Some new displays use a color space called P3, which is different than the sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces that designers and photographers have used for years. Is P3 an improvement, or a complication? I answer that question in an article I wrote for CreativePro.
That article refines the observations about P3 displays that I originally explored in an earlier article on this blog, A look at the P3 color gamut of the iMac display (Retina, Late 2015). I wrote the earlier article when Apple first starting shipping P3 display built into the Late 2015 iMac. Today, Apple includes P3 displays in their top-of-the-line iMacs, MacBook Pros, iPhones, and iPad Pros.
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro and iOS 9.3 demonstrate that Apple is gradually implementing color management in iOS, and has made it available to developers. While the presence of color management isn’t obvious on the surface, Apple has added multiple new features that would typically depend on color management.
For many years, Photoshop users and other graphics professionals have wanted proper support for 10-bits-per-channel video displays (also known as 30-bit when counting the three RGB channels together) on Macs. This isn’t about the file format, but the data path to the video monitor. The 8 bits per channel displays almost all of us use today may show banding when displaying gradients, especially in grayscale images, shadows, and in colors dominated by a single channel. That banding goes away on 10bpc displays because of the additional display levels available to each channel.
For creative professionals, one of the most interesting things about the Late 2015 release of the 4K and 5K Retina iMac is that it uses the first wide gamut display Apple has ever made. And the color gamut it uses is not the Adobe RGB gamut usually seen on wide gamut monitors, but a gamut called P3 which is used in digital cinema.
Mac websites have not gone into much detail about this display except to more or less repeat what Apple says in their marketing materials, so I took a closer look at this display in my earlier article, A look at the P3 color gamut of the iMac display (Retina, Late 2015). As I was examining the wide gamut P3 display, I realized that there are several color profiles installed with OS X that I haven’t seen before. What led me to write this article was that almost no one seems to have mentioned these new profiles…and what they have in common.
The Late 2015 Retina iMac includes the first wide gamut display that Apple has made for a Mac, able to reproduce colors well outside the sRGB color gamut. I had questions about the P3 color gamut of the new iMac, so I went over to my local Apple Store to check it out.
Up to this point it’s been a conscious choice to buy a wide gamut monitor. I made that choice when I connected a wide gamut NEC PA272w to my Mac Pro. But now the P3 display is built into all of the new 4K and 5K Retina iMacs, so Retina iMac buyers will now be working with a wide gamut display whether they know it or not. While using a wide gamut monitor is generally a good thing, it can involve certain color challenges.