicated during the process of calibrating the display.

As long as the display can be properly calibrated there’s no need to replace the display. In my experience most monitor displays get replaced because the photographer wants a display with higher resolution, larger size, or other feature benefits, rather than because the existing display could no longer be calibrated properly.

By the way, the display calibration requires a colorimeter device that measures the actual performance of the display. I recommend the Calibrite ColorChecker Display, which you can learn more about here: