Technology: Tech and the Photographer-Desktop

The Desktop – The Workhorse

Maybe my favorite part to discuss. You can do so much with this piece. Maybe the most important.

I’m a Mac person. I have been since 2011. When Windows 8 came out, I didn’t want to be any part of that. I thought it was a horrible system. Luckily, history proved me right. Doesn’t always happen. I think Windows 10 is quite solid. However, the Mac system has really grown on me. It’s not perfect, but it just works. Seems like you’re always tweaking a Windows system. Yes, you can get more performance per dollar. But when you factor things like downtime due to tweaking, maintenance and loss of productivity, you have to question the cost savings. I don’t get into the ‘which is better’ discussion. Kind of like Canon vs. Nikon vs. Sony. If it works for you, keep doing it. What I talk about should largely apply to both systems.

First portrait shoot. Processed on my Lenovo X200.

First portrait shoot. Processed on my Lenovo X200.

I’ll say it again, get the best you can afford. The first system I used for my photography needs was a Lenovo X200 laptop. It was quite decent. I used Photoshop Elements on it. Before Elements supported layers. Even with that, I did okay with it. Lightroom was a bit of a different story. When batch processing, I had to leave my computer alone and not do anything else. My computer would crash if I did anything else! But as I was just getting into photography, it was okay. It sufficed for a while. Within months, I was going to upgrade.

I bought a base 2011 Mac mini. I thought “My Lenovo X200 had 4GB of memory and the mini has the same, but a much better processor. That will make up for the lack of memory”. I was wrong. Big time.

Macs need more memory than PCs to function and I didn’t know enough about them to know better. To make matters worse, I had the stock 500GB hard drive instead of an SSD. The full-blown version of Photoshop and Lightroom were so slow and unreliable. I couldn’t get work done.

Short-term thinking or just plain broke?

I upgraded to 8GB which helped. Apps were much more reliable but slow. Over the course of 3 months since the purchase, I finally upgraded to the full 16GB and the machine finally came into its own. Photoshop and Lightroom ran quite well. Together! Just don’t try streaming a movie. And if you’re working, you shouldn’t be! Except while I write this article!

My First Mac: The Mac mini

My First Mac: The Mac mini

Processed on my Mac mini.

Processed on my Mac mini.

So why didn’t I get 16GB to start? Easy. Couldn’t afford it. Because 3rd party memory is significantly cheaper than Apple memory, I probably broke even. But I wasted time in productivity. Productivity cost. Though, I was just starting out. Not as big an issue. I think memory may be the most important aspect of a desktop station. No matter how fast your processor, you still need enough memory. Memory adds speed to processing.

The busier you get, the more a great processor make a difference. With my base Mac mini, I had a dual-core i5 running at 2.3GHz. It was good for 3 years. When I upgraded the Mac finally with an SSD, it was a very nice machine. Really nice.

But the problem was that big, batch processing projects took forever! If you spot something wrong later, you have to do the batch again. Doubling an already long process. It was so bad, I had to sell it and upgrade to a quad-core processor machine.

I didn’t think a dual-core processor at a higher speed would be that much better. That got me to my MacBook Pro.

Macbook Pro Retina Computer Setup

Macbook Pro Retina Computer Setup

The Best

I love my MacBook Pro. The best computer I’ve ever owned. That’s saying something. I can use it for real work anywhere. A little on the heavy side. Even for a guy who works out and is no weakling. It’s has a processor that’s a quad-core version of the Mac mini I had. It does batch processing 2x as fast as the mini did. As it should.

Processed on my MacBook Pro.

Processed on my MacBook Pro.

At the time I bought the Mac mini, quad-core processors were available. Not like now. If I bought that mini, I would still have it. I may not have a MacBook Pro. That was 2011 and it’s still compatible with the latest Mac OS! I think that machine would’ve cost about $1400. So that machine would cost me $200/year. $13.3 dollars a month! Up until very recently, I would’ve been extremely happy with it.

This is one of those areas where PCs don’t cut it. How many people own 7-year-old, very functional PC’s? I’ve never seen it. The PC crowd will tell you “you can upgrade 2x as often and still come out ahead”. The problem with that is upgrading takes time, causing a loss in productivity and the risk of losing data. It takes time. Is the 2nd round of updating worth it? Only you can decide that.

Here we go…  Get the best and most you can afford. When I sold my Mac mini, it helped pay for the MacBook Pro. But still, I lost a lot of money from depreciation of the Mac mini and re-sell value and then I had to pay on top of that more money for the MBP. At the end of the day, I probably paid 2x as much. That 1x money could’ve gotten me a lot of new camera or computer gear. Easy.

All I have to say is: Thank God! I’ve been getting busier and busier over the last few months. What this has shown me is some of the shortcomings from my current gear. Batch processing isn’t so bad but having Lightroom create Smart and Standard previews can take a while. I’m also automating functions in Photoshop which is very processor and internal storage intensive. Opening the file, processing and saving.  Can make LR processing look like a piece of cake in comparison.

With my initial research, I think a top-end 5k iMac could be a great choice. It’s about 50% faster than my MBP in CPU and 2x – 4x faster with internal storage speed. The machine is $5300, but if I go 3rd party memory and SSD, I can save $1400 bringing the unit down to $3900!  Yes, you can save lots of money going 3rd-party! A great resource is MacSales, a long-time Apple upgrade and accessories shop. One of my go-to places to research Mac gear.

The Game Changer – Maybe

The iMac Pro (Image ZDNET.com)

The iMac Pro (Image ZDNET.com)

Just a few days ago, there were potential ‘leaks’ about the new iMac Pro that was shown at the last Apple convention. Just visually, it’s beautiful. However, when I saw the words Xeon and teraflops, I knew this was something different. Xeon processors are server-class processors. Performance that usually tromps desktop CPUs. Teraflops are only used with those processors. SERIOUS performance.

I don’t believe for a second this was a leak but an intentional preview for the public. The response was amazing! The specs were amazing! Basically, the base model of the iMac Pro would be 21% faster than the top-end Mac Pro and be $2000 less expensive than comparably configured! The next step up, the 10-core version is 41% faster and would still be less than $1000 expensive than the top Mac Pro.

I think the iMac Pro is in my future. I’m thinking of getting the 10-core version of the iMac Pro which would make it 150% faster than my MacBook Pro. That’s just CPU performance I’m talking about. Internal storage performance will be 300% faster than my MBP.

Now, onto the first category: Storage

The IntroDesktopStorageMobile

About the author

Ricardo Gomez is a Fashion Photographer based in New York City.

  • Technology: Tech and the Photographer-Mobile
  • Tech and the Photographer: Mobility
  • Tech and the Photographer: Storage
  • Tech and the Photographer: The Desktop

Leave a Reply