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Posted by Chris Thompson
Feb 28, 2018 at 11:13 PM

 

Part of the problem is that as screen technology has improved, contrast ratios have increased substantially. Better contrast specs are desirable for watching media and a number of other applications, but for reading all the research I’ve seen suggests that too much contrast (either with the text and the background or between the screen and the passive bezel) actually increases eyestrain and difficulty reading for long periods. This also probably explains the popularity of low contrast color schemes like Zenburn for programmer’s text editors… there are usually both light and dark mode variations of these themes.)

Not many people know about this, but there is an accessibly option on newer iOS devices called “reduce white point” that alters the screen’s contrast ratio. You can add this to the Control Centre for quick access. I find this makes a huge difference in terms of fatigue reading long PDF documents.

Other features are useful too (True Tone, night modes, adjusting your reader to a lower contrast theme). But “reduce white point” is probably the most useful for me.

 


Posted by Pierre Paul Landry
Mar 1, 2018 at 06:17 AM

 

Chris Thompson wrote:
> Better contrast specs are desirable for watching media and a number of other applications, but for reading all the research I’ve seen suggests that too much contrast (either with the text and the background or between the screen and the passive bezel) actually increases eyestrain and difficulty reading for long periods.

Humm… Do you have any reference ? I’d be interested in reading further.
The research I’ve read (and I actually participated in the data analysis) concludes that more light and more contrast leads to better visual performance (NRC Ottawa Canada)
http://nparc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/view/accepted/?id=7b629e54-7850-4cf2-b635-d4bd81f57a48

Pierre

 


Posted by Chris Thompson
Mar 1, 2018 at 04:31 PM

 

The paper you link to isn’t about reading—it’s about something closer to reaction times in a video game situation.

For reading and eye strain, this is one example:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169814199000402

Basically their finding is that a very modest amount of luminance contrast (8:1) is optimal for reading, after which readability actually decreases. Which actually isn’t that surprising when you think about it. If you had a display where the whites were as bright as the sun, and the blacks were perfectly, totally non-reflectively black, it would be hard to read.

This is probably consistent with people’s experience with e-readers. E-ink doesn’t have a particularly good contrast ratio, but it is adequate and roughly in the sweet spot for reading. Whereas today’s 200:1 IPS displays score well on spec charts and are great for video and games but are not that good for reading.

—Chris

Pierre Paul Landry wrote:
Chris Thompson wrote:
>> Better contrast specs are desirable for watching media and a number of
>other applications, but for reading all the research I’ve seen suggests
>that too much contrast (either with the text and the background or
>between the screen and the passive bezel) actually increases eyestrain
>and difficulty reading for long periods.
> >Humm… Do you have any reference ? I’d be interested in reading
>further.
>The research I’ve read (and I actually participated in the data
>analysis) concludes that more light and more contrast leads to better
>visual performance (NRC Ottawa Canada)
>http://nparc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/view/accepted/?id=7b629e54-7850-4cf2-b635-d4bd81f57a48
> >Pierre

 


Posted by Pierre Paul Landry
Mar 1, 2018 at 06:13 PM

 

Chris Thompson wrote:
> The paper you link to isn’t about reading—it’s about something closer to reaction times in a video game situation.

Well not quite. The tasks were white sheets of paper with numbers (of various shades of grey / black).
Performance was evaluated based on subjective confort and time to read.

>https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0169814199000402

Too bad only the abstract is available online for free :-(

> If you had a display where the whites were as bright as the sun, and the blacks were perfectly, totally non-reflectively black, it would be hard to read

True of course. But the experiment I referred to was about indoor lighting, where lighting levels were nowhere close to the sun.

Its conclusion was that higher lighting and higher contrast leads to better visual performance.

Pierre

 


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Mar 7, 2018 at 09:51 PM

 

Pierre Paul Landry wrote:
Chris Thompson wrote:
>> The paper you link to isn’t about reading—it’s about something
>closer to reaction times in a video game situation.
> >Well not quite. The tasks were white sheets of paper with numbers (of
>various shades of grey / black).
>Performance was evaluated based on subjective confort and time to read.

Indeed, I see that the experiment evaluated “visual performance” based on the “reaction times for detecting square targets of different contrasts…” While this may be relevant and useful in many situations, I would not rely on its conclusions for longform reading. Would the same conditions hold in respect to both a 100m race and a marathon?

Further, statistics is one thing, individual cases are another. I see that the experiment used in total 9 subjects aged 17 to 31. I am 50, have always disliked fast-moving video games and preferred natural light -even dim- for reading, even as a child. Am I going to switch to high contrast settings for my monitors any time soon? No, definitely not.

 


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