New to mac's and photography, a little help? :)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Nikato, Jan 28, 2011.

  1. Nikato macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2011
    Hello everyone! Newly registered user here with some questions on the good ol mac computer.

    I suppose first I should say what I am doing and wanting. I am getting into the world of dSLR photography and will be very soon buying my camera (probably a Canon). This will be a hobby of mine so it is not my job but I do plan on spending a lot of time doing it (when ever im not working or such).

    I currently have a desktop that is pretty nice. A few years old, but with PC's i've found that they crash and have a lot of errors that pop up randomly. Because this is also my personal gaming computer, I would like to have a second computing aperatus that deals exclusively with my photography and writing (I am also planning on writing a fantasy book). Photography is very graphic intensive, especially when we enter the world of using RAW images and what not and I was told by several people that buying a netbook is not advised because they don't have the proccessing power (though my wife is an artist and uses photoshop for her art on her netbook and it seems to do fine).

    So that leaves me thinking....a mac. I am not rich though and as any photographer knows, you can easily spend over 1k on just the camera and a lense alone. I was looking into refurbished / used mac's because they are cheaper but...i seriously know nothing about specs! I'd like something portable so I don't think I want an iMAC (plus they are godly expensive) but the mac mini's are nice looking. I was looking at the macbook's but people say that they aren't good for photography because of the color aspect (though i have read that some people can get around it).

    So...I guess TL;DR version for the above; I want to get deep into photography and want a laptop but am not sure what I should be looking for spec wise. I also am unsure about the whole color issue with laptop type computers.

    With that being said (sorry i type a lot its a fault of mine) I am also wondering the following things;

    1.) PC laptops like the netbook are much cheaper then a macbook. Can they handle photo editing well enough or would i be infinitely frustrated and curse the day I bought it instead of saving and getting a macbook?

    2.) The mac mini's are interesting to me. I know I would need a monitor (I have several), but was thinking it would be cool to hook up to and work on my HD TV though I have heard that that would be a bad idea for photo editing. Thoughts?

    3:) Macbook Air's are cheaper then regular macbooks it seems, but someone told me to stay away from them. Do they have enough computing power for what i need?

    and finally... 4.) I am trying to get something good that won't randomly stop working or die and will be good for what I need. I am only a budding photographer and as such not some pro that knows how to expert photo shop and will have 3 different photo editing software open at once. With that being said, should I get a Mac or would a Pc laptop be okay?

    Sorry for the long post. I am aware that there is a photography thread below this but I would rather stay away from being a desktop computer (though the mac mini is tempting). Thanks for taking the time to read.
  2. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    1. I'd pass on netbooks for a couple reasons. First, they have rather small screens, which are pretty inconvenient for editing. They are also pretty weak in the memory, storage, and processing departments, so overall, just not a good machine to work with.

    2. Pass on the TV for a monitor idea. While HD looks awesome with a TV show, it doesn't work as well with a computer, and would be far too blurry for editing. It does work nicely with movies that are on a computer however.

    3. The Airs are more expensive for anything other than base configuration, which would be a bit cramped for RAM and 64GB of storage more than likely will not be enough. If you want a Mac laptop, definitely pass on the air, it's more of a luxury item.

    4. It really doesn't matter too much whether you go Mac or PC. They use the same basic components, just a different operating system and software. If you're already used to windows, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to stick with that. One suggestion I have is either get an older Macbook Pro, which won't be super expensive, or get a PC. If you go PC, get something with an Intel i3 or i5 and 4GB RAM, if not more.
  3. Nikato thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2011
    Thanks =). It will be awhile before i buy my laptop so I still have some time and maybe new models will come out.

    I went to a mac store and talked to a few guys there and they all said to make sure that no matter what i get, make sure it has 4gigs or more of ram. 2gigs is pushing it. I think the mini-mac can do 4 but I don't know. It's not too hard to put ram in mac's right? I do it all the time with my PC. If so I may get a mac that can have its ram upgraded (so its cheaper) then find ram online and put up to 8gigs (if it takes it).

    I have another question though. Would a regular Mac Book be sufficient for appature and similar photo editing software? I know a lot of people recommend mac book pro's but those are a little more expensive.

    Also, lastly, where would the mac mini rate in the grand scheme of photography editing when compared to a mac book air, mac book, mac book pro, and Imac?

    Thanks =D.
  4. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    Any of the currently available Macbooks or Minis are fine for photo editing, though probably better to edit with Photoshop Elements. I found Aperture to be awfully slow on my MacMini. I guess it's much the same with the current Macbook. Some will claim it's fine though, but at least you can get a 30 day trial of it to test for yourself.

    As for where the Mac Mini fits in? For me it's currently the only option. I don't like the glossy screen of the iMac and don't need the power of a MacPro. I could I suppose get a MacBook Pro and plug my monitor into it, but that's not a ideal tidy solution (for me). The Mini is a tiny, powerful little box. It's very quiet, consumes little power and does what I ask of it (often sorting 4-500 raw images files).

    Only drawback is the slow internal HDD - though my images are stored on an external Firewire 800 hdd.
  5. Nikato thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2011
    Thanks keba that is exactly what I was looking for. Someone that uses a mini. Can I ask you more about your mini? What year is it, how much ram, etc? How does the external hard drive work regarding photos? I have a few that I use for my pc but they are just backups and I don't stream the contents. Do you just connect your camera to the mac mini and transfer the files to tue harddrive or put them on the mini?

    What is your set up? Sorry for the questions but the mini is looking better and better.
  6. sim667 macrumors 65816

    Dec 7, 2010
    Basically you want a macbook or a macbook pro.
  7. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    I bought the current base Mac Mini (2.4ghz, 320gb hdd 1gb ram), I have 4gb spare from my old Mini so installed that (very easy on the current Mini).

    The external drives are connected via Firewire 800, so the transfer rate is probably better than what you are experiencing on the PC (assuming USB2). As for general photo use the performance on drive access is o.k. If the image i'm working on is a recent upload (30 day preview cache) then Lightroom opens them quick (usually a second or 2), older images take a probably 2-4 seconds which still isn't bad.

    My Lightroom database is also on the external drive which might account for the slightly slow performance (the reason for this is I've used Mac Mini's for 4 years and the base model has only recently got better drives - so I've not got round to changing it - the advantage of doing it this way is I can plug the external drives into my MacBook and it works as if it was attached to the Mini.

    To upload I connect to my Mini and the Canon Eos software is setup to copy to the external drive in a YYYY/MM/D format.

    Current Setup:

    Mac Mini 2.4gb 4gb 320gb - 2x Freecom Datatank 2TB Firewire 800 (1 setup as a Mirror, 1 setup as 2 drives - These drives were 800gb models, but I updated them with 4x 1tb drives)
    Samsung Syncmaster Matte screen
    Magic Trackpad


    The old mini pile is:

    Top - the mini which the new one replaced (now sold)
    Bottom - the mini which has just served the above image!

    2x Canon Eos 5D and a pile of 4gb cards!
  8. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2009
    United Kingdom
    Any current Mac should handle Aperture Fine. My 1.83CD iMac from 2006 could handle up to 12MPs in and out, and that was with 2GB RAM (Since upgraded to a Mac Pro) - even the current Mini "pwns" that iMac.
  9. Nikato thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2011
    Alright so pretty much this is what I am understanding.

    Since I don't want an iMac ATM....

    1. Get a Mac book pro. If not pro Regular mb is okay.

    2 Mac mini will do well for in the beginning, though the chances of needing to upgrade the ram is higher and barring the mouse keyboard and monitor I'll need some externals to act as harddrives.

    3. 4gigs is the recommened ram type.

    Is that about right? Does the mb's and mini take generic ram? Or is or super special apple only ram? Also if i was getting a used one would making a cd full of big images be a good test for a Mac speed consideration, or is there a website/free test thing I could use (like for computer games.

    I'd love to get a MacBook pro or maybe even an iMac but they are expensive so they'd have to be used.

    Thanks for all the help guys majorly.
  10. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    The ram is normal, I tend to use crucial which is fine ( other may know of other suppliers closer to you )

    One thing about all macs is the resale value, if you find you need a more powerful mac you will get a good price for your old one.
  11. Nikato thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2011
    So I got a surprise with the amount I am getting back with my tax refund and it looks like I won't be as strapped for cash as I originally thought.

    I was looking at the mac refurbish site and saw two mac's for under 1k, which is where I would like to keep it. <---a regular macbook with 2g ram

    and a with 4 gigs.

    The first mac is 849 and the second is 999. How would either of these 2 mac's do for my photography? I am pretty sure the pro would be fine but would the regular mac book be okay as well? For running appature and what not.

    I will also be looking at getting ram from newegg. I am guessing that the mac books have 2 ram slots right? The regular macbook should be upgrade able to 4gigs I think. If I did that using ram from newegg I could keep it under the 999 price of the pro. I could also buy 2 4 gigs from newegg and bump the pro up to 8 gig's for 100 bucks but I don't know if its worth it or not since I would just be doing pictures.

    Any comments would be great on this. :)
  12. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England
    Don't forget the built-in SD card slot in the MBP might come in very handy for photo work.

    Check OWC ( for the RAM, they have good prices, specialize in Mac and will buy back your OEM RAM.

  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Any recent mac built in the last three to five years will be fine for your needs. If buying a dSLR what you should worry more about is what software to use. Then buy the computer that can run that software. If you are on a budget get (1) Aperture from the App store. It's way cheep ther at about $80. and (2) Photoshop Elelemts. It too is under $100.

    A good way to get Elements is to buy a Wacom graphic tablet. and notice the Elements in bundeld inside for "free". The tablet sells for about the price of Elements. You will need the tablet for any kind of detailed photo re-touch. If you don't think so then try to sign your name with a mouse. Much easier, I bet with a pen. Drawing on photos with a mouse is hard.

    Other things you will nedd are (1) the biggest LCD screen you can afford. Best if it is NOT the "glossy" kind and (2) a large hard drive and (3) more even larger hard drives for backups that you rotate to some off side loactions and one for Time machine backups. Every year retire your oldest drive and buy a new one so you collection of backups stays new.

    And I gues you will need a computer. This is the least critical part. A Mac Mini woud do fine. A Macbook and a big external LCD from Dell or whatever

    Onemore thing A hardware color meter so you can calibrate the screen. They start at well under $100. Without it you are just blind and left guessing about color coorection

    Did I say that the computer itself matter the least, after software LCD scren, calibration and disks?
  14. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Either of these will need to be hooked up to an external monitor. Get one as big as you can. A small 13" screen is just to small for Aperture.

    Aperture and photoshop really like RAM. decide on which computer based on how much RAM you can stuf fin. Yes 2GB will work but think of 4GB as a minimum, 8 is better if you can get it. Those RAW images are huge.

    Next decide based on the disk. Faster and bigger are best but just figure on some good external drives as not notebook drive is really up to the task
  15. Nikato thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2011
    Thanks for the replies I actually have a pretty big matte screen monitor, which is why I was considering the mac mini earlier (since its also cheaper). I do know that ap and ps both use a lot of ram which is why I was only considering the mini due to budget.

    Thanks for the tips on the store. I actually have a tablet because my wife is an artist but she's already used her free elements download =\.

    So either will do for me I just need a bigger screen...i'd rather get the pro for more ram. It just takes 2 slots right? So it would have to be 2 4 gigs...

    and also will any external hard drive work with a mac or does it need to be mac specific? I have 4 lol.
  16. davidinva macrumors 6502a

    Mar 29, 2009
    Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, USA
    Mac's and photography

    I use a Macbook as my main computer and do because I can easily take it with me when I travel. I have a Samsung 21 inch monitor, purchased from Staples for $149 and 3 external hard drives (not of which are Mac specific). I use a 7 port hub to connect it all together when I am home and take one portable HD with me when I travel. I use iPhoto some, Photoshop Elements more often, and recently purchased Aperture for the $79 price, and just started experimenting with it. My system works for me. I also have a Canon 450 and a couple of point and shoot cameras. P&S's work well enough these days that I carry the Canon less and less. I use it primarily for low light and sports shots. My setup works for me, yours will vary but hopefully will meet your needs.
  17. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    I went the route of a MBP with a separate monitor. A nice flexible system.

    BTW, I updated my older pre-unibody MBP with 4mb ram and a 7200 rpm HD. A surprisingly big jump in performance, runs Aperture 3 nicely.

    This is more than sufficient for typical DSLR files, but not really up to the big scans from my 4x5. Since I am an amateur I have no deadline, so it is ok. I can update to a newer and faster MBP in the future of course.
  18. Nikato thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2011
    How long will that apature price stay in effect does anyone know?

    Thanks for the updates. Yeah I want to go with a macbook or pro because of the portability and the fact that I can use it in bed while writing. I think if I ever became professional then I would buy a Imac but it sounds to me like a macbook or pro would suit my needs.

    I DID notice though that the MB doesn't have card slots. Does the pro only have the SD? The camera I am looking at has CF so it may not matter much anyways, but I don't know if the regular mac book has the firewire port like i've apparently read that the MBP does.
  19. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    Macbooks do not have FireWire or SD, and the screen is worse than ones on MBPs, so I'd get an MBP.
  20. photographypro macrumors regular


    Jul 7, 2010
    American in Pisa (Italy)
    Mac Book Pro

    I am a professional photographer. I used to have a Mac Tower, but currently use a 3 year old MacBook Pro, with 6 gigs of Ram, but you will be fine with 4. A current MacBook is good, but the Pro will get you Firewire. has it on sale for $60 off. On the 13", the MacBook and the Pro have the same screen. I have bought several refurbished Macs, and recommend that route. Although, if you are a student, you can save on a new Mac.

    Next, get an external firewire 800 hard drive. You'll need it. As for software, almost every pro I know uses Adobe Lightroom. Photoshop is the king, but for volumes of images, like weddings, or sports, you'll want Lightroom. If you are a student, you can get it for $99.

    Feel free to email with any questions: my website

    Good luck!
  21. Nikato, Feb 5, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2011

    Nikato thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2011
    Thanks photograph! Do I just use the email on that site?I was going to but It sounds more like I want an event haha.

    I do have questions though since you have a great looking website and are currently using a pro. :)

    Does the pro have a CF slot? Also I was indeed looking at the macbook pro refurb since it seems to be the cheapest. they had one on the apple store for 999. Should I buy more ram on newegg or will 4 gigs be enough you think? Also have you tried appature? I like the look of it more then photoshop, though I know more people use the latter.

    *edit to add: Ever use a mac mini? That is my other alternative but I don't know if they have enough ram or cpu power to do the job. I am buying external hd's so im not worried about space.
  22. carlgo macrumors 68000

    Dec 29, 2006
    Monterey CA
    I would not be afraid of a refurb from Apple. They have the usual warranty and someone has actually tested the item.

    I buy what I can this way, even power tools. Only one item, a big hammer drill, ever looked like it had been used at all.

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