Why IMHO the i9/Vega iMac is a great machine for photo editing (mostly)

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Bohemien, May 14, 2019.

  1. Bohemien, May 14, 2019
    Last edited: May 22, 2019

    Bohemien macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #1
    Hi all,

    I didn't really know where to post this, as it touches topics that were/are discussed in different threads, e.g. "580X Vs Vega 48 in the real world?", "Why people go for Vega 48?" or the various threads where people wonder if they should get the 2019 iMac with the i9 and/or Vega 48 graphics, but doesn't really fit into one or the other topic, so I decided to put it in a new thread. Sorry this post turned out to be a bit lengthy, I highlighted some parts to make it easier to jump to what might be interesting.

    I got myself the i9 CPU with 40GB of RAM, 1 TB SSD and the Vega 48 graphics. I was coming from a 2011 17" MBP with i7@2.2GHz, a Radeon 6750M GPU, 16GB RAM, 1 TB EVO-850 SSD. Photo editing was mainly done in LR 6 until recently, when I switched to Capture One Pro.

    So my new iMac had to be able to run Lightroom at "reasonable" speed inside a Parallels VM running El Capitan, and give me enough headroom to be happy working with it under Capture One (or whatever I'll be using in the future) for at least 8 years, that's why I went with the top config. And I wasn't disappointed. :D

    Here are some tests I did and what I found:

    (1a) Comparing LR speed on the 2011 MBP vs. a OSX 10.11 VM (4 cores, 8MB RAM, 512MB allocated for graphics) on the new iMac:

    I used Lightroom to export a set of 119 24MP RAW images, all with adjustments and resized to 2MP. My MBP did this in 7:41, while the iMac needed 4:12 - that's 55% of the time, running inside a VM. Sweet!

    Some other aspects I find noteworthy:
    • I attached a screenshot of Intel Power Gadget. You can see that during rendering, the VM used approx. 25% of the cores (sure, I set the VM to use 4 cores)-and because of this, the CPU ran around a constant 4,6GHz. Nice!
    • CPU temperature slowly rose to approx. 90°C, but the fans didn't ramp up. Maybe during longer renders they will, but for this typical use case of exporting ca. 100 RAWs, that's really ok I think. I hear the fan constantly BTW, but it doesn't bother me too much, noise level reminds me of a spinning hard drive. Noticeable when it's quiet, but during the day time with some street noise coming through the window, I don't really hear it.
    • OTOH, the fans on the 2011 MBP came on after 40 seconds, so noise-wise that machine was louder than the iMac during the process.
    • Due to the iMac screen being so huge, I can run El Capitan inside a window that has the size of my 17" MBP's screen, while enjoying faster CPU speed and retina resolution. This is absolutely stunning to me. (The only drawback is that animations in the Finder, especially the dock, are really slow and choppy in the VM, although I allocated 512MB of RAM to it, which is recommended by Parallels. If there is a solution to this, please point me to it-thx!)
    (1b) The same export as before, but this time in LR 6.14 running in Mojave (10.14.5) on the i9 iMac:

    LR finished the export in 2:38 with GPU enabled and 2:33 CPU only. This is 3 times faster on the 2019 iMac vs. the 2011 MBP, with the benefit of GPU processing being negligible, and 1.6 times faster than the VM.

    However, when doing the test CPU-only, the fans ramped up slightly after approx. 2:10 to a level where I could clearly hear them, but not to an annoying extent. They went back to base level right after the export was done.

    NB: Lightroom 6.14 can still be installed and is running fine under 10.14.5, as the application is 64bit. However, the installer is a 32bit application, so might cause problems in future OS versions, that's when being able to run LR in the VM might come in handy.

    (2) Comparing Capture One speed (2011 i7@2.2GHz vs 2019 i9@3.6GHz):

    Here, I performed an export of 128 24MP RAWs with adjustments (most photos with 2-3 layers) and resizing.

    2011 MBP (CPU only): 8:59
    iMac (CPU only): 3:02
    iMac (GPU enabled): 2:36
    (roughly 3.5 times faster than the MBP)

    Things I noticed:
    • When enabling the GPU, Capture One will use nearly ONLY the GPU for the export. Using Intel Power Gadget, I observed an average CPU usage of 6% (at 2.5GHz) during the export, the temperature staying around 55°C. I don't have iStat menu so I don't know the GPU temperature, but fans stayed nicely at their base speed during the whole process. This is on the iMac-on the MBP, enabling the GPU makes the export process slower than when choosing "CPU only", that's why there is only one time for the MBP above.
    • When disabling the GPU on the iMac, CPU speed stayed around 4.2GHz over the process, all cores used, with temperature rising to around 90°C. Here I heard the fans SLIGHTLY ramp up at one point during the export, but not annoyingly so.
    One more thing: when typing this, CPU frequency stays between 1.3 and 1.8 GHz, Power Gadget showing a draw of 2-3 Watts for the package, so the processor (of course) doesn't draw all that juice all the time.

    Now I realize that someone coming from a newer machine will not find these performance gains that spectacular, but as we saw in that other thread many people use their Macs for a long time, so I hope this might be interesting to some who are still deciding on which machine to get. Long story short, I think the i9/Vega iMac is an amazing machine, I am not regretting spending the extra €€€ on CPU and GPU and hope this iMac will really last me a long time before wanting anything else. :)

    EDIT: I added "mostly" to the thread title, because drawing masks in Capture One still is very far from a smooth, satisfying experience, see my post below.

    EDIT #2: The lag when drawing masks seems to be a thing someone working on a 5K screen has to live with in 2019-see my conclusion below, with workarounds to make the lag bearable.
     

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  2. codernova macrumors member

    codernova

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  3. Returnoftheimac macrumors newbie

    Returnoftheimac

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    #3
    Really thorough, best of luck with your new machine.
     
  4. mrvo, May 15, 2019
    Last edited: May 15, 2019

    mrvo macrumors member

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    #4
    I'm getting the same one with 512GB for the same purpose! My catalogue stays on the internal NVME, the raws are on external 4TB 2.5" SSD.

    Can you download a free trial of Helicon Focus and go to Preferences\Performance and run the benchmark? with and without Use OpenCL hardware acceleration
     
  5. Zettie1996 macrumors newbie

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    #5
    So the GPU will be used by Capture One. In that case is it better to choose het Vega48 and leave the i9 and go with the i5 for savings (or a bigger SSD)?
     
  6. Bohemien, May 15, 2019
    Last edited: May 16, 2019

    Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #6
    I put the RAWs on the internal disk as long as I'm PPing that session, then I move them to a Synology NAS attached to my WiFi-Router.

    I did the above LR comparison (119 RAWs, 24MP each) also when the files were stored on the NAS instead of the internal disc:

    2011 MBP: 8:24 (10% longer than before)
    VM on iMac: 5:53 (40% longer)

    I guess the considerably larger difference on the iMac between having the RAWs stored on the internal disc or on the NAS reflects the much higher speed of the NVMe SSD vs. the Samsung EVO 850 running in the MBP.

    Did it-see attached pictures. I'm pretty content with the result: around 136 for the CPU and 496 for the GPU test (average over several passes). :D

    Things I noticed:
    • In the CPU test, my i9 score was mostly around 137, but definitely slower than the i9 score shown on Helicon's comparison page. Intel Power Gadget shows a pretty similar behaviour during subsequent tests (see attached image): CPU ramps up to around 4.5GHz, average during the benchmark was 4.2GHz I'd say. Activity Monitor showed all 16 threads were utilized (each one not at 100%), Power Gadget shows total CPU usage was around 75%, so the CPU wasn't driven to its max. Maybe that explains the lower score-my guess is Helicon did their test with a 9900K sitting inside a PC with less restrictive power management than on the iMac.
    • In the GPU test, the Vega 48 sits nicely between the GeForce GTX1080Ti and RTX2080Ti and well above the Radeon RX580, so no complaints from me! :D (I'm a console gamer, so I'm only interested in the Vega's performance for use in applications, which seems to be solid.)
    • Fans were at base speed during the tests (as expected for 15-second-bursts). In the Power Gadget screenshot, you can see how fast the temperature went up and down again during the test (it shows 3 passes of the benchmark).

    Hope this helps!
    --- Post Merged, May 15, 2019 ---
    I'd say if your budget allows for either the i9 or the Vega, yes, it might make sense to go for the Vega, judging from my results so far.

    I think from my results one could assume that they would be pretty similar with an i5/Vega configuration: The VM makes good use of it's allocated CPU cores, but as you can assign "only" a maximum of 4, the additional cores of the i9 do not add to the performance anyway. Capture One uses either the CPU or the GPU for exporting, with the GPU being considerably faster, so if that specific task is important to you, getting the Vega over the i9 might make sense.

    However, I think my tests only show that the Vega offers a significant advantage in processing speed in certain applications (and where a program utilizes it at all), and the test using LR inside the VM can IMHO be interpreted as the i5 probably being powerful enough (as its turbo boost speed also reaches up to 4.6GHz) for this scenario.

    That said, with 6 cores running at base speed of 3.7GHz, that's surely enough for most applications, as many programs apparently can't use more than 6 cores anyway (there was some discussion on this topic after the new iMac came out). I guess the i9 shows its advantages in cases where you either run several processor-hungry applications in parallel, or where software makes more use of multi-threaded processing, I guess music production might be such a case (e.g. running power-hungry software synths).

    [Just for the sake of completeness: while you can't exchange the CPU without opening up the iMac, you could get a much more powerful GPU in an external enclosure later, if you choose the i9 over the Vega 48.]

    And in general, getting a SSD always speeds up a system a lot (see also my post above where I had the RAW files on my NAS instead of the internal disc). Getting the 512GB internal SSD should be more than sufficient, I only got the bigger one because I wanted to store 2-3 large VMs on it (instead of getting an external X5, which is also an option for you).
     

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  7. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

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    #7
    Yea, that’s gonna be slow 1/6th the internal speed of that new iMac.

    If you want the same speed as your iMac, that will take a 4T RAID 0 (or larger RAID 10) connected over Thunderbolt 3. That’s not cheap but there are a few choices out there. A pair of 2TB NVMe 3 x4 blades RAID 0 in the right TB3 enclosure is your best bet.

    Or...

    Using a 2TB TB3 external such as the Samsung X5 will cost a lot less but it’s only 2TB. Ordering your iMac with a 2TB SSD onboard in conjunction with the X5 is a reasonable compromise and not horribly expensive if you want to maintain the bus speed all the way through.

    There’s a reason that the iMac Pro is available with up to 4TB SSD onboard. Pro Windows rendering stations are available with 8TB SSD. Expensive? Oh yes (a lot more $$$ than the iMac Pro) but they wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a need.
     
  8. mrvo, May 15, 2019
    Last edited: May 15, 2019

    mrvo macrumors member

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    #8
    Thanks man! First thing I'll do is replace the paste with Kryonaut.
    Now I'm just waiting for the iPad SideCar integration and hopefully Adobe suite makes uses of it

    Since this thread is all about content creation performance, can you also run this Puget System benchmark if you have Photoshop. And this LR Enhance Details GPU test (it's a bit manual, the sample raws is here).

    p.s: what's your ambient temp and running temps with Safari and VM? I tend to do light web dev using VirtualBox and have like 10-20 Safari tabs open.
    It's alright, I don't do videos, 1:1 preview + smart preview on internal is good. I get 250-400 mb/s to the external SSD.
     
  9. Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #9
    I'm afraid this wouldn't make much sense, as I'm running CS6 only inside the VM (and LR 6 doesn't have the Enhance Details functionality anyway). On the Mojave side of things, I'm working with Capture One and Affinity Photo, no Adobe there... I also have On1 Photo RAW but haven't really warmed up to it yet, although I want to start using it at least for creating Panos since C1 doesn't offer that (yet?).

    I guess judging from my Helicon Focus scores, you might expect a result somewhere between a GTX1080Ti and RTX2080Ti?

    Room temperature is around 20°C. While typing this, CPU speed is around 1.4GHz, temperature around 42°C, with the VM running in the background with LR open (but not doing anything). During startup of the VM and Lightroom, CPU temps stayed at 50-60°C, speeds between 1.6 and 4.6GHz. This machine really seems to be very efficient with its power management, all the while being pretty quiet (but the fans are audible, as I wrote).
     
  10. Lankyman macrumors 68000

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    #10
    I suspect even the lower spec i5 2019 iMac would make a pretty decent machine for this type of usage.
     
  11. Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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  12. Bohemien, May 19, 2019
    Last edited: May 19, 2019

    Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #12
    After editing my first project on the new iMac, here's one negative point: the performance of Capture One when drawing masks is still abysmal-on the new iMac as bad as on my MBP, and that's 8 years old...

    Ok, the difference is that the iMac has to draw 6x as many pixels as the MBP, but still I'd have expected more. Pretty annoying-you create a layer, throw in 1-2 adjustments (e.g. bump the exposure and lift the shadows) and start drawing, with a pretty noticeable delay between you moving the mouse and the effect being visible. Preview size is set to 2560px BTW (default value), photo is stored on the internal SSD, so no loading times involved. I looked at Activity Monitor while doing this, all cores are involved but not to their max, GPU is at maybe 50% load.

    I tried switching off hardware acceleration for "displaying", this makes drawing masks (subjectively) slightly faster, but I'd still call it sluggish. So the i9 is lightyears ahead of the 2011 i7 in terms of exporting, but editing is not noticeably smoother than on the old machine.

    What is your experience? Can this be sped up? Is it a problem of Capture One or the higher screen resolution?

    (I still love my new iMac, don't get me wrong. But this machine not being able to edit photos smoothly? C'mon...)
     
  13. mdelrossi macrumors member

    mdelrossi

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    #13
    Are you up to date on C1? I have a late 2014 5k an drawing masks are fine. On Fuji Gfx files.
     
  14. Bohemien, May 19, 2019
    Last edited: May 19, 2019

    Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #14
    Yep, C1 Pro 12.0.3 on 10.14.5. :( Editing 24MP RAW files from the Nikon Z6.

    I just checked: there's even a delay when I show the mask instead of the adjustments ("M" key).

    I'd hope there's just some setting I got wrong? I mean, your GFX files are much larger than my Z6 ones...
     
  15. mdelrossi macrumors member

    mdelrossi

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    #15
    I usually draw the mask first , and refine before editing any exposure settings. I’ll check it out tomorrow.Have you been to the C1 forum?
     
  16. nihil0 macrumors regular

    nihil0

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    #16
    I have very similar issues with Luminar 3 on my config (2017 27-inch i5 9600K, 24 GB RAM, 2 TB Fusion, R580 8 GB VRAM). So maybe it is the issue of C1 itself.
     
  17. Mark_EL macrumors newbie

    Mark_EL

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    #17

    I do think this is mainly due to the 5K display. I just tried it myself with one image, making a layer, bump the exposure, lift the shadows and then started drawing. First I used the iMac screen, which sometimes gave a considerable lag indeed. Then I moved Capture One over to my second screen (or actually my main editing screen), which is a 27" Eizo ColorEdge display with a native resolution of 2560x1440, and started drawing again. That made the drawing go a lot smoother and (mostly) without lagging.

    I also tried showing the mask with the "M" key like you did. On my iMac screen it lagged considerably too, while on my Eizo screen toggling the mask on or off goes instantly.

    The image that I used for this test was an 42MP RAW file of a Sony A7RIII and contained a lot of detail (grass, both in and out of focus). My iMac is also an i9 but with the 580X, 40GB RAM and 512GB SSD. Its running on OSX 10.14.4 and C1 12.0.3. The preview size in C1 is set to 2560px too. I have not tried to turn off hardware acceleration though.
     
  18. Bohemien, May 20, 2019
    Last edited: May 20, 2019

    Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #18
    Thanks for checking this out guys!

    I found a thread on the C1 forum where this is discussed. Link:

    https://forum.phaseone.com/En/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=31630

    Thanks! Just went there, see above.

    I really need/want to draw the adjustments in, not the mask first. E.g. when whitening teeth and eyeballs, I set exposure around +1EV and saturation -100, set brush flow to 5%, then apply the effect to taste. ;) So drawing the mask first would be counter-intuitive in this scenario.

    Interesting, thanks for the cross-check! When I get home today I'll try if e.g. reducing the C1 window size helps.
     
  19. Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #19
    I just tried two things:
    • Raised the preview size to 5120px, that didn't change anything. I thought if I max out the preview size, it might become faster-apparently not.
    • Resized the C1 window to a quarter of the screen size. This helped a bit, made the lag between moving the brush and seeing the effect smaller, but it's still there, and of course that's not how I want to work when I have this big beautiful screen in front of me...
     
  20. mdelrossi macrumors member

    mdelrossi

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    #20
    @Bohemien , I just tried the masking brush and it does lag a little bit. Full screen, brush size 668. though I would think that since mine is almost 5 years old yours should be smooth.
     
  21. Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #21
    Yep, that's what I thought too. ;) As I wrote, the lag is almost the same with my 2011 MBP... which has a much lower resolution, but still... very annoying, this.
     
  22. mdelrossi macrumors member

    mdelrossi

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  23. Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #23
    Yep, that looks pretty similar to what I'm experiencing! Thanks for taking the time to post this.

    I guess if the performance of your 5-year old machine and mine is similar in that regard, one could assume the problem originates in Capture One itself (inefficient programming)? Maybe everyone experiencing the lag should open a support case with them, to make them aware of users being unhappy...

    (Besides that, I really like Capture One's output, the RAW processing is much better than Lightroom IMHO, and I really love the color editor. I just miss a few tools I was used to-e.g. the healing brush in LR is far superior to C1's, I hope they address that in a future update.)
     
  24. mdelrossi macrumors member

    mdelrossi

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    #24
    it gets better if you set the scaling in system prefs to the next larger size. sort of a mid ground. It is a pity since C1 is an excellent processor and has so many great things about it. They need to step up on the catalog side as well as this issue.

    Whats your website? Any samples of your work?

    delrossiphotography.com
     
  25. Bohemien thread starter macrumors regular

    Bohemien

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    #25
    I agree! Yes, I thought scaling the system resolution down might help after seeing a resize of the editing window sped things up a bit, but of course I like the way the screen is set now for having some more "real estate". I will open a support case with them, hopefully they'll address the issue in future releases. :rolleyes:

    Nice work! I only have some landscape stuff online on my flickr stream. Besides that I do portraits and event photography, but can't share much of it online (look here or here for a sample).
     

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