iMac or Mac Pro for photography

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by nealeholl, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. macrumors member

    Oct 5, 2009
    I'm using an early 2009 24" iMac at the moment. It's my general PC for everyday use, but as a keen photographer I'm now spending a lot of time in Aperture and Photoshop. Whilst my iMac is noticeably slow at times with these photo programs, and I'm ready to upgrade, I don't know whether a new iMac is going to give me much more performance, or whether these programs justify giving a current (or even recon) Mac Pro some consideration?

    I don't want to pay silly money for something that will only give incremental benefits, but I would like things to be a bit whizzier. If I go the Mac Pro route, what spec do I need to give an appreciable benefit over a top line iMac on photo work ? I don't handle video at all.
  2. macrumors 65816


    Jul 9, 2009
    375th St. Y
    An iMac will be fine for you, a HUGE upgrade in fact.

    Your current iMac likely has a c2d that would bench around 4000 if your lucky, and your (integrated) gpu likely only has 256MB vram.
    Aperture, to my understanding, needs a fast gpu for best performance.

    Get a quad core i7 imac, 2011 ones are great still. Make sure it has the 1GB gpu and Put in 16GB of RAM yourself. Better yet, get an SSD in there to run Aperture and all your other apps on. Make sure its big enough to store some Aperture Libraries on!

    This machine will be figuratively ten million times better than your current imac and won't cost too much, especially if you get a 2010 or 2011 used or refurbished.
  3. macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012
    I think.....

    any of the new iMacs have more raw power available, being quad core vs your current machine ( dual core). So, maybe yo will do nicely with a iMac, albeit with maxed out RAM (aftermarket). More RAM lets you do most operations in it, and the RAM being more fast, you will note an increase in speed. A Fusion drive maybe helps you too, storing you most used files in the internal SSD,what will be faster than any other option. Big screen real state also helps with palettes and menus when editing. Only caveat it is if you have FireWire equipment, because you will need adapters to the Thunderbolt port. But you will get USB 3.0 with a new iMac.

    Having said the above, a Mac Pro is a powerful and very customizable machine. But outdated and in some functions a current iMac can compete

    So, make your decission based in your budget. A 21 inch or 27 inch iMac 2012 sounds good to me
  4. macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    If you need it now, I would go for one of the new iMac's the Mac Pro is due for an update next year. The current Mac Pro have not been updated in a meaningful way for over 2 years now. Only justification for a Mac Pro is if you have software that really needs the multiple cores, for example video compression. As others have said, the current iMacs will be a lot quicker than your current model.
  5. macrumors regular

    Nov 12, 2007
    I had the same decision to make and I chose the Mac Pro and yess it is older technology and more expensive. The two most important reasons ( but not the only ones) why I chose the Mac Pro were better cooling with the Mac Pro and I wanted a non glare screen monitor. I use a 30" ACD and the images on the screen are much closer to the final printed image with a matte screen. Also the matte non glare) screen is less fatiguing on my old eyes. That said the Imac is an impressive machine. Whichever you chose include a solid state hard drive for the OS and applications, a good graphics card and ample RAM. I buy Apple RAM and yes, I know their are cheaper options, but I don't want to leave any doors open for warranty denial issues. Good luck with your choice.
  6. macrumors 603

    Mar 10, 2009
    A couple of things.

    The photographs and not so much the programs that are likely a tipping point issue. If your photos (and intermediate working files) keep getting larger that may be a case for a Mac Pro. That is indicative that the needs will change over time. More flexibilty would have higher value in that context.

    If the photos and workfiles aren't much bigger and you just have alot more of them then it is not so clear. Storage on a modern iMac can scale, there isn't a huge gap there anymore.

    Second you can do some measuring to see where your problems lie. If open activity monitor and then engage in a normal workload then can take a break in a session and take some glimpses at how much RAM using ( "Free" being a tiny sliver is not good ) and disk bandwidth ( single or low double digit MB/s ).

    Given the relative parity the 2012 iMacs (mid to upper end ) and the 2012 Mac Pro models ( entry level ) have on CPUs there isn't much differentiation to be found there.

    RAM, disk I/O , and Screen are probably were there may/maynot be a gap.

    The 2012 iMac screen should be better.

    RAM depending upon how high you need to go could be able equal since these photos are probably not unusually large. High quality 3rd party RAM is a better bang-for-the-buck. (Apple's mark-up for 16GB is rather steep. That kind of extra money could buy a entry level screen calibrator or even AppleCare. You have actually have to buy the warranty before start worrying about Apple not delivering. Properly inserted quality 3rd party RAM doesn't have an impact on terms. If conservative keep the original RAM in case get into a "blame game". ).

    Disk I/O. Simply going to two ( or more ) disk will probably help if seeing disk bottlenecks in your current set up. Fusion Drive or a deadicated SSD will probably work better. The Mac Pro doesn't necessarily win there.
  7. macrumors 6502a


    Aug 14, 2006
    What about a Mac Mini and a really nice 27" or 30" IPS matte screen monitor from NEC or Dell?
  8. macrumors 603


    Aug 5, 2010
    I'd vote NEC in that circumstance. The imac would still have better performance, so it's not a lossless choice.

    Pixel count has primarily been increasing for those who have to stitch images or those shooting medium format digital. Apart from that, it's been leveling off considerably. Some of the speed gains have been from the ability to store more in ram while being less dependent on scratch disks. Previously the data pushed around was still significant, yet there was no way to store the GB of data pushed around by such a program in ram due to costs and limitations. Anyway my point was that the imac should be able to satisfy a large number of such users today in terms of raw computation and memory limits. The 27" imac should still be capable of going as high as 32GB if you purchase third party ram. Some third party retailers have supported that in the past on the 2011s. I'd expect to see it as a 2012 option as well. If you needed to go past that, it would rule out the single package mac pro anyway.
  9. macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    One of the few advantages a Mac Pros has is the ability to pack a lot of HDDs internally. Also, a you can pack a lot of RAM into a Mac Pro.

    You may not need these two features, however. If you do decide to go to a Mac Pro, try to get one off the refurbished site... they are slightly outdated technology, has really has no effect on working with photos - but you may as well save some money Just know this... the current Mac Pros that are appearing on the refurbished pages are either running their RAM at 1066 or 1333 MHz. The 1333 MHz RAM should be the better machine, so try for one of those. At least that's my theory and I'm sticking to it .... :)

    Also keep in mind that Mac Pros keep their resale value really well. So if you do go that route, and decide to upgrade to a 2013 machine the financial hit is not so bad.
  10. macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012
    Dear all,

    Need some advice here....the new iMac is available for ordering now...

    I'm doing wedding photography and I would like to upgrade to iMac but i'm not sure which model i should go for. Actually, I'd like to take the most basic one, 21inches, 2.7GHz

    Do you think this is sufficient? Thx.


    and do i need to upgrade to 16GB RAM?

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