iMac 5k spec for photography

Discussion in 'iMac' started by EdBarnacle, Oct 28, 2014.

  1. EdBarnacle macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2014
    Hi guys,

    About to fire off an order a for a 5k iMac and I would love some advice /opinions from people on here. This is a machine for my professional photography business, mainly using Photoshop, Lightroom and Capture One, but also running the usual iTunes/Spotify/Chrome stuff. I need this to be a workhorse machine for the next 5 years.

    Would upgrading the CPU and GPU make much of a difference for these uses, or is it more useful for programming/3d/video/gaming? I'm happy to upgrade if required but if these software packages can't take advantage then there doesn't seem to be much point. Running a 2nd conventional 24" monitor could be useful (as I currently do so), and would a GPU upgrade aid in this? Are people upgrading more with an eye on how things progress in the next couple of years than because of a real world difference right now?

    I'm going to max out the RAM and choose an SSD with external HDs as bulk storage.

  2. kzhlin macrumors member

    Aug 5, 2012
    Los Angeles
    Photographer to photographer, you probably want to get a Mac Mini or MacPro and add on a NEC monitor. As your primary editing machine, you want incredible color accuracy--something the iMac doesn't provide.

    If you're okay with the narrow-er gamut the iMac has, then it seems like a pretty good machine. i7 and m295x would both help with programs like photoshop.
  3. EdBarnacle thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2014
    Thanks. I really wanted a mac mini to be honest but the new ones don't seem to be up to the job, such a shame. The Pro isn't going to happen right now, so it looks like an iMac and the screen seems pretty decent, if not perfect.

    So Photoshop/Lightroom would make good use of the CPU and GPU upgrades? Last time I researched it they didn't really take much advantage of it and it was RAM and HD quantity/quality that made the real differences.

    This is the source:

    "Digital Photography and Image Editing. Hyper Threading but only when it provides a performance boost, which it rarely does. Mostly Photoshop uses the multiple physical cores rather than the Hyper-Threaded logical cores. We do not think that Photoshop, Lightroom users or digital photographers get enough of a speed boost from the I7 processor. Stick with the i5."
  4. lcseds macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2006
    NC, USA
    I wouldn't go by anything Macworld advises. The problem is most reviews are based on today. If you want a 5 year machine, you don't know what you'll be doing in 2-3 years. Since you can probably write this off as a business expense, or even if you can't, I'd suggest i7, 295 graphics and a 512 SSD. You library is no doubt on external drives so 512 will suffice. Then evaluate your needs in 3 years or so and see if it's up to the task to continue. Taking shortcuts now may mean a faster replacement cycle which would be more costly. My 2 cents.
  5. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    In general i7 hyper-threading helps for most multi-threaded apps. I haven't tested Photoshop/LR, but I have tested FCP X H.264 export with hyperthreading on/off. HT on improved performance by 30%.

    Regardless of the HT issue, many tasks in Photoshop/LR are heavily multi-threaded and would benefit from faster cores. So 4Ghz is better than 3.5Ghz.

    Re GPU that is harder to say. Photoshop uses GPU assist for Smart Sharpen, Liquify and other items, but not for most tasks. Most software manufacturers are moving toward increased use of GPU, so long-term getting the upgraded GPU is a good idea.
  6. EdBarnacle thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2014
    My thoughts exactly.

    I'm completely pragmatic when it comes to computers, they're just a tool to complete a job, so upgrading the specs is of no interest unless there's a real benefit in, say, another year of useful performance before being replaced. I really did want a fast mac mini so that I could pair it with a top quality screen, but this iMac seems pretty good in that display.

    The CPU seems like a clear choice in that it is faster and perhaps Adobe will take advantage of HT in the near future. The GPU didn't bother me but reading these forums it seems that everyone is upgrading and for the fair reason that the base one is underpowered and old.

    I was also thinking of a 256 SSD. As my entire library will be on external HDs, 256 seems enough to work on the current project, and 512 still would't be enough to keep much recent work on. Perhaps an additional larger TB SSD later on..?

    Usually, I just buy the base Mac and then max out the RAM but this machine sounds a bit more of an unknown quantity.
  7. ElectronGuru macrumors 65816

    Sep 5, 2013
    Oregon, USA

    Same here. Worst case, work on the 5k panel, then drag it over to the small side screen to proof the color. The vram in the 295 will help with with the extra pixels.
  8. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008

    Great questions and a very real dilemma. As a fellow photographer, here are my thoughts.

    Since you want to make this your workhorse machine for 5 years and not sweat on how it will perform down the road, I would strongly consider the i7 and I would definitely upgrade to the M295X. You are correct in that your current programs don't take full advantage of hyper-threading, but I would expect them to in the next year or two...and definitely within the next 5 years. Additionally, the extra processing power and speed that comes with the 4 Ghz speed will be nice too. As for the GPU, I consider it a must-upgrade as software will utilize your GPU for processing, both now, and even more so in the future. Also, it sounds like you may want to add another 4K monitor in the future, and the extra graphics horsepower will do a lot for you in that regard. If you don't upgrade the GPU now, I'm pretty sure it will be the achilles heel in 3-4 years. In your line of work, you need speed and power...especially during the second half of this computer's lifecycle when software is farther ahead then it is now.

    I'm almost certain you've thought of this already, but I assume you're going to max the RAM in an after-market upgrade, right? You can save a few hundred dollars by using Crucial's outstanding memory versus having Apple do it, and that alone would cover the cost of upgrading the CPU. Again, I realize you're probably headed down this route already, but I just wanted to make sure.

    If the only thing you store on your internal drive is the operating system and software, then a 256 GB SSD will work. It should give you enough space to work on your current job with a little room to spare. If you want some extra headroom, then I would consider moving up to a 512 GB SSD. I would not upgrade to the 1 TB SSD as I think it's too expensive and doesn't match your needs. This next statement isn't directed at your situation, but most people don't realize that the cost of upgrading from a 512 GB SSD to a 1 TB SSD is almost the same cost as buying a OWC Thunderbay 4 Raid 5 enclosure. Sure, you still have to add hard drives to that, but the money spent on upgrading to a 1 TB SSD could cover a good portion of the cost towards having a very large RAID 5 array that gives you nearly the same speed as a SSD, redundancy, and a heck of a lot more storage too. Anyway, back to your question, a 256 GB SSD would work just fine, whereas a 512 GB SSD will give you headroom for the future.

    To let you know where my perspectives are coming from, as mentioned before, I'm do some pretty heavy-duty photography. I also do a fair amount of video work that accounts for about 15-20% of my income (in an area unrelated to my photography pursuits). I researched these options to death over the last 10 days and after a lot of consideration, here's what I've settled on:

    5K iMac, i7, M295X, 32 GB Ram (Crucial), 512 GB SSD, Applecare
    OWC Thunderbay 4 RAID 5 array with four 4 TB drives
    Apple External Superdrive

    I hope this helps. If it generates more thought/questions, please let me know!

  9. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    As a professional video editor, this is all good advice. All multi-threaded programs can potentially use hyper-threading, although programming methods can optimize this. My testing on FCP X H.264 export shows a 30% gain from HT. Unfortunately LR5 import/export doesn't currently seem to benefit from this.

    The advice about a RAID 5 enclosure is especially good. Serious (even non professional) photography/video takes a huge amount of space. Each raw still from a Nikon D800 is 40 megabytes. Each *second* of H.264 video from a 5D Mark III using All-I compression is about 10 megabytes.

    Super-high I/O benchmark numbers don't help much in the real world of photo and video editing. You need good I/O performance, but only to the extent it shifts the bottleneck somewhere else. Beyond that and you're paying for higher benchmark numbers that won't yield significant improvement. The money can best be spent elsewhere, like a RAID array, upgraded CPU, GPU, faster backup hard drive, etc.
  10. EdBarnacle thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 28, 2014
    Thanks for the suggestions guys, all good advice.

    I think I'll go with upgrades to CPU and GPU, 256 SSD (when prices drop over the next couple of years perhaps I'll add 1TB of it via thunderbolt) and max out the RAM with 3rd party chips.

    Still really wanted a mac mini though!
  11. snowleopard13 macrumors regular

    Apr 12, 2010
    Enthusiast Photographer here. I own a D800 (the raw files tend to be more towards 45-60MB even with losless compressed settings) and ordered the base model Retina iMac with 1TB Fusion drive. Wanted to go with the 256GB SSD at first, but i didn't want to get (slow-ish) external storage for extra $$$. So the Fusion Drive is a good compromise for now. If i had the extra money i would have gone with the 512 SSD drive. I plan to upgrade the RAM myself. Possibly to 24GB (8GB+16GB kit).

    I have to say i am coming from a 2010 base model Macbook Pro with upgraded RAM and SSD. So this will be a huge upgrade for me. Since i got the D800 in August editing has been really sluggish in LR5. Zooming in 1:1 took 10-15seconds to render.

    I'd rather upgrade sooner (in 3-4 years) than upgrading to the max now. If i sell the machine in 3 years and add the 600-1000$ people invest in upgrades now i easily get a new iMac then. But yeah, some people like to use their iMacs for 5 to 6 years so it probably makes sense to upgrade now to even get to that lifespan.
  12. fathergll macrumors 65816

    Sep 3, 2014
    I just got a refurd quad core i7 Mac Mini for $589.

    Heck if you wanted you can add in a 500GB SSD and 16 GB Ram for an additional $380. If you buy the $30 second hard drive kit you can use the 500GB hd as a second internal drive(or in a fusion setup). Not bad for under $1000.
  13. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Great choices Ed. I think you'll be very happy with that setup. And since computer talk is not a primary focus for you, you can get back to doing what you like to do best, and that's creating and selling beautiful images.

    Best of luck and I hope you enjoy your new machine!
  14. thetoness macrumors member

    Jan 16, 2008
    This setup is perfect for me but not sure how to migrate it Imac 5k

    Hey Bryan and all others,
    This is exactly the setup I was thinking about though will go with 512 SSD for peace of mind.
    This is my present:
    I presently own a Mid 2010 Mac pro with the following setup:
    256 SSD Boot Drive for OS and APPs;
    3 separate 2TB hard drives one of which is partitioned with boot camp,
    which have a total of 600gb so far, but I do expect this to increase
    NAS Backup with Time Machine on the Synology 1501+;
    So what I would like to do is transfer my SSD Boot drive to my new Imac 5k SSD drive. I would assume migration assistant would allow me do this rather easily. Then I would like to move the 3 2tb drives to the OWC Thunderbay 4, but I am not sure how to do this. Sorry but kinda newbie.
    I would also like to connect the Thunderbay 4 to the Imac via Thunderbolt 2 cable as I use lightroom often and want to get the maximum speed. Also since I backup constantly, do you recommend Raid 0?
    Anyone who can give me a step by step approach with suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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