The LGE FLATRON L2000C LCD Display & Apple Mac mini Intel Core Duo Computer; My Excellent Adventure In Photo Computing

After covering many of the new brand name LCD displays in previous Shutterbug reports, I could not ignore LG Electronics' (LGE) LCD displays, in part because they are likely the world's current leader in LCD manufacture, although most of the production is OEM and sold under many different brand names. Recently, however, LGE has been marketing under their own brand name and offering a diverse selection of LCD displays, including one that is modestly priced and recommended for pro graphics, the FLATRON L2000C 20.1" model.

The LG Electronics FLATRON L2000C LCD display is a 20.1" model designed for graphic computing with a high resolution of 1600x1200 pixels and a full range of performance controls to adjust brightness, contrast, gamma, and more. It offers serious photo users a high level of ideal performance at a moderate cost, with many extra features like rotation to use the display in either Landscape or Portrait mode.
All Photos © 2006, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

About the same time I decided to test the LGE L2000C LCD display, Apple announced a new version of their budget-priced Mac mini computer with Intel Core Duo processor. I was intrigued by the idea that photographers could access the superior digital photography performance of an Apple Mac at a budget price ($599), and I was due to replace an old Apple Mac G4 and its equally well-worn 21" CRT. So I thought it was time to practice what I preach and purchased both the Mac mini Intel computer and the LGE L2000C LCD display. My aim was to explore how this modestly-priced computer system would work for digital photographers.

To start out the adventure I got onto my web browser to check costs for the L2000C on PriceGrabber.com. I found a whole page of Internet sellers offering the display with of course one low-ball price from a seller I'd never heard of. Then, because I buy a lot of books and DVDs from Amazon.com, I checked and found the LGE display offered at a price of $588 and change, a good buy from a reliable vendor. So, I ordered the LGE L2000C. I did not bother to price shop for the Apple Mac mini Intel because past experience has taught me there is not much to be saved in cost from shopping around and that the Apple Store offers superb service and reliable delivery. Between the two new Mac mini models I chose the Solo processor base model with a price of $599, but then added RAM to the system's full capacity of 2GB, and added a new keyboard and mouse for another $78. So the total for both display and complete computer to meet my requirements was about $1200 delivered, about half of what I paid last year for my Apple Mac G5 dual-processor tower without a monitor!

The LGE L2000C Display
This very high-performance 20.1" LCD display is in the standard 3:4 aspect ratio with a thin bezel. It is mounted on a stand that provides height, tilt, swivel, and rotation adjustments so it may be used in either landscape or portrait configuration. The actual physical size of the display screen image is 16x12", which is the same as the Sony 21" (diagonal) CRTs I had been using for some time. The 1600x1200 native resolution, wide viewing angle, and fast 8ms response, with a maximum brightness of 300 cd/m2 and 800:1 contrast, provides support for a wide range of uses in different environments. A full complement of on-board adjustments, including brightness, contrast, gamma, color temperature, and RGB balance, enable fine-tuned adjustments for a color managed environment, all perfectly suited to digital photography image adjustment and editing. The FLATRON L2000C also benefits from LGE's f-ENGINE, its proprietary picture-enhancing chip, providing enhanced and user-definable brightness and color.

For a full list of Technical Specifications on this LCD display, visit the Instant Links section of our website at: www.shutterbug.com/currentissuelinks/.

The Mac mini's small size has not limited its capabilities to connect with a generous selection of convenient receptacles for four USB 2.0 ports, one for FireWire, a DVI display connector (with analog adapter), Ethernet network support and connector, as well as jacks for audio and video in/out. Also built into the unit are Bluetooth support as well as Apple's wireless network AirPort Extreme support.

The Apple Mac mini (Intel Core Processor)
The Apple Mac mini is up against two prejudices: one is that Apple Macs are expensive and the idea that bigger is better. The latter should be irrelevant to anyone who has ever opened the case of a typical PC to add a card or peripheral device. Most of what is inside the volume of space of a PC CPU box is empty air. The Apple Mac mini is simply no larger than necessary to contain the essential components and, at $599 for the entry price, is not expensive. So the remaining question is: Will it provide the performance required by a digital photographer?

Before I answer that let me provide a brief description of what the newest Mac mini Intel computers contain. The main mini computer enclosure has all of the same functional components of any CPU box that supports contemporary computing. That includes one of two versions of the Intel Core processors, either the Solo or Duo, a hard drive with a range of choices in storage capacity up to 120GB, one of two disc drives, depending on whether you require just CD-R or also DVD-R recording capability, as well as a FireWire connector, four USB 2.0 connectors, a DVI (with analog adapter) video connector, Ethernet support and connector, and built-in support for Bluetooth and Apple's AirPort wireless networking. The Mac mini even comes with a TV-like remote controller. The Power supply is a smaller separate module, so the Mac mini is exceptionally quiet.

A monitor/display is a separate purchase, which gives digital photographers a choice of displays that specifically support graphics and photography without a penalty. Even the keyboard and mouse are optional, just in case you have them already. And of course the most important aspect of this setup to a digital photographer is the easy to use but high-end graphic support of the Apple Operating System (OS) in the latest 10.4.6 version, pre-installed with every Mac. This software also includes Apple's iLife with iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, and GarageBand, as well as MS Office 4 Mac and Quicken trial, and much more.

With Apple's latest Version 1.1 of their new and lower priced digital camera raw file editing, conversion, and processing application Aperture, I quickly found that its initial reputation for requiring powerful computer support could be ignored. Aperture ran efficiently on the Mac mini Intel.

September 2006: Apple announced the Mac mini processors would be upgraded so the entry model formerly with an Intel Core Solo will now have the 1.66Hz Intel Core Duo, and the previous 1.66Hz model would now get a 1.83Hz Intel Core Duo processor. This makes the Apple Mac mini even more inviting as an inexpensive basis for a digital darkroom for photo enthusiasts.

For a full list of Technical Specifications on the Apple Mac mini, visit the Instant Links section of our website at: www.shutterbug.com/currentissuelinks/.

Using The New Setup
The next week I was setting up a completely new system chosen just on the published information. I've put more systems together since 1989 than I can remember, but this time I really didn't know what to expect, so curiosity heightened the sense of adventure. It took just a few minutes to go from boxes on the floor to setting up the components and connecting them. I turned the power button on for the LCD and then pressed the on button on the Mac mini, and in a few seconds the LGE screen filled with Apple's welcome screens, inviting me to answer some basic questions to set up the Apple OS. Shortly I got to a question asking if I had another computer I wanted to transfer information and files from to this new Mac. As I mentioned, I planned to use the new system to replace an old G4 PowerPC Mac. To get it running I connected the new mini to it via a FireWire cable. Then after a few more mouse clicks the new mini began transferring the contents of the old G4's hard drive to my new system, including all of my applications like Photoshop and SilverFast as well as all of the data files, including images.

After a long coffee break the transfer was done, and I soon found just about every application and file was perfectly intact and all the applications worked fine. Just one thing was not transferred perfectly--my Internet setup settings. But this was corrected in just another few minutes and I was online with Apple to register my new Mac.

My favorite for converting and adjusting digital camera raw files remains the LaserSoft SilverFast DC applications from the inexpensive SE version through VLT to the professional Pro Studio. Besides having the familiar interface and tools I've preferred for scanning, it is the only raw camera file application I know of that offers a variable control to identify and eliminate color casts, as well as the ability to selectively use HSL adjustment to just one segment of the color spectrum without effecting the overall color balance of the image. SilverFast DC may not be the slickest interface for convenient pre-editing, but it makes up for it in precise, sophisticated adjustment controls producing the best image quality for me.

Profiling The LGE
To get started doing some real digital darkroom work, the next task was to adjust, calibrate, and profile the LGE L2000C LCD display. I launched Photoshop and opened my custom composite printer test file. Brilliant, but at the LCD's default, as expected, it was too bright, washing out some of the highlight detail. Using the display's adjustment buttons and on-screen menu I lowered the brightness by 1/4, based on previous LCD test experience, to a level that looked ideal. I then calibrated and profiled the display, but this time besides the standard target aim points of 6500K color temperature and gamma 2.2, I selected 110 cd/m2 as the white point aim point with the ColorVision Spyder2PRO software and used the Measured method to calibrate.

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