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iMac 5K (Late 2015): Color Gamut

Get iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see also MPG’s computer gear wishlist.
See also diglloyd-recommended performance packages for iMac at OWC.

The color gamut of the iMac 5K is the best ever delivered by Apple, covering the DCI(P3) gamut. That is a very good thing for iMac users—well, sort of: 99.99% of camera users (including iPhone users) shoot in the sRGB color space (derisively aka “sad” RGB). Shooting in sRGB clips off all the colors one might hope to see on the new display!

There is also one glaring issue with the Apple-supplied display profile (“Display P3”): what hardware calibration does the profile describe? Depending on screen brightness (including auto brightness control), not only will the color gamut vary, but the profile will not be accurate with brightness that differs from the hardware state (calibration) that the profile describes. Yet Apple is silent on at which profile the brightness was made. So until and unless color calibration solutions are able to faux calibrate the iMac 5K display in 10-bit color (still inferior to true calibration), the iMac 5K is not a serious solution in terms of its display (see my workhorse wide gamut display, the NEC PA302W).

Observe (toggle) that the gamut of the iMac 5K is excellent into the yellowish reds (along that area of the axis), even a little better into the reds than the PA302W. But also observe that the NEC PA302W extends far more deeply into the greens and cyans and somewhat more into the blues.

Discussion continues below. Toggle to compare.

Gamut of late 2015 Mac 5K vs NEC PA302W

DCI(P3) is better than sRGB, but it is not a wide gamut

In my DAP publication, see material on why color space matters for photographers.

The rest of this discussion is aimed at professionals and those who take color seriously in their photography. DCI(P3) is a good thing, because it means that more and more users will be able to see color properly on the internet (60% of my photography blog readers are on Macs). I’ve long published my photographs on the web in the AdobeRGB color space, because I cater to professional photographers.

Modern digital cameras can deliver images with colors well beyond the gamut of AdobeRGB or DCI(P3), that is, for certain subject matter. Images with wide gamut suffer mightily from inappropriate color space and bit-depth choices, because detail and nuance are squashed right out of the image.

That said, one might shoot all day and never make an image that is out of gamut even in sRGB. But you might also shoot all day with intensely saturated flowers or fabrics or whatever, and be out of gamut on every image. It all depends on subject matter: the gamut required for proper color rendition depends on the subject matter.

Then there is viewing the image. As shown below, I calibrated my NEC PA302W today. The gamut plot shows that the calibrated PA302W greatly exceeds the gamut of the DCI(P3) color space aka “Digital Cinema (DCI)”. In other words, working in DCI(P3) means chopping off a big chunk of greens and red and blues*. Colors of intensity that add extra pop to an image when present. This is why I do all my work in 16-bit ProPhotoRGB: its gamut is even larger than that of the NEC PA302W, thus letting me see everything the display is capable of (because the image has not been mashed and mangled to fit into a smaller range of color).

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