5K iMac Gets 10-Bit Color for the First Time in OS X History

October 30th, 2015 icon / message-square 25
5K iMac Gets 10-Bit Color for the First Time in OS X History

5k-imac-10-bit

Among the many new features in OS X El Capitan, it seems Apple has silently integrated another one: 10 bit color for the 4K & 5K iMac. Very interesting news for colorists, photographers, and editors. 

German online magazine Mac & I recently published an article that captured our attention. They revealed that OS X El Capitan has for the first time integrated 10-bit drivers for their Apple iMac screens.

Professionals know that 10-bit screen color is the desired color depth for serious color correction. When you work in 8-bit you often see banding artefacts and lose detail on soft gradients which makes editing harder and less accurate.

This is not to be confused with the bit depth of your source files. We all know that working with video DSLRs or other heavily compressed video footage that is limited to 8 bit color depth gives you less options during grading and 10 bit, 12 bit or even 16 bit color photos and videos are better. On the screen side 10 bit is the desired depth to let you view the end result without gradation steps.

The screen bit depth is also related to the internal processing in whichever software and hardware you’re using. Unfortunately most display monitors are limited to 8 bit color and on top OS X has been limited to that bit depth in the past. Which means although you might be editing in 10 bit, and the monitor might even support 10-bit processing, you are only seeing 8 bit. Windows on the other hand has done 10-bit since 2009 (Windows 7).

Apple has changed this within El Capitan. According to Mac & I, Apple has confirmed that the new 5K and 4K iMac (along with the 2014 iMac 5K) support a 10-bit graphics driver which has been enabled with the release of El Capitan.

The graphics driver enables 30 bit color displays. Image courtesy "Mac and I" magazine.

The graphics driver enables 30 bit pixel depth. 10 bit for each RGB color. Image courtesy Mac & I magazine.

A few things to note:

First, apparently it only works on the 4K & 5K iMac 2015 & 5K iMac 2014 right now.
[UPDATE]: A cinema5D reader reported that he got 10 bit on a Mac Pro with D500 graphics and an Eizo CS230 monitor.

Also, currently it only works within the Preview and Photos applications. If you want to test it out, you could take a 12-bit RAW photo with soft color gradations and take a look. But it’s also important to note that, for now, no other apps, such as Adobe or other editing software, take advantage of this processing, yet. This is just a preview of what’s to come.

For those who have been waiting for this feature for a long time, it’s important news. And something to keep an eye on to see how long it will be until other software companies start utilizing the feature.

via Mac & I

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 Shorty Robinson
Shorty Robinson
Member
August 29th, 2016

Oh man… NO, a current iMac’s screen WILL NOT DO 10bit, it is AN *8bit* SCREEN! If anything, it will do *8bits* and DITHER 10 bit!! HUGE difference.

Get your facts straight and don’t just blindly believe everything you read on the interwebs, ESPECIALLY from a german site geared towards NOOBS!

Tim Greensgod
Tim Greensgod
Guest
January 27th, 2016

Can you either update or remove the screenshot? As reported elsewhere in the comments, it is highlighting the wrong item. Should be highlighting “ARGB2101010”, not “30-Bit”. There are displays that report as “30 bit” or “32 bit” without 10 bit color.

Member
January 8th, 2016

Works with Older Mac Pros too!
Mid 2010 and 2 x ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024 MB

Member
November 6th, 2015

Correct, it is NOT just for 5K iMacs, high bit panels ala Eizo and NEC SpectraView have been around for years. As have been 10-bit video cards. As have been applications that have a high bit display path (Photoshop has under Windows for years). What we didn’t have to support a FULL high bit path was within the OS. So for days and days, people have been speculating about this and have got most of the info wrong!
To get a high bit display path, every item in the path has to be high bit (duh) and the only component that wasn’t supported was OS X. So this is rather simple: someone find out directly from Apple if this is the case or not. The question was asked on Apple’s ColorSync list and no one from Apple replied. So I’m somewhat suspicious if we really do have high bit video support in the OS but I’d love to be wrong about this.

Member
November 10th, 2015
Reply to  Andrew Rodney

https://community.amd.com/thread/171743

Scroll to the last Post…Straight from AMD. 10 bit is supported on the iMac monitor; however, it will not push 10 bit to another monitor, only 8bit. You would need the FirePro cards in the Mac Pro to power an Eizo, Nec, etc)

At least thats what I gathered from reading it…Ill actually let you all know in a couple of days if it is possible on the Mac Pro or not.

Member
November 5th, 2015

hi
macbookpro retina has 32 bit color depth (it says)
Kleuren-LCD:
Beeldschermtype:Retina LCD
Resolutie:2560 x 1600 Retina
Retina:Ja
Pixeldiepte:32-bits kleur (ARGB8888)

Member
November 3rd, 2015

AMD Radeon™ R9 Series Graphics
M300 Series Spec for MAC.

“MAX DISPLAYPORT (UP TO 4K)
EXTERNAL DISPLAYS SUPPORTED – 2″

SO Im assuming if it does support 10 bit color, you can also hook up to an Ezio etc..
You guys think its worth the jump to the Mac Pro, or should I stick with the New 15” with 16gig RAM (not upgradable)?

Member
November 1st, 2015

If I own a MBPr 15″ 1st gen (AKA 2012) and a iMac 27″ Late 2015 (AKA the new one) both with El Capitan and no other monitors I can’t do 10bit. Is that correct? I need a 10 bit monitor and Apple display do not do this?

 Laimonas Stasiulis
Laimonas Stasiulis
Member
November 1st, 2015
Reply to  Mark Treen

Hi Mark,

I have the same macbook pro, and the graphics card does not support 10bit, so it doesn’t matter what OS / monitor you have. It’s unclear right now if any macbook pro’s (even 2015 ones) support 10bit, my guess is that they do not!

Member
November 3rd, 2015

It was confirmed I think that the Top Tier 2015 Macbook Pro 15″ Retina display, does. Due to the AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB GDDR5 memory. I looked up and “pretty much” got confirmation on some boards that the AMD Radeon cards will support 10 bit color. Someone please confirm if possible

The Dude
The Dude
Guest
October 31st, 2015

Love the title. “for the First Time in OS X History” Didn’t iMac’s get 5k monitors just a little while ago? Like a couple years ago?

Member
November 1st, 2015
Reply to  The Dude

Yes dude, but if you read the article you will see that it is only enabled since El Capitan which was introduced recently and the new feature was only discovered just now.

Michael Schmidt
Guest
October 30th, 2015

I have a 2009 MacPro with a GTX760 with OS X 10.11.1 … and have Pixel Depth: 32-Bit Color (ARGB8888) for all screens on the system (DELL 2711, APPLE LED Cinema display and even a LG screen via HDMI) … i’m confused now

 Laimonas Stasiulis
Laimonas Stasiulis
Member
October 31st, 2015

If you follow the link to image science, download the 10bit test file and see for yourself:

http://www.imagescience.com.au/kb/getattachment.php?data=MTUyfDEwIGJpdCB0ZXN0IHJhbXAuemlw

It’s not so much about what it says on system preferences, more about if you see a smooth gradient on this test image or choppy one (which means you are only seeing 8bit)

Member
November 6th, 2015

Correct! All the system info in the world isn’t useful if you don’t see smooth gradients from the test file you point out is at Imaging Science’s site.

What I can tell you is that on my MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Early 2013), using that test file in Preview (and Photoshop CC), I see a little banding and I”m running a high bit panel (NEC PA272W). So no, I’m not getting the full high bit path on this machine and yes, I’m running 10.11.1

Member
October 31st, 2015

GTX760 cannot output 10bit, only nvidia pro cards (quattro) do it.

Member
October 30th, 2015

This is excellent and long overdue news. With regards to the German System Profile image. It is not specifically the 30-bit entry that is important, but the ARGB2101010 that is the thing to look for. For example on my old 2009 MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard it is listed as 32-bit but ARGB8888. The numbers show how the bits are allocated, 2101010 means 2 bits alpha channel and 10 bits per colour channel, 8888 means 8 bits alpha channel and 8 bits per colour channel.

Ten bits per colour channel means of course it supports ‘deep colour’.

Michael Schmidt
Member
October 30th, 2015
Reply to  John Lockwood

oh i see … thanks … makes sense now! ;)

Michael Schmidt
Member
October 30th, 2015

I have a 2009 MacPro with a GTX760 .. and have Pixel Depth:32-Bit Color (ARGB8888) for all screens on the system … i’m confused now

Michael Schmidt
Member
October 30th, 2015

to be more specific … running OS X 10.11.1 … sYST info say Pixel Depth: 32-Bit Color (ARGB8888) for all screens (DELL 2711, APPLE LED Cinema display and even a LG screen via HDMI

Member
October 30th, 2015

I can confirm that the NEC MultiSync PA301W and PA271W both report 30-Bit Color (ARGB2101010) on a Mac Pro 2013 with twin AMD FirePro D500 cards.

Daniel Schweinert
Guest
October 30th, 2015

Wait for the new iMac PRO :-)

Chris York
Guest
October 30th, 2015

Buying one for sure now.

Laimonas Stasiulis
Laimonas Stasiulis
Guest
October 30th, 2015

Hey guys, it appears it’s not just for the 5K iMac, I have tested this on 2013 Mac Pro with an Eizo CS230 monitor and can confirm that you can get 10bit output.

http://www.lsdigi.com/2015/10/el-capitan-10bit-display-support/

Member
October 30th, 2015

Thanks, very interesting! I updated the article…

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