MP, iMac for heavy photo editing - budget constrained

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by blackmtn, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. blackmtn macrumors member

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    Mar 17, 2010
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    Northern British Columbia
    #1
    Hello all, I've been lurking here for the last few months trying to determine the answer to my question, but haven't really come to a decision so finally thought I'd throw out a few questions for some opinions!

    Usage:
    I am an amateur photographer but have lately been working myself into a bit of a niche that requires more computer than I currently have.

    I use Aperture 3 as my bread and butter editor/DAM and use PS for specific fixes. I am finding my current computer slow for this. However, I have been working towards multi-stitching landscapes, which requires stitching together upwards of 9-12 photos and pretty much grinds my current computer to a halt, both when stitching and when trying to edit them.

    Computer Choices:
    I have been looking at the iMac 27" with either the i5 or i7, and from a raw power perspective I think they are enough, but the screen very much concerns me (yellow tint etc). I'm still working on a 20" iMac with a matte screen and don't relish the thought of a glossy one either.

    Mac Pro would be nice from an expandability point of view, but I don't know that I would really push its limits in terms of raw power. I would also be able to choose a proper display, something like the NEC 2690 (http://www.necdisplay.com/Products/Product/?product=e46df7f2-40d7-4b16-b6ed-9c444e398f11). Biggest draw-back here is price. I am budget constrained to around 3k, so I would either be stuck with a smaller monitor or a much older refurb/second hand MP.

    3rd option is a hackintosh I guess - after reading Cindori's thread they seem viable, but I don't want to spend a month building it either. I have built a computer in the distant past (Win 98 days), so could probably manage it again, but haven't kept current so would need a parts list I think. (And from an artistic engineer's point of view I do really appreciate Apple's product design!)

    Current computer for comparison: iMac 20" 2ghz Core Duo (NOT C2D), 2 gb ram, and the (accursed) ATI x1600 (which is giving me terrible graphic glitches in SL).
     
  2. gotzero macrumors 68040

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    Mid-Atlantic, US
    #2
    Get an iMac. The things that make the Mac Pro a much more powerful machine are all extra. FWIW, the base machine for me ended up being about 40-50% of the total cost. The iMac pretty much has it all. You do not end up with as powerful of a platform, but the iMac is a system and the Mac Pro is a starting point...
     
  3. robotkiller macrumors 6502

    robotkiller

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2009
    #3

    I've been using an i7 iMac for heavy Lightroom use. Typically have been manipulating very large 5DMarkII 21mpx files without any problems. The yellow tint is a legitimate concern. I was an early adopter and had to go through a few iMacs to find a good one. The yellow tint, at it's worst, is a minor annoyance and doesn't practically impact real work, IMO.
     
  4. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #4
    It's tough to beat the value of the iMac. You essentially get the display for free, and the 27" display (when working properly) is amazing. Anyone on a constrained budget should NOT be considering a Mac Pro.
     
  5. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

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    #5
    From what I understand, there seems to be two main types of yellow tint, the whole screen or some portion of the bottom part of the screen - I wonder if the whole screen type can be gotten rid of through calibration?

    Have you calibrated your screen? I'm producing prints that I'll be selling for up to a couple hundred dollars, so if I've corrected an image wrong and the colours come out screwy from some yellow tint on my monitor I'll simply have to buy another monitor to connect to the iMac I guess. I live in the sticks in northern BC so sending an iMac back 2-3 times to get a decent one isn't really an option.
     
  6. rnb2 macrumors regular

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    #6
    I just moved from a 1st-generation Mac Pro quad 2GHz to an i7 iMac, and have no regrets. The screen issue was a concern, but (knock on wood) I don't see any issues with mine, and I'm not going to go hunting for them. The screen is GORGEOUS, by the way - your photos in Aperture 3 will blow you away. The glossy screen has not been an issue at all - as long as it isn't pointed at a window, I really don't think you'll have a problem.

    If you have $3k to spend, I don't think a Mac Pro is an option - you're going to spend $3k on the base machine and RAM, and still have no monitor. Even if you go the refurb quad-core route, you're only going to have about $400 left after getting the machine and RAM (you'll probably want 12GB).

    For $3k, you can get the i7 iMac with plenty of money left over for RAM (you'll probably want at least 8GB total, though I went to 12GB on mine - buy from a reputable 3rd party, not Apple), and you could even look into the 2TB drive option and keep within your budget. The i7 is faster than any quad-core Mac Pro other than the 3.33GHz model, and you get the 27" screen essentially for free.
     
  7. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

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    #7
    Hmm, I guess I'll end up going the iMac route and just hope the screen is ok for my needs - I don't relish the thought of having two monitors of that size on my desk!

    Can anyone chime in on the relative cost of a hackintosh?
     
  8. robotkiller macrumors 6502

    robotkiller

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2009
    #8

    Yes, the monitor is calibrated. The yellow "tinge" affected portions of the screen, typically the right lower portion and not the whole screen. It's a very slight color shift and I've never found that it negatively impacted overall color to any appreciable degree. YMMV. Keep in mind that my first iMac came in the very first shipment of i7 iMacs to this country. My current one is a 2010 build.

    Otherwise, the screen is quite beautiful - insanely bright and very, very crisp.
     
  9. electrolux76 macrumors member

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    NY,NY
    #9
    As far as the Hackintosh option goes I would say if you have the budget for a i5 or i7 iMac, go with the iMac. I am also a photographer and I also have a nice powerful quad core Hackintosh. It was the right choice for me at the time; with my budget, it was either a Hackintosh or an outdated used mac. I went with the Hackintosh but had I had the budget and the quad core iMacs were out at the time I would have gone for the iMac in a heartbeat.

    Putting together a Hackintosh can really be a huge pain. Physically putting one together is no problem, its wrestling with kext files & graphics card injectors that killed me. Once I had it up and running it worked great, but keep in mind that every time there is a system update you can't just just run software update. You have to troll forums and wait until people find out and report how the system update effects hackintoshes and then you need to update manually and probably deal with kext files & graphics injectors all over again.

    As far as the cost of a Hackintosh goes, I think someone in your position wouldent really be paying that much of a premium for an iMac considering that you don't have a display and the high quality of the iMac display(production issues aside). The display on the 27" iMac is fantastic (I have used them at work) and to get asimilar display for a hackintosh would be quite expensive. Dell sells a 27" display that uses the exact same panel that the iMac does (Ultrasharp U2711) and they charge $1,100 for it. So if you take that into account you're really paying 1,100 for the screen and only 900 for the rest of the iMac. The best you're probably going to do price wise for a similar spec'ed Hackintosh is in the $600-$700 range minimum. That's only a $200-$300 difference. IMHO the peace of mind of having an actual Mac with an actual warranty is worth the $200-$300 if not more.

    Hope that's helpful.
     
  10. Fotog macrumors newbie

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    Mar 3, 2009
    Location:
    Canmore, AB
    #10
    I'll be in the other camp and encourage you to stay away from an iMac and get a used MP. It'll take some time to find what you want and within your budget, but it's worth it.

    Depending where you are in BC, here's one: http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/sys/1646992574.html

    In the end, the system is more flexible and powerful.

    I've used Lightroom on the latest iMac (my in-law's), my 2-year-old 15" Macbook Pro and my 'new' 2006 MP 2x2.66. By far the fastest computer is the MP, as you can separate the system from storage and scratch. If you are working with large files (although I find my MBP doesn't have much issues with 21mp RAWs either - just make sure to keep them on an eSATA connected external) a striped RAID in the MP will blow away even the fastest drive in an iMac.

    If you think you'll be happy with an iMac display, then a $1600 display might be overkill. I'm running a calibrated 23" ACD and find it matches the output of my Espon 3800 perfectly - I've never tried a truly high-end color display, but doubt it will provide much more value for your buck.

    Again, you can find used displays for much, much less than new or refurbs. (there's a few 23" ACD's floating around Alberta / BC for around $500, and I've seen a couple of 30" ACD's in the $900-1000 range).
     
  11. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #11
    Hello,

    I do a lot of photographic work on my mac pro and I chose it as an upgrade from a 24inch 2008 iMac. The iMac was simply too slow (not really the CPU but everything else) and too limited for my taste.

    But, as others have said, with a 3K$ limit, the MP is not for you.

    I wanted to add another possible solution: put a SSD in your iMac, and have a "permanent" FireWire 800 external drive. This combination, while a lot more expensive than your regular iMac, would also be a lot faster.

    You could have your OS (without user data, the OS only takes around 20GB) and work data on your SSD, and have everything else on the very fast external drive.

    And if ever you decide to upgrade your iMac to a mac pro, you can take the SSD with you, and put the external drive in the MP as well.

    Good luck,

    Loa
     
  12. gotzero macrumors 68040

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    Jan 6, 2007
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    Mid-Atlantic, US
    #12
    You could add an SSD and leave the stock HDD in place by putting one in the slot for the optical drive...
     
  13. rnb2 macrumors regular

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    Location:
    West Haven, CT, USA
    #13
    I can agree with using an SSD for the OS and Applications - I was running my Mac Pro with that setup, and it worked very well. I've moved the SSD to an external FW800 enclosure with the iMac (after testing it with the Mac Pro and finding it worked quite well) - while you lose the high sustained transfer rate of the SSD via FW800, you still have the complete lack of latency and thrashing, so the machine still feels a lot faster than using a platter-based drive when booting and starting applications.

    If you consider going with an SSD and want it inside the iMac, I would hesitate to pull the installed HD to do it. Even a fast FW800 RAID isn't going to match a fast internal SATA drive, and with the amount of data you're looking at moving, I'd want at least my current working photos on a fast internal drive (in fact, that's exactly what I AM doing). Much better, if you're going to open the iMac anyway, to pull the optical drive and use one of the available brackets (mcetech.com, etc) to mount the SSD in its place. I'll probably eventually do this myself, but I'm satisfied with the performance of the machine in its current configuration.
     
  14. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

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    Mar 17, 2010
    Location:
    Northern British Columbia
    #14
    Great feedback in the last couple hours!

    The first part of your quote about the hack is what I'm not interested in about them - I don't really want to be messing around with the thing all the time.

    For the second part; I just have a hard time liking glossy screens. I've used them in the past and find that without specific lighting conditions they are a PITA. I also find them usually over-saturated and bright, though that may be because I was using relatively cheap ones. It is vitally important that I be able to print match (something I can do on my 4 year old 20" iMac matte screen).

    I do understand the argument regarding cost though - I just wish Apple would offer matte screens as BTO again.

    gotzero and Loa, I think I'm going to avoid the SSD option as I don't mind waiting a few extra seconds for a program to load and I don't want to be ripping a new iMac apart to add one. What I do mind is how long my adjustments take - if I'm adding a curve or sharpening an image, I want to be able to flip back and forth without having to wait 10 seconds like I do currently.

    In terms of file size, I'm working in Raw, and with 9-12 images together we're getting into the 100+ megapixel range, so I'll be hogging RAM etc. I generally prefer to have my immediate storage for my library etc inside my computer, and only put backups on external drives. I hadn't bothered with a separate scratch disk because I haven't seen a way to specify one in Aperture, only PS which I don't use nearly as often. Perhaps an MP would really be the best bet so I can have a few internal drives - one for apps and the other for data.
     
  15. Loa macrumors 65816

    Loa

    Joined:
    May 5, 2003
    Location:
    Québec
    #15
    Hello,

    That's why I mentioned having his working files on the SSD along with the OS, because even a "fast" SATA drive is painstakingly slow compared to a SSD.

    I confess that I never tried the method I proposed, and those iMac limitations (1 internal drive only so no internal RAID, no SSD, low RAM, etc...) made me switch to a MP.

    I was in the OP's situation in 2008 and tried the iMac. It failed to deliver for me, even though photography is barely more than a hobby for me. The SSD + FW800 drive seemed like a good compromise.

    On the other hand, having a 1-2TB drive inside + a SSD in place of the burner + an external burner makes more sense.

    Loa

    P.S. Where is that damned Mac mid-tower we've all been waiting for? ;-)
     
  16. CCK macrumors member

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    Feb 14, 2010
    Location:
    KY
    #16
    Would this void the warranty?

    Personally if I wasn't doing video, I'd have gone with an imac. But I do have a dark background in my office & am in front of the camera more that the computer.

    My wife's uncle runs a graphics company and over the last couple of years has transitioned out of the MP to the imacs and they are very happy with them.
     
  17. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

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    #17
    Gah, any mac will work better (including yellow tint!) than this garbage my x1600 is giving me right now :(
     

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  18. Apple Corps macrumors 68030

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    #18
    blackmtn - PM me - may have an interesting option for you.
     
  19. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

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    #19
    Sorry, this is not true. The Dell is in a much higher league than the 27" imac. The Dell is iMacs competitor at 27" and 2560x 1440 but that is where the comparison ends.

    iMac: 8-bits, limited to sRGB gamut - 76% RGB , glossy panel, controls are Brightness only

    Dell: 12-bit LUT, wider gamut 96% RGB, non-glare, includes two calibration curves/settings (one for sRGB and one for RGB), controls are usual Brightness, Contrast, R, G, and B controls for better calibration. Also, the non-glare should provide better shadow detail that is lost in the glossy screens
     
  20. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
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    #20
    A used (or Refurbished if one can be located) 2008 MP could work within that budget, including upgrades IMO. It uses EFI64, so it will still be able to get the latest graphics cards, and continue with OS X once it goes exclusively to K64 as well.

    Just a thought. ;)
     
  21. Full of Win macrumors 68030

    Full of Win

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    #21
    I don't know your use case, but for me - I'm being constrained because of a lack of memory, and not CPU speed.

    I have a similar iMac (Late 2006 20 inch screen, 2.16 C2D, 2GB RAM) running Leopard and a Unibody MBP (17 inch, 2.66, 4GB RAM), and I'm dealing with the same lack of RAM with photo editing on both.

    The iMac will cost 350$ to get you to the 8 GB level, and God only knows how much for the 16 GB zone. What is making me think of a hackintosh or MacPro is the ability to add RAM in the amounts that I need.
     
  22. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

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    #22
    Very good point on the Dell. My only concern for the Dell vs the NEC right now is that supposedly the Dell is having some profile problems at the moment.
     
  23. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

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    #23
    Is this a 2008?

    http://store.apple.com/ca/product/FB451LL/A?mco=MTA4MjcxNDQ

    This is the older architecture without hyperthreading and turbo boost correct?
     
  24. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

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    #24
    I know that my RAM is a bit on the low side, but I do think I am more constrained by the CPU. I'm not sure what the difference is between my CD and your C2D, but maybe it really is significant in the processing power department.

    In any case, I took a screen-shot of Activity Monitor - this is a normal amount of apps for me to have open while I'm working. Ideally I would like to have Win XP running in Parallels at the same time so I can use some programs that are still Win only or I don't have a Mac license for (like Neat Image). As you can see Aperture is utilizing most of the processor but I still have some free memory. All I did here was pick an image, and hit the 'z' key to zoom into 100%!! Every time I do something it takes a significant amount of time and eats up huge processor %.

    (On another note, why the heck does Firefox eat up so much memory??)
     

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  25. blackmtn thread starter macrumors member

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    #25
    Apparently I was hit with the dumb stick today - I can't figure out how to PM you on these forums... :eek:
     

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