Cheap Color Correction and Grading Monitors – $1,500 and Lower

So you can’t afford a Barco or a Dolby or a Sony OLED or an HP DreamColor monitor. So what? You’ll have to do with 8-bit, yada yada…which monitor do you choose?

Let’s get to it.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.

NEC PA271W

What you’ve got to understand is that in this price range, you won’t get ‘true’ Rec. 709, whatever that is (it’s different things to different people). 100% sRGB is what you’re aiming for, as a bare minimum. But even that’s hard.

Before we proceed, I highly recommend you read What is a Video Monitor and How to Choose your Professional Display Monitor.

$1,500 budget

Panasonic P55VT50

Get a 55″ Panasonic P55VT50 Plasma for $1,999 if you can stretch that far. But then, the HP DreamColor LP2480 might be better. How far can you stretch? What if you can’t, and $1,500 is the absolute best you can do?

Take a look at the 27″ NEC PA271W-BK-SV, for $1,371. It’s an absolute gem at this price. It comes with a Spectraview II calibration system.

$1,000 budget

This is the absolute gem’s smaller brother: the 24″ NEC PA241W at $1,099. It, too, comes with a Spectraview II calibration system.

$750 budget

This is where things get weird.

Blackmagic Smartview Duo

Want critical controls, like the ability to change the white point or gamma? Check out the 15″ Sony LMD1510W LCD at $750. It can take SDI via an optional adapter ($400+).

Want HD-SDI/3G-SDI and 10-bit 4:4:4? You can have it, for a price: Blackmagic Smartview Duo at $660. What you’re losing is size (8″) and resolution (800×400). But this article is about color correction and grading monitors, so here we are.

Just want a general display that will also act as your GUI? Then look at the 23″ NEC P232W-BK at $750 with the Spectraview II Calibration kit.

If you only have money for one display that should do everything, the NEC is the clear choice. But, if you can buy a 23″ Acer G236HL at $139 and pair it up with a Blackmagic Smartview Duo you’re still in the $750 ballpark.

$500 budget

Dell Ultrasharp U2410

At this price point I have only one choice: the 24″ Dell Ultrasharp U2410 at $400. This monitor is a legend in this space.

$300-200 budget

If you can stretch your budget look at the Dell I suggested above. If you absolutely can’t go over $300 I have another Dell for you: the 24″ Dell Ultrasharp U2412 series, from $200 to $320.

No money for a professional or even high-end consumer monitor?

Nothing to fear. You do know that if you use a computer you need a monitor, right? Use what you have, just calibrate it to the best of your ability, and you’re good to go.

Nothing to be ashamed of here, we all have to start somewhere. And if we don’t have the money, we still have to start. I graded and finished my feature (yes, feature) on an Acer laptop that was calibrated once (at the beginning) by a friend. If you can swing a 1920×1080 laptop or monitor, that’s great. Remember, some grading apps need more resolution as a bare minimum, when compared to the average NLE.

People have pointed out a lot of flaws in my movie, but no one has complained about the colors. Go figure.

Do you agree with my list? How do you handle color correction and grading on a tight (or zero) budget? I’d love to hear some of your war stories.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.

10 replies on “Cheap Color Correction and Grading Monitors – $1,500 and Lower”

  1. If I have a choice between the asus pa279q vs nec pa242w vs dreamcolor lp2480zx vs sony lmd-2110w, which one should I choose?

  2. SimoneFerrini  I think the 241x has upgraded to two or three versions. I haven’t kept track of it but the most expensive one in the lot should be the winner!

    X-Rite for color checker. The next level up is by Light Illusion.

  3. Very useful post, and great blog!
    I would like to replace my monitor, ( a Samsung2043NW, even calibrated with my old Spyder 1 it’s horrible for color correction, and is never trusty in other monitors).
    I’m interested in the Dell u2410, but it seems that is no longer in production.
    Did you have any advic on other monitors from Dell in thia price range?
    In order to change also the calibration device, wich one did you find is appropriate for this kind of monitors?
    Thank you!

  4. Sareesh Sudhakaran I’ll be doing freelance editing. If I ever wanna work on projects for broadcast, I guess that will be done in a studio and not on my own computer.
    Anyway, apparently this P232W monitor covers 96 percent of the sRGB space. So I hope it gets me where I’m going.
    Thanks again for replying.

  5. PooyanMN Between NEC and Dell, I’d choose NEC. See my comment below. The monitor should be ‘in sync’ with what your final delivery needs are. If it is just the Internet, DVD, etc., a Dell/NEC is all you need.

  6. Thanks for this amazing post. I think it’s the only one of its kind on the Internet. I’ve been thinking of getting a second hand Dreamcolor for $1000 or even less, but at the same price I can get a NEC P232W and pair it up with a Dell Ultrasharp and calibrate them with an X-Rite i1display.
    You think it’s a good decision? Are the Ultrasharps better than cheaper (around $200) NEC models?

  7. Sareesh Sudhakaran Apolo6112 That’s right! NEC has extensive experience on Digital Cinema Projector. Thank you for your quick reply:)

  8. What do you think about using Eizo CG276 or 246 for grading? The image quality and accuracy are there and the prices are in the middiem.

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