Advice: First time Mac user & Photographer

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nazedayo, Oct 16, 2012.

  1. nazedayo macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    #1
    Hey folks,

    The title is a bit misleading because I've used Apples before for work, but never owned one. I'm sick of my windows laptops dying on me, I'm ready to buy a Mac for myself.

    I'm a photographer so the #1 priority: needs to run Lightroom 4 smoothly. I know already I need 8GB ram MINIMUM; on my 2.3Ghz hackintosh desktop, it barely crunches through the RAW files. I also do heavy editing with Alien Skin Exposure 4 & Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

    Mac Mini seems like the perfect desktop solution (I already have a monitor, mouse, and keyboard). I could get the 2.3 or 2.5 Ghz and deck it up to 8GB. Or do I need at least an iMac? Or do I need a Mac Pro? Is it Ghz, or Graphics cards that matter?

    But I want portability as well. Thinking of getting a minimum, $999 Mac Air for travel (I travel a lot for work).

    My budget is about $2000, but willing to bend a few hundred more $ if it's worth it.

    To sum up:
    - Needs to run lightroom SMOOTHLY! Can't emphasise this enough. I can tolerate a little lag, but anything more than a 5 second "processing" sign could be a problem.
    - That said, it doesn't need to do more than that. I won't be playing any games, for example.
    - 1 portable option is needed. Could be Mac Air souped out, Macbook Pro, or a combination of Mac Air and a desktop.
    - Smaller the better. My ideal set-up would be a Mac Mini + Mac Air, but you tell me if that works or not.

    Thanks! Let the debates begin!
     
  2. 7enderbender macrumors 6502a

    7enderbender

    Joined:
    May 11, 2012
    Location:
    North East US
    #2

    I'm in the same boat. I'm also looking to switch to Mac for my creative work (photography and audio recording). I'm ok with Win 7 and XP still but concerned about where things are moving with Win8 etc. Also I find that it is close to impossible these days to find Windows laptops that are suited for photo editing. Mac Books are also not "ideal" but just seem a little better made. So it's always a compromise.

    I'm also curious about the upcoming Mac Mini. I'm pretty sure it's powerful enough for photo editing - even the current models. The benefit over the iMacs I see that you can chose your monitor. Very important as we both know and and the iMac screens don't really cut it. For the laptops I hope there will be another 17" solution. Otherwise the non-retina 15" high res should fit the bill. No, I don't want a smallish SSD at this point used as the PS scratch disk or for audio programs.

    So, yes Mac Mini should be fine. AIR would be too small for my taste - not so much the physical size alone but the lack of screen real estate on those plus the SSD drive would keep me away from those.

    How smoothly LR4 will run on any of these I don't know. I think LR4 just has issues. I'm still on 3 and quite happy at that.
     
  3. r0k macrumors 68040

    r0k

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Location:
    Detroit
    #3
    I have the late 2011 15.4 in MBP with hires antiglare display. I upgraded from a 2008 Macbook. My geekbench scores were around 3,000 and now they are around 11,000. That's almost a fourfold increase in performance. I have about 240 GB of photos taken over the years. I manage them in iPhoto. I do NOT allow iPhoto to import copies of photos so my iPhoto Library is only around 12 Gig including Photostream pics I haven't had time to export, delete and re-import (without originals). I have 16 GB of RAM in my MBP. I have an external 1080p monitor sitting to the left of my MBP that makes it feel like I have a 3500 x 1080 display. Now that I have a modern trackpad and switching desktops is a 3-finger swipe, and expose is a 4 finger swipe I might one day decide I don't even need the external monitor any more. I had a hybrid SSD in the Macbook and I'm still living with the 7200 RPM stock drive in the MBP. One of these days I'll pop in an SSD and I'll really be screaming.

    I keep my photos on an external firewire drive. I also copy them to a Synology NAS drive and lastly I upload them to Smugmug for off site backup. I take photos mainly on my iPhone 4 but I also use a Canon SX110is point and shoot and a Canon T1i DSLR. I have an eyefi card that upload my digicam photos directly to my firewire drive from anyplace there's wifi. I find shared photostreams to be a huge deal. I can be at an event, take pictures and share them on icloud before leaving the event. Very very nice.

    I found that when I searched for faces on my Macbook, it would thrash for several minutes to bring up a several dozen photos. Now on my MBP, it finds 1500 or more photos in a matter of seconds. I don't do a lot of photo-retouch. I don't have Lightroom or Aperture but I do have Seashore and Gimp (both freeware). I also have a photo FX shareware I got with one of those bundles some time back.

    I have only owned one Adobe product, Dreamweaver. The activation hassles and software bloat were enough to convince me to find another solution for my photo editing needs, hence my adoption of freeware. I have considered Aperture since it uses the same Library as iPhoto. My aversion to all things Adobe explains my reluctance to try Lightroom.

    To answer your main question, any modern Mac should suit your needs though I would tend to avoid the ones that are not easily user-upgradable. So this leaves you with the 13 in MBP, the 15 in MBP, the Mac mini or one of the new iMacs that might get announced next week. I would avoid paying Apple for RAM and SSD unless Apple's price is close to Crucial or OWC's price, which by all indications is never gonna happen. I don't recommend a MBA due to upgrade limitations. Sure it's portable, but for a portable computer, I find an iPad is much better. I have a first gen iPad and a bluetooth keyboard that makes it work like a netbook for those few times I have a lot of typing to do on the thing. Most of the time I use it as a tablet. With photostream, I can be shooting photos on my iPhone and they show up on my iPad for ppl to view within seconds provided both devices are in range of wifi.

    Bottom line: A Mac is an excellent computer for photography. I like the MBA and rMBP but I prefer a machine I can open up and upgrade myself.
     
  4. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #4
    Just about any modern Mac will be fine for your needs. Lightroom does not need a fancy video card, so don't spend extra there. As you've identified, 8GB of RAM will make a big difference.

    One other advantage of a Mini, not yet mentioned, is that in a few years you can retire it and put a Mac Pro in its spot very easily. If you plan ahead, all of your peripherals will literally unplug from the Mini and plug back into the Mini (though perhaps you may need a monitor adaptor). You may not ever need a Mac Pro, but it's a good option to have. In your case you may find an old Mac Pro works really well. The one advantage a Mac Pro has for Lightroom is the ability to store 8TB+ with internal drives.

    There are very strong rumours that all sorts of new Macs are being announced next week, so at a minimum - wait until the announcements are made.

    There are some good deals to be had on the refurbished store. Check often, know what you want. Really good deals come and go quickly - you have to be prepared to buy when you see one.

    If you do go with the Mini then Mac Pro later route, the Mini can be repurposed or sold to subsidize the Mac Pro.
     
  5. convergent macrumors 68000

    convergent

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    #5
    I'm a photographer also, and switched to a Mac about 5 years ago. My current machine is the i7 Macbook Air, and I've only got 4G of RAM. It handles Lightroom fine. I'm shooting with a 1D Mark III mostly, and 50D sometimes as a second body, so my RAW files aren't as big as the latest bodies may have. But an Air with 8G of RAM would be awesome. The portability of the Air is amazing. I use it with the Thunderbolt Display, and I have a scratch disk attached via Thunderbolt. As another said... almost any current Mac will do it.
     
  6. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    #6
    Thanks guys, guess the consensus was... well, anything lol. I guess the Mac Mini (hopefully updated next week) will be my powerhouse. The iMac seems like an attractive option as well, but we'll see. The Mac Pro at this point seems a bit too much for my needs, and I tried out the Macbook Pro and it seems a bit too heavy for my taste (as a frequent flyer, every ounce counts)... Still not sure of what the processing capabilities of the Mac Mini vs iMac vs Mac Pro are though.
     
  7. convergent macrumors 68000

    convergent

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    Location:
    Raleigh, NC
    #7
    If your budget is $2K, I would go with the MacBook Air, 13", i5, 8G RAM, 256G SSD. Unless you are planning to configure the Mini with an SSD, this thing will run circles around the Air. Even with 4G of RAM, my Air runs way better than the 8G MacBook Pro that it replaced. Or, there is in the refurb store an i7 with 512G SSD for $1869.

    The ability to take your machine with you is immensely valuable. With Lightroom, I keep my libraries on the SSD, and keep my originals on a NAS long term. Short term, if I'm on the road I import the shoot into a folder on the SSD... directly reading the SD card pulled from my 1D Mark III (no external reader needed). I can process them on the Air on the road. When I get back to the office, I just move the folder to my NAS, and tell Lightroom that it moved. I also have complete access to all my catalogs on the road, even if the originals aren't there... so I can search pics, create collections, etc.. I also have a firewire attached scratch drive in the office which is a little faster than the NAS, but with gigabit attached NAS, its is very fast. If you don't have a NAS, then I'd just go with a Firewire drive with RAID as long term storage.
     
  8. mike.t macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2010
    #8
    there's not much speed difference using lightroom between my i7 13" MBA and my huge, top spec imac. The SSD makes such a big difference, it's fantastic.

    even my old 11" MBA was much better than my 2009 13" MBP

    MBA, plus an external monitor and tablet would work for me!
     
  9. vandrv macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2008
    #9
    I am also waiting for next week to see what the new Mac Minis have to offer. I have a 2008 Imac that stumbles badly when using Lightroom 4. I do agree that Lightroom 4 has issues that never occurred with the older versions, but it is just so much better, I don't think I could ever go back.
     
  10. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    #10
    So I read it that you're using the firewire external drive as a scratch disk. Is RAW processing fast enough natively within your beefed up Air? I use a 7200 rpm Neil Poulton 1TB drive to store AND edit my photos, and it's a bit slow to be honest. (my internal HDD is full). I guess I'm just worried about whether it'll have the crunching power to go through 30+MB files; from what I understand the processors are similar on most macs (macbook, macbook pro, iMac, and Mac Pro); just a matter of how many cores (dual vs quad) that really make a difference right?

    If it really is fast enough, then I may consider Air as a standalone Mac (even if it is only dual-core...) If the Mac mini is updated next week with a quad-core Mac mini though, I may decide to go with the mini as the workhorse and get a minimal $999 11" for my travel use. What do you guys think?
     
  11. shadowbird423 macrumors regular

    shadowbird423

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2009
    Location:
    Chapel Hill
    #11
    I'd upgrade to a 128gb SSD and 8GB of ram , but other than that it sounds like a good plan.
     
  12. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #12
    I can't tell you what to get as far as a Mini vs a laptop but I can say that there are two things you may want to consider -

    Since 3rd party RAM is cheap - think 16 gigs (unless new machines have soldered RAM). This does indeed help out with reducing the need for scratch disks until you reach a much higher threshold when working on files.

    As for SSD ... yes they do make a nice difference. Perhaps you might investigate the Seagate go-flex and marry it to an external SSD via Tbolt.

    Though my system (Mac Mini Server 2011) has two SSD in it, If I had to do it again I would have only put one in, leave one mechanical drive and put an SSD external to good use for a 150 dollars more. The reason is simple - one of my SSD drives is no longer being seen by the system. As savvy as I am at building and taking apart computers, having to go through opening up the Mini again to check what's what about that SSD is troublesome.

    Just my two cents. (besides its rather usable - a portable SSD drive).
     
  13. shadowbird423 macrumors regular

    shadowbird423

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2009
    Location:
    Chapel Hill
    #13
    Were those disks in RAID 0 by any chance? I'm thinking about doing that with my computer..
     
  14. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #14
    Yes they were striped.

    As I pointed out, I lost one of them. I had fortunately, a back up and moved everything to the one disk that is still recognized.

    Sooner or later, I will crack open again the Mini and see which disk has gone awry and hopefully the disk is okay and it was a connection issue. (The disk is still under warrantee -sp).

    If you are curious about whether the striping made a difference, for the most part, very little difference in terms of day to day usage of the Mini. For hard core Photoshop I was able to not have to create a scratch disk on another drive. It simply rocked. Would I do it again? - not on an internal set of drives unless it was a Mac Pro.
     
  15. Bocheememon, Oct 18, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2012

    Bocheememon macrumors regular

    Bocheememon

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2006
    Location:
    Fertile, MN
    #15
    I have that setup.

    Hi there,

    I own a a 2011 Mac mini and 2012 11" Air. It does the job.

    I work as a photographer and videographer. My monitor is a professional NEC and indeed I didn't get the iMac because their monitors didn't cut it. I lived with a laptop plus external monitor for awhile despite having used Power Macs and Mac Pros. Bought the mini last year in hopes of a Mac Pro update. Will wait till early next year to see. Fingers crossed!

    I installed a second SSD into the mini for a great speed bump. If the Mini is upgraded next week with quad And discrete GPU, go for it.

    Like others said, the modern macs will handle photos fine...unless you shoot Medium Format or own a Nikon D800. SSD and RAM make big differences as you know.

    Should you do any video work, the Mini will work fine. It is slower than the Pro and iMac lineup but not enough to want to throw it out the window. Although for video, the Mac Pro is the best route longterm as well as expandabilty.

    The 11 is fine for me. I would not at all edit solely on that. The screen is too small for longer periods of work. It was purchased to do quick edits on the road and for client meetings. I did a multicam edit with the Air it handled it just fine, thanks to the SSD. 15 MacBook pros are wonderful, just got worn out hauling them around. A retina would be better but my intentions were for less bulk, short trips and light edits.

    They work fine with Aperture and Lightroom although I feel both are a bit slow even on a Pro and iMac. That's an optimization issue. Have done the Referenced File deal and that seems to help. I use Photoshop for editing and Mechanic for organizing. It works for me as neither Lightroom or Aperture felt right to me. Plenty of my colleagues use them--they are a great one-stop shop. I keep Lightroom and Aperture installed for knowledge/learning. Other clients may use the software. I dislike Adobe's activation BS. Sigh...

    A bit long but I wanted to share my thought processes. Any Mac is fine for photos. My 2009 macbook pro handled my photos just fine in Lightroom and Aperture. You won't regret either purchase. For your budget, current gear and needs my setup is right on the money. What I like about two machines is should one fail, there is a backup.

    I don't regret my purchases because I'm aware of their strengths and weakness. It sounds like you are too.
     
  16. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #16
    Lightroom 4.2 was released recently. If you haven't already downloaded, perhaps it will improve things a bit.
     
  17. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    #17
    Hey thanks for sharing your thoughts, that's the exact configuration I was pondering! Did you use your SSD for installing the OS + apps? I heard that a lot of people get the 128 GB SSD and hook it into their mac mini to do that, and then use the HDD as storage space. That way it runs apps faster apparently?

    I tried my friend's 15" Macbook pro today, and it was "okay"-fast. It still took quite a while to load the RAW previews, then again there was no optimization work with Lightroom whatsoever. Still, you're exactly right in saying that it's heavy. Sounds like I'm whining but my shoulders are already tired, and I lift weights 3 times a week. Exactly why I want to stay away from a MBP, or rMBP. This is a brick.

    As for Mac Pro, the maxed out Mini & baseline Pro models look like this:
    Mac Mini
    Mac Pro
    For the price difference, I don't think I could justify paying almost triple the price for a slightly faster processor (assuming Mac mini will stay the same price with a quad-core processor next gen).

    I'm starting to realize how much the RAM and having a SSD is crucial for fast LR performance. If I do end up with a mini, I'll likely add in a second HD, likely SSD, and 16GB of RAM (fingers crossed the next gen will support it).
     
  18. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #18
    Something to consider - an iMac plus a 2nd monitor that can be calibrated gives you a very powerful set up that in most cases is superior to the Mini. Those involved with photo and video know very well that a 2 monitor set up is often the way to go (if not 3 monitors). For Photoshop users, nice to have the palettes on one screen and the work area on the calibrated screen.I hope like you, that the next line of Minis is quad with discrete graphics. Then again the Intel 4000 is no slouch either. Lets hope that Apple doesn't disappoint us (again).
     
  19. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    #19
    I can get a 22" monitor on the cheap (assuming you're talking about the 21.5" iMac), about $150 these days. The real question is, how much stronger is the processor on the iMac vs. the mini? (Aside from the clear advantage that the current iMac accepts more RAM of course.
     
  20. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #20
    First, if you get a 2nd monitor that is cheap, you defeat the purpose of a monitor worth calibrating. Chances are the iMac screen would be better than a cheap monitor (though it still has inherent issues).

    Mac Mini Server - bench 8573 - on board Intel 3000 Graphics
    Mid 2011 iMac i7 2.8 - bench 10191 - discrete video AMD/ATI 512gb.

    The 2011 iMac i7 2.8, along with other iMacs have 3.5" drives which are faster than the 2.5" laptop drives (for the most part) in the Minis.

    If you plan to use SSD, then the mechanical drives are a non-issue. I find that the Intel 3000 on board graphics to be mediocre but usable.
     
  21. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    #21
    Cool! Where'd you get the bench scores btw? Not trying to be nosy, just curious so I could go in there myself for future reference.

    And yes I plan to install a second drive, SSD likely, for just installing the OS + apps. I'm hoping the new line of macs updated next week will include the iMac to see how the benching comes out.
     
  22. Bocheememon macrumors regular

    Bocheememon

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2006
    Location:
    Fertile, MN
    #22
    The 15 Macbook Pros and iMacs will always be faster than the Mini. Since you have laptops, you are used to the dual monitor setup. It's great to have two screens either setup. The iMac screen is nice, barring issues. It's no Eizo or NEC , should absolute color accuracy be your deal(8-bit versus 10-bit, not even 90% Adobe RGB) but one shouldn't have issues getting prints to match the screen. If your work is on the web, a 15 Macbook Pro/iMac will more than do the trick. I haven't had issues with print matching since 2003 on a laptop (powerbook/Macbook pro) screen or the Cinema displays I owned then.

    Yes, the SSD is for OS and applications with the second drive as a scratch. I have mirrored drives I use for backups.

    The lightness of the Air is nice!

    And if you are having performance issues with Lightroom, it could be anything. The size of your library, how things are rendered, RAW file sizes, disk speed, and even the current version. I do notice it has a second or so lag when quickly browsing files.

    Like phrehdd said, If you want a no-hassle setup, get the iMac, use your second monitor and pick up a few more photo jobs (You can do it!) to pay for a laptop you want. It's a great all-in-one.

    If you want both a laptop and desktop, go for the updated Mini and air, buy a SSD from OWC, go to iFixit, purchase a Mini HD kit and learn how to install a second drive.
     
  23. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #23
    MacTracker - it is an application that allows you see some info about many many models of Mac computers. It is free.
     
  24. nazedayo thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    #24
    So now that the iPad mini event is over...

    Can someone say wow? the new imac looks so sexy. Though I slightly cringe at the thought of upgrading the RAM myself on that thing, it looks so beautiful.

    So now it's come down to a decision between the Mac mini and the iMac. Aside from a slightly faster processor & discrete graphics card, their power is almost identical, even the Fusion drive! (RAM is NOT user replacable unfortunately) =(

    So I guess now it's down to iMac vs. mac Mini + mac Air. Tough tough decision.
     

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