Mac Pro vs iMac for Photoshop & Lightroom

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nochnia, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. nochnia, Jul 10, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2011

    nochnia macrumors member

    Jun 25, 2011
    I'm working now on a E8400 Core2Duo Intel PC (+ RevoDrive SSD) and 19" Eizo Screen. Since that summer, I got more and more into commercial photography jobs mainly weddings. The current computer isn't able to handle this workload very good so I'm definitely going to buy a new one. I had a lot of problems with the system from time to time. So I'm going to buy a mac.

    I'm pretty convinced by the 27" highend iMac. But a couple of friends is in the same situation and they are more convinced of the mac pro.
    To be clear. I won't buy the old mac pro. No way. If it should be the mac pro. I'll wait until the refresh... So long my old computer is still good enough. That's no problem. So I'm not that big professional that I need the machine this minute...
    I'm the type of person who thinks a couple of years forward. So I really want to keep this machine some years. But the Mac Pro + Screen doesn't make sense for me if it's going to be more expensive than an iMac today and a replacement in 2 years...

    What holds me back from buying an iMac?
    - I'm not able to expand a lot in this machine -> life time
    - glossy display

    Why I'm not sure about buying a Mac Pro?
    - For now, the power of the highend iMac is fairly enough!
    - big price difference (I would buy the NEC PA271W as display)

    So I've two questions.
    1) What do you think which machine suits my needs best ;)
    2) How upgradeable is the Mac Pro?
    I know I can change the graphics card, ram, hdd, ssd but whatabout the cpu?

    Edit: I forgot some details.
    For the iMac I would wait for a single Thunderbolt enclosures to use a SSD as bootdrive. I don't want to open it by myself and let the ssd insert by an apple authorized technician it's about 250-300€ in germany. That's another pro for the mac pro, that there is not that much laying around on my desk.
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    1. Both would but I say given the price difference the iMac would be a good choice

    2. CPU is socketed so its technically upgrade-able but given the cost factor it may not be feasible.

    Given your post, you've done your homework and not you just need justifying a decision.

    For me it would boil down to this:
    is the iMac's GPU powerful enough for my needs and would I need those drive bays in the MP?
  3. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    If you do commercial photography, then the iMac's screen may be the biggest issue. I'm not a photographer but from what I have heard from the others in this forum, the screen is quite awful for color accurate work (mainly due to the glossiness). That means you might have to buy a second screen just for work to get the required accuracy. Of course, weddings may not need that level of accuracy, it's mainly people who do big prints that complain about the screen (in which case you really, really need the picture to be printed as it is on the screen).

    Mac Pro's CPU is upgradeable but it's fairly limited. If you buy the current 2.8GHz quad, you can put in a 6-core (as high as W3690) but the iMac's i7-2600 is actually faster. Sandy Bridge Mac Pro may offer more upgradeability since LGA 2011 socket will be new but the issue is, Apple doesn't provide the necessary firmware updates to support new steppings so for instance Ivy Bridge CPUs won't work, although they use the same socket.

    If you can live with the iMac's screen, then I would say go for it. It offers more than enough power and you don't have to play the waiting game. Remember that you have 14 days to return the product (and there are no restocking fees anymore, at least in the US) so you could buy the iMac, try it for two weeks and then decide is it for you.
  4. nochnia thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 25, 2011
    Oh. I didn't know that in general I'm able to upgrade CPU but apple is going to deny firmware updates...
    EDIT: I just read in another thread about some hacked firmware update... So can you expect there's going to be another hacked firmware update for the MP ? Or what is this hacked firmware update?

    Unfortunately I'll only be able to tell, if the iMac screen is ok for me, after I've bought it... I guess I have to lead the conditions for returning the iMac

    I would love to choose the Mac Pro + NEC display route, but it's so expensive :(
  5. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    In general firmware hacks (or EFI flashes) are quite rare since you need quite a lot of work to achieve it. I'm not even sure has anyone been able to do it (I know there is a thread about it but IIRC the method was never published so it could be a hoax. Anyway, I wouldn't rely too much on the possible EFI flash.
  6. nochnia thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 25, 2011
    Okay. After thinking again about it, it's pretty clear for me. Buying an "old" 2010 Mac Pro doesn't make any sense at all since the 3,4GHz i7 iMac is cheaper and faster for photoshop/lightroom.

    If the new upcoming Mac Pro base config includes a hexacore, it's something to think about, else it doesn't make much sense, since photoshop is only using max 5 cores... and the i7 is quite good for this kind of work...
  7. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    One factor to consider with the iMac is when the hard drive fails you will have to wait for Apple to replace it. The hard drive for the iMac has a proprietary firmware for reading it's temperature. So it's fans will always run full tilt on a normal aftermarket hard drive. Though it seems there are manual fan control programs to override this problem.

    Also with the Mac Pro you can install multiple hard drives and set your data drives in RAID 0 for greater performance. You can also install a RAID card for RAID 5 &c.
  8. nochnia thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 25, 2011
    Yeah that's right. That's also a big advantage of the mac pro tower...
  9. itsamacthing macrumors 6502a

    Sep 26, 2011
    As far as storage on your mac goes... you don't need a tower to expand your storage. You can very easily take the PC you are going to replace and repurpose it as a NAS. Buy a reasonably priced RAID card (LSI 9625-8i with Cache Cade Pro 2.0) , 4 2TB HDDs (preferably enterprise class) and a single SSD. Setup RAID 10...or go read about all the raids and then setup Raid 10. The Cache Cade Pro software on the LSI raid card will cache frequently accessed data blocks to your SSD. So your raid array will perform like a array of SSDs. You can then setup a NAS using openfiler or Windows Server 2008R2 .. or if you have a friend with an MSDN subscription, you can ask them to test out Windows Storage Server R2. You can put 2 high performance Intel NIC into it and then setup iSCSI to your iMac. That will give you all the storage space you need. Of course, you can get the Promise Pegasus but anyone who buys that is a sucker. The drives they force you to buy are desktop drives that can not handle RAID.
  10. 53kyle macrumors 65816


    Mar 27, 2012
    Sebastopol, CA
    For hard drive failure, doesn't AppleCare cover that?
  11. gusping macrumors 6502

    Mar 12, 2012
    London, UK
    for single/ only a couple of tasks the top end iMac is faster than the Mac pro
  12. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Yes, AppleCare covers it - but you have to take it to an Apple Authorized Repair shop, or an Apple Store. However, that would be the same for an AppleCare warranty repair on a Mac Pro.

    I have a couple of friends who are pro photographers. The iMac glossy screen is not an issue with them.... however, they also both work in essentially windowless rooms.

    There are rumours that an iMac with a non-glossy screen is coming soon. If you are waiting for a refreshed Mac Pro anyway....

    Regardless, I would suggest an iMac for you. Photoshop does not need a fancy GPU. Enhanced GPUs benefit video, not still images. Your GPU is not the limiting factor, it's the colours that a monitor can display. So save the money and get a really good monitor. On the other hand, any decent monitor can display more colours than most printers.... so I've never really understood the need to spend $$$ so that you can see all the colours when your clients will never see those colours.... but that's just me.

    ps I'm a pro photographer as well. I've got a 2008 Mac Pro, but I'd have no issues moving to a big iMac if I had to.

  13. Mike Valmike macrumors 6502a

    Feb 27, 2012
    Chandler, Arizona
    That's about right. A few things you may want to consider:

    - The main value in a Mac Pro, the functionality that the iMac cannot match, is the ability to do extensive high-end, high-volume audio and video recording and editing. Not just video editing which even a Macbook Air will do perfectly well, but taking video and preparing it for commercial use. Or recording from a multi-track soundboard with various effects applied on a track-by-track basis. A/V is where the Mac Pro and its many cores actually get used. If you are not doing these things, then the Mac Pro might be a bad value no matter what else you need your computer for.

    - Others have mentioned it, but getting an extra monitor for color-accurate work would be important since you are working with images. I do not know enough about that market to know if there is a Thunderbolt option or if you will be stuck with some other connection, so you should wait for the iMac refresh and make sure you will be able to connect the display that works best for you.

    - You don't actually have to wait for a Thunderbolt external storage if you get the 27" iMac, because you can put an SSD boot drive AND an HDD into that iMac at the same time. This is the config my brother got last year and it works very well for him, a 256GB SSD with the OS and basic things on it, and a 2TB HDD full of movies, music, photos, etc. No external devices needed. The 2011 iMac was limited to 2TB HDD size "officially," but apparently larger HDDs of 3TB or 4TB work just fine. Perhaps the 2012 iMac will show larger HDDs as a config-to-order option.

    I have a 2009 iMac and it has performed well but I need more power, so my situation is like yours: I am watching to see whether the 2012 Mac Pro or 2012 iMac (if indeed we get refreshes of both) is the best option. I don't work in high-end video but I DO record multi-track audio. But I am willing to record with limited functionality if it saves thousands of dollars. :)

    Best of luck!
  14. velocityg4 macrumors 601


    Dec 19, 2004
    Yes, as I said you have to wait. For a work computer waiting a couple days or weeks is unacceptable. As the cost of downtime is many times greater than paying a technician for same day service.
  15. foodog macrumors 6502a


    Sep 6, 2006
    Atlanta, GA
    It does but lugging a 27" iMac into a store isn't the easiest thing to do.
  16. zigzag801, May 6, 2012
    Last edited: May 6, 2012

    zigzag801 macrumors member

    Apr 5, 2008
    I'm in the same dilemma so I hope OP won't mind if I ask a question as well :). I have a MacBook Pro, 15 inch Late 2008 with a 27in MiniDisplay Port Apple Monitor(not thunderbolt), 4GB ram, 2.4ghz.

    Although it works well for most things, when I got my 5D2 about 9 months ago my computer started having issues. My old camera was a 40D and the size of those images gave my MacBook pro no issues. However when I got back from my first shoot with the 5D2 there was a significant slowness difference. With having photoshoots almost every week the slowness of Photoshop is starting to drive me crazy. (I also do a little bit of video here and there, which is almost impossible)

    I was going to get a next gen iMac 27inch when it comes out and use the MacBook pro for little things, but a part of me is waiting for a new MacPro to come out if it ever does. If I get the iMac then I can hook up my already owned, 27in Apple Display and have dual monitors, which would be nice, and if the iMac were to have a fault somewhere at least I would have my laptop still for emergencies. With doing heavy photo editing, and light video editing I'm not sure whether the MacPro would be too powerful for me, making the iMac the perfect choice. Or getting an iMac and wishing I got a MacPro :/

    Like the OP, I'm not really sure what I need/want to get yet that will make my photography (as well as other applications such as other Adobe products, or Diablo 3 :cool: ) be more practical for my lifestyle.

    EDIT: Found this handy thread about Photoshop benchmarking and that i7 is doing some amazing times! My current MBP was no where near those numbers. I think I'll save the money and get the next gen i7 iMac
  17. Buzzerfly macrumors newbie

    Aug 24, 2014
    Returning my Mac Pro!

    Just my 2 cents. I have a 2011 iMac, and noticed that it was struggling with large files during my photo editing (I am a professional photographer). Using mostly LR, PS, with Topaz and Nik products. Really running into problems when combining large files ala HDR or 15 shots into a large pano. So, I just bought a screaming Mac Pro, and the results are.... disappointing to say the least. Programs like Denoise and Silver Efex Pro 2 are noticeably SLOWER on my Mac Pro. I feel gypped, and will probably return my Mac Pro to the Apple store on Monday.:mad:

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