Monday, June 3, 2019

Is the new Apple Mac Pro the best choice for photographers?

Finally, after many years of waiting, I was happy to see that Apple just announced a new Mac Pro computer. I have been (and still am) using the 2013 model of the Mac Pro and have been waiting for this Apple announcement for years. But, now that Apple has announced all the details, the big questions are:

* Does the power of this computer justify the cost?
* Is this the best computer for photographers?

Before continuing this blog post (and what is probably fairly obvious since the computer is not even out yet) I should say that I have not actually tried the new Mac Pro and I am basing this blog post on all the specs and information that Apple announced today. But having used Macs for 15 years and knowing the technical ins and outs, I am able to make some pretty confident conclusions here.

Lets start with the base price of the new Mac Pro. This computer is going to start at $6000, which will get you an 8-core Intel Xeon processor, 32GB of memory and a 256GB solid state drive. These specs are OK for photographers, but I would never recommend a 256GB SSD and would suggest a minimum of 512GB. This will likely put the price at approximately $6500.

And then, of course, you will need to purchase a monitor. Apple's new 6K monitor looks simply amazing, but will set you back another $5000. Yikes! I am currently using a Samsung 32" 4K monitor, which is no longer current, but you can find this model for only $600 at B&H. Since I don't see myself ever spending $5000 on a monitor, I figure I am looking at a starting price of $7100 to get the new Mac with a third party display.

So...looking at this price vs performance, my first thought was to compare this new Mac to an iMac or iMac Pro.

On Apple's web site, they show this speed comparison for a task done in Adobe Photoshop CC

The first thing I notice is that Apple is running this test using "faster processing of well-threaded filters". What the heck is that? Having spend 20+ years in marketing at technology companies, I can assume that Apple looked for the the most processor intensive tasks to show off the new computer. But I don't know that I have ever run a "well-threaded filter" and would love to know if my everyday tasks in Photo Mechanic and Adobe Photoshop will be faster. And the second thing I noticed is that Apple is doing the comparison of the older Mac Pro, iMac Pro to the new Mac Pro with all 28 cores! I have no idea what the 28-core Mac Pro will sell for, but I am guessing that it will run a minimum of $10,000. I have even seen heard that a full configured 28-core Mac Pro could cost as much as $50,000.

So all this leads me to look at the prices of similarly configured iMac computers.

* A 2019 model 8-core iMac Pro with 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64X GPU, and a 27" 5K monitor can be found at B&H for $5699. Here is the link to that configuration

* An 2019 model 8-core iMac with 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, AMD Radeon Pro Vega 48 GPU and a 27" 5K monitor can be found at B&H for $4500. Here is the link to that configuration

And I should point out that having more cores in your processor does not necessarily mean that you will get a ton more speed out of photo editing tasks in programs like Photoshop. Those cores are going to be way more important to the person editing 4K or 8K video or rendering 3D graphics or large animations.

All of these computers have expansion ports (like Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C), so connecting other drives is a simple process. I choose to store only the operating system and applications on the internal drive of the computer, and keep all of my photos and documents on my Drobo 8D.

Some people are interested in the aesthetics of their computers, and the new Mac Pro looks like an updated version of the older "Cheese grater" computer I used 8 years ago. It is pretty interesting looking, but I may still be partial to the all-in-one design of the iMac for a good clean look on the desk.

My last point may seem silly to many of you, but looking at the massive power supply of the new Mac Pro, my first thought was about the heat output from this beast. Having used older computers and monitors in the past, I know that they could increase the temperature of my studio dramatically.

Is this new Mac Pro the best choice for professional photographers? I guess it really depends on how much money you have to spend and what tasks you are typically performing. None of these are inexpensive solutions, but this should give you some things to think about before buying your new Mac desktop.

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Vitor Manes said...

I find just amazing how Apple can charge a ridiculous amount of money and hold back the specs. A $6.000 machine that comes with a 256GB SSD that you can find @amazon for 30 bucks. You have got to be kidding.
Great post once again my friend!

Gord said...

Remind me again what the computers role is in the life of a professional photographer? It's a tool that wallows us to download our photos, sort, edit and then temporarily store our photos on.

Will the $6000 computer make me more efficient? Possibly but not so efficient that I could justify the cost?

Will I sell more photos? No

Will it make me a better photographer? Definitely not.

If you can afford it and you like it buy it just like some people by a Mercedes and other's buy a Ford.

Helen said...

I am not buying any Apple product anymore. God knows what they do to “older” machines to “protect” the users (extend battery life!). I was about to replace my daughter’s IPad Air due to lower performance compared to when I bought it, then I read about how Apple was playing games to sell new devices. Then I bought an Amazon Fire 8 HD Kids Edition. Apple lost a good customer because we have 2 Ipads, 2 IPhones and IMac Mini.

Helen from Forless | bloomingdales 10 off code

AGMMGA said...

Heh I just bought a custom spec GPU crunching machine for the lab with:

4x NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti
128 Gb RAM
1x 256 Gb SSD
1x 1 Tb SSD
3x 8Tb SATA
24 core (48 threads) 3.2 GHz clock AMD threadripper
+ all the other stuff to run it

for ~ EUR 8000.

There is no display and no windows licence, but if you add those things, I am sure it can run photoshop just fine...

The Mac tax is unreal...

berry johnson said...

I think mac pro is the best choice for photographers even 16-inch MacBook Pro with an i9 processor, which is the best choice for professional photographers. If still, they face speed performance-related issues they can use mac cleaner software.

John Merchant said...

Recently i upgrade with Mac Pro and i just find its awesome as i photography lover so this 16-inch Macbook Pro with good processor. Before i face many time my work has been stuck in middle of my work but now i can use best mac cleaner software to resolve this issue.

jhonson said...

the MacBook lineup shrunk after Apple discontinued the 12-inch MacBook. now the 16‑inch MacBook Pro is very nice for the purpose of photography but mac goes slower at some time then we need to use some mac cleaning app here is the list of them: