Best iMac Configuration for Photo editing

Discussion in 'iMac' started by PhotoMomL, Oct 14, 2015.

  1. PhotoMomL macrumors newbie

    Oct 14, 2015
    I'm switching from a Windows PC back to my, mid 1980s Apple IIC, beginning. I want to get a new iMac 27" for photo editing. I have a LR catalog with 80K images, roughly 1.5 GB in size not including previews. I tend to keep my computers for as long as possible before replacing.

    I've heard that the priority order for upgrades is the following (for my purposes):
    1) ram
    2) hard drives
    3) processor
    4) video card.

    Do you agree? Why or why not? What would be best for me?

    1. RAM - should I buy it all from Apple or add more myself? How much is enough?
    2. I believe that I want to get the largest SSD and will still have to store most of my images on an external drive. Is there a reason to go with the 512 instead, besides to save money?
    3. Which processor is best for LR and light Photoshop use? Will planned Adobe speed improvements lead me to a better choice?
    4. Which video card is best for LR and light Photoshop use? Will planned Adobe speed improvements lead me to a better choice? Currently, I do not edit video.

    Thank you for helping me make a better educated choice for my new iMac.

  2. Textureboy macrumors 6502


    Jul 25, 2012
    1. Save money and add RAM yourself and take that money and put it towards another upgrade.

    2.Hard drive is the toughest decision. Coming from the same boat as you editing photographs. I opted for the 1TB SSD because I didn't want to sacrifice the user experience of a very fast computer.

    If you can sacrifice the overall speed for your computer then get the 3TB fusion drive. It won't be slow but it won't be the fastest option either. But will give you that storage you need as a photographer.

    3. If you're only doing LR work then get the i5, but if you will do intensive photoshop work then go for the i7. That doesn't mean that the i5 will be a bad option if you're still unsure. It will still get the work that you need to get done.

    4.If you don't edit video then stick with the M390.

    Good luck on your decision!
  3. arbitrage macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2009
    I'm looking at upgrading my 2009 iMac (top spec) to the new 5K. My main power use will be LR editing of Canon and Sony RAW files. A7RII files and 1DX and 7D2 files. I rarely use PS but will occasionally for more advance cloning and adding canvas.

    My thoughts so far are to go base RAM and use OWC to upgrade...way more economical....I'll probably go to 24MB through them that will be much less than getting 16GB through Apple.

    I'm going to go max processor (i7 at 4GHz) but probably don't need to do this as the base one is pretty good I think.

    Graphics I will go with the max 4GB as LR and PS should use more and more graphics card capabilities as time goes on. However, I'm also not sure if I really need this or could just stay at 2GB.

    I will go 2TB Fusion to get the higher 128GB SSD that the 1TB doesn't have. However, I store all raws on USB 3 portable drives and only store my catalogue and previews on my computers drive. However, I've never used a Fusion drive and I am now used to SSD in my rMBP and rMB so I'm a little worried about the Fusion and may consider just a 1TB SSD instead.

    I usually go fully maxed out on my Macs but I'm hesitating on this purchase and just not sure what I want and need. Trying to be reasonable but also don't want to sacrifice if a certain upgrade will give me a benefit in using LR's Develop module or in generating 1:1 previews at import where LR wastes the most time.
  4. Textureboy macrumors 6502


    Jul 25, 2012
    I was stressing a lot over hard drive space. Initially I wanted the 3TB fusion drive to have that space; but I don't want to sacrifice my user experience. I ended up getting 1TB SSD; it left a big hole in my wallet but I don't regret it. Eventhough 1TB is not enough; it'll be much better than 512GB SSD so I'll be able to manage and juggle better with an external drive.

    In terms of processors and graphics card I'm sure the base CPU and GPU would be fine for us as photographers. I've had the first generation rMBP(2012) and its still doing me really well 4 years later. I edit 36MP images and do heavy photoshop work and only when I'm doing heavy photoshop work I'm pushing this laptop to its limit. I can still edit videos on this machine as well and do everything on the go.

    However my reason to purchase this Retina iMac is because of the display. It is just stunning. On top of that I'm 100% confident that these specs will make my work flow smooth as butter :D
  5. Nicklaus macrumors 6502


    Jun 19, 2010
    Winter Park
    OWC is still very pricey for RAM. Crucial is exceptional and Apple uses their RAM (Micron) you can find theirs on Amazon or directly from them. You can get 16 more gigs for $88 on amazon for crucial right now bringing you up to 24GB which would be way more than enough for what you are doing.

    External drives work as fast as the internal ones if you want to go that route and expand now or in the future. Plus again save big money here over buying from Apple.

    Processor and Video you can do nothing about except when you buy it so I bought the i7 and 4GB GPU. But you wouldn't need that the i5 would be enough but I am adding an extra 4K display so went with the upgrade.
  6. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013

    I have the 5D3 and Sony A7RII, and use LR/PS on a 2013 top-spec iMac 27 and have ordered a
    top-spec 5K iMac 27. You are on the right track -- LR import is CPU-bound, so you want the fastest CPU and most cores possible.

    You will be very happy with the 2015 iMac 27 -- it is much faster than your 2009 model. In general LR doesn't use the GPU that much (despite recent upgrades) but it makes sense to get the upgraded GPU since things are headed that way.

    The 2TB Fusion is not a bad choice -- my 2013 iMac 27 has the 3TB Fusion and it does OK for both LR, Photoshop and FCP X. However most of my media is on a Pegasus 8TB RAID5 array.

    OTOH if most of your media is on external drives, SSD is a little faster. Even with 42 megapixel raw stills most workflows are CPU-bound not I/O-bound or GPU-bound. That said SSD is very nice and consistently fast.
  7. ravinder08 macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2010
    In the long run you'll still end up storing photos on external drives so isn't it better economically to get a 512GB SSD? It will save you hundreds of dollars?
  8. Textureboy, Oct 15, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2015

    Textureboy macrumors 6502


    Jul 25, 2012
    External drives won't be as fast as internal due to transferring files unless they're SSD or via TB. Which are both expensive options. Internal drives create a fluent work space especially when moving files around. Working off an external HDD will hinder performance.

    I wish external drives were just as fast as internal ones; I would have opted for the 256GB SSD!
  9. Textureboy macrumors 6502


    Jul 25, 2012
    I'm currently working on a 512GB SSD from my rMBP. I have 4 external hard drives to store my photos; however 512GB hasn't been enough for me and I'm constantly trying to make room everytime I start a big project. 1TB will at least give me some more breathing space; which is what I'm paying the extra $ for.

    You're right though if I get the 512GB and invest in more external drives I'll definitely be saving a lot more. I really considered the 3TB fusion drive because of the space; but knowing that Apple's SSD speed has increased tremendously really got me deciding. I then considered the 512GB but I didn't want to manage work the way I'm already managing on my rMBP so I just went for the 1TB SSD.
  10. PhotoMomL thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 14, 2015
    Thanks for your comments. What CPU and GPU did you go with?
  11. Textureboy macrumors 6502


    Jul 25, 2012
    I ended up getting

    CPU :
    • 4.0GHz QC i7, TB up to 4.2GHz
    • AMD Radeon R9 M395X w/4GB
  12. bhilibb macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2015
    I bought the i7 because of the Hyperthreading and the M395. But you really want the SSD. You can add an old school HDD later via Thunderbolt.
  13. eoren1 macrumors 6502

    Aug 17, 2007
    Hi everyone,

    I'm in a similar boat moving up from a mid-2011 iMac and shooting with a 5DmkIII but expecting to move up to larger RAW files within the year. I do very little video work. My current setup is that system files are on a 128gb external SSD over TB and data/user files are on the internal 1TB HDD. That allowed me to keep the system going for a few extra years. I also have an OWC ThunderRAID with 16TB in RAID5 where I store my photos after processing them (as well as music, movies, etc).

    I'm now planning on getting the 3.3 i5/top of the line iMac retina 5k. Will opt for a 512gb SSD but plan to then purchase a 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD to put in an external enclosure for less than the cost of Apple's upgrade option with more flexibility. The external SSD should still get 500MB read/write. After having an internal HDD fail on my in the last iMac, I would never opt for a fusion or any spinning drive that is not user accessible/replaceable again.

    I'm still struggling with the CPU and GPU choices:
    The 3.3 i5 can boost to 3.9 - does an i7 help much with processing in LR/PS?
    I think the GPUs need to be tested/benchmarked before anyone can make a proper choice but I'm not sure that the 395x is needed for those who don't plan on gaming on their iMacs.

    Also waiting to hear how well the screens calibrate/profile to Adobe RGB color space. The P3 color space seems useless for photographers as my photo lab only accepts files in aRGB or sRGB format. Hoping the wider gamut offers a bit better representation of aRGB...

    Appreciate any further thoughts.
  14. bhilibb macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2015
    For LR/PS I think you will not need the 395X. But I think the Hyperthreading feature of the i7 is great for that programs. Thats why I bought this configuration.
  15. Squirkytunkle macrumors member

    Dec 1, 2014
    Eoron, could you tell me what enclosure you are planning to use for the external ssd? Im trying to find a good external drive solution to do me till I can afford a good raid solution.
  16. HalfOnWhole macrumors member

    May 23, 2011
    My thoughts exactly. I opted for the same config. and use LR/PS almost exclusively. (This is fun, let's all keep patting each other on the back and reaffirming our purchases!) :)
  17. lnikj macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2012
    For software like PS and C1P, that make use of the GPU, is there a benefit to more GPU RAM?
  18. eoren1 macrumors 6502

    Aug 17, 2007

    Planning on this from OWC. It's USB3 but claims up to 500 read/write which works well for the Samsung 850 Evo. I can get the enclosure and 1TB drive for about $400. A 512gb drive plus enclosure is only around 250... World Computing/MEPMU3F8K/
  19. Squirkytunkle macrumors member

    Dec 1, 2014
    Thanks very much for the info, Eoren! I'm thinking this could be a darn good option. Thanks for sharing.
  20. Travisimo macrumors 6502a

    Dec 22, 2009
    Anyone have any experience with these external SSD drives?

    I realize they aren't going to be as fast as an internal SSD, but they look to be considerably faster than internal HDD drives (about 3-4x faster from reviews).

    I ordered my iMac with the 256gb SSD but I'm thinking of adding one of these external SSD drives for my photo library and video editing. Would this be a good choice?
  21. eoren1 macrumors 6502

    Aug 17, 2007
    Weird, they start off quoting almost 500MB/s but then the fine print says "USB 3.0 users will see blazing speeds up to 210MB/s". That's not great. More like 2x spinning drive speed.

    You could buy the enclosure I listed above and a Samsung 850 EVO 250 for about $150 and get a better drive and near 500MB/s...
  22. Travisimo macrumors 6502a

    Dec 22, 2009
    I noticed that too but the reviews say it is closer to 400+ MB/s so I'm not sure. Have to do some more checking. USB 3 should be more than capable of those speeds.
  23. ryanide macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2002

    Yes, I store my originals (1.5TB) on an external Thunderbolt Dual-Drive RAID and my LR catalog too. However, If I buy a larger SSD I could put my LR Catalog (200GB) on it in order to speed up day to day use that primarily uses LR's Previews (stored in the catalog).

    Maybe the 512 would be enough..?
  24. eoren1 macrumors 6502

    Aug 17, 2007
    200 Gig LR Catalog??? I have well over 100,00 images in mine and my entire LR folder (catalog, settings, previews) is only 30 gigs...

    But more to your point, the LR catalog should absolutely be on the SSD

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28 October 14, 2015