I am considering buying the MacBook Pro with Retina display. However, I have been told that the Retina display seems to make images darker and more contrasty than when printed.

I have been trying to find recent information on how to properly calibrating this screen and, in particular, on the performance of the Spyder 3 Elite that I currently use for my Eizo monitor.

Any experience calibrating the MacBook Pro with Retina, with Spyder in particular?

  • 1
    Some info here - Is the MacBook Pro display well calibrated?
    – MikeW
    Apr 1 '13 at 0:41
  • Can you have a look at the linked question and see if it answers your question (or if not, please clarify what issues the other question doesn't address)?
    – MikeW
    Apr 1 '13 at 3:50
  • 2
    I'm not clear if you're asking if the Retina display is suitable, if it can be calibrated, whether your Spyder will work with it, or if you need step by step instructions.
    – MikeW
    Apr 1 '13 at 5:25
  • Thanks - I wonder whether the Retina display can be properly calibrated. A professional photographer I know noticed that the Retina displays he has seen seem to make images appear darker and more contrasty than they actually are (when printed), so he was wondering whether there was an issue calibrating the screen. I did some inconclusive research on the internet (I found some 1-year old review/answers to posts mentioning yellow or magenta color cast when using Spyder3 or 4 Elite calibrating Retina display), so I am trying to find more up-to-date direct experience. Does it calibrate faithfully?
    – Elena
    Apr 2 '13 at 1:10
  • 2
    @Elena - I don't have any direct experience with the Retina display, but it is possible that the color space exceeds that of certain types of print. In that case, you are going to see gamut differences. This isn't an issue with calibration, but rather an issue of color spaces. You would need to use a preview based on the ICC profile of the printer and media type you are using to limit a properly calibrated monitor to reproducing colors in the gamut supported by the printer (provided that the screen does in fact cover the gamut needed).
    – AJ Henderson
    Apr 2 '13 at 15:35

While I lack direct experience with the Retina display, this article from ZDNet appears to indicate that it can be well calibrated. It also looks like they specifically did tests with a Spyder in that article.

Most likely the issues your photographer friend was experiencing was a gamut issue where the colors being produced on screen could not be replicated with the print medium being used. If he has an ICC profile of the printer, it would be worth applying that profile and seeing how the colors match up adjusted for the color space of the print. If they still don't match, then there is probably a calibration problem that needs to be addressed.

  • The Gamut issue is probably the most real issue with using a display like Apple's Retina for professional photographic work. In one sense, for viewing digital photography, it's hard to get better than retina. High DPI, wide gamut displays, which are even common on hand-held devices like phones and tablets, are AMAZING from a microcontrast and gamut standpoint (i.e. my $200 Lumia 920 has a vastly superior screen compared to my Apple CinemaDisplay 30"). The problem is, the microcontrast and gamut are SO good that they do not adequately represent print. It might be best to have two screens.
    – jrista
    Apr 2 '13 at 16:06
  • Thanks a lot! Thank you all. Now it make sense to me. I have a Eizo monitor, which I love, and I have no problem with printing. If it is just a question of contrast/brightness I could do a final adjustment on the Eizo. But it would be annoying if I have to adjust too many things (especially color cast). Thanks again, I may go for it.
    – Elena
    Apr 3 '13 at 1:02

Yes it can be calibrated using the proper hardware. I have a retina display macbook and also a Spyder Elite 3, and I can calibrate it to match my 23" desktop monitor.

The result is pretty close, side-by-side, the colours are almost identical.

Inaccurate default settings of the Macbook

This is true. You were also right about the high contrast. I was stupid enough to carry out some adjustments on about 200 photos on my macbook before I ran the calibration. Most photos turned out to be quite washed out (to a point where it looks fake and horribly photoshopped) on my calibrated 23" desktop monitor.

By default, it renders black much darker than what it should be, so I had to lighten it up using the "Shadow" slider in Lightroom 4.

In terms of colours, it is pretty accurate by default. However with the unreasonably high contrast, I feel that properly calibrating it is an absolute must if you intend to do any photographic work on it.

Since I have invested in a Spyder, I stopped trying free/software solutions. I have searched for free alternatives, however I snatched a Spyder when it was on sale and discovered that the best free/software calibrating tool is nowhere near remotely accurate.

Easily one of the best piece of tool that gives me identically accurate colour rendition across multiple computers laptops and monitors. It is not even that expensive just around $100.

  • Thanks! So, I understand that, as it comes out of the box, the display does indeed show images darker and more contrasty that they would be on a properly calibrated monitor. However, the Spyder Elite 3 can calibrate the Retina display "correctly", to match exactly another properly calibrated monitor (i.e. no color cast, no excessive contrast, etc.). The problem pointed above by AJ Henderson would still be true, but no more than for any other screen (in a "bad way" at least - I guess that if the Retina display is such a wonderful thing, it must be another step "higher" than paper).
    – Elena
    Apr 3 '13 at 0:55

Yes, but with difficulty. I notice that others have had issues with screen calibrators on the MBPR, both Spyders and Xrites.

My experience was similar. For details, I wrote about it here, and included links to other discussions involving calibration difficulties: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4990358

Since writing that I worked out what caused the MBPR to display normal contrast. I connected to the TV using HDMI. I opened System Preferences/Displays. On the Colour LCD window (i.e pertaining to the Macbook, not the one pertaining to the TV) I selected Display and under "Resolution" selected "best for external display". For some reason that caused the MBPR's display to adopt a normal range of contrast rather than its default high contrast. This improved behaviour persists even after disconnecting the external display. However, if I restart the MPBR it goes back to its old tricks.

Hope this assists.

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