M1 Ultra Mac and LRC

Participant ,
Mar 17, 2022 Mar 17, 2022

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Hi folks, I am not sure that I am posting in the correct location but here goes. 

I am a commercial still photographer thinking about buying an M1 Ultra Apple machine because my 2015 iMac Pro is becoming problematic. I am starting to get the spinning wheel of death more frequently and having connectivity problems when I shoot tethered and I don't have these issues with my newer MacBook Pro, thus my motivation in upgrading.

 

My question is, "Is this machine overkill?" and here are the specs to my situation

My purpose is to optimize my workflow and reduce friction.

 

I only keep one LRC library on my old 2015 Machine I store the images on an external USB drive enclosure where  I have thousands of images, although I dump everything that I don't deliver to my clients and keep images that may be useful in the future. 

 

The specs on the new M1 Ultra Apple machine that I am considering are as follows:

Hardware

  • Apple M1 Ultra with 20-core CPU, 64-core GPU, 32-core Neural Engine
  • 64GB unified memory
  • 1TB SSD storage
  • Front: Two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one SDXC card slot
  • Back: Four Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A ports, one HDMI port, one 10Gb Ethernet port, one 3.5 mm headphone jack

 

Any thoughts or criticisms would be appreciated.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 17, 2022 Mar 17, 2022

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Have a look at this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KdjvDDWO1M

 

 

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Community Beginner ,
May 02, 2022 May 02, 2022

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I'm only a hobbyist and have your proposed setup but with the 48-core GPU. I don't think in everyday use on shoots of say 20/30 images you are going to see a huge improvement in speed. Imports and exports of more files might run faster but your current workflow might allow for doing other things while these are going on. Where the machine shines for me, is doing the intensive processes, like DxO PureRaw (10-15 seconds per 50Mb image), generating huge panoramas and HDR image stacks and focus stacking in Photoshop. If you only run basic editing in LRC you might consider an M1 Max instead, or even an M1 Mini - the cash you save would buy some stellar glass. If you decide to go for the Ultra, you may only be using the Ultra bits for a fraction of the time that you have the machine. If you can afford it, the Ultra is really nice though, LRC response is really crisp. Hope that helps.

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Participant ,
May 02, 2022 May 02, 2022

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Thank you for your perspective. I shoot between 200 and 3,000 images per assignment and always have a large library of active assignments. I also do panoramics and HDR work, as well as have as many as 15 layers on my Photoshop files. 

 

I am thinking that Adobe will upgrade Lightroom and Photoshop to take advantage of 48 to 60 cores, so if I get the M1 Ultra with 48 cores, then that gives me additional life to the computer once Adobe upgrades to 48 or 60 cores.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
May 02, 2022 May 02, 2022

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Adobe added GPU support to Camera Raw save (export) a few weeks back in 14.3. You can read how doing so has significantly improved the time to save multiple images at https://www.computer-darkroom.com/blog/2022/04/21/camera-raw-14-3-gpu-support-for-open-and-save/ Hopefully, we'll soon see LrC export upgraded to include GPU support. While we wait, Lightroom Classic will continue to use the CPU cores for export, but since there are 20 of them in the Studio Ultra, then the export times are already significantly better than Intel based Macs.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
May 02, 2022 May 02, 2022

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@Sanpanza wrote:

I shoot between 200 and 3,000 images per assignment…


 

The M1 Ultra might be worth it if you regularly import and export hundreds of images at a time. This is because Lightroom Classic seems to be able to throw a core at each image: Tests indicate that the doubled cores cuts bulk preview/export times in half.

 

The video posted by Ian Lyons was from before the M1 Ultra shipped. Below is video of tests by the same channel after he actually got his Mac Studios, showing how M1 Ultra performance scales proportionally with the additional cores during Lightroom Classic import preview generation, and export. Those are the two ways where Lightroom Classic currently uses the full core count. He also tests HDR and panorama merges, and later Photoshop, so you should definitely watch the video.

 


The M1 Ultra might not be worth it if you spend most of your time editing just a few images, whether in Lightroom Classic or Photoshop. This is because there is a definite point of diminishing returns when throwing more cores at editing a single image in the Develop module or in Photoshop. The doubled CPU cores you pay double the price for in the M1 Ultra will mostly sit around not doing anything while you decide which slider to move next. The Develop module is right now the one part of Lightroom Classic that is accelerated by the GPU, but it doesn’t need all the GPU cores in the M1 Ultra, or at least not right now.


If you do large bulk imports/exports almost every day, maybe the M1 Ultra is worth double the price. But if you do it only a few times a week, the M1 Max will probably save you enough time for half the price…and it will still blow the doors off a 2015 Intel iMac.

 


@Sanpanza wrote:

I am thinking that Adobe will upgrade Lightroom and Photoshop to take advantage of 48 to 60 cores, so if I get the M1 Ultra with 48 cores, then that gives me additional life to the computer once Adobe upgrades to 48 or 60 cores.


 

Because there is a limit to how much throwing more cores can help single image editing, I chose not to try and “future proof” on the basis of core count. One reason I saved money buying a base M1 Pro was so I would not be over-invested if near-future M1s offer improvements I’d prefer to have like faster single-core performance, or overcoming other limitations of the current M1s. Those would improve many more use cases than more cores, so I would rather sell my current M1 Pro and apply that to a complete hardware upgrade at that time.

 

The most recent Photoshop 23.3 update added two new features related to multiple cores and GPU: Multithreaded compositing, and GPU compositing. You’ll find these in Preferences > Performance, with GPU compositing behind the Advanced button. You might want to test your largest Photoshop files with those settings on and off. If you see no difference, maybe more cores and GPU won’t help the types of files you work on. But if you do see a difference, maybe the M1 Ultra is worth considering as Adobe keeps working on those types of improvements in Photoshop.

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