Is MacPro overkill for digital photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by qveda, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. qveda macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2008
    I'm about to finally migrate from PC to Mac. I plan to do digital photography, maybe some video and audio. I'm sure a MacPro (dual quad xeon processors) would handle anything I throw at it (D700 images, scans, Photoshop + Lightroom, HDRI processing).

    but is the MacPro overkill ? There seems to be such a large gap in processors offered between the MacBook Pro (core2), and the MacPro (dual xeons) for more or less a similar price.

    If I go with MacPro , would it make sense not to order it with just a single xeon to save $500. and 4gb ram.

    thanks in advance for your practical advice !
  2. CrackedButter macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2003
    51st State of America
    Umm, what kind of camera do you have how much editing are you going to do?

    If you had a digital back generating 50-60 megapixel images I'm sure you would need a MacPro but I use a MacBook and its fine for me to edit 12 megapixel images (Canon 5D) with. Though I should get a matte screen instead of using the glossy one.
  3. mlemonds macrumors 6502a


    Apr 9, 2008
    Lexington, KY
    did you consider the 3.06 imac?

    MacBook you are paying $$ for the mobility and the LCD. in my ESTIMATION you will see a MBP with quad core next year.
  4. pprior macrumors 65816

    Aug 1, 2007
    Obviously there is no exact answer to your question.

    However, I will tell you I have a quad core 2007 3ghz mac pro with 11GB of RAM and I find it too slow sometimes. I have very little patience with computers - I want my creativity to flow freely, not wait on the machine to do something.

    If you're doing it for a living, time is money - so get the fastest you can afford. There are a lot of people running LR and PS on iMac so it certainly can be done, but especially given that GPU speeds are limited I would never use one for my primary editing machine and certainly not a laptop.

    I use my machine 90% for photo editing, most commonly in aperture and CS3, 10MP RAW files from a 1DMIII
  5. PeteB macrumors 6502a


    Jan 14, 2008
    It comes down to cost.

    If you can comfortably afford the quad-core, then go for it. It'll last you, and you'll be able to push it real hard without it lagging too much on you.

    However, if the cost is a stretch for you, then go with the MacBook Pro, it'll serve you well and do what you demand of it. It'll just be a bit slower at it than the quad.
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I have an iMac, which has about the same "stuff" inside as a MacBook Pro (only a larger screen and faster disk.) It works well for what you are planning to do but does hang up for a second or two. For example last night I have four RAW images on screen and when I move the loupe tool between them there was about a two count delay.

    I also have some images scanned from medium format into 100 megapixel fi es. If you work with this size file (300MB Tiff) very much then you are going to want the Mac Pro although my iMac does work

    One big difference between the two computers is that the Mac Pro can hold much more RAM. I don't know if the extra cores help as much as the RAM.
  7. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    Is it overkill? For me it would be, I'm happy using my 2ghz MacMini for Lightroom and CS3 - though it does struggle a little using the correction brush on LR. I don't use any complicated filters on CS3 which might cause a slowdown.
  8. pointycollars macrumors regular

    May 15, 2007
    It's overkill because it's way too expensive for what you get, with the specially-made ram that is egregiously expensive and the fact that you'd want a nice resolution monitor to go along with it, you're looking at 4 grand, probably.

    I'd get the 3.06 iMac, it's got a huge screen and it's plenty fast for photography. I own a 2.4 MacBook Pro and do some digital photography for my job, and it's plenty fast for me - though I use a Nikon D40.
  9. MacBass macrumors 6502


    Aug 12, 2005
    La Crosse, WI

    On the flipside, what would the be slowest machine to effectively edit digital photography? My dad wants to get into the world of Macs, and he doesn't think that a Mini like mine would cut it - despite the fact that one of my cores is faster than the processor in his laptop and his desktop. And I have more RAM than both his machines combined.
  10. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Jul 16, 2007
    For most everything, the Mac Mini would do fine…*just feed it plenty of RAM, a nice monitor, and an external HDD. If you can't stand waiting, the MP is the way to go (you can do the math…*there's a premium).

    If you're going to want a new computer in a few years anyway, or you'd like the mobility of a laptop (once set up, the Mac Pro is set up. It's 50lbs and takes about an hour to restring, coil, and secure the cords), go with the MBP.

    If you know you can resist wanting a new computer, the Mac Pro will last you. Upgrading RAM, HDDs, even graphics cards is easy. The only thing that really won't change is the processors (which is why you shouldn't give into that $500 savings now, unless you know you'll be able to plug another processor in later) and mainboard.

    Buy RAM from Crucial or Other World Computing, not Apple. Buy bigger hard drives from New Egg or Other World Computing; just go with the cheapest one Apple offers, use it as a boot drive, and stick in a second if you need more space. (Almost) any SATA drive will work. Apple always overcharges for extras.

    Graphics cards are more of a hassle…*but luckily you won't feel the need to upgrade them as often.

    I have a pre-2008 2.66 quad coming up on it's 2yr mark and I only notice slow downs in RAM-intensive tasks (and I only have 2GB, so serves me right in Aperture).

    Oh, and as to the iMac:

    I'll parrot what everyone else always says: glossy screen=poor color
  11. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    Until I got my 2ghz C2D Mini I was using a Core Duo 1.66 MacMini (with 2gb ram).

    I guess the older G4 might be able to cope as well.
  12. wheezy macrumors 65816


    Apr 7, 2005
    Alpine, UT
    Nothing is instant, no matter how snappy Steve tells you it is :)

    For now, I edit on a 2Ghz C2D Macbook with 2GB RAM and it churns along just fine. Aperture is a memory hog, I can't have that and PS CS3 open at the same time without having lots of beachballs.

    To me, HDD speed and RAM are where the speed is going to be for photo editing, and 4GB max in the iMac is nice, but with how easy it is to hit 8 and 10 and more GB's of RAM in the MacPro, that is going to be my next purchase.

    Also, the glossy screen just kills me. I'd prefer to find a white matte iMac just to get the better screen; Granted mine is a Macbook with an alright LCD, the color differences between that and my 2005FPW Dell are night and day, from color accuracy to contrast to viewing angle etc. Having two screens showing two sets of colors is annoying. Having dual 20's or 24's on a MP would be much nicer. :)
  13. woodlandtrek macrumors member

    Jan 21, 2008
    IIRC, Aperture passes off a lot of the processing to the graphics card, while lightroom is mostly CPU based, so that's something to take into consideration. Also, I'm not sure how well aperture and lightroom use multiple cores. If you can't find a clear answer on this, I would suggest visiting an apple store and checking out how many cores are actually being used on the mac pro when you are editing photos. I think in some cases a 3.06 imac will give you faster speeds than the lower end mac pros because of the higher clock speed.
  14. localghost macrumors regular

    Nov 17, 2002
    things to consider

    how long will you have to work on it?
    (>3 years = mac pro)

    which level?
    color sensitive work (prints) needs a good display, so you would have to get an external one anyways for the macbook/pro, maybe even for the 24-inch imac.

    tight deadlines, relevant part of your income?
    you'll want more than one hard drive for work, at least another one for backup. cpu is less of an issue, but still. future applications will probably tax your gpu more than todays, you might want to upgrade it down the road.

    it's perfectly doable on either machine (save for the mini), but if you have the money, don't think twice and get the mac pro.

    if your budget is tight and your photo gear needs to be upgraded, or if you just want to work on some jpgs for web galleries the biggest imac + external drive will fit the bill.

    right now i am struggling to complete an extensive wedding job with about 2000 5d raw files in aperture + cs2 on my G5 2x2 and i loose a lot of time because my mac can't keep up with me.
  15. 147798 Suspended

    Dec 29, 2007
  16. qveda thread starter macrumors regular

    Sep 8, 2008
    Wow, thanks everyone for your great input. I'm planning on getting a D700, CS3+Lightroom. There is a chance that I may get a used 4x5. If I do, I may end up scanning transparencies (= large file sizes). But in the foresable future, I don't have time to take lots of photos due to my day job.

    I'm selling a powerful PC to make the jump to Mac. And I do expect it to be my do-it-all computer for ~ 3yrs. So I should probably go ahead and get 2 xeons installed if I go with the MacPro. I suppose in a couple of years, I could upgrade the Xeons to the faster speed.

    I've seen the Planar PX series monitors. They look great, get great reviews, and I undertand their drivers work well with the eye-one Display2 color correction device.

    But sounds like an iMac would work as well and save me $$ (for lenses and software) . I could still add a Planar monitor (correct??) but HD space and memory would be constrained.
  17. thomahawk macrumors 6502a


    Sep 3, 2008
    Osaka, Japan
    then again, it may not be overkill.
    you never when new software that comes out in the future that requires better set ups. like a new OS or say you want to play games. you never know. even if you use it for photoshoping and video editing. you are more prepared for future things that come out. because you have a good setup that will be able to handle anything
  18. MacNoobie macrumors 6502a


    Mar 15, 2005
    Are you kidding me? the MacPro was made for photography (among other things). Sure its a little more then a MBP but when I'm trying to edit files from a 5D & 1D Mk II I want to make sure the Mac can keep up with it. Dropping files into LR2 then switching to CS3 and having 10-20 files open + firefox without a slow downs pretty invaluable.

    Seriously though I tend to do a lot of multitasking so the MacPro's perfect just be sure to load it up with as much ram as you can since the 2GB that comes with it feels piss weak.
  19. blownco macrumors regular


    May 24, 2008
    ill sell you mine itll be fine with editing pm me if interested.
  20. localghost macrumors regular

    Nov 17, 2002
    the imac supports external displays up to 1920 x 1200, and does not offer external sata. so you are restricted to <30" and firewire (or network storage). it will work, but you will notice the difference (even if the cpu/gpu would be the same, which of course they are not).
  21. Macanadian macrumors member

    Sep 11, 2006
    Mac Pro has screen size over the Mac book. I was going to get a Mac Pro recently, but, opted for the iMAC 20 inch. Next year I'll probably will get a Mac Pro. My reasons are: I'm starting a wedding photography business, since weddings in my geographic area are in lower number in the winter time. Holding off of the Mac Pro till next year made sense to me.

    Mac Pro can be more useful for myself. Since I don't have a studio (work at home photographer). I can bring the Mac Pro to my clients and show them.

    I don't know how heavily you are going to be into photography. But myself I find the more photo's you take. It helps having a larger screen, larger hard drive. If you are shooting a few hundred shots a month in JPG. Go for the Macbook. Once the Macbook starts to hold you back in production. Sell it and buy a Mac Pro.
  22. nepfotos macrumors member


    Jul 9, 2008
    I switched a few weeks ago from my imac to my new MacPro and I'm more than happy. Much faster (especially with 10 GM RAM) more HD space more monitor choices.
    I would do it again and would never switch back to the iMac :p
  23. wheezy macrumors 65816


    Apr 7, 2005
    Alpine, UT
    Last night I decided to go into more heavy editing in PS CS3, as in burn and dodge, run some filters, do more than just the RAW editor and maybe removing some dust spots.

    My Macbook (sig) was slow as a dog. Lots of Beach Balls, the brush didn't remotely keep up with my mouse movements, and the fans were screaming. It would drive me nuts to work on it if that were the type of editing I worked with. (I don't right now, but I'd love to learn the greater darkroom techniques of photoshop in the near future).

    It sounds like a budget isn't your greatest concern, or you've just been incredible at saving. While lenses are what really makes the picture, if you can jump for a Mac Pro now I wouldn't look elsewhere. And might as well go 8-core as S.Leopard is supposed to handle multi-core at a level we haven't seen yet.
  24. anubis macrumors 6502a

    Feb 7, 2003
    I've got the 3.06GHz iMac. The only time it feels slow is when I'm flipipng through pictures in full preview mode (not quick preview) in Aperture. If I start going too fast it will start taking a few seconds to generate the preview. Also, if I have Aperture, Photoshop, and iWeb open (and firefox and mail, of course) sometimes it feels like it's running low on RAM. I think I'm going to upgrade to 4GB and that should be fine.

    I'd recommend the 3.06GHz iMac if you can live with the glossy screen. Otherwise if money is no object, then hell no the Mac Pro isn't overkill!!! :D

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