Contrast Ratio Defined and Explained

On April 4, 2016, in Guides, by Harry Jackson

NEC Multisync Pa301w-bkContrast ratio is one of the most important properties of a display. But unfortunately one that is also very widely misunderstood.

 

In fact, many people who say they know it understand very little about it. Again, what many buyers/users know is the often misleading notion that the higher the ratio, the better the display quality.

 

Let’s discuss the concept in a manner that everyone can understand below.

 

Definition

In its simplest form, contrast ratio is the measure of the brightest white and darkest black a monitor can display.

 

Contrast

Contrast

According to HP.com, it is a measure of the difference in brightness between white and black as shown on a given display. This difference is expressed as a ratio obtained by dividing white brightness by black brightness.

 

It is important because it influences your perception of brightness and affects the degree of detail you can see in images.

 

When there is a big difference between light and dark areas, it is possible to see finer details of your images. This is not the case when the difference is small.

 

Generally, higher ratios give better display quality while low ratios offer poor display quality.

 

contrast ratio4However, since we don’t perceive brightness numerically but instead in differences, increasing the brightness beyond a certain point will have no or very little effect.

 

For example, the difference between a change from 500:1 to 1000:1 can easily be noted. While increasing it from 1000:1 to 1300:1 may not give you any difference.

 

The Measurement Problem

There is no international standard for measuring it. As such, manufacturers have come up with their own ways of measuring it. What this means is that there is no uniformity.

 

contrast ratio6Again, because many people believe that the higher the value, the better the display quality, some manufacturers deliberately use measurement methods that are intended to give higher contrast values.

 

Worse still, some manufacturers don’t measure it. They just come up with a figure based on what they need to sell the product. That’s why you see funny ratios peddled around the market.

 

Native and Dynamic Contrast ratio

 

Native contrast is actually what your display technology can show.  For an LCD monitor, it’s what the liquid crystal can achieve.

 

contrast ratio8On the other hand, dynamic contrast relates to certain technologies that are meant to enhance the native resolution.

 

With such technologies, the screen can sense the content the monitor is displaying and adjust the overall light output as appropriate.

 

These technologies can actually increase it but just a bit. Which is nothing close to the mad values some manufacturers report.

 

contrast ratio9The dynamic contrast is sometimes referred to as the Constant Contrast Ratio (CCR) because it is based on still display.

 

When buying a monitor, go for one with a high native contrast.

 

But don’t bother yourself with the dynamic contrast because it is not that important.

 

A dynamic contrast of 1000:1 is excellent for photo editing. Especially if the manufacturer reports this value correctly.

 

contrast ratio5However the lowest recommended for photo editing is 850:1.

 

Hope you now understand what contrast ratio means. With the definition and explanation we gave for it.

 

If not, use the comment button below to ask questions or share your thoughts.

 

Also help spread the word about this article by sharing it with others such as your friends.

 

Thanks.

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