Apple's Retina iMac and Photography
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about what the then rumoured 5K iMac would mean that for photographers, and how you would now be pixel peeping on such a display even just looking at images. It was sort of a tongue in cheek piece, but now that the Retina iMac is real, I thought it would be important to have another look at the implications of a 5k display for photographers. If you're considering one of these new iMacs (I know I am !) then there are a few things you may want to ponder first!
I have no doubt that the new iMac's display is beautiful. I've been using a retina MacBook pro since they came out, and I love it. However, just how high the resolution of the 5k iMac actually is might surprise you. For a start, a 12 megapixel image will barely fill the display vertically and won't fill the display horizontally. Cameras with 12 megapixels are still being made, and are still widely used. Even a 16 megapixel camera won't quite fill the display horizontally.
I made up a diagram for the previous post showing various sized sensors and how they relate to the new iMac, so here it is again. This gives you an idea of just how high resolution a 5k display actually is in reality.
There's another potential issue too that you may want to be aware of, and that is software. Luckily most mainstream photography software has been optimised for retina displays at this point, but in the photographic sphere there are still a few holdouts. In particular one of my favourite applications, Photo Ninja doesn't currently support retina displays. I would imagine though that the release of retina display equipped desktop should spur the progress of retina equipped applications and websites. It's only a matter of time before retina displays, or HiDpi displays on Windows permeate the whole of the industry.
If it seems that I'm only highlighting the negatives here, I don't mean to. I haven't seen one in real life yet, but I have no doubt that the new iMac's screen looks beautiful. Having gotten used to a high resolution display on my Laptop, it's the little things that really make a big difference. In particular text looks amazing. If you've optimised your website, it looks great on a retina display. All my websites have been optimised for retina displays, and when I go back to looking at them on the normal screen on my Mac Pro, they seem depressingly ordinary, but they come alive at retina resolutions.
The internals of the new iMacs are pretty impressive too. It can be configured with a 4ghz i7 cpu which should be more than enough for photographic applications. Graphics Card wise, the chips are fairly good from what I understand, but it's unclear how taxing driving the huge resolution will be, and how much is left over for GPU operations. If you're intending on using GPU heavy applications, it might be worth upgrading to the higher end card using the build to order options.
Thats just a few thoughts on the new iMacs for now. I'm not sure when they'll get to the stores here in Ireland (as we have no official Apple Stores here) so I don't know when I'll get to see one in real life, but if you have, or have bough one, please let us know your experiences in the comments.