Flanders Scientific LM-2461W Reference Monitor Review

April 2, 2012 — 8 Comments

Flanders Scientific, Inc. is a direct-sales provider of professional broadcast and post production monitors. I have just spent about 1 month with their top-of-the-line LM-2461W reference monitor while preparing this video review. Part of this video is educational regarding the need reference monitoring, and then my impressions of this specific monitor. Along the way I offer a few opinions.

The LM-2461W sells for $4995.00 US and is sold direct (they have other models too)

Here is my video review of this monitor:

Summary:
The Flanders Scientific LM-2461W clearly represents excellent decision making in product design. Delivering impressively on all of the fundamentals at a breakthrough price point and yet managing to deliver value-added features well beyond anything else in its class.

Disclosure: I requested a temporary review unit of this item for a few weeks in order to prepare this review. I encourage you to review my general ethics statement.

Carey Dissmore

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8 responses to Flanders Scientific LM-2461W Reference Monitor Review

  1. Great review Carey! As a die hard FSI fan since near the start I can tell you this is one of the best and most comprehensive reviews of their displays I’ve ever seen. My favorite part is how you add in a lot of very true color commentary! Great job.

    A few things – First you can actually use the stereo 1/8th mini audio outs! The monitor will actually de-embeed SDI audio say from your AJA or BMD card and output it via the stereo jack. This is nice as its perfectly in sync with the slight delay that is native to all LCD panels. While unbalanced in our suites we run this output from the display to our speakers. Easy and cheap and since all of our machines are located in a central core it avoids having to run separate audio cables.

    Other thing I’d mention although REC 709 spec is touted to be 2.5 in practicality 2.35 is used in Europe (EBU) and 2.2 in North America. This is confusing as its not spec. What really matters is the pipeline of image processing. If everyone in your pipeline down to delivery is using 2.4 then things are good. But if not you run into issue. I think making a recommendation of 2.4 or 2.35 to a North American audience is dangerous as in the end game since its its accepted in the US that 2.2 is a “working” gamma standard they could end up with content that is bright and washed out. Debated of course but my 2-cents

  2. Thank You for that comment Robbie! I understand this is a matter of debate but I value your considered opinion greatly. I have been quite happy with 2.4 but am open to change. You can be quite persuasive! LOL.

  3. I have been loving my FSI monitor for a couple of years now, an LM-2451W. Notice you’ll only see a 2450 in the catalog, which the 2461 replace. Point is, there is one HUGE advantage to FSI monitors that wasn’t mentioned in the review. I purchased a 2450, but now own a 2451, the upgrade didn’t cost me anything. Firmware! Yes, FSI does frequent firmware upgrades that will add and improve funcionality to a monitor. My current 2451 is a major functionality upgrade from what I purchased, due to the firmware upgrades that changed the model number from …50 to …51. Major functions added that I love, improved functionality, just amazing.

    Also, I’d never use the mini-pin audio output as professional audio monitoring. Even Dan Desmet (rest his soul) told me they’re not meant for professional audio monitoring, but for general audio monitoring. To sweeten audio, you need to come out of your card’s XLR’s to professional audio monitors. But it’s great to have the option in the monitor anyway.

    Love my FSI, love seeing a really honest and comprehensive review of it. I always say, if you’re not using an FSI monitor, you’re not getting your monies worth.

  4. Great review.
    I have used an FSI 2461 for over a year now. My good friend and mentor, Jack Tunnicliffe at Java Post Production recommended it for my color suite. Like all things that Jack has recommended to me, he was spot on.
    As Ben Balser said above, I’m getting my monies worth out of it.

    Best, J

  5. Thank you for the review. As I knew “Flanders Scientific” did not make anything, I was curious who was actually producing these. The website of the maker, Zunzheng, I found MUCH more useful then “FSI’s” hype site. If FSI called themselves a distributor of Zunzheng monitors, I wouldn’t have an issue, but to pretend they design or produce these things is offensive. It would be like Rokinon/Bower/etc pretending they made Samyang lenses. FSI is just the distributor and service company for the US/Europe.

    There are a couple things I wanted to point out. The first is you can get the NEC PA241W which has the same panel type and specs as the Zungzheng 2461, and has onscreen controls to set rec709, DCI P3, etc gamut. NEC is also known for exceptional calibration from the factory on the pro monitors. This monitor costs $999. Unlike the Zunzheng, there are no SDI inputs. So, you can get something like Black Magic’s HDLink for $495, giving you a full compliment of SDI inputs and custom calibration and LUT options.

    Also of interest is the pretend 10-bit panels. On FSI’s website, they don’t state that the 10-bit is fake, actually they call it “true” ha! On Zunzheng, they do. Just like TN panel’s are 6-bit, and use FRC to pretend to be 8-bit, that is the same with the Zunzheng, NEC and other IPS monitors that are 8-bit and use FRC to pretend to be 10-bit. If you want “truth” form your monitor, then technically you should be using it in 8-bit, because FRC dithering is adding “lies” into the equation. In practice it is useful, but I won’t go into that. Directly related to the NEC (and similar monitors) the “10-bit” FRC mode is only available via DisplayPort, while DVI uses 8-bit. Therefore, if you want FRC, you would get the BMD HDLink with DisplayPort rather than DVI (they are the same price). BMD is well aware of this, which is why they make a DisplayPort version.

    The NEC also offers HARDWARE and software calibration. For $1,249 you can get it with their SpectraView kit, and create a LUT (in the monitor, not a software profile on your computer) specific to any graphics card you were using. So, for example, if you wanted accurate color in your Resolve GUI. Most people just think about accurate color for their output monitor, but why not have perfect calibration for the GUI monitor as well? For $1,249 you can have a highly accurate GUI, or add an HDLink and use it as your output display. Our buy two, and have both. For $2,743 ($1,249+$999+$495) you could have perfectly matched GUI and output monitors, about half the price of just one “FSI” 2461.

    I can think of plenty of environments where the Zunzheng 2461 would be a great solution, for those who need a tally light, speaker, focus peaking, and so forth. For someone who is simply doing color grading in a suite, the fluff on the 2461 unneeded, and at the insane prices FSI is charging, completely ridiculous. Next time I’m in China, I’ll take a look at Zunzheng monitors. My rough guess is the 2461 costs about $700 there. Who knows, maybe it could even be $1,000! But $5,000 is simply absurd. You can get a superior solution (for a color grading suite) for $1,500. And rather than “sending your monitor to FSI” to have them calibrate it, you can have it automatically calibrated in your suite, whenever you like, whenever you change hardware, GPU, OS, whatever. And that, of course, is the other side of it. If your monitor is well calibrated, great. What about your output peripherals? With the Flanders, you are SOL. With this much cheaper solution, you can make sure the output from your BMD or whatever products is factored into the equation, rather than just hoping everything getting to the monitor is accurate. FSI doesn’t know what your connecting to the monitor, only you do. And, of course, the HDLink can be used for other products, like taking an off-the-shelf big screen TV or projector and calibrating that.

    Moving on, I think it’s worthwhile to point out something else related to the Zunzheng monitors. While the charlatans at FSI refer to the CM-170 as inferior to the 2461, it’s the opposite! Actually, the CM-170 is the best product they sell! The 2461 uses a CCFL light, like the NEC, but the CM-170 uses an RGB LED backlight. This is EXTREMELY rare, only a handful of monitors have this (like HP’s DreamColor). They don’t talk up the importance of this feature as their so-called “flagship” uses CCFL. The advantage of RGB LED back-lighting is higher color gamut. On Zunzheng’s site, they list ONE monitor for those grading for Digital Cinema…and that is the CM-170. That is what the “C” stands for. The “B” in the others is “Broadcast.” Although FSI changes the “B” to an “L.”

    In short, for color grading, Zunzheng’s products (at least with the prices FSI charges) are way overpriced. For particular uses, they would be very useful…that is in an active broadcast environment which they are designed for. In broadcast, people will pay a lot for cheap feature additions, as they generally have no choice. Once you put an SDI port on a monitor, you can slap 500% on its price. Companies like Black Magic have given us boxes (still somewhat pricey at $500) that allow you to buy the same or better technology without the SDI port and add it. Consider the film “Act of Valor.” They used HP dreamcolor’s from production to post production. That has no SDI ports. At $2,500 that monitor is an amazing value, for RGB LED back-lighting. If FSI priced the CM-170 at $2,000, it would be quite interesting. Even at $3,295 FSI charges, it’s still a decent buy as I’m not aware of anything else with it’s panel/back-lighting not to mention other features. I’m considering flying to China to buy one. The price of the monitor, flight and hotel would be much cheaper than buying it from FSI. Certainly for anyone who has a use case for the 2461, they should pick that up in China/Hong Kong. For that kind of money, you could have an amazing holiday in Hong Kong and come back home with the monitor and a lot of savings. You also wouldn’t have that extremely tacky looking “Flanders Scientific” nonsense painted at the top!

    • I’m not sure if this was a comment or a rant. My response is that everyone is entitled to an opinion. Within the market it is targeted at, I have found the 2461W to be a good monitor delivering good value and Flanders a company that understands the needs of this market very well. However, nobody is telling you what to buy–In fact I learned long ago not to be blindly loyal to any product from any supplier but rather keep evaluating all options as they apply to my needs. The marketplace is always free to vote with their wallets. Cheers!

  6. Wow, looking at that post I realize how needlessly long it is. Feel free to delete it.

    My point was simply that for $1,500 people who didn’t need certain features would have the same image quality and SDI input (NEC PA241W and BMD DisplayPort HDLink).

    You have a need for the extra features, so I didn’t mean to imply there was anything wrong with your (or anyone else’s) purchase of the Zungzheng products, and I hope that’s not what came across. I’m well aware of how the broadcast specific features make it cheaper than many other options. FSI provides a service that could be useful for those living in the US, especially the Atlanta area, as they can deal with them in person rather than flying to China.

    Anyway, I research things like crazy. One thing I learned in all of this was that Rec. 709 is simply sRGB with a different specified gamma!

    This is very useful information. As mentioned in this thread, a gamma of 2.2 is common in the US, which is then identical to sRGB, so there is no difference whether grading for TV or web. The Rec. 709 standard calls for a gamma of 2.4, but the EBU specifies 2.35. That’s why it’s a “Recommendation” hehe.

    So when your readers are looking at monitors, whatever percentage of sRGB it does is the percentage of its Rec. 709 capability. They can calibrate their monitors to sRGB, and voila, you have a Rec. 709 monitor for US TV/Web work, or simply set the gamma to 2.35 for Europe, etc.

    For example, I have a $250, 23″ 1080P monitor that hits 97% of sRGB (therefore Rec. 709). The 3% difference is in the blues (they appear a tiny bit less saturated than if it were 100%), but the difference between how people will view your content is of course far greater. Quality monitors that can do 100% or greater of sRGB/Rec. 709 start at around $1,000. The NEC PA241W and Zunzheng 2461 can do 144% of sRGB, 102% of NTSC, and 98% of AdobeRGB.

    Which brings me to why I was looking into all of this anyway. I’ll be grading projects for cinema, so I’ve been looking into my options for DCI-P3. The end result is that for $3,000 I can get a projector that will fit my needs. While I was planning on getting new monitors, through research I quickly realized why colorists (for cinema) use projectors, not monitors. That might seem obvious in and of itself, but the reality is that’s the best (and cheapest) way to work in DCI-P3. There is less eyestrain that way as well. Luckily for cinema there is much less variation in terms of what the audience will see (a couple dozen types of projectors–normally calibrated–versus thousands of TV’s and computer monitors without calibration). I can go with the director or producer to several theaters with the DCP and know what the audience will see.

    Lastly, thank you again for your videos and general interest in education. In part because of you, I’ve become a colorist by accident. I was talking with a producer about some pet peeves I had with Alexa grading. On a lark, I downloaded Resolve, and graded some Alexa footage showing how I felt it should be done. One thing led to another, and now I’m a colorist. Photography is my primary interest, and two decades of Photoshop work, dealing with countless varieties of film and digital media lends itself very well to grading. I don’t plan on doing this forever, but then I’m not sure where I should stop. As the saying goes, when the wind is on your back, run.

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