A photographer asks - which iMac to get?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by pavinder, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. pavinder macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    #1
    Wonder if anyone could offer advice on which of the new 24" iMacs would be the best to go for?

    I will be using the machine mainly for photo processing (Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom) as well as personal use - internet, iTunes, watching movies, etc.

    Processor: all other things equal, would I see big differences between the 2.66, 2.93 and 3.06GHz when doing (for example) some intensive task in Photoshop? Or would it just be 15% faster (3.06/2.66*100)? If we're only talking the difference between a 15 second image-adjustment and 17 seconds it hardly seems worth spending an extra A$1,200 to get the top-level model.

    Graphics:
    I'm not a gamer and am not planning to use the iMac for any games, so as far as I can gather buying a higher-level graphics card would be unnecessary. Is this correct?
    If anyone thinks otherwise, could you please give an example of how I might see different results using (say) the GT120 or 130 compared to the base-level 9400? Clearer image? Faster display?

    RAM:
    4GB is a lot compared to anything I've used before. Would an upgrade to 8GB make an appreciable difference to photo-processing, or only if I'm working with huge image files?

    I figured if the basic iMac setup is plenty enough for my needs, then I'll be saving cash which I can spend on Applecare and an upgrade to 1TB hard disk. What do other users think would be the ideal way to go?

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
     
  2. netdog macrumors 603

    netdog

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    Feb 6, 2006
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    #2
    Honestly, the glossy screens are a deal killer for me for photo work. I'd really look at the Mini or Mac Pro. To be honest, the Mini will run Photoshop very well if you aren't working with massive images. If you are, you would really want the Mac Pro anyway.

    I know you asked by iMacs, but regarding photography, the above is the best advice that I can give in that regard.
     
  3. DonBeNit0 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2009
    Location:
    Paris
    #3
    I'm wondering about the same things...

    The only thing I know is that I'd like a 24'...

    I already have a macbookpro ( bought in april 2008, multitouch, 2.5ghz, 2 go ram,GeForce 8600 M GT 512mo)
     
  4. netdog macrumors 603

    netdog

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    #4
    Why not just get a good 24" matte display?
     
  5. pavinder thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 16, 2009
    #5
    Thanks for your comments. The glossy screen was something I wondered about myself, but thought perhaps as long as I didn't have direct reflections then the brightness of the display might override any problems.
    But I may think carefully about this. Is there any matte film which one could use to eliminate the glossiness?

    I did also price out the Mini too, but it seemed after buying it and a 24" display and various bits and bobs I'd be spending substantially more than for an iMac but for a lower-spec machine.
     
  6. Mike in Kansas macrumors 6502a

    Mike in Kansas

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    Sep 2, 2008
    Location:
    Metro Kansas City
    #6
    I use a 24"/2.8Ghz/2600Pro early 2008 model with 4GBRAM for photo work. The screen is amazing. The glare is a non-issue if you don't have a light source at your back. Mine sits in our family workroom perpendicular to a window. No glare whatsoever.

    If you look at the screens in a store of course there is glare as the overhead lighting is a killer as they have the computers on display, not in a typical working environment. I have had mine since October 2008.

    Right now the Apple store has this exact model, except with 2GB RAM, in the clearance store for $1400, or a refurb for $1200. Excellent deal for something that was selling for $1800 on Monday.

    I shoot about 200 RAW images a week and process in Capture NX2. If you know anything NX2 (Nikon photo processing software), you'll know that it can be slow on anything but the most modern of machines. The 24" iMac flies through files and converts them to jpeg quickly. The only noticeable slowness in when applying noise reduction. I do not use CS4, but do use Photoshop Elements, and there are no issues there. From the folks on the various photo forums I am on, Lightroom is even faster.

    I do not think you will have any issues with last week's hardware. Or if you are looking at new, the 2.66 should be plenty fast. The base graphics card should be fine, but you may want to opt for the next tier up graphics card just to be a little more future proof. The faster RAM will help with photo processing, but 4GB should be plenty. I use about 2.5GB of my 4GB with multiple images open in NX2, a file browser open (Photomechanic), and Safari open and sometimes mail. I have pushed it to 3GB on occasion, but it never goes into virtual memory.

    Regarding your hard disk upgrade, I would suggest an external FW800 disk versus a larger internal hard drive, as well as an external disk for Time Machine. I use my 320 internal disk for mainly the OS and small files like documents, and my applications. I keep all of my photos and videos on external HDD. With FW800, they open just as fast as keeping them on the internal disk.

    I also shoot video and process in iMovie. The 2.8GHz is way fast enough for editing and rendering. Playback is flawless.

    Good luck with your purchase!
     
  7. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2008
    #7
    pavinder,

    As a photographer, I'd like to provide some quick input before heading out to work. Perhaps I can expand on my thoughts later tonight.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the speed of the computer. For what you are using your computer for, the 2.66 model would be fast enough. The higher clock speeds will not provide a tangible benefit unless you are stressing the CPUs beyond 2.66Ghz.

    4GB of RAM is more than enough memory for today's needs. There's no need to worry about "future-proofing" right now. The cost of two 4GB sticks of DDR3 memory is very expensive ($650-$750) and will drop sharply in the months/years to come. By the time you're maxing out 4GB of RAM, you'll be able to upgrade to 8GB for probably $175 or less. And it's a snap to install yourself.

    As for the 24" glossy screen, it's beautiful! Which is also the reason it can be difficult to deal with for some photographers. Simply put, photos look outstanding on an iMac to the point that what you print is not what you see on your monitor. That is, unless you choose to calibrate your screen. This can be done with the purchase of screen calibrating equipment that costs $75-$350. Honestly, you have nothing to worry about unless you are a discriminating professional photographer and your livelihood depends on the printing of photos that are scrutinized by others. Outside of that, the 24"iMac screen is gorgeous and is an outstanding value in the iMac line of Macs.

    For the graphics card, the 9400M will perform just fine for the casual photographer. But if you can afford to step-up to the 2.93 iMac, the GT 120 will be noticeably better. And for the cost, I would seriously consider upgrading to the ATI 4850. As a photographer, it would carry you for at least 3-5 years. But again, if you are a casual photographer, and the extra cost is just too much, the 9400M will serve you just fine.

    Well, those are my thoughts. I wish you the best of luck. You'll love whichever model you go with -- all of them are great computers!

    And oops, I guess I'm going to be a little late to work. :D

    Have fun,
    Bryan
     
  8. pavinder thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    #8
    Mike in Kansas, thanks for your points - very much taken on board and I'll certainly see if there are any such clearance deals available here.

    I already keep all my images on external drives, as my current machine only has a 100GB drive, so the idea of having a minimum 640GB local drive would take a re-think - maybe it's over-caution but I always imagined it's easier on the drive heads to keep data external, but (if I understand the mechanics of it correctly) with 4GB of RAM maybe this isn't true.
    Thanks for your comments, Bryan. I hope being late for work caused you no problems.

    Just would like to confirm when you say that the other graphics card will be "noticeably better", how exactly? Sorry if it seems a dumb question, but I understand very little about graphics cards - do you mean it gives better image quality, or faster processing, or what?
     
  9. randy98mtu macrumors 65816

    randy98mtu

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2009
    #9
    Pavinder,

    I'm similar in use to you. Casual photography, HD video editing from a Canon HV20, and serving media (movies) to an Apple TV. I could probably do most of this with a Mini, but felt that I get more for the money with the iMac.

    Depending on the size of your externals, go to using the internal for your work and use and external for Time Machine. I have a 500 gig MyBook and bought a 1TB MyBook the other day as a Time Machine. Now that I get a 640 gig drive instead of a 320 gig, I can take the 500 out of the equation. Not sure what I'll do with it yet though.

    On the graphics side, I gave up trying to figure it all out. i was already planning to get the 1799 model, and I could afford the extra, so I went with the GT130. I'm too impatient to wait for the ATI. :eek: Definitely get the best video you can to future proof as someone else said.

    Not to mention the increase in the max ram was a huge reason for me to exchange my 2 day old iMac. Now to wait 2 weeks for the new one to arrive!
     
  10. movilla macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2009
    Location:
    London
    #10
    I don't understand how Apple are charging £800 for an extra 4GB of RAM on the 24" 3.06GHz iMac, and you quote $650-$750), yet when I check an online Tech website I'm seeing 4GB DDR3 SDRAM dimms for around £100 (~$140) each. Am I looking at the wrong type?

    http://www.dabs.com/ProductList.asp...=ddr3&PageMode=3&SearchKey=All&SearchMode=All

    I'm considering going for the 4GB 24" 3.06GHz model with 3 years APP, and then at the end of the 3 years dumping the 2x2GB dimms and buying 2x4GB dimms from the likes of DABS.
     
  11. RemarkabLee macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 14, 2007
    #11
    You need 204pin SO DIMMS, not 240pins.
     
  12. movilla macrumors newbie

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    #12
  13. RemarkabLee macrumors 6502a

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    #13
  14. movilla macrumors newbie

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  15. PeterQC macrumors 6502a

    PeterQC

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    #15
  16. Mike in Kansas macrumors 6502a

    Mike in Kansas

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    Location:
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    #16
    If I am not mistaken, all of the graphics cards will give the same image quality for a static image. It's when there is motion you begin to see the advantages of different levels of graphics cards. The better the card, the faster it can render the images. Also, the better the card, the more on-board memory it has, so it doesn't have to borrow memory from system RAM.

    When you are opening or editing an image, a better card will render that image faster, but I do not believe it will make the final image any clearer or sharper. That is determined by the screen resolution.

    If you are shooting large files, and have a lot of them open at a time, I believe that a better graphics card will allow you to toggle back and forth between them faster.

    If you ever get into video editing, it may be prudent to get a better card than the base card.
     
  17. RemarkabLee macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2007
    #17
    True, but nowdays GPUs are used for the processing of the image which can be a deciding factor.

    Pixelmator for the Mac is an image editor similar to Photoshop and it uses the GPU for image processing and I expect this to be more commonplace for Adobe products in the next round of updates.

    Add this to OpenCL in Snow Leopard and a faster GPU makes even more sense in the long term.
     
  18. RainMeister macrumors member

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    Sep 16, 2008
    #18
    I have the 24" 2.4Ghz iMac with 4GB of RAM.
    I run primarily Lightroom 2, and occasionally CS3.
    I typically process about a 100 RAW images at a time, except after a week-long vacation or a weekend at a race track, in which case that number climbs to 1,500.

    Speed: Making adjustments to individual images occurs instantaneously. Batch processing is another matter, with each image taking a second or two, which can add up if you're processing hundreds of images. Not sure if having more memory or the slightly faster processor would help.

    Screen: As others have stated, it is a beautiful screen. My iMac sits away from the window, so that I have no issue with the glare. The default setting is over-bright, so you'll want to adjust the setting. I have a high-end 19" Eizo FlexScan monitor that sits next to and is connected to the iMac on my desk but which I no longer use except for the rare critical processing job.

    Hard Drive: I have the 320GB drive, which I feel is simply not adequate these days for a photographer. While I have two 500GB back up drives to which older images are backed up, it's nice to have copies on the main HD. When working from a external HD, it slows things down, especially if they're connected via USB2 connector. If I had a choice, I would go with the 1TB HD.

    I've been toying off and on with the idea of getting a Mac Pro for the speed and the flexible internal storage options. But I would then want to buy the 30" Cinema Display. That's $4,300 for the set! I think I'll stick with my iMac.
     
  19. Tesselator macrumors 601

    Tesselator

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    Jan 9, 2008
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    Japan
    #19
    I do a bunch of photography lately. My honest advice it to get a Mac Mini and two nice monitors! Shine on the iMacs.

    My 2¢
     
  20. Mike in Kansas macrumors 6502a

    Mike in Kansas

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    #20
    I thought that would be the case going forward, so thanks for elaborating.

    Do you know if the "old" technology (i.e. ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro) will be able to take advantage of the way that Snow Leopard and other apps will use the GPU? Or will only the new nVidia GPU chipsets be able to do this?

    Finally, this is off-topic but may be of interest - could one use DDR3 RAM in the most recent iMac's before this upgrade as they too have a 1066 MHz FSB just like the newest ones? Or are the slot connectors different? Sorry if this is a stupid question.
     
  21. Mike in Kansas macrumors 6502a

    Mike in Kansas

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    #21
    I would agree if all you use is a USB2 drive, but a drive with a FW800 interface is very fast, and the next best thing for those folks with a "small" internal drive of 320GB.
     
  22. robotartfashion macrumors 6502

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    Jan 1, 2009
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    #22
    what camera's files are you typically working with?

    are we talking medium format raw files or dslr?

    when i started out i was editing 5d 12mpx raw files on a white 20" 2006 imac 2.0 coreduo with 2gb ram in the original cs which had to be translated through rosetta and as a consequence ran slower.

    it was certainly doable

    at this point i'm on a 8 core 2.86 mac pro and i can tell you that its overkill

    things are nice and fast but i'm sure one of the lower spec'd imacs will do great for you

    it all comes down to what type of work you're doing and the size of the files

    you can always set up a scratch disk partition for cs if you feel like you need the assistance with your ram

    what kind of work do you do?
     
  23. mikesjo macrumors regular

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    Nov 29, 2005
    Location:
    Vancouver, B.C.
    #23
    A good option would be the refurbed 2.8 C2D with the ATI 2600 Pro. I'd get that over the iMac w/ the integrated graphics.
     
  24. razyl123 macrumors newbie

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    Sep 3, 2008
    Location:
    Sydney
    #24
    Great thread! The question is pretty much the one I'm asking myself - do I get a new iMac or go Mac Pro? If iMac, which model?

    I currently have a 20" 2.16 with 3GB RAM. I use Lightroom 95% of the time, all RAW files from a 5D and 5D mkII sitting on external drives via firewire 400. Speed is ok until I start batch processing in Photoshop CS3 and have other stuff open like Entourage, Firefox, etc etc. I get the spinning wheel of death so it's mostly RAM that's killing my speed on this current set up.

    I have been hanging out for the Mac Pro upgrade to get one but with the new iMac capable of 8GB I'm now more likely to go down that path. From what I've read (mainly on this forum) the 8GB should be enough. The CPU speed I'm not too concerned about.

    Quick question: does anyone know if Lightroom can ultilise multithreading? Ie will the extra cores of a Mac Pro be of major advantage??

    BTW, screen glare for me currently non-existant, and as others have mentioned just make sure you calibrate.

    Darryn
     
  25. pavinder thread starter macrumors member

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    Jan 16, 2009
    #25
    Thanks everyone for the really helpful information.

    Most of my CS4 work is using JPG and occasionally RAW but my images occasionally grow up to 40 layers which means mighty big files. I'd rather have plenty of headroom to work with on my new machine.

    Being able to relocate the machine, I think the glossy screen shouldn't prove a problem so will likely go for the 2.93 iMac, unless I can find a refurb 2008 3.06 model.

    I figure that because I'm only buying once every 5 years or so, I want to have as much "future-proofing" as possible. Even though I don't need it right now, perhaps in 2 years I will. I don't play games now, but as they say, the only thing inevitable is change. I saw some flight simulator the other day and it looked pretty incredible on a big screen...
     

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