Why Are Amazon’s Shows So Dark In 4K?


Scores of 4K TV owners have posted complaints online that the 4K picture on Amazon Prime’s streaming service is so dark that it’s nearly unwatchable.

The criticism, which can be found on social media sites, and Amazon.com forums, comes largely from owners of LG 4K TVs, but consumers who own Sony, Samsung and Panasonic sets are making the same allegations.

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“Canceled my video subscription; it’s unwatchable as I just get a headache trying to make out what the blurb of darkness is,” writes ‘Robin K,’ a LG 4K TV owner, at an Amazon forum.

“When streaming a 4K movie/show from the Amazon Video app, I have been noticing it is extremely dark and there is no option in the Picture Adjustments for me to change anything,” writes a Sony 4K TV owner.

The 4K TV owners say they rarely encounter the same problem when streaming a show in 4K on Netflix.

“Netflix UHD 4K content looks great…Amazon seems to lock the picture mode to HDR (High Dynamic Range) and it’s next to unwatchable,” says ‘Bravo’ at the Amazon forum.

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As the owner of an LG OLED 4K TV (series B6), I have experienced the same issue when trying to watch an Amazon original show such as Goliath or Good Girls Revolt (pictured above) in 4K. As soon as the program starts, it feels like a dark filter has been attached to every light on the set, making details such as facial expressions and clothing texture difficult to detect. If the scene is set in a dark room, or at night, the effect goes from annoying to exasperating with shadows spilling all over the screen.

Some shows, and scenes, are worse than others, but generally speaking, the ‘dark effect’ is a problem on every Amazon original show in 4K.

I have asked Amazon for a comment since Tuesday and was promised a response several times. But this afternoon, Amazon’s public relations office said it would have no comment for this article.

So why are Amazon’s 4K shows so dark?
One possible cause for the issue is that Amazon’s streaming app has only one setting for 4K: ‘HDR Standard.’ Netflix, however, offers three settings for 4K: Standard, Bright Room and Vivid. This permits the user to choose a brighter image if desired.

One CE industry source tells me that Amazon wants to offer just one setting because, in its view, it guarantees that the picturewill be darker, which is more cinematic; that’s also the preferred choice of many directors and, the source says, Amazon is supporting their preference by only offering ‘HDR standard.’ (I asked Amazon about this theory, but again, the company will not comment.)

(It should also be noted here that some video enthusiasts prefer watching a dark picture, particularly in a dark room, although Amazon’s 4K picture would seem to be even too dark for them.)

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But today’s consumers have come to expect a brighter picture and the ‘HDR standard’ setting will not deliver it unless the set owner manually changes the brightness level, which is problematic unless he or she has some knowledge of picture calibration. While the set owner might make the picture brighter, he or she could wind up making it even worse by incorrectly changing the other settings.

The Amazon original show, Goliath, offers both dark humor and a dark picture.

The Amazon ‘dark effect’ illustrates one of the problems facing the 4K industry. Whether viewed via streaming on Netflix or Amazon, or on a Blu-ray 4K disc, the 4K picture quality is very inconsistent. Some shows look better than others while some require changes to the TV’s settings before you can appreciate any difference in the 4K picture.

For instance, on my LG OLED, some Netflix 4K shows such as Marco Polo and The Ridiculous 6 were encumbered with the ‘soap opera effect’ when I first started watching them. (if you’re not familiar with the soap opera effect, the show looks like it was shot with a video camera rather than a traditional film camera. The result can be glaring and very unrealistic.)

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However, after I turned off LG’s TruMotion setting, the soap opera effect went away, and the picture improved dramatically.

But I only knew of this little trick because I did some research online at forums populated by people who calibrate TVs for a living. I can only imagine what the average 4K TV owner is doing when or she first starts watching a show in 4K.

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My guess is that we haven’t heard more complaints from average consumers because so little programming is in 4K; people are likely still using their 4K TVs to largely watch High-Definition programming.

But as more 4K TVs are sold, and more programming becomes available in 4K, industry leaders and set manufacturers will need to address this problem or risk a backlash from consumers who can’t understand why 4K’s picture is either not better, or perhaps a bit worse than HD.

“I think the TV manufacturers and the streaming companies need to get together to figure out how to uncomplicate this as the average TV owner won’t understand any of this,” writes ‘Gerald Schoenberg,’ a 4K TV owner, at an Amazon forum.

— Phillip Swann

39 comments on “Why Are Amazon’s Shows So Dark In 4K?”

  1. ” Netflix, however, offers three settings for 4K: Standard, Bright Room and Vivid. This permits the user to choose a brighter image if desired.” Do you mean your LG display settings?? Where in the netflix menu/set up etc would we find this setting?

  2. The real dirty secret about UHD TV’s is that the earlier versions are not HDR compliant. If the content is sent in HDR colorspace, it will never look right on older 4K TV’s, i.e.; HDMI 1.5 vs. 2.0. To get the most out of HDR, content should be watched in a dark room, or the increased dynamic range will not be discerned.

    FYI, most TV series and movies are shot with video cameras. Those 120, 240 scan rates should always be turned off on TV’s, except for sports.

  3. An accurate and well written summary. Keep plugging away at Amazon on this and keep driving the conversation. Hopefully with persistent feedback they will start to listen. Upon seeing further responses in the Amazon forum I do wonder how much of this is related to DolbyVision vs HDM10 encoding…

  4. Having invested in a 4k UHD with HDR LG set just before Christmas, I was rather hoping to have future-proofed my self for a few years. It would seem I have just bought a load of problems… Amazon HDR is unwatchable (subscription cancelled), Netflix is better (but only because not “real” HDR??) and ordinary HD looks far worse than on my son’s non 4k “HD only” Samsung!!! How’s that for progress? Not too happy at the moment.

  5. Exact issue with my new rather hi-end Samsung UN78KS9800 curved.
    Magnificent display everywhere CNN, Netflix, YouTube, etc.
    But extremely dark streaming Amazon original content 4k.

    1. Definitely not a user error. First off it’s ridiculous that they even offer 1080p when the show is 4K like Bosch that I’m watching now.

      It’s almost unwatchable in UHD because it is so dark, and I have my new Samsung 65’ curved display running at a very high brightness. As soon as I switch back to 1080p the brightness is right again.

      Get it together amazon… the biggest company in the world. If I can get better quality on Kodi, there’s some serious problems going on here🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️

  6. To supplement my previous post, I just tried our year old
    Samsung 48JU640D in the bedroom with the same very dark results.
    Both TVs while viewing “Sneaky Pete”, a UHD Amazon original series.

  7. Hand of God season one was fine, season two on the other hand is way too dark with red skin tones. If this isn’t remedied Amazon prime will be history in this household.

  8. Amazon’s “original” programming in 4K HDR are unwatchable even in a very dark room on my new LG smart 4K HDR TV. This is generally not a problem with YouTube’s sample 4K programming which can be stunningly colorful and reasonably bright. My only solution has been to go to SHD programming on Amazon and let the TV’s upscaling to 4K improve that image somewhat. Amazon is clearly not really trying with 4K.

  9. I was able to get a much brighter 4K picture on my Samsung MU7000 from DirecTV 4K (channel 105) by turning on the HDR+ mode under picture>expert settings.

  10. I have an LG OLED and haven’t had any problems with 4K HDR Amazon content, but I did check out a guide online before setting up my TV. In my experience, most of the time the problem is bad default settings, especially “energy saver” (and its equivalents), which might as well be called “picture destroyer.”

    Your backlight should also be maxed to take advantage of HDR. If you set it to anything less than 100 percent your blacks will tend to get crushed, as HDR is supposed to exploit the full dynamic range of your set.

    Some of Amazon’s shows like The Man in the High Castle are just ridiculously dark to begin with (and are also murky under SDR). They are supposed to be “cinematic”, but that makes bright room viewing a challenge. The racing shows, on the other hand, have eye-searing pop in HDR.

  11. I have Sony Bravia 4K TV and agree that Amazon Ultra HD streaming shows are unwatchable. Why can’t this, apparently common, problem be solved bya Sony software update?

  12. I’ll suggest another possibility that Amazon won’t fix the darkness in 4K HDR videos: they save bandwidth by “encouraging” users to skip 4K and go with standard HD where the TV’s color settings can fix the image. That’s what I did with Bosch–I reverted to standard HD and tweaked the colors on my new LG Ultra smart TV.

    I was told that tweaking the color was often not possible in HDR because that was set rigidly by the creators. Hmmm, I’d have thought that the creators would be more aware of what the consumer was dealing with in trying to view their products.

  13. I’m confident that Amazon can get this right but don’t understand why it’s taking so long. Goliath and Manchester by the sea are still horribly dark. However Jack Ryan and Grand Tour look fantastic. Jack Ryan using Dolby vision. The non HDR equivalents look great. This is clearly not a calibration issue when other titles look great. This is a content issue. Netflix HDR looks fantastic.

  14. I’m having same issue. Have been using Amazon 2k stick for over a year and its great. But when I tried my new 4k stick this week – it SUCKS. I’m in the Ent Industry on the technical side and I can say this; Amazon did try to provide more selectibility on the 4k stick. Primarily for RGB or Comp colors, and Bit depth (8,12,20bit)… but none of these selections affect the overall brightness (luminance) of the resulting image. As such – IT’S REALLY DARK.
    Amazon truly needs to address htis, possibly w/ an downloaded update which provides for selectible luninance (brightness).
    note: I also noticed that the 4k stick color level is lower than the 2k stick color level. And all my tests were comparing the 2 sticks while streaming the same Prime UHD (4k) program.

  15. I have a Samsung JS8500, I’m using Steve Withers expert calibration settings and I can confirm the HDR on Amazon Prime is ludicrously dark.
    TV’s have movie mode for slightly darker viewing, there’s no need for Amazon to give us dark day scenes in the desert and polar regions!!!!
    Subscription cancelled.

  16. I have a Philips 4K and I don’t think the tv integration has much to do as the amazon fire device itself. What I’ve noticed is my picture gradually gets darker and darker until I cannot see anything and when it does this if I quite watching and then resume the picture resets back to viewable settings again. What causes this? I don’t know but the quality of Amazon 4K is hardly worth the extra I have to pay my cable service to view it. Netflix on the other hand is wonderful and no issues at all. I did have to also set the amazon fire to a gaming setting to assist the picture. Having it go all black where it’s not viewable is hardly a cinematic experience even in a dark room this was an issue for me. Personally I’m disappointed with Amazon and wish there was some recourse or way we as consumers could get them to fix the issue since we pay for the subscription. It appears they just dictate what we’re allowed and how we’re allowed to enjoy our viewing experience even at the cost of making the experience dull or void.

  17. As far as 4K in Amazon Prime being to dark just view the show in the HD version instead of the 4K version. With the TV up-scaling it is almost just as good as 4K but with the brighter picture.

  18. Not true from my testing. No matter which Amazon programming I viewed using 4k stick (2k or 4k versions of same movie) the 4k stickstic always darker and had less color content than 2k stick. Amazon needs to address this, and ASAP!

  19. Bought a 50″ Toshiba Amazon fire 4k Tv for streaming 4k on Amazon. Such a waste! All of Amazon’s 4k videos default to HDR which(due to extreme darkness) are completely unwatchable on my tv. It may be viewable on a $3000,00 high end 4k tv but not on mine, Wish there was a way for Amazon to offer an SDR option!

  20. Noticed an available update in tv’s settings. Ran the update. It changed everything. All of my previous comments are null and void. Somehow update made HDR much brighter and very watchable. Picture is bright and beautiful especially with UHD HDR Blu-rays.

  21. Interesting
    The update is an Amazon Fire 4K stick update?
    And this update was recently found by you? And was not there before… days, weeks ago?


  22. Many of Amazon’s 4k videos, but not all, that I have watched, are too dark, and it is very annoying. Perhaps the reason Good Girls Revolt had a low number of viewers is because the video was too dark. I quit watching Good Girls Revolt because of the darkness of the video and almost quite watching White Dragon for the same reason. Brittania is one that is not too dark and has some amazing scenery but I quite watching that for other reasons.

  23. Just got Captain Marvel 4K UHD and sat watching a black screen on my Samsung MU8000. After 20 minutes I had no idea what I was supposed to be seeing or what was going on in the plot so turned it off. Then went into tv settings and turned off HDR. Screen got at least 25% brighter.

  24. I’m ready to cancel Amazon. My wife and I are trying to watch the first episode of Amazon’s new show Carnival Row. Niether one of us can make out what is happening on the screen in several scenes and this is not the first Amazon show that has presented this problem. Amazon’s reasons for this are nonsense and doublespeak. The real reason is Amazon is to cheap to get it right. I have a fairly new high end 4K Samsung 65″ TV. All other programing on regular cable TV, HBO, Netflix and Hulu come in with an amount of brightness that allows you to see what is happening unless, of course, the scene specfically calls for the viewer to be unable to see what is happening. We all know the difference.

  25. Bonjour. Après avoir lu tous les messages, je tiens à vous dire merci.

    Je n’ai pas réussi à faire les ajustements surs ma nouvelle TV Insiagnia 43 NS-43D qui m’aurais permis d’avoir une image moins sombre.

    J’ai fini par connecter mon Fire Stick standard qui était installé sur une autre télévision.

    C’est quand même dommage de perdre le Fire Tv 4K intégré à la nouvelle télévision.

    Il ne me reste qu’à faire des plaintes pour qu’Amazon corrige le problème du Fire TV 4K.

    Faites comme moi, l’union fait la force.


    Translate Google!

    Hello. After reading all the messages, I want to say thank you.

    I did not manage to make the adjustments on my new TV Insignia 43 NS-43D which would have allowed me to have a less dark image.

    I ended up connecting my standard Fire Stick that was installed on another TV.

    It’s still a shame to lose the 4K Tv fire built into the new TV.

    I only have to make complaints for Amazon to fix the problem of Fire TV 4K.

    Do like me, unity is strength.

  26. Hello TVanswerman, I enjoyed your Feb 2017 article about picture too dark on 4K television sets. I still have my 2004 60″ Sony 1080i when only 4 sets with 1080p were available and plasma sets too expensive. I found an interesting article from Oct 12 2019 re: 4K and now 8K TV sets in Japan owners complaints of picture too dark. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/10/12/national/media-national/no-clear-picture-4k-8k-display-differences/#.XaJjGaYpA0N

  27. I think the Amazon HDR implementation is not fully compatible with basic HDR tv’s, hence they will not contribute to this article. It was we’ll publicized they were switching to HDR10+, some new “enhancement” dreamed up by Samsung. Coincidence?

  28. It’s disappointing that Amazon Prime is so frustrating to watch – everybody looks old or too dark – why I’m I paying for this? Please fix this!!!!!!

  29. We have also been very frustrated with the dark picture on the Netflix series Ozark. I tried watching it through our Dish Network connection to Netflix and it’s at least twice as bright as when we access Netflix through the television connected to Netflix through our internet connection. We have the same problem when trying to stream Disney and Amazon Prime. I’m going to see if I can connect with Disney and Amazon Prime through our Dish Network account.

  30. I posted an email to the producer of Bosch in the hope that Mr. Mark Douglas will get the message that his cinematography is being compromised through poorly applied technology that ⁰Amazon apparently 0is dragging their feet on.

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