When the opportunity to work with the new Dell UP3218K monitor came up, I have to admit, I was pretty excited. I mean, 8K! That's a resolution of 7680 x 4320! How can you not be excited about working on that type of display? After reading a little bit about the awards the monitor had already received (Best in Show CES, Best Pixels CES, +more), I was even more excited.
In general, I don't do a whole lot of reviews and there's a reason for that. I'm not super interested in checking out a random program or piece of gear a handful of times and then just sharing my thoughts on it. What I am interested in doing though, is sharing my honest thoughts on something that I'm excited about. Something that has made its way in to my every day workflow and that I genuinely enjoy and benefit from.
I've been quietly working with the UP3218K since returning from Canada and have been growing more and more excited to share my thoughts on it. In a year where I plan on upgrading one of my main camera bodies, I believe this monitor will be an even bigger asset in improving the quality of my work. I'm happy to be able to say that some of the images that I've edited using my new edit station have received quite a bit of exciting media attention. I'll share more about that later!
First, I'll give a very brief layout of some of the technical specs below and then move on to why I feel this monitor will make such a big improvement in my work.
Native Resolution: 8K 7680 x 4320 at 60 Hz
Display Type/Size: LED backlit LCD 32"
Panel Type: IPS
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Colors: 100% Adobe RGB color gamut, 100% sRGB color gamut, 98% DCI-P3, 100% Rec 709 color gamut
Input: 2x display port
Interfaces: 2 x DisplayPort 3 x USB 3.0 downstream (Type A) USB 3.0 downstream (Type A (power only)) USB 3.0 upstream (Type B) Audio line-out
Alright, I want to spend more time talking about my experience with the monitor so far. You can visit this link here for a full list of technical details.
Right: A quick snap of while editing a photo from Waterton National Park and, of course drinking coffee.
Build Quality & Design
The aesthetic of Dell's InfinityEdge has certainly ruined any chance of enjoying any display without it. The 32" screen barely has a border which makes for a pretty striking first, second, third, and 100th, impression. I honestly love walking in to my office and powering this monitor on. Admittedly, when I've gone to make coffee, I've often pulled up one of my favorite images full screen so I can walk back in to see it on display. It's kind of similar to the excitement you get when you see one of your photos printed for the first time.
The UP3218K has a modern aluminum build with a sturdy stand that allows for the monitor to tilt and swivel. This is a cool feature, but aside from testing it out, I've yet to take much advantage of it in a working situation.
The stand doesn't take up too much desk space and the monitor itself is around an inch deep. I've now got some modest speakers located just under the monitor with no problem.
The power button and additional ports are all nicely tucked under the bottom of the monitor, right where you'd expect to find them. Nicely hidden, but easily accessible without taking away from the beautiful design.
Overall, the build quality and design are sure to impress anyone that sees or uses the monitor.
Resolution | Why 8k
The first thing I did when I setup my UP3218K was load up one of my favorite images and view it at 100%. I took a step back and just stared at it. I smiled, sat down, set the photo as my wallpaper and then did the same thing with another 5 or 6 photos. It was like seeing these photos that I spent hours working on for the first time again. It's pretty exciting to have a new display like this and find ways to test it out with your own content.
If that made you stop and think, "do I already have 8K content?"
The answer is, probably or at the very least a solid maybe! A good number of recent DSLR's are already capturing content that is above 8K resolution. The Sony A7RII, & A7RIII, Nikon D810, D850, and the Canon 5Dsr are a couple off the top of my head that are capable of producing 8K timelapse.
Much like the jump from HD to 4K, the jump from 4K to 8K is pretty intense. Check out this diagram below (scaled down) that represents the portion of the image you would see at each resolution. This is a photo I shot of sunrise Medicine Lake in Jasper National Park.
Even with the incredibly large resolution, everything looks sharp, has great contrast, and has zero sign of any visible pixels. All things that may be a concern with high resolution displays.
Since I was using a new Dell Precision workstation laptop to power the monitor, I had to get a few of my usual programs installed. While doing so, I had one thing on my mind, "I need to render out an 8K timelapse."
I decided to take some of the recently shot footage from Jasper National Park at Goats and Glaciers to see how it would look. Well, the first footage I rendered out looked a-mazing. I probably watched the 10 second loop for a good 3 to 4 minutes.
It was around this time that something I didn't expect happened. I loaded up a few more images that I was working and they didn't look that great. I noticed a few minor masking mistakes that I made on an image that I thought was completely finished. Realistically, I could've posted the image and it might've been fine, but it can really come down to small details that really elevate an image. I went from being a little upset that I missed those details to actually kind of being excited that I could catch these tiny details.
Above: Screen capture using the Develop module in LightRoom. Right Below: Kona enjoying a photo of Jasper National Park
The image from the monitor looks absolutely stunning. As I mentioned above, it has great contrast, crisp edges, accurate color (a bit more on that below). Before the UP3218K, I had actually found myself using my XPS15 with a 4K display most often. Despite the 15" inch screen, the color accuracy and quality was far better than the display I was previously using. Making the jump to the UP3218K felt incredibly natural with a similar feel.
You won't notice any blurry edges while using the display as Windows 10 scaled impressively (surprisingly?) well. This was my one concern that quickly disappeared. All text is very easy to read and required no input on my part to set up. Not all of the programs scaled to their UI to the same amount Windows does, but I haven't really had an issue with this just yet. It was just plug the monitor in and all was good to go.
Color Accuracy & Peace of Mind
A monitor can be sharp and provide an incredible amount of detail, but without color accuracy it might as well not exist to anyone thinking of using it to edit. If you're editing on something that doesn't provide an accurate representation of colors, you won't ever have a true idea of how the image looks.
Color space and color theory are two topics that have had plenty of books written about them and for good reason. If you're unfamiliar or just getting started, it can feel a bit overwhelming.
Here's what you need to know - the monitor comes calibrated to accurately display AdobeRGB and sRGB with a Delta-E of less than 2. Delta-E is basically the measure of distance between colors with 1 being the smallest number difference visible to the human eye. So, less than 2...pretty impressive to say the least.
Regardless of your workspace, rest assured you will be covered with 100% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB, 100% Rec. 709, and 98% DCI-P3.
I generally use a Spyder 5 for my color calibration of my displays. Even though the monitor came calibrated, and had paperwork, there was a small part of me that felt like I had to still test it. I'm glad to say that the factory calibration was right on.
Sharpening & Print
With higher resolution displays, there's been a concern with the amount of sharpening that needs to be done for print and whether or not it would accurately be reflected. While I haven't printed an extensive amount of images just yet, I'm happy to be able to say that the ones I have appear to accurately represent the sharpening done while editing. This is something I've had a bit of an issue with on some of my older displays and previously it meant a lot of guess work and test prints. I won't be skipping test prints, but so far, so good.
This is something that I'd definitely would like to do a bit more extensive testing with now that I'm home from traveling. I know among photographers that deal with a large number of a prints that seeing the fine detail in a higher pixel density display is a big concern. It's a hot enough topic that I think it may need a special post dedicated to it in the future.
Video + Timelapse
So far, most of the editing I've been doing has been a combination of video and timelapse edits. All the content I've been editing is being rendered out in 4K which has made my digital workspace quite nice. For projects like this, I end up spending a lot of time in programs like Adobe Premier to work on the sequencing of the video. The higher resolution simply means I can view my video at full 4K resolution and still have plenty of on-screen room for the rest of the tools to easily switch between. Reference that chart about to see how much extra space you have on the 8K screen.
Below: Just a quick video screen capture while working on a timelapse in Adobe Premiere. You can hit play and see how I'm able to preview the footage full sized while editing.
Utilizing All That Workspace
So, as you can see, even when not working on 8K content, there is a plenty of benefit to having the 8K (7680 x 4320) workspace. I've never had a two monitor setup as part of my workflow. That means I've always had to switch between panels or use small previews of the content I was working on. Being able to work on 4K content and have a full set of tools on the same screen has made editing life much less of a hassle.
The lack of switching things around, changing panel sizes, increasing and decreasing the video sequence is something I certainly won't miss for a single second.
Remember that media attention I mentioned earlier? The image below shows the comparison feature in Lightroom. Shooting timelapse, where I'll often shoot hundreds of photos, I'll find myself sorting through all of those images to look for a single still to pick out. Being able to view two side by side at such a large size makes things a little bit easier.
I recently shot a rare occurrence of bioluminesence in San Diego and had to pick out just a few photos to share. I was hoping they would receive a good amount of traffic and new eyes, so it was important to pick out the best of the group. Since it was kind of a nature related news event, I had to pick carefully and quickly which photos I would edit and share. In the end, the photos I ended up posting were feature by the BBC, Huffington Post, Mashable and many other outlets!
"I had to pick carefully and quickly which photos I would edit and share. In the end, the photos I ended up posting were feature by the BBC, Huffington Post, Mashable..."
Conclusion + Livestream
If you remember a few months back, I did a bit of a write up about my XPS 15 that I've been using. Since then I've logged some serious miles and edits on that laptop. It's been to more coffee shops in the past year than most people get to in a life time! I actually found myself editing on that more often than my desktop. With the arrival of the UP3218K, that's something that definitely has changed. The XPS will still by my go to while on the road, but I'm excited to have a display like this that I can rely on while working from home.
If you've been considering upgrading your monitors, making the jump to 4K, or if you've gotta have the best tech around, I suggest checking the UP3218K out. While people are still making the move to 4K, you can stay a bit ahead of the game with a display that will be relevant for quite some time to come. I think that's something important to remember when considering a purchase like this. Very often, expensive gear needs to be replaced or is outdated in a short amount of time. Because people are still making the move to 4K, moving your workspace to 8K now means you'll have plenty of time before you have to worry about upgrading again.
The display can definitely be seen as a bit of a luxury purchase by some, but a pretty integral part of your daily workflow by others. It's the same with any piece of professional gear. Not everyone needs, but those that do or those can make it work will really be able to see the benefits.
I'm excited to continue working on new photos and timelapse at home and seeing how much it can help improve me work.
Later this week, I'll be livestreaming a Q&A and a bit of an edit session using my UP3218K over on my Instagram: @jackfusco. Be sure to swing by and check it out!
If you want to learn how to take photos of the stars in one of the most beautiful locations in the world, swing by workshops page to learn about the Dark Sky Workshop in Jasper National Park!
Thanks so much for reading!