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As new technologies emerge the creative industry simultaneously evolves. These days, photographers are having a hard time deciding between 2k, 4K and 5K monitors for their retouching. Truth be told, deciding on which one is for you will depend on your own personal needs.
1080 vs. 4K vs. 5K
For you to better understand which monitor is for you, you’ll have to discern the difference between 2K (also known as 1080), 4K, and 5K monitors, which refers to the monitor's resolution. Simply put, your monitor's resolution is the number of pixels that your screen can display horizontally and vertically. Your computer screen is essentially made up of millions of little pixels and the image you see is comprised of a combination of these little square pieces.
For example, 1080 displays have a resolution of 1920x1080 or about 2.1 million pixels. 4K displays have a native resolution of 3840x2160 or about 8.3 million pixels. 5K monitors generally have a resolution of 5120x2880 or about 14.7 million pixels.
Why care? Simple. If you had two monitors of the same size, but different resolutions, the display with the larger resolution would be clearer. Take a look at the image below (credit PC World) and notice how the 4K image looks clearer while looking at the image as a whole.
Which One Is Better?
Technically speaking, 5K is better than 4K, 4K is better than 1080 and so on. The higher resolution allows you to edit images at their native resolutions without scaling your photograph, so if accuracy is important to you, you'll want the highest resolution that you can afford. You can sit a lot closer to a 4K screen compared to a 1080 screen without seeing pixelation which extremely important if you're using advanced retouching techniques like frequency separation and the dodge and burn technique. However, if you're a photographer who simply likes to make minor adjustments to your images, you may not ever notice the benefits of a 4K screen unless you're trying to find an accurate print rendition.
As for myself, I personally have two monitors, an Eizo CG318-4K which is a 31.1" 4K monitor and also a CG2420, which is a 24" monitor and does not provide 4K video feed. I use the 4K monitor for meticulous retouching, like my beauty retouching and it will generally stay at my studio, while the CG2420 stays on my home desktop for the convenience.