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How good is an iMac screen for grading?

Here's a few iMacs

I'm tempted by the one with the 5k retina display, but reviews suggest that the innards are not a huge step up from earlier models, and in fact running the 5k display compromises the performance.

I could get a proper monitor, but with 4k coming in anything bought now will be obsolete in a couple of years. Monitors used to last...

So I'm tempted by the 27" iMac. I'd get 8 GB RAM for now (budgetary considerations) and upgrade that a bit later with RAM that's cheaper from Crucial. In a couple of years I could buy a 4k external monitor when I really need it and prices come down. Till then proxies will do.

Thoughts? How good are these screens?

  • If you can calibrate the monitor it should be OK. Will the gamma be a perfect match for a projector? Unlikely (although you may be able to emulate it), but it will probably be 'good enough' for most uses. If you get a theatrical distribution deal, part of that deal could be to get the grade re-done if necessary :)

    6 years ago
  • Thanks. What kind of colour space would I be in?

    6 years ago
    • If you are grading for the web, sRGB at gamma 2.2. Some calibration tools have sRGB and rec709 targets that you can use, bearing in mind that they won't turn your retina display into a reference monitor.

      6 years ago
    • @Adriano Cirulli Thanks. I meant what colour space is the screen capable of? On DSLRs I always shoot in AdobeRGB, but on better cameras I get the best they can offer.

      6 years ago
    • @Karel Bata. Have a look at the tech specs of the monitor, but I'm pretty sure it won't be able to cover the full AdobeRGB gamut. For filmmaking though the relevant standards are sRGB for the web, rec709 for TV and P3 for theatrical projection.

      6 years ago
  • I just got a "regular" 27inch iMac and the screen on that is delicious. But to be fair I was using an ancient Apple Cinema Display before then, so pretty much anything would look great. But the 5K monitor is, apparently, as good as many £1000+ 4k monitors out there (and you can view a full screen 4k video and still have room for the timeline below). One issue i've read is that there is some variation across the screen in terms of brightness (10% difference in some tests)... I think Dell have a 5k monitor coming out at about £1500, so bearing in mind that for £2000 you also get the iMac computer, it's certainly a great deal. (and considering that if you upgraded the regular 27 inch model to have similar internals as the 5k version there would only be £50 difference in price (£1,949 for 27 inch with 3.5Ghz chip, and 1TB fusion drive, vs £1,999 for 5k with the same chip/drive but a better video card)...

    (and definitely get the memory from Crucial. About half as much as Apple's.)

    6 years ago
  • In my experience if you are not grading for theatrical, and trust your scopes more than the monitor itself, you will be able to get good results.

    6 years ago
    • +1 for scopes, and knowing how to use them/what they're trying to tell you. They don't give much away about how the picture looks to a human, but do tell a lot how it looks to machines, helping you stay calibrated and safe. I used to be a superstar with a vector scope, blowed if I can remember any of it any more! It was crucial back in the analogue days, working on 1" tape!

      6 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin. I'm sure it would all come back very quickly :)

      6 years ago
    • @Paddy Robinson-Griffin I always use scopes. On camera too - you can't trust whatever you're monitoring with. Even if it looks good to your eye you might be underexposing.

      6 years ago
  • People often talk about resolution and frame rates, but completely forget the colour.

    My searching on the net seems to indicate that iMacs display sRGB (can't find a decent manual, all I get is 'millions of colors') which is way less than Adobe RGB The iMac 5k monitor is just more pixels as far as I can tell.

    Rec709 is essentially the same as sRGB. So this iMacs are great for TV but for a DCP not so good.

    Add to that apparently OSX will only handle 8-bit images for display. Adobe are releasing a raft of HDR tools in their next software upgrade, so gawdknows how that will work!

    And around the corner we have Rec2020

    This is getting messy.

    BTW Without some clever trickery you can't use an external monitor to view a 4k image - the data rate is more than Thunderbolt can handle!

    6 years ago
    • Rec.709 is the standard color space by which pretty much all of the pro color houses grade. An iMac screen is not really a great solution for grading, what you really need is a dedicated calibrated external monitor which uses HDMI or SDI and which can support 10bit. The best that you can hope for on an iMac is to get you in the general ballpark, but then be prepared to do a lot of back and forth as you render, then go check on other screens and TV's, then go back and tweak some more and so on. It's a less than ideal workflow, but for some who are budget limited, it's the only way to do it. I would recommend that you spend some time on the Blackmagic forums since there is some amazing info that can be had from there.

      6 years ago