Sizing up the Retina Display with professional photography, color calibration

How does the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display fare with a professional photographic workflow? In a series of blog posts, photo pro C. David Tobie evaluated the Retina display MacBook Pro's color capabilities and its basic compatibility with color calibration packages.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor

Tobie looked at a number of professional issues, such as color gamut, reflectivity (an important consideration for on-screen evaluation of colors in images), viewing angle, brightness and color calibration and profiling issues.
Of course, Adobe Photoshop CS (or any other version) isn't yet compatible with the MacBook Pro with Retina Display.  Tobie offered an interesting side-by-side comparison of images in the Retina-compatible Preview application and Photoshop CS6. He predicted a free update for CS6 but not for CS5.

When Apple announced the Retina display MacBook Pro, one of the applications which they demonstrated with it was Photoshop. But not a release version of Photoshop. The current release version of CS6 opens images at the same size, and the same resolution, as on a non-Retina display MBP. In comparison, Apple’s own Preview app opens images at half the width and height as 100 percent view, and displays all the pixels in the image at that size.

He writes that the Retina gamut is impressive, very close to sRGB, and much improved over the previous MacBook Pro screen. When combined with its other features, the Retina makes a big difference for photography.

This gamut normalization and enlargement will do wonders for using MacBooks for photography work, and will even make advanced image editing possible. Other factors that are improved on the new Retina display will also be important, including its much improved viewing angle, and its reduced reflectivity. The Retina display is, simply put, the biggest advance ever, in laptop screens for photography and video work; and would be even without the resolution increase.

In a post on calibration and photography, Tobie said that the Retina Display fits into the Standard Gamut, White LED backlight category for hardware calibration systems.  

The Retina display is a good citizen, allowing accurate readings of colors for gray balancing, and accurate readings of luminance for tone response mapping. So calibration is very effective on the Retina display, and the resulting “Before and After” demo in the Spyder4 software will show that the uncalibrated state is not bad, but that the calibrated state is indeed better, both in terms of white balance, and densities in images.

I was very interested in Tobie's analysis of the reflectance of the Retina display. He shows an interesting side-by-side comparison between a Retina screen and a standard glass Unibody MacBook Pro, which was shot in a dimly-lit room. The reduced reflectance from the Retina is evident and there's a double-glazed artifact on the Unibody screen.
I have always purchased the matte screen for my MacBook Pros — I hate reflection. And back in the days, I worked at a company that made color-calibrated displays for proofing that came with a black coat to avoid any screen reflections from the clothing the viewer was wearing. But the matte screen is often considered "smeared" by photo pros. Tobie said the Retina was "all good from my perspective."

Editorial standards