Best config for a photo editing rig?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by wildmac, Dec 19, 2013.

  1. wildmac macrumors 65816

    Jun 13, 2003
    So, assuming PS and LR with large raw files (Nikon D800 or similar), so the system can tax the ram, the cores to a certain degree, and the GPUs. What's the ideal config for a photo editing station? (Note, NOT a heavy PS graphics production rig, that might have a different sweet spot of a config).

    SSD - is the 256 large enough to hold the OS, apps, and V-mem space, or is the 512 required?
    Cores - assuming that the hex is likely the best choice here.
    GPU - any real benefit to going to the D700s? or is the D500 really the sweet spot here?
  2. VirtualRain, Dec 19, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013

    VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    I've probably typed this up in at least a few different threads now, yet somehow, I expect this won't be the last time :) But here's my take on the nMP for photography work...

    From what I know, Adobe products (particularly Photoshop) are good at leveraging all parts of the system at various points in the workflow... storage I/O for loading, saving, scratch... memory for working with large images and multiple layers... GPU for some filter effects... and raw CPU power for manipulating images.

    So the entry-level Mac Pro is going to offer a great starting point combination of all the performance needed in something like Lightroom, Aperture or Photoshop. It has super fast SSD, you can easily and (relatively) cheaply equip it with 16GB or 32GB of RAM, and it comes with a high clocked Quad and a couple of very decent GPUs (equivalent to a pair of W7000s).

    The question becomes, what additional upgrades make sense for you...

    SSD: I'm of the belief you should have enough SSD to host your OS, Apps, and latest project file or library. I would budget roughly 100GB for your OS and Apps. Thus how big an SSD you need is really a question of how how big your projects are, how many photos you're creating in a given period, and how often you want to move things around to make space for your latest project. I opted for a 1TB SSD which means I only need to move my Aperture library to slower storage every 6-12 months. If I went for a 512GB SSD, I'd be moving my library and starting a new one as often as every quarter. 256GB and I'd be moving my library and starting a new one every month.

    Cores: I think the sweet spot for this Mac Pro in terms of performance and pricing is the 6-core. It offers the same clock speeds on single-threaded tasks as the Quad, yet offers up to 50% more CPU power for multi-threaded tasks when needed. And from what I've seen, Aperture can use 6 threads and I believe the same holds true for Lightroom and Photoshop. If you can afford the extra $500 over the base system, I'd definitely go for it.

    GPU: The D300s that come in the base model are more than adequate for any 2D photography work. There's really no need to upgrade to the D500s or D700s for photography work... at least at this time, they will go largely under-utilized.

    RAM: RAM is fairly affordable and easily upgradable so you can start with the base 12GB or 16GB and add to it later cheaply from a place like SuperBiiz. However, the 32GB option from Apple will put you out of pocket about $400 which is about the same as buying it elsewhere, so to avoid the hassle, you may want to just spring for this out of the gate.

    In closing, I'd say, don't blow your budget on a computer. As a photographer, it's just one of the tools you need to be effective at your craft, and arguably one of the least important (compared to camera, lenses and lighting). So in my opinion, make sure your investment in your computer is in proportion to what you're spending on the rest of your photography gear. Spending $10K on a Mac when you really could benefit more from a wide aperture prime, is a bit silly. :)
  3. Neil McRae macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    London, United Kingdom
    I went for 6 core D500 1TB/32GB for a lot of the same reasons as you note above although I am not sure real life benchmarks will be that different between the quad and six core.

Share This Page