My apologies in advance for the long posting, but this discusses what may be the Achilles heel of 4k monitors for editing of still photography, as well as for more general use, and the issue discussed below was not covered in previous threads (at least not that I could find). Many thanks in advance for any input, advice or comments from the experts on the forum. I welcome any corrections if I have misstated the situation.
The forthcoming release of the new Mac Pro in February has increased interest in separate 4K monitors, since the Mac Pro is specifically designed to drive such 4k monitors, and Apple is selling the Sharp PN-K321 4K monitor as part of advance orders for the Mac Pro.
However, the future release and use of 4K monitors will only draw more attention to one of the serious flaws of the Mac OS.
Namely the fact that it is impossible to increase the size of fonts on a system–wide basis. The best illustration is System Preferences in the Mac OS, which on a 27” iMac is a small box with even smaller type, unless you are sitting one foot away from the screen. By contrast, the ability to increase fonts on a system-wide basis has been a feature included within Windows for about 20 years, at least as far back as Windows 95. You only need to google this issue to find hundreds of complaints over the years about the fact that this is not included in the Mac OS. There are frequent reports of many older people, with weak eyesight, who want to purchase a Mac, instead purchasing Windows based PCs, so that they can increase the size of the fonts on a system-wide basis. (The ability to zoom on a Mac is not a credible alternative, since zooming fonts at their largest size usually results in fuzzy text. Ditto with any suggestion that this can be solved by changing resolutions, as all monitors work best at their native resolution and look terrible at any other resolution.)
The iMac has a resolution of 2560 x 1440, the same as the separate thunderbolt monitor. (The NEC mentioned below is only two inches larger with about the same resolution — 2560 x 1600.) At this resolution system fonts within the Mac OS can be very small. At the present time this is simply a serious flaw in the Mac OS.
With the emergence of 4k displays — which can be used with the Mac Pro — this could become a fatal flaw of the Mac OS.
The specs for the Sharp 4K monitor, as stated on the Apple website under the sales options for the new Mac Pro, state that the Sharp has a huge increase in resolution to 3840 by 2160, even though it is also only a 31” monitor, and only an inch larger than the NEC at 2560 x 1600. At that resolution, on the Sharp 4K 31” monitor, System fonts in the Mac OS will likely be absolutely tiny, if not microscopic. (I haven’t seen the Sharp, as no retailers in my city will ever carry it, and if anyone has seen it — with the Sharp running the Mac OS — they can better comment.) The Systems Preference box should be the size of postage stamp on the Sharp. This should finally force Apple to address this issue. Better late than never, since Apple is 20 years late as compared with Windows.
Some will respond that the fonts can be increased within individual apps or programs. But is that really true, and can they be increased enough? The only setting in Lightroom is between small and large, and large is not very large. The problem of small Lightroom fonts (at the "large" setting) on larger monitors and resolutions also results in many repots in Adobe forums and elsewhere, with users recommending various hacks and configuration tools to attempt to solve the problem of small fonts. But none of these hacks anticipated the huge resolution of the Sharp and the likely microscopic fonts that will result. The Sharp would require a very large increase in font sizes, and then the fonts would overrun the panels and the design of Lightroom, and the resulting jumble would likely be unusable. That unacceptable result is what some users have already reported in various Adobe forums, and that is only to hack the Lightroom fonts for a resolution like the iMac or NEC at 2560 x 1400 — let alone the Sharp at 3840 x 2160.
Lightroom and the Mac OS serves as a warning that the new Sharp 4K may be impractical, and possibly unusable for photographic editing given current limitations of the software and the Mac OS with regards to font, menus and tool bars. (I suspect that same problem applies to Photoshop, and does it also apply to other Adobe products for video editing — which is the big selling point for the combo that Apple is selling -- the Mac Pro and the Sharp 4k monitor?)
I am considering the purchase of a Mac Pro. So related to that, and the monitor to accompany it, I welcome any advice or input on the following:
(1) For still photography (not video), and general use including internet, mail and word processing, which is better of three choices: (1) the NEC PA302W-BK-SV with built in Spectraview calibration; (2) one of the Apple monitors, or (3) one of the new 4k monitors like the Sharp or the Dell (*assuming* Apple and other software developers fixes the issue described above, which probably would take many months, or years, if ever).
(2) I have an older 30” NEC spectraview monitor that is about 6 or 7 years old. Obviously it has faded. But has the NEC technology really improved in the last 6 or 7 years, as my old NEC must have some type of hot tube for the backlight, and is very dull in appearance and not as sharp as Apple displays. I realize part of that is the NEC mat screen versus the Apple glossy screen, but am wondering if the newer NEC AH-IPS LCD panel will look better and sharper than my 6 year old NEC because it might use more advanced LED technology?
(3) I presume that the Sharp has greater pixel density although I can’t find those equivalent specs for the Apple or NEC monitors. But does this result in a sharper monitor for still photography using Lightroom or Photoshop? (Again, assuming the font size problem described above can be fixed.)
(4) Has anyone actually worked with a Sharp to know if it calibrates well for color reproduction?
(5) What about screen image burn-in on the Sharp — there is one very negative user report on Amazon in that regard.
(6) I’ve read that one of the advantages of other 4K monitors is that they can do 1080P, at least for games, with the implication that the Sharp does not do that. Is that true and does it matter?
(7) Why did Apple pull the Sharp in Britain, and stop selling it, but have continued to do so in the US? Apple pulled it suddenly and without notice in Britain.