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Apple 30" Cinema HD Display
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

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Apple Quad G5 and 30" display

Apple Power Mac G5 Quad and 30" Cinema HD Display
(image courtesy of Apple)

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NEW: DVD Movies as viewed on my 30" Cinema Display



Wow! I wish someone had made me buy this earlier. I got this when I got my Quad G5 in 2006.

It's not like a TV: it has the same inch-by inch sharpness and resolution (106 DPI) as a laptop screen, but much more of it!

It has 2,560 x 1,600 pixel resolution. It's far better than using a couple of smaller monitors. Most small monitors are only 1,024 x 768, and the latest, highest-definition HDTVs are only 1,920 x 1,080. Most HDTVs, even 63" plasmas, are only 1,368 x 768 resolution!

I'm a cheapskate and resisted. As soon as I got it, I had no idea how much time it would save me since I have so much real estate to get work done. I have three programs open at once, and each of them is as wide, but twice as tall, as on my laptop, all at the same time!

It's incredible for photography because I can see the entire image to judge composition, and have it at 100% (or close) to see sharpness at the same time. I can sort images twice as fast because I don't have to toggle magnification to see compostion and then sharpness.

As of April 2007 they are $1,800, about half the price I paid last year. Unlike digital cameras or computers, this monitor won't become obsolete in a few years. This monitor will stay with me for my next computer.

Go get one today. If I knew several years ago how much more work I could have accomplished I would have bought one at the crazy price at which it was introduced.




Opening the boxes is always a pleasure. Apple thinks about everything.

Setup is trivial. Just plug it in.

The only trick was Apple's suggestion to install the software for the 30" display, which was on a CD. It seemed to work OK without it, but I did it anyway.

If you're on a Windows PC, you need a dual-link DVI connection to drive all these pixels, which means a pretty advanced graphic card. Before you start upgrading a Windows machine, consider making the ultimate upgrade to Apple like the rest of the pros.



I got this display because I need to have a lot of windows open at once for making this website. I always have about eight programs running at the same time and many more windows open. The huge screen saves me time selecting among all the windows. It also saves time scrolling among file listings as I save and open all my files.

I don't need this for photography, but now that I have it I think everyone deserves one of these.

The most obvious thing is seeing your images full screen, which measures a whopping 16 x 25." This isn't just a print. It's a brilliant living image on screen.



It's brilliant, as in blindingly brilliant. I turn the brightness down all the way in the evening, and most of the way down in the daytime. It gets really bright when you turn it up. It's rated three times the luminance of my perfectly good laptop screen!

I can't stand to run it more than halfway up in daytime. Any further and I have to squint.

This is cool. I've never had a monitor so bright that I said Uncle! before it did. Digital still photography has no standard for monitor luminance.



I never thought of this, but now I can sort through my images and look at both content and sharpness at the same time. On my 12" screen I flipped between 100% and fit to screen to see one or the other. Now the images are 25" wide and I can see everything immediately. I had no idea how easy this would all become!



It's beautiful.

It also has just one cable that runs out the back and own to your machine. The end of this cable breaks out to several other cables, one each for power, video, USB and Firewire.

The cable runs out the middle of the back, so it's hidden behind the curved aluminum stand. You don't even see it.

There are four data connectors on the bottom right of the screen, on the back. There are two USB and two Firewire 400. You can plug your keyboard, digital camera, spare drives or anything into them.

There are no controls on the front. The only controls are power and brightness hidden on the right side.

You don't need them. You can also control power from the computer, and control brightness from your keyboard.



Most LCDs, including all the Mac laptops, look different at different angles. This is especially obvious if you look at them from above or below. I use this trick to see into dark shadows by looking at my laptop from above or below.

The Apple Cinema Displays are unusual because they look the same from different directions. This is very important with a large monitor because different parts of the screen will always be seen from different angles.

My Cinema Display looks more like a backlit transparency than an LCD.



Color is great. I calibrate mine to gamma 2.2 instead of Mac's default 1.8. 2.2 is the standard for the Internet, sRGB, Adobe RGB, printers as well as television and video. it's an easy choice.

My laptop looks great, but its backlight is a bit warm at 5,000K. My 30" Cinema Display is designed for photography and is native at the standard 6,500K.


Does this look pale yellow or a little more towards orange?

My 30" Cinema display is the only LCD I've used that can render the light pale Easter yellow FFFFCC background of some of my pages correctly as it appears on my CRT monitor. Every other LCD, even after calibration, renders this color a little too orange.

My Cinema Display renders this correctly both out-of-the box and after calibration. I have no idea why it looks so different between LCD and CRT monitors. It just does.



My biggest fear was having a few pixels stuck on or off. At 2,560 x 1,600 resolution that's over 4 million RGB pixels, or over 12 million individual R, G and B elements. If any one of them is stuck you'll have a tiny colored dot staring at you for as long as you own this monitor.

Nikon's D200 has less than a quarter million pixels on its LCD. Nikon wimps out. Nikon's manual tries to get you to believe that bad pixels are a fact of life. Nikon claims it's OK if they miss a few.

No, it's not OK. It's a yield issue. Good manufacturers throw away any screens that have any bad elements. That's what makes the good ones so expensive. Passing off screens with a few bad cells lets manufacturers save a lot of money instead of throwing them away.

Thank goodness my Apple display is perfect. I also see no bogus cop-out in my Apple manual claiming that a few bad pixels are normal.

I tried my torture test pattern looking for dead pixels. You can download it here. This is a very devious pattern with every other pixel 100% on or 100% off. It looks gray at a distance. Look at it against a real 50% gray background and it will accentuate gamma errors and white points set to other than native.

Click it and drag your browser window around the screen. It will exaggerate any pixels stuck on or off. I thought I found a dead pixel with this devious tool. Nope; I discovered a tiny speck of dirt and a microscopic scratch on top of the LCD and behind the protective glass! These were invisible before I tried looking for them.

Beware of this pattern. It will look awful on LCDs connected via VGA whose pixel clocks haven't been synced correctly. It will show how great the digital connections of the Apple Displays are. it will make weird things happen to your grays. Use it to find dead pixels, but don't freak out trying to make it look good. As test pattern's job is to make things look awful so engineers can fix them.



These readings are from the colorimeter function of my Colorvision Spyder 2Pro.



At full brightness, which is blinding, I measure 100 fL (343 candelas/m^2). This is 30% better than Apple's 270 candela rating. This is over three times as bright as Hollywood's 30 fL (103 candela) SMPTE standard for professional video monitors and 30% brighter than Apple's specified maximum brightness.

I measure 60 fL (200 candelas) at half brightness.

I measure 27 fL (100 candelas) at the minimum setting.

There is no standard for brightness (luminance) for still photography

I use the SMPTE 30 fL standard we use in Hollywood film and TV. This 30 fL peak white value is for video monitors used in dark control rooms. I suggest it for working at night in the dark. Crank it up to your heart's content in the day.

I set my display at one and a half white dots. This is just a tad over the the darkest setting. This measures 30 fL and 6300K with a delta uv of 0.03.

SMPTE 196M "Indoor Theater and Review Room Projection --- Screen Luminance and Viewing Conditions" specifies only 16 fL (55 candelas) for motion picture projection screens. I can't turn my Cinema Display down as dark as the best, brightest theater in Hollywood! Many local movie theaters cheat and use their xenon bulbs at lower currents and use them well past their rated life. Your local theater probably doesn't meet this standard.

My 12" laptop, which has been the only computer I've used in 2004 and 2005, only measures 23 fL (77 candelas) at full brightness.

My 30" Cinema HD display is a very bright display.



I measured no change in color across the display. I may have seen 200K variance, but that's the limit of my sensor.

I did measure a 20% loss of luminance in the top left corner, 12 % loss in the bottom left, no loss in the bottom right and 17% loss in the top right. These were measured about 2" away from the corner, which is as close as I could place my sensor.

This is fine. There is probably more loss from looking at the corners at the large angles this screen invites than the lack of uniformity.

20% isn't much. 20% is a linear measurement. 20% linear does not look like 20% to our eye. 20% is only one third of a stop. Due to film's gamma of about two, a one-third stop exposure variance measures as 2/3 stop of luminance in an on-screen image. Therefore the slight falloff in the worst corner of my Apple Display is about the same as a falloff of 1/6 of a stop in-camera.

All because I can measure these things doesn't make them significant.

CRTs are so much worse I've never dared measure them. CRTs also very their color and color temperature from region to region. LCDs don't.


Color Temperature

I measure 6,300K native. I can't measure any change in color temperature with brightness.

Color temperature is a difficult reading to make. I see variations from reading to reading, which I presume are the limitations of my $300 meter. Even the $10,000 meters I've used vary a bit, and you'd need one of them to make a more valid reading. Even small variations in sensors create huge differences in measured color temperature. For all I know my 30" Cinema HD display really is at 6,500K.

Variations of a couple of hundred degrees are meaningless. Our eyes do their own white balance adjustments to correct for reasonable deviations in white point. My laptop measures 5,000K, for instance, and I don't bother to alter it either. So long as a display follows the same white balance point at all brightness levels in the image there isn't much problem. I easily can work on a 5000K or 6500K screen.

I've tried both 6500K and leaving it at 6300K native. I'm unsure which I prefer.

Beware reviews written by hackers, not photographers. I've read reviews where the techie reviewer thought it was a defect that the Apple Cinema displays have no color temperature adjustment. Apples adjust the color temperature via the computer and color profile, not at the display. This is a great plus, not an omission.

The only real color temperature of an LCD is the color of the backlight when the screen is full white. The Apple Cinema display is fantastic precisely because the native backlight color is the standard 6500K for photography and video. I read one review by a guy who was guessing about photography and lamented the lack of a 5000K setting. 5000K is the wrong setting, and if you want it you can still get it on every Mac by going to System Preferences > Displays > Color > Calibrate and making a new profile. You can create new profiles on every Mac even without a hardware color meter as I use.

CRTs adjust their native white points by varying the outputs of their three electron guns. An LCD alters its white point away from the native backlight's white point by dimming the red or blue segments, as well as green. This isn't a native change. It also lowers overall brightness because you can't make any of an LCD's R, G or B elements more transmissive than they are at full native white.

Most LCDs, but not the Apple Cinema Displays, vary color and brightness when viewed at different angles. Any change to the native white point looks awful on these displays since different parts of your screen are seen at different angles. If you've changed the white to be something else then white documents look terrible, since the white color changes from top to bottom! The Cinema display doesn't have this problem, even if you alter the white point, because it looks the same from every reasonable angle.

An LCD needs its native white point to match your desired white point, and the Apple Display does this marvelously.

One review which repeats this mistake is here. That may be a great review if you're a programmer or gamer, but not if you're a photographer.


Color Deviation and Accuracy

I've never measured a delta uv value greater then 0.075, which is fabulous. I usually measure about 0.055 - 0.015.

This is really, really good, meaning the white is really, really white and not tinged with color.

These delta uv numbers are fantastic. 1.0 delta uv is the smallest difference we can see if two colors are right next to each other. 3 delta uv is the smallest difference we can see if the colors are on different parts of the screen. Colorvision, who made my meter, says if you can get your monitor to less than 3 you're fine and if you can get it to less than one you ought to go play the lottery.

My monitor is measuring thirty times better. Most digital cameras reported in Pop Photo measure about 5 - 10 delta uv. Of course this number for my monitor is for white. I get only 0.02 delta uv at 50% gray and 6.3 fL at 128/128/128.

I have not measured delta uv for every color.


Color Variations with Brightness

I couldn't measure any change in color temperature or delta uv as I varied the brightness. This means my colors are going to stay the same regardless of how bright I adjust my display. With crappy displays I used to create different profiles for different brightnesses.


Conversion Factors

Multiply fL by 3.426259 to get candelas per square meter. Multiply cd/m^2 by 0.29186352 to get fL. My meter reads in fL and computer displays are often specified in candelas per square meter, which is the same as nits.

There are pi candelas per square foot per fL. Convert meters to feet (3.2808), square that to get candelas per square meter (10.76365), and divide by pi (3.14159) to get the 3.426 number. Take the reciprocal for the second figure.



I bought mine directly from The Apple Store. You also can get them from Amazon and Adorama.



Every photographer deserves one of these. I remember just a few years ago when an Apple display with less than half this total resolution cost $4,000.

Apple lowered the price of this 30" display from $3,000 in October, 2005.

Mine cost me $2,500 in January 2006 and I wish I'd gotten one much sooner at the higher price. It makes everything I do so fast and easy, and photos look incredible that big at full-resolution.

As of April 2007, Apple is giving them away at $1,800. This is a no-brainer - go get one today!

I got my 30" display to help me keep updating this website, not because I needed it for photography. For the past two years I've done fine on nothing more than my 12" laptop.

I got this 30" display because I can fit three full browser windows left, center and right. The 23" Apple display lacks enough pixels for a third 800 pixel wide window.

For normal photographers the 23" display is almost as exciting and costs half as much as the 30" display. The displays today all cost about the same per square foot.

If you want to get one you'll love it. It's fun and saves me time. Your photos won't be any better or worse compared to making them on a small screen.

I bought mine myself. Apple doesn't give or loan me anything. I wish they would! If you find all my work (and expenditure!) helpful feel free to help me do more.

I bought a second in September 2010, for $1,650.


2010 Update

I bought a second new 30" monitor as they were beiing discontinued in favor of a slightly smaller glossy screen 27" monitor.

New 30" display, last of the line, measures: 6,840K, 0.640 delta uv, 126.7 fL (434 Cd/m^2).

Old 30" display, now 4 years and 8 months old, measures 5,510K, 0.476 delta uv, 90.4 fL (310 Cd/m^2). This is 10% dimmer than new, but still better than specified when new (270 Cd/m^2), and even a little better than the updared specification for the newer version of this monitor (300 Cd/M^2).

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