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The Sony Artisan: Seen through a photographer's lens
Friday August 1, 2003

Section 1: Sometimes the best things are simple

by Greg Gorman

When my 21" Apple monitor finally bit the dust last year, I was left with no alternative but to resource a new CRT. Though I work with a re-toucher who handles most of my high-end work, I still spend a good deal of time working closely on my personal and editorial jobs and wanted the best product available on the market.

Though I'm a fan of Apple's large cinema displays - for both the luminance and real estate value they offer, it's extremely hard to maintain the consistency I need when viewing my files. I must be able to rely on the accuracy of what I'm seeing to have a productive discussion with my retoucher, Robb Carr.

In researching CRT monitors with my own personal needs in mind, the Sony Artisan stood out from the crowd, and the color reference system seemed almost too good to be true. For someone like me, avidly trying to get current with this ever-changing digital imaging world over the past 3-1/2 years, Sony offered not only the best choice for monitor performance, but an unlikely and comforting ease of use to boot!

As a portrait photographer for over 35 years, I have developed a signature style that is inherent in my work. I generally shoot with very high key lighting, few mid-tones and rather harsh shadows. It is critical that the white and black points are set perfectly so that a totally neutral grayscale can be established. It is also imperative that the grayscale is set all the way to black with no color banding or fall off - that way I'm be assured that my skin tones will be accurately rendered and that I am seeing everything in my file. The Artisan gives me that confidence. Without mentioning other names, I found that only the Artisan and the accompanying color reference system was able to achieve the type of calibration I needed, particularly at low luminance levels.

For some, this discussion may sound a little technical, but the great news is that the process is done automatically for you by simply making one choice. For where I'm sitting, there are simply too many choices in the digital arena, making it easy to make the wrong one. The Artisan offers you a few options regarding which color space you wish to use. You make a choice, and that's it! Once you've chosen d50, d65, sRGB or one of Artisan's new fine art color spaces (deeper blacks) the included puck will not only do the rest but it will store the display profile so that it will be your default profile in Photoshop. For the more advanced user (not me!), you have the ability to edit and create your own color space. For those of you undecided as to how your monitor should be profiled, you can even choose as many as you like and they will all be stored for you to use at your beckon call.

When I heard that Sony, with the help of Karl Lang, designed the Color Reference System I knew it would be terrific. Karl also designed the Colormatch RGB working space, my personal favorite because it most accurately portrays the colors within a gamut that your printers are able to reproduce.

Since the black points and white points are set for you automatically. I can share with total confidence my retouching requirements over the phone with Robb, because I know he is seeing the identical color on his Artisan - a critical factor.

Anyway, having digressed a bit, once you have chosen your color space you simply choose calibrate and the entire process is done for you. What's more, the calibration is accurate for 30 days, at which time you can choose "update" to see how the calibration is holding. If the tolerance is holding it will complete any needed adjustments within a minute or so. Otherwise, the Artisan will readjust itself within 3-4 minutes. This entire process is painless, accurate and efficient - a winning combination by any standards!

The monitor is also a 21" screen, which I love. The provided hood offers good light-blocking from extemporaneous sources. The neutral gray housing combined with a slight setback to the screen, provides me with the assurance that no surrounding color will influence my images.

Knowing all of this, once I correctly profile my papers for the media I am using, I am set to go. I can be confident that my softproofs will be accurate, that my workflow will be consistent and that my output will match my monitor. What more could someone ask?

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