Mac mini for new photographer

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by zeiter, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. zeiter macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2008
    Hi there,

    I am currently using my wife's macbook air. Right now, my computer is an old MBP early 2008 (still with silver keys) core 2 duo with 4gb of ram. I have completed my grad school, so I do not need as much as portability as I used to be. I got into photography and I am shooting RAW and using Lightroom with photoshop from time to time (basic) and some plug ins. As you imagine, my computer is hardly handling Lightroom and even just general use, it's pretty slow. I can't even stream a 1080p music clip to my tv using ethernet without lag as the computer can't handle reading the file and transcoding it.

    I was wondering if a mac mini at the refurb store would be a nice option. I am hesitating because of upcoming Haswell with better graphic performance. Is the 4000D enough to handle Lightroom. I do not plan on making videos or editing them, I'll just stick to pictures right now. Do I really need to upgrade the computer with SSD for better performance? Are we ever going to use refurbished mac mini with the fusion drive?

    I might wait until summer, but my wife and I are moving and we are buying a new car, so money wise, we are going to be tight. I feel that if I do not buy it now, there will be no justification later on to buy it. My wife tells me just to use her mba (summer 2012) but she only has 128gb of space and she is still studying, so she will have to pick it up often and bring it to school. It will be a mess then to work quietly and I will always have to make sure everything is backed up...or maybe I see it as more problematic than it is.

    So, what do you guys recommend me? Is the dual core version enough? I was maybe thinking of getting a refurbished 13 inch Rmbp but im not sure....still a lot of money.

    Thank you
  2. Fonz4 macrumors newbie

    Nov 26, 2012
    I have the Mid-2012 Mini, and it is fine for Lightroom work.

    The dual core should not have issues running lightroom either if this is your budget. Just increase the RAM yourself when it arrives (or when funds allow).

    I have a number of raw pictures saved to an external drive (1tb in size, in a mirrored RAID array with another drive for backup) and use that as photo storage, just make sure you keep everything backed up as losing images is a real pain.
  3. trustever macrumors 6502

    Jan 14, 2013
    if the problem with your wife MBA is just the hard drive space by an external where you can store all your data. you will also be safer in case of lost/theft while the MBA is not at home.
    If the issue is availability as each of you need a proper computer that's another story but still the mini should be more than enough.
  4. thaboz macrumors newbie

    Sep 6, 2008
    SSD Upgrade

    Hi Zeiter,

    I'm a photographer myself (semi-pro) and have bought a second hand macmini (the model just before they included Thunderbolt) unfortunately the unit does't work since 1 of the hard drives has died. So I bought an 512 GB SSD drive (Crucial M4) to replace it myself, which did not work out for me. Broke a connector on the motherboard which I'll have to solder back on. So ended up installing the drive in my 2007 MBP, 2.66 Ghz. Core2Duo with 4 GB of ram, sure the machine is not flying through my files but it at least feels more like a 2010 machine so gained 3 years on my investment. I'd try this for yourself and see how much a difference a SSD drive makes this worked out all right for me, storing pictures still requires a external drive or NAS device but at least with 512 GB. you'll have enough room to store your current projects and offload them to second tier storage when you get home. Hope this helps you!
  5. jimmy83 macrumors 65816

    Aug 21, 2008
    Portsmouth, UK
    My main use for my mini is Lightroom aswell. I could only afford the base version.

    I've got a few problems tho, the main one is I keep getting the spinning wheel when using Lightroom :( I think the main cause is lax of RAM so will be sticking 16GB in hopefully this month. Also I think my external HDD is helping I think due to its slow speed :(
  6. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    One of the top photographers over in the Photo of the Day thread runs Lightroom and PhotoShop Cs6 on a Mini server with the dual hdd option rather than any ssd. She is very satisfied with it. I think it has 16 gigs of ram, but it might be just 8. She has had it for a year or so now. She shoots raw on a Canon 5d MKIII, primarily over in Slovinia.

  7. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    Pro photographer with an i7 Mac Mini HD4000 GPU and an early 2011 i5 13" MBP HD3000 GPU.

    Yes, the base model Mini will be fine for your uses... Some Photoshop filters are a lot faster using a computer with a discrete GPU but if you don't use them or only rarely it isn't anything you need to be concerned with. has speed tests and Adobe has details on the Photoshop versions that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    As far as upgrading the 2008 with an SSD... I wouldn't spend the money on such an old MBP. (I owned the same MBP.) Keep in mind that upgrading the internal drive in your model is not for the faint of heart. You would have to feel comfortable dismantling the MBP or pay a repair tech to do it for you. (There are video repair guides online where you can see what is necessary to upgrade the drive.)

    Contrary to popular opinion on this forum, an SSD is not a panacea for getting more life out of aging Macs. You would be better served with an i5 CPU, HD4000 and 16GB RAM than sticking an SSD in a C2D CPU Mac with an outdated GPU that wasn't great to begin with and a maximum RAM of 6GB. Support for 10.9 is likely to be dropped for the 2008 MBP; the i5Mac Mini will be able to run OS upgrades in the foreseeable future. Even if you spent additional $$$ and upgraded the RAM to 6GB it would struggle with Mountain Lion and the software you want to use. You will be stuck with using older versions of the OS and image editing software.

    The early 2008 MBP is also susceptible to the infamous GPU hardware failure and you are now past Apple's extended warranty program deadline, so if it fails it won't be worth repairing.

    I haven't checked current MBP used prices so I suggest doing some research to see what you are likely to get for it. Depending on its condition, it will likely offset much if not all of the cost of the Mac Mini.
  8. zeiter thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2008
    hello there,

    I was AFK for a few days. Sorry.

    Thanks a lot for your input. Are there going to have any mac mini with the fusion drive in the refurb store? Is it easy to do a fusion drive yourself? Maybe I could buy a refurbed server edition and put it one ssd and one hard it risky? I'm not really manual...

    thank you!
  9. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Any of the i5 or i7 Minis from the refurb store going to be fine for you. Just check the prices daily (or more) and pounce when you get a good deal. At the moment it sounds like price is more of a concern than getting the 'best' system. You will find the Mini - any new Mini - will feel like a race car compared to the laptop. I should know... I'm using the same vintage MBP, eh?

    Max out the RAM at home. I can suggest CanadaRAM as one good source for RAM. But of course there are others as well. Lightroom and Photoshop will benefit from more RAM more than anything else you upgrade.

    Make sure you leave room in your budget for competently good monitor, and especially important... budget for a external HDD as a backup.

    Welcome back to the photographers fold.
  10. glenthompson macrumors 68000


    Apr 27, 2011
    You can look at the process of upgrading the drives on to decide if it's too much for you.

    The Minis only appear on the refurb store for brief periods. Plenty of servers but that's a $200 or more premium. Decide on what you want and monitor the store. When what you want is available, buy it then.
  11. zeiter thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2008
    hello there,

    I am tempted to wait for Haswell, it should be out in approx. 3 months right? For the same price, I would have a faster cpu and a faster integrated video card. Sure, it won't be night and day, but it would be "best bang for your buck". I can still buy a cable thunderbolt - dvi right now until then and use my wife's laptop. I am just short on cash and want the best configuration at the best possible price. Maybe they will upgrade their price and the fusion drive will become standard...


    I already have a 23 inch IPS dell Monitor and I have a 1 TB WD backup drive, but it's usb 2! Is it fast enough to work? I can handle the 5-10 minutes more for saving...but if it gives be beachballs..
  12. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    The chipset will be released in about April. If apple continues to along what they've done in the past we'll see Haswell MBPs in June, maybe iMacs in the fall, and who knows when for the Mac Mini. Being the low end of the line up they'll not release a Haswell based product along with their other lines. That is you'll not see a Haswell Mac Mini in June with the MBPs
  13. Fishrrman macrumors G5


    Feb 20, 2009
    "h IPS dell Monitor and I have a 1 TB WD backup drive, but it's usb 2! Is it fast enough to work? I can handle the 5-10 minutes more for saving...but if it gives be beachballs.."

    How old is the WD drive?
    Is it still under warranty?

    If you don't mind opening up the case (which WILL void the warranty), you could get a gadget like this:

    … and still keep using the drive, only at USB3 speeds.

    A USB3/SATA dock will prove to be a VERY handy piece of equipment to have nearby….
  14. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Nobody knows when or even if Apple will release Minis with Haswell. Waiting to buy an Apple product for the 'new' thing can lead to an endless cycle of never buying anything. Apple always has something 'new' that will be released soon. In this case, I don't see Haswell as being a 'revolutionary' upgrade, and therefore just buy what you can when you can.

    I use an USB2 external HDD to backup my photos - just about a TB. I have no idea how long it takes.... I have it set to backup at every night 3am so it can take as long as it wants. This is a case where there is no benefit to speed.

    However, I also do night backup of my system - and this I put on an external HDD with FW800 (essentially the same speed as USB3 in practice). Even though this also happens in the middle of the night I want the System backup on a fast disk because I can use it to boot my old backup MBP in an emergency with my working files, emails, documents, applications, etc.

    If you don't have a backup computer then there is not much need to create a fast backup of the system. It is very likely you may never need the speed, so why spend the money? I can justify the expense since I do photography professionally, so this is insurance against a disruption in my income.

    My suggestion is to get a good solid Mini from the refurbished store, and max RAM yourself. Don't spend any more than you really have to. Money you spend on the Mini is money you are not spending on your camera gear. Plus there is going to be software upgrades soon, peripherals like printers and multiple external HDDs. Maybe a bigger or better monitor.

    I don't know what kind of Dell monitor you have, but unless it is at least moderately good you will see much bigger improvement in your photography workflow by upgrading a (potentially) bad monitor than by spending dollars shaving a few seconds off some computer cycles. Consider that computers now spend the vast majority of their time waiting for you to tell it to do something.

  15. zeiter thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2008
    Hello there,

    My monitor is the U2312HM! Here is the config I would get:

    Mac mini with quad core i7
    Fusion drive

    I guess that will serve me for the couple next years... I can always take my wife's mba if I need it on the road or something!
  16. zeiter thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2008
    guys, is it better to put a ssd and keep the 1tb instead of the fusion drive to load picture when they are on the hdd?
  17. Ubele macrumors 6502a

    Mar 20, 2008
    I also have an early 2008 MBP. Last week, after months of debating which Mac I should upgrade to, and whether I shouild wait for Haswell, I took the plunge and bought a refurbished 2012 2.3 GHz i7 Mac mini with a 1 TB HDD. I immediately upgraded the RAM to 16 GB. I couldn't be happier. I'd gotten caught up in the "specs game," wondering whether the HD 4000 iGPU would be fast enough for me, whether I should spend the extra money for the 2.6 GHz processor, whether I should throw financial prudence to the wind and get an i7 iMac, and so on. Fortunately, common sense prevailed. My new Mac mini is way faster than my old MBP. I don't get the spinning beach ball as often or for as long when I'm scrolling through my 5,000-photo Aperture library. As a test of the HD 4000, I used Handbrake to convert a disk image of a 2-hour home video recording (originally shot on a VHS camcorder and transferred to a DVD) to an MP4 file. It took 11 minutes. It probably would have taken 6 minutes on an iMac or a 15" rMBP with a dedicated GPU, but it would have taken the better part of an hour on my old MBP. I'm a hobbyist, not a pro, so I'm thrilled with an 11-minute conversion. At $679 in the Refurb Store, I consider the Mac mini I got a great bargain. When the Samsung 840 500 GB SSD goes on sale again (I've seen it for as low as $270), I'll probably get one and create my own Fusion drive. For now, though, I'm content.
  18. CrazyNurse macrumors regular

    Oct 23, 2012
    I am not a professional either and my mini has been awesome for my needs. I manage a Lightroom Catalog of 15,000 family pix!

    I think most people would be happy with the current mini. It's not a gaming rig or workstation but a great all around PC.

    I, too, am looking forward to putting in the Samsung SSD in the near future.
  19. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    Samsung 500 GB 840 $259

    Here ya go:

    You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by ignoring the endless discussions about minute differences in tech specs on this forum. You did the right thing by just going for it...
  20. Ubele macrumors 6502a

    Mar 20, 2008

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