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iMac Retina 27 Apple


How to calibrate Apple's iMac or iMac Pro Retina ?

Published on April 16, 2015   |  Updated on October 31, 2019


These screens do not always have a good press in the photographer community or with color management specialists. However, they are really very beautiful aesthetically, not to mention that their quality has improved significantly since 2012 ! For example, I noted an average Delta e of only 0.25 (2000 standard) with my i1Display Pro on the last iMac Pro Retina from 2017 ! It is therefore time to learn how to calibrate them.... in order to use them without a second thought...

Because of their reflections, which are indeed very annoying in many lighting environments, Mac displays and especially their beautiful iMacs have very bad press. Moreover, they are very limited in their settings : just the brightness.

However, since July 2011 and the release of a new generation of calibration tools, particularly at X-Rite (Colormunki Display and i1Display Pro), it is quite possible to calibrate these screens, and, in my opinion, in a very nice way.

Personally, I would say that their main defect because it will bother everyone remains their reflections (which have been considerably reduced on the 2013 versions) because their second defect - a not very extensive gamut - will not necessarily bother everyone. Indeed, who needs an extended gamut every day ? Not everyone, I assure you. Look at the magnificent images of Vincent Munier to convince yourself !



The specificities of calibrating an iMac or Mac screen

But what makes Mac or iMac displays so difficult to calibrate a priori ? Is it because of their panel ? Of their settings? Of their graphics cards ?


iMac Retina 27 Apple


What about the quality of iMac and Apple Display panels ?

There are now three main categories of computer display panel quality : TN, PVA and IPS for short. The better the quality, the easier it is to calibrate it but above all to edit your photos on it and obviously some photo retouching. Why ? Mainly because bad panels are distinguished by their poor viewing angle. With these panels it is indeed impossible to keep the same brightness as soon as you turn or lower your head. However, Apple, for the past two years, has been using the best technology, IPS. Before 2011/2012, iMac screens were complicated to calibrate but things have improved considerably since then. 

  • iMacs have been using IPS white LED panels since 2012,
  • Apple Displays use IPS panels but with fluorescent tubes (CCFL).

Almost no settings on iMacs and Mac displays

On the other hand, it is now possible (since July 2011) to correct or even cancel their second major defect : the absence of screen settings except for brightness. However, we had seen on the page dedicated to screen calibration that the brightness was used to adjust the white point and the contrast the black point. This small miracle is still possible thanks to a new function implemented in particular in the X-Rite Colormunki Display and i1Display Pro colorimeters : the ADC function (Automatic Display Control).


My advice !  All you have to do is choose the brightness you want (with X-Rite or Datacolor colorimeters) and make sure, on X-Rite models, that the "Enable ADC function" button is checked. (Fig. below).


Adjusting the brightness on an iMac - At best, it is possible to manually adjust the brightness of your display in 16 steps if you use the brightness button alone. On the other hand, you can make a much finer adjustment since in 1/4 steps thanks to the combination of keys: ALT + SIFT + Brightness. This allows you to make a very precise adjustment, or at least quite sufficient. However, even with 16 levels, you would never be far from your target value.

Default color temperature for Mac or iMac displays

No more 9300K Mac displays out of the factory. They all come out today in the least flattering but very beautiful 6500 K. However, they can be preferred with an even lower colour temperature: 6000 K, neither too hot nor too cold.


Be careful if you calibrate a laptop or an iMac !

Indeed, these computers always activate by default in their monitor preferences the "Automatic brightness" option, which must absolutely be deactivated BEFORE starting the calibration.

UNCHECK "Adjust brightness automatically"


On the next page, we will study how to calibrate the monitor : How to calibrate a laptop monitor ? - 4 / 5  Suivre


To be remembered !

But first of all, I would like to invite you more than strongly to calibrate your iMac or iMac Retina display, whatever you use it for, because it is finally possible easily since 2011. They are then very beautiful, especially the last Retina.

 You can choose from four models even if I have a slight preference for X-Rite colorimeters : Colormunki Display and i1Display Pro

 The iMac panel (since 2011) is very beautiful after calibration with X-Rite colorimeters : no tone breakings, really progressive grayscale, nice color temperature, nice contrast but smaller gamut than with an EIZO screen of equivalent range for example. The latest iMac Retina is now really perfect for color reproduction. There are still the reflections, always and again...

 The difference between Datacolor and X-Rite colorimeters is much smaller than in the past.

Through these 6 pages of advice and my 12 full colorimeter tests I will help you to properly calibrate your desktop or laptop screens, your iMac or your tablets...

- Why calibrate your monitor ?
- How to calibrate your monitor ?

- Special case : iMac / iMac Pro - 3/5

  - Calibrate a screen with or without a colorimeter ?
- To be remembered...

- Special case : laptops
- Special case : tablets and smartphones
- Special case : Eizo ColorEdge + ColorNavigator


- Best colorimeters buying guide
- 2020 monitors buying guide
- Basics of color


Calibrate your monitor with the best
colorimeter: X-Rite i1Display Pro !

Read my full review...


Calibrate your monitor with your favorite colorimeter : Datacolor SpyderX PRO !

Read my full review...










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