Hypothetical musings, macpro or iMac for photography

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by northernbaldy, Jul 21, 2012.

  1. northernbaldy macrumors 6502a


    Jan 13, 2010
    the north, UK
    Wifey is starting out as a pro photographer and we are well past the limits of her mac MacBook and our macmini server

    So time to upgrade!
    I'm not doing anything until the new iMacs come out and I'm hoping they do something more with the macpro too

    If we make some assumptions on what the possible iMac refresh will be (processor updates) do you think we will be better off with a pro?

    (sorry, this is a bit of a random, think out loud thread)

    The only thing missing on the macpro is thunderbolt and I'm guessing there will be a pic card available anyway

    I'm also worried that ram will be difficult to upgrade in the next iMac

    Argghhhh, decisions decisions

    Interesting thing to note that iMac will auto capitalise, yet macpro doesn't (on an iPad)
    Is apple telling us something there?
  2. deconstruct60, Jul 21, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2012

    deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Nothing is going to happen with the MacPro until 2013. Apple has uncharacteristically already announced that. How far into 2013 is an open question. If you need something now ( next several months ) then waiting on the 2013 Mac Pro is a non option.

    It really depends upon just how "underpowered" the current computers are. A MacBook (not a late model MacbookPro ) suggest that she pretty far behind of curve of what even the non-Mac Pro current models can do. It depends upon what kind of "pro" photography the wife will need to do. The upper end iMacs are quite close to the low end Mac Pros in this aspect.

    An iMac packed with 16-32GB RAM has a pretty good range of capabilities of running Photoshop and the like. The storage can augmented through Thunderbolt. So there is roughly parity there with a Mac Pro there also.

    The iMac monitor can be color calibrated. It can also drive a different monitor with a higher color gamut if needed that also.

    It is a flawed assumption. Core Thunderbolt support has to come from a change in the motherboard. Solely having PCI-e slots is not a "get out of jail free" card to bringing Thunderbolt to older machines. It isn't going to happen. At least not without some monster kludges which Apple is highly unlikely to implement.

    Thunderbolt solves a set of problems that the Mac Pro doesn't have. It already has PCI-e expansion. The GPU cards typically have multiple connectors to drive multiple displays. It isn't really a "core requirement" to getting photographic processing done.

    Again quite unlikely. It isn't that hard now. There is extremely little rational reason for Apple to change that.

    No. Apple doesn't have a product called Macpro ( or MacPro or macpro ). It is two words. Which makes it harder to auto captilize because have to wait till both words are written and parse out the context.

    P.S. One aspect to pay attention to when Apple updates the iMac 2012 is what they do with the internal SSD pricing. I don't have high hopes but if the SSD+HDD combo came out of the extremely high mark-up range to just something closer to market pricing+apple's normal mark-up the iMac would have even better traction here. At least until library+archive of photos got extremely large (so that needed Thunderbolt and perhaps RAID to manage those as desirable read/write speeds. )
  3. fig macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2012
    Austin, TX
    You'll be just fine with a new iMac, either the current or the new revision when it's released, for quite a while. Just bump the RAM and you'll be set.

    Most folks overestimate the power they need for photography and graphic design.
  4. northernbaldy thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 13, 2010
    the north, UK
    All very good points
    I'm swaying towards the pro again at the moment for upgrade ability, especially for the ease of throwing in hard disks.

    The other issue I have is that the misses is a pain in the Harris with all things IT and has no patience when things go wrong

    The pro looks like its built well, less of a form over function design that the iMac is.
    I haven't heard of many issues with the pro's
  5. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    If she is just starting out, then spend as little as possible on the computers and more on the camera gear - specifically lenses.

    Look at refurbished models, and don't worry too much about buying "new technology". Photography really only needs a lot RAM in a computer, and a good monitor. I ran my photo business for a year on a baseline (refurbished) Mac Mini. It was brutally slow at times, but the money saved was ploughed back into a good monitor and really good printer.

    There are some really cheap refurbed Mac Pros right now. So what if they have a processor that is 3 years old? It spends 99.8% of it's time waiting for you to tell it do something. What the MacPros do have is the ability to pack them with RAM, and to pack them with internal hard-drives.

    There is nothing (except for some specialists) that Thunderbolt is going to bring to pro photographers for at least 2 years, imho. So keep an eye out for what's coming, but don't worry about TB yet.

    Any basic graphics card is good enough for still photography. The more advanced features, for the most part, benefit video and 3D work. Most photographers are creating 2D still images. Even is you touch on some video work, until your wife has established herself, plough the money into camera stuff. Especially lenses. And training. And a good monitor. A mediocre computer with a good monitor will produce good photos. An expensive computer with a mediocre monitor is going to be a major challenge to produce anything better than mediocre photos. It can be done...but it's much harder to work with a mediocre monitor than a mediocre computer.

  6. northernbaldy thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 13, 2010
    the north, UK
    Thanks, it's certainly something to think about
    She got the majority of her (expensive) kit, bodies lenses etc

    I think we'll bite the bullet and go for a mac pro

    You are correct, we don't need thunderbolt
    I like the idea of throwing more ram and disks over time
    We have an okay monitor, which we can upgrade later
  7. dimme macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2007
    SF, CA
    I work to the photolab & printing bussiness and I think one of the most important tools is a good monitor (ips or pva) that can display at least sRGB but full abobe RGB is better. You also must have a hardware calibrator.
    I would rather wait a extra few seconds for my image to process and have a good reliable screen to look at.
  8. ChristianVirtual macrumors 601


    May 10, 2010
    for storage might think about an external NAS ... Some more safety with RAID and easy accessible via network; still need a backup for that, too
  9. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    The catch here is that any Mac pro right now is GROSSLY overpriced for what it is, since all Mac pros out there are like 3 years old by now

    Serious suggestion, have you considered using windows for an editing machine? Depending on what software you use, it would be interchangeable with a Mac and you can build a far far superior PC using modern components for what you would pay for an outdated Mac pro.

    If this is for a business, return on investment should matter to you, and not as much what OS you use. Also, I know it's not popular around here but Windows 7 is a great OS. It's certainly equivalent to Lion in terms of usability, speed, and stability.
  10. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    I agree, reluctantly, with Ruahrc; take a look at PCs as well.

    Some things to consider; you didn't say what software you use, and that's probably a place to start. If it's like CS6, and you do a substantial amount of manipulation, shoot RAW, etc, then the graphics acceleration available might make you choose one hardware solution or another.

    And this leads to one of the detriments of an iMac: although a great all in one, it's stuck at that: one. No expansion, and not even the chance to replace drives. (which I concede might be less of a problem if you use Thunderbolt drives as externals to boot it, but still...).

    Someone mentioned color calibration, and that a big consideration as well.

    I too like Windows 7. A nice thing about Adobe is that I believe you can still switch your license from one platform to the other, which means if you went now with a Win box you wouln't lose so much on your investment if you hopped to a Mac Pro later. If I’m working on Photoshop all day frankly I don't notice much if it's the Mac or PC version, so again, think about what software you're using first.

  11. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    The Mac Pro is overpriced and out of date. Certainly true.

    But the ease of adding storage is a big plus. You can use one drive bay for a Time Machine backup drive, which leaves you two for data. You can buy spare drive trays for not much money, which means you can pop in a drive, back up to it, pop it out and go store it somewhere else for offsite backup.

    It's just a lot easier to do these things on a Mac Pro than on anything else, and if it's her business machine that can be important.
  12. driftless, Jul 22, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2012

    driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    + 1 for a good monitor.

    Another vote here for picking up a 27" iMac after the refresh w/16 or more GB of RAM.
  13. phrehdd macrumors 68040


    Oct 25, 2008
    I have worked with Photoshop and Lightroom on Mac Pro, iMac and Mac Mini server with great success on all of them. Each was set up differently.

    The most obvious choice is a Mac Pro for all the right reasons -

    - easy internal drive coordination and upgrade

    - easy to stripe the drives using OSX raid, 3rd party software or a RAID card.

    - superior video cards with better exploitation of hardware acceleration (depending on the specific card of course)

    - RAM capacity (with 24 gigs being golden)

    - required selection of a good monitor

    - can add an eSATA card to add external drives (various options here). With eSATA, Thunderbolt isn't really required as eSATA done well is impressively fast or at least 'fast enough.' Some people prefer to have RAID external enclosures ran to the Mac Pro via eSATA.

    there are two cons to the Mac Pro - price and footprint.

    Newer iMacs are more than capable of handling Photoshop and Lightroom/Aperture as long as you set them up correctly. I still believe that the purchase of a quality monitor tops the list for professionals so consider the addition of a monitor. Many people enjoy working with two monitors available - one for image and the palettes etc. on the iMac screen.

    Mac Mini quad server - while having limited video function I am able to replace the internal drives with SSD, max out the RAM and get respectable results. The drive swap out is best done by someone familiar with these units or savvy at following video directions such as what is offered by OWC.

    Last - I find the very best bang for the buck monitor to be from NEC. Their PA line of monitors price and performance are very good. There are of course other makes that also provide good enough monitors but the NEC remains rock solid (for me). Nothing worse than getting great hardware and not spending time learning to optimize for performance. I highly suggest that whatever you choose you read up on how to configure for best results. - And yes, there is a thing called overkill.
  14. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    Post-Script: I am in the same boat that you are, looking to replace my iMac with either an iMac, xMac or Mac Pro for chores which include photography. FWIW - it's worth my choice is now limited to the rumored upcoming refreshed iMac since Tim Cook said that the Mac Pro redesign/refresh won't be available until later in '13. Since I only dabble in video, I can't bring myself to purchase the now long in tooth Mac Pro, particularly since the current iMac's are pretty nice machines. I am hoping to see a retina iMac but even a cpu & gpu upgrade would make a already good machine a little better. I know that everyone's decisions are different but I thought that I would pass along my thought process.

    I have recently decided on the rMBP as my mobile solution. If you haven't seen that machine in person, you should.
  15. northernbaldy thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 13, 2010
    the north, UK
    I'm torn again
    You all make very good arguments

    The base spec pro is £2049, a 27" iMac with 16gb ram and an i7 processor is also £2049!

    That's with apples ram prices

    Then, later, we could buy a thunderbolt raid or nas

    Ps, she's a macwhore through and through now, windows wouldn't be an option

    Or she could get a base spec iMac and I could get a new wakeboard ;)
  16. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Graphics acceleration in photoshop is IMHO blown a bit out of proportion.

    1) Adobe's FAQ on acceleration in CS6: unless you are using the listed functions/filters heavily, you will not even see benefit from acceleration features.

    2) Best example I have found of a benchmark comparing GPU power in CS6. Note that the GPUs have only relatively relatively minor difference between them, but all have significant advantage over non-accelerated tests.

    3) If you are curious about the relative "3D Power" of the above GPUs, here is a list. I will point out that the GT120 is actually about 5%-10% slower than the Intel HD3000, and I would think it reasonable that the GT120 results in the second link are pretty representative of what an HD3000 would do at minimum if run through the same test.

    In summary, only the filters listed by Adobe are accelerated by the GPU, and generally speaking- even "weak" GPUs give massive benefits over non-accelerated modes. Moving to a faster GPU will not result in substantial further performance gains, unless you are upgrading from a GPU that does not support OpenCL to one that does (and then only for specific filters that use OpenCL)

    You could do all of these things just as easily on a PC too, just sayin'.
  17. northernbaldy thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jan 13, 2010
    the north, UK
    At the moment, everything is in aperture and shot in raw

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