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What is a High Dynamic Range Monitor?

Eric Tallberg
Eric Tallberg

A high dynamic range (HDR) monitor is a computer monitor capable of rendering a higher dynamic range, also called a luminance ratio, than a conventional monitor. Dynamic range is the luminance ratio between the darkest of the dark aspects of a picture displayed on a computer screen and the brightest of the bright aspects that the monitor can reproduce. Essentially, a high dynamic range monitor is able to present a higher luminance ratio between the aspects, bringing out far more of the darker details, most of which will ordinarily be overwhelmed by brightness. The high dynamic range monitor is able to compensate for the overwhelming brightness to show a vastly more realistically lighted image.

Luminance ratio is measured on a logarithmic scale designated candela/m2. A candela is the brightness produced by one candle and m2 is a square-meter. The human eye has a dynamic range, also called a luminance or brightness ratio, of approximately 1,000,000:1. A starlit scene has a photometer-captured dynamic range of 0.001 candela/m2 (cd/m2); a sunlit scene, a dynamic range of 100,000 cd/m2, which is millions of times higher. A high dynamic range monitor will capture more of the luminance for a more precise projection of this dynamic range.

Digital cameras helped bring about the development of the high dynamic range monitor.
Digital cameras helped bring about the development of the high dynamic range monitor.

High dynamic range monitors have been developed to present nearly absolute blackness and higher levels of brightness, almost 3½ times brighter than what is ordinarily achieved on a conventional monitor, which can present only about 600:1 cd/m2. A high dynamic range monitor is capable of some 200,000:1 cd/m2. Conventional monitors cannot present absolute blackness simply by virtue of the residual brightness of the screen that is inherent in its being turned on. A high dynamic range monitor will present true blackness and a less overwhelming brightness as a result of technology that modifies a liquid crystal display (LCD) cathode ray tube using a modulated series of light emitting diodes (LED). Thus a picture on a high dynamic range monitor is closer to what the eye would register at the scene of what is pictured. A high dynamic range monitor presently costs some $49,000.

Development of the high dynamic range monitor is one result of the advent of the ubiquitous digital camera. A composite technique, whereby three pictures are shot of the same scene at varying exposure levels, was developed and captures and displays a higher dynamic range in a digitalized image. The higher dynamic range image can then be displayed on a conventional monitor.

Discussion Comments


Dynamic range is something that you should pay attention to when you buy flat panel televisions in my opinion.

Here I am not talking about high dynamic range monitors, just television in general. You have to decide whether you’re mainly going to watch movies or sports; this will determine what kind of dynamic range you should go for.

Obviously, If you watch a lot of standard definition movies, go for the best dynamic range you can get. For sports, you want maximum brightness not dark hues. I think that these questions should affect your buying decision.


@nony - I suppose if you watch a lot of dark films on your computer it might benefit you to have this monitor on your computer.

Film does a better job of capturing mid tones and dark areas than video does in my opinion. You would probably be able to see a lot of these subtle hues far better with this monitor.

But I agree that such a monitor would be overkill for mere entertainment purposes. I think its only real use would be in scientific or industrial settings.


@Charred - Even if you buy a high dynamic range monitor, the images will only be as good as the source.

Imagine if you owned a High Definition set, but only got standard definition signals piped through your TV. You wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the set’s capability because you have an inferior image quality.

I don’t think that most consumer grade video cameras can produce the level of detail that a high dynamic range monitor can display; therefore it would be just like having that standard definition signal and it wouldn’t benefit you at all.

I don’t know about professional camcorders, but personally, I can’t think of many circumstances where that kind of detail is needed. Video, in general, is bright, and meant to be that way.


Wow, the price of a high dynamic range monitor is a little too rich for my blood.

I guess it begs the question of who would need such a monitor? I don’t think that it would be the regular computer user or even an advanced gamer.

I believe that it would be scientists – or perhaps digital photographers. In other words, it would be people who would need the ability to view images in absolute blackness.

I think of astronomers, for example, who view the skies; they may need that level of detail when they look at the stars and the planets.

Photographers may need that detail as well, although I think that most of them can get by with much cheaper monitors that deliver high resolution.

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    • Digital cameras helped bring about the development of the high dynamic range monitor.
      By: Deyan Georgiev
      Digital cameras helped bring about the development of the high dynamic range monitor.