iMac - good enough for photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by HooHar, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. HooHar macrumors member

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    #1
    Hi folks,

    Interested to hear if there are ANY "serious" photographers using Alu iMacs.
    I've heard there are problems calibrating them but I' uncertain whether this is a real world problem or not. Are any of you out there serious about colour calibration and happy using iMacs or is the general consensus that you need a mac pro if you want to get a decent match of screen colours to printed ones?

    :D

    Cheers
    HooHar
     
  2. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

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    #2
    Yeah, I use a 24" iMac (I do wedding photography). Before I got the iMac I used a Cinema display on a Mac Pro and I have been able to calibrate the iMac to be as accurate as the CD (at least as accurate as I need it to be).
     
  3. k.love macrumors member

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    #3
    I also Have a 24" imac. I do photography and get paid for it so of course it was an important purchase for me too. Im curious on the screen calibration. When Should I calibrate my screen and were would I go upon buying software to do this?
     
  4. HooHar thread starter macrumors member

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    #4
    Thanks for the reply Phil.

    I'm not looking to match the exact colour of a Coke can as perhaps an advertising photographer would have to. But I regularly soft-proof in Photoshop to change colours so they correctly reproduce on matt cotton-rag (which I think is about as difficult as soft-proofing gets unless you're CMYK'ing). Do you think the iMac lives up to this or would I be better suited going down the Mac Pro + Cinema Display route?

    It's really a matter of time - would love to get a desk-top mac of some sort now (using a MBP + PC desktop - real limbo), but have been waiting ages for them to announce the next Cinema Displays and I think they're coming in Jan so would force myself to wait longer if going down that route. The iMacs look lovely !

    Cheers
    Pete

    K.Love - you can calibrate using software, but this will only really get you a questionably reliable result (I'm speaking generally here - no experience of iMacs). Best to use a hardware calibrator - I've heard that the latest Spyder is the best choice for the iMac but also heard good things about the Huey Pro.

    Don't know what other folks think. I'd say calibration is an essential step to take if you want to avoid headaches in printing !

    Cheers
    Hoo
     
  5. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #5
    I wouldn't think there'd be a difference in terms of color fidelity between an iMac and a Mac Pro. Heck, I usually use a MacBook Pro's LCD display and, despite the fact that it's technically inferior (lower bit depth) to a desktop monitor, with a hardware calibrator (Spyder 2 in my case) and using the printer's color profiles I can get prints that look pretty much spot-on, color-wise.

    Not to mention that the problem isn't going to be the computer or the graphics card that's the limiting factor - it'll be the physical display (well, okay, if you decide to use a 1990-vintage 8MB Hercules video card then maybe that would be a problem :)). And you can spend big bucks on a display designed to have the widest coverage of the RGB color space.

    Calibration - GOOD calibration with a colorimeter - is really what matters.
     
  6. jhamerphoto macrumors regular

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    #6
    An aluminum iMac actually can't be properly calibrated due to the glass cover. The colours in the screen are well balanced, but it over-saturates the picture a lot, intending to make the screen "pop" and go for the wow factor. This is also the reason for the black edge around the screen.

    If you're not super picky, then you'll get used to how your screen looks, and you'll get used to adjusting your images so that they may not look perfect on-screen, but they look much better in print form.

    It's a good idea to use an iMac if you can't afford a Mac Pro, and then buy a cinema display in the future if colour calibration becomes more serious an issue to you, and you can use the time to save for it.
     
  7. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

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    #7
    Absolutely not. I would never buy an iMac to do color work. The old g5 iMacs were fine, but these new aluminum machines are absolute crap when you need a print to look like it does on the screen. I have calibrated a lab of 20 and ended up with 20 different calibrations due to the glossy screen. Also you have to look into the center of the screen for accurate contrast. If you are a shade lower or higher, the image will shift.

    I worked around these computers all summer and dreaded any moment I had to instruct people on making their images better when they had to do it on an iMac. The problem is not the processor and etc, it's simply the screen. Apple screwed this one up good. Use an external, such as a NEC or a Dell. The current Apple cinema display will give you accurate color, but its contrast range is not as good as either of the mid to high end monitors from the other two companies.
     
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #8
    You can calibrate the screen in terms of color and color cast. The problem is that the glossy screen exaggerates contrast and makes the color "pop" more. You should be able to make the whites white and so on but you will have to learn to deal with the exaggerated contrast.
     
  9. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

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    #9
    It's all been said already, but I just wanted to throw my hat into the ring and say I'm running a topped-out 24" aluminum iMac primarily for photography. I'm no professional yet, but I'm a third-year college student majoring in photography. The screen is large and bright and has served me well, but as others have said, it's sometimes hard to get prints to look right.
    I typically fine-tune them in whatever lab I use for printing.
     
  10. HooHar thread starter macrumors member

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    #10
    Thanks everyone. This is such a subjective problem with extremes of opinion in both directions. I have to say I am very wary of getting an iMac from what I've read, although the guy in the :apple: shop assures me he knows loads of photographers who use them. I guess different photographers have different needs - eg I know photographers who would be considered among the best in the country, who hardly ever make prints - all their work goes into magazines!

    I'm warned off iMacs by your comments FrankieT - you're obviously someone who's had a lot of experience soft-proofing and this is something I do a lot as I sell fine-art prints on cotton-rag.

    That said - apart from these 2 issues of calibration and glossy accentuation, the iMac is a wonderful machine for everything else - eg iTunes location, family video editing, office applications, web-site design, music creation...
    So might be worth getting one anyway and then maybe considering a future second screen...
     
  11. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #11
    Here's your best bet.

    Research how to TONE IMAGES then have at that iMac. Color correction in photography can be done on ANY monitor when using your tools (photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom) correctly.

    The iMac monitor is actually very good, and the 24" is virtually flawless sans for the slightly deeper saturation that can be corrected and monitored.

    If someone can not tone images on an iMac, MacBook, etc screen they need to relearn how to do it.... which is by the numbers, and not their faulty eyes.
     
  12. HooHar thread starter macrumors member

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    #12
    Hmm - interesting DigitalSkunk - but I don't see how knowing how to tone images using numbers is going to help :confused:. I create images that look "perfect" to my eyes by using my own visual judgement (it doesn't matter what the RGB values are) - I then want those "perfect" images to be printed so that they look exactly the same on the printed page (or as close as possible anyway - given that reflected and transmitted light will always be different).

    What do you mean by 'toning' and how would that help?

    Cheers
    HooHar
     
  13. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

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    #13
    I have experienced hardware-based calibrations on 20" iMacs that gave inconsistent profiles within a space of 2' feet from each other. This is not an error due to the Eye-One equipment.

    I am not just speaking from my own faulty eyes. I could just simply echo the sentiments, frustrations, and statements about these iMacs from some of the nation's top photography educators I know. And besides, if everything is just by the numbers, then why is your studio painted grey and why do you wear neutral colored clothing while processing your images? Those two simple things affect your image output, and even more so if your screen reflects your surroundings back at you.

    If creating accurate images is not your priority and you have a dark room to work in so everything will minimally reflect back at you, then the iMacs are great. They do the heavy work just fine. But otherwise, no.
     
  14. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #14
    The 20" iMac uses a cheap TN panel which is not recommended as you main screen for photography, only the 24" uses a decent panel. In any case, most discussion on the IQ of iMac screens is pointless, because you can always connect any screen (with DVI or VGA input) to your iMac.

    This means, if you are not satisfied with the IQ, you can get a good external lcd and use monitor spanning.

    IMO the glossy screen issue is way overrated, especially in the notebook space. Since the 20" iMac also uses a TN panel, what I say now also applies to that machine as well. I have a ProBook with matte display. And regardless of whether glossy screens are supposed to be `worse', the IQ (particularly the gamut and contrast) is nowhere near the Samsung lcd on my desk at work (it uses an MVA or PVA panel, not sure anymore which). The gamut is a lot larger and pictures look significantly different on both monitors.

    So mostly, I use my ProBook's screen to pre-edit shots and to have a nice overview over my image library in Aperture.

    Regarding the iMac, you can either get the 24" model which has a decent panel and which you can calibrate, if you follow instructions properly, you shouldn't have problems to calibrate it (according to the documentation that came with my Color Spyder 2, all calibration should happen in a dark room, no matter the monitor type).

    If you go for the 20" model, then you should get an external screen. Not because the screen is glossy, I think this will have much less of an effect, no, because it uses a TN panel. Do not get a cheap screen, all cheap monitors use TN panels. Monitors with other panel types are markedly more expensive and in the neighborhood of Apple Cinema Displays (that's one reason they are more expensive than competition).

    In either case, you don't need to get a Mac Pro.
     
  15. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #15
    Have you calibrated the screens while the rooms were dark?
    At least that's what Datacolor tells you to do when using their Color Spyders, regardless of the monitor type (CRT, lcd matte, lcd glossy).
     
  16. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #16
    Even if you are in a dark room or a grey one with special bulbs for calibration, accurate color will always depend primarily on what your printer (person or machine) tells you R,G,B and so forth will equal.

    Using your eye isn't a crime, but relying on them for spot on color is going to give you changing results. You'll go back and look at a print another day (after wearing a new pair of glasses, or having just watched Sin City) and you'll see a different tone.

    It should be more like.... "That's why photographers shoot grey cards and sometimes white and black one before a big shoot under controlled lighting." They use those neutral grey cards and black and white ones to set those points, then they know what values to set for skin tones and reds and blues and so forth.

    Even newspaper, which print on glorified toilet paper, have to have accurate values for CYMK to ensure a good print. And those presses change color within the same batch, just because the temp of the machine changed.

    p.s. you don't have to wear neutral color clothing or tone in a grey studio if you edit by the what Photoshop or Aperture or Lightroom is telling you your color values are.
     
  17. HooHar thread starter macrumors member

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    #17
    This is really interesting seeing such differences of opinion. I've been reading around other threads and it seems there's no Photoshop speed advantage (currently) in having a 2.8 octo MP compared to the fastest currently available iMac.

    Sure the Mac Pro will give you a lot of upgrade options and the HDD possibilities are much better - but external drives are now more affordable - and you can spec an iMac with a 1Tb drive. It would be great to have the 2 firewire 800 ports on a mac-pro for simultaneous external drive back-up (if a little luxurious). The current Mac Pro might become more exciting next year with new software releases able to use more of it's multi-core.

    The one potential nightmare on the iMac seems to be the screen - but some folks are saying this is overstated. I'm currently using one screen and don't really see the point in having dual monitors (so would like to avoid being forced to get a 23" CD to counteract the calibration probs - I know folks who use dual set-ups them swear by them but I just don't see it - it seems "untidy" somehow.

    So I am still undecided - I'm swaying towards the Mac Pro side currently - anyone want to talk me out of it? / in to it?
    :rolleyes:

    Hoo
     
  18. benzslrpee macrumors 6502

    benzslrpee

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    #18
    bluntly put, if you need to ask whether something is good enough for what you want to do...it probably is.

    that being said, just go buy one; it's a good machine for photography. if you think the colors on screen are over saturated and thus causing your photos to be dull then just adjust the contrast/gamma/whatever with a calibrator.

    if you need further proof that iMacs or other run of the mill computers are ok for editing then just go on some flickr type website and look around. find some photos you like, ask the photographers what equipment they use, what software, calibrator...etc. you'd be surprised, a lot of what they use people here would probably dismiss in a second as second rate.

    i still have yet to run into a self employed photographer pro or otherwise using a monitor more than $800...i'm sure there are those out there that do, but there are equal amounts of us who don't have a sky high budget and make do with what we got.

    besides, there i don't see any threads along the lines of "ZOMG!!1!1 my iMac RUINED my prints!!1!!!" :cool:
     
  19. soLoredd macrumors 6502a

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    #19
    Might as well get a MacBook Pro if one is going to have to get a seperate external display. I'm with the above poster, buying an iMac only to have to buy another monitor seems like it doesn't add up.
     
  20. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #20
    Why? I love having two screens, even if I had an iMac, I'd immediately get a second monitor if possible. Other than portability, a ProBook doesn't have any other advantages over an iMac (well, portability is a big, big plus). Plus it's a lot cheaper than a Mac Pro. In any case, he doesn't even have to get a second screen if he opts for the 24" iMac. I don't get all this talk about `nightmares with screens of iMacs.'

    Even worse: if the OP gets a Mac Pro and a cheap lcd (which includes everything with a TN panel!), because he ran out of money. The iMac will quite likely have a better panel than a cheap lcd.
     
  21. Techguy172 macrumors 68000

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    #21
    It really is your choice just remember that the imac isn't really made for the purpose that your intending. However it still can be used for what you want.
    If money is no object then get the pro and a Cinema display, otherwise you pretty much have to get a 24" iMac. Or you could get a 20" with 20" External could be Cinema display or equivalent.

    What I would do is create a table and compare the two yourself see what the advantages are and what out weighs what. You can go back and fourth in this forum but in the end you are decision maker.
     
  22. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #22
    Why not? Does the Mac Pro use some secret ingredients or what? :confused:
     
  23. HooHar thread starter macrumors member

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    #23
    Sage advice indeed. I've already done as you suggest - but am still undecided. If I apply the BLINK hypothesis (5 second forced decision - gut reaction) - I'd go Mac Pro but those iMacs do look lovely and they're half the price.

    Very true 172 (re: futility of going back and forth) - but I'm sure others will find the discussion helpful as it's clearly not an easy choice...
    ;)

    HooHar
     
  24. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

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    #24
    It's not, but when you do have the option of the MacPro, even the base config and a good ACD/Nec/Eizo/LaCie monitor then the needle will point to the MacPro.

    Simply on the upgradeability factor. Not that the iMac won't last you a good while.
     
  25. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #25
    One of the most important things hasn't been mentioned at all: what is your budget?
     

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