Upgrading desktop and laptop

Explorer ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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Hello, I can imagine this has been discussed before, but with new machines hitting the market all the time I guess answers do change...

Working as a professional photographer, i've recently upgraded my cameras from 20/30mpx to 50mpx models. On top of that, I'm doing a lot of HDR photos and even on top of that, using a lot the new (and wonderful) mask options on LR Classic 11.4.1.  

 

My Current machines are:

- Imac 5k 27 late 2015 |  3,3Ghz Quad Core i5 |  16gb 1867 DDR3  | AMD Radeon R9 M395X 4Gb | 3 TB Fusion Drive

- MacBook Pro 15  Mid 2014 |  2,8 Ghz  Quad core i7 | 16Gb 1600 DDR3 | Nvidia GT750 M 2GB + Intel Iris Pro 1,5gb | 1tb SSD 

 

Both struggle to build 1:1 previews (worse on the Imac) and both take their time to build the HDR files made from 5 to 6 raw files from 50mpx camera (Imac can't barely do it),  Macbook gets the work done but fan works hard). 

 

If I'm looking at this right, I could improve the Imac with a SSD Disk and get rid of the Fusion, and 16 more of ram (I tend to work with LR and PS at the same time...) .  On the other hand, it looks like the Macbook specs can't go any further so maybe time to get a new one.  I've checked Geekbench, reviews and so on, but I must admit I'm confused with so many options.

It seems like the sweet spot for my work would be the Macbook Pro 14  with M1 Pro, 16 ram (or 32 for intensive Hdr and masking?) | 1Tb ssd | 10 core.  But do I need all this power? 

 

https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/macbook-pro/14-inch-space-gray-10-core-cpu-16-core-gpu-1tb#

or I'll be fine with this and save 800$?

https://www.apple.com/shop/buy-mac/macbook-pro/13-inch-space-gray-apple-m2-chip-with-8-core-cpu-and-...

second hand might be an option too - bigger screen, bigger disk, still saving 800$

https://www.ioutletstore.pt/shop/mac/macbook-pro/apple-macbook-pro-15-2018-cinzento-sideral-grau-b-3...

 

Sorry for the long post, been on to this for some time now and do need to make a decision really soon. Any help would be much appreciated. 

 

 

 

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correct answers 2 Correct answers

Community Expert , Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

@ricbravo wrote:

Both struggle to build 1:1 previews (worse on the Imac) and both take their time to build the HDR files made from 5 to 6 raw files from 50mpx camera (Imac can't barely do it),  Macbook gets the work done but fan works hard). 


 

That is generally a symptom of Intel processors. Apple Silicon works at least as hard, but with many more cores so that the work takes less time. At the same time, Apple Silicon has far lower power requirements than Intel, so the CPU runs much cooler in

...

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Community Expert , Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

Both of those computers are at the end of their support from Apple. I have a pair of 2015 machines and a 5Dsr and have the same issues- just not really fast enough.

An M1 Mac would be a HUGE leap in performance. Don't buy one with just 16GB of RAM, that cannot be upgraded later. RAM is the first thing I would upgrade, to 32 or 64GB. Beyond that, any of the 14 or 16" models, or the Mac Studio with at least 32GB of RAM, should last you 6-8 years.

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LEGEND ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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Both struggle to build 1:1 previews (worse on the Imac) and both take their time to build the HDR files made from 5 to 6 raw files from 50mpx camera (Imac can't barely do it), Macbook gets the work done but fan works hard).

 

I could improve the Imac with a SSD Disk and get rid of the Fusion, and 16 more of ram (I tend to work with LR and PS at the same time...)

 

Speeding up the disk has little impact on Lightroom Classic performance. Essentially, if your two computers are slow building previews and doing HDR while running LrC, it isn't because of disk speed.

 

Similarly, memory is rarely the bottleneck for LrC except for panoramas and HDR.

 

Your best bet to speed up these computers is a faster CPU and if you are using a 4k or larger monitor, then a faster GPU would also help.

 

Another culprit in this whole issue of your computers are slow is that you have larger photos now (50 MP up from 20MP or 30MP), this also requires more computational horsepower, which again points to the CPU and GPU.

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Explorer ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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Thanks for your fast and helpful answer.

I've checked with activity monitor and Ram seems to be a factor to consider whenever I'm using Lr and PS at the same time. LR was at 10 /12 usage and PS between 6 and 8gb. I wonder, if the new machines with faster Ram still need more thant 16gb to get the work done?

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LEGEND ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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Improve the CPU and GPU first, those will help the most. More RAM won't help as you are only using 10-12 GB, so it is not the bottleneck. If your RAM needed all 16GB then it is using all the RAM available and probably needs more, but that's not happening.

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Explorer ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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thanks again for your help. Makes sense what you say about the CPU and GPU. Am I wrong assuming that gettin a faster CPU on a Macbook Pro = buying a new machine? 

 

About ram, I guess I wasn't clear: I run photoshop and LR at same time when working on HDR files and activity monitor indicates approx 10/12 for LR and 6/8 on Photoshop. As they're running at the same time, the final result (16 to 20)  goes over the 16ram installed.  

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LEGEND ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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quote

thanks again for your help. Makes sense what you say about the CPU and GPU. Am I wrong assuming that gettin a faster CPU on a Macbook Pro = buying a new machine? 


By @ricbravo

 

As I don't use Mac computers, I can't answer this question

 

About ram, I guess I wasn't clear: I run photoshop and LR at same time when working on HDR files and activity monitor indicates approx 10/12 for LR and 6/8 on Photoshop. As they're running at the same time, the final result (16 to 20)  goes over the 16ram installed.  

 

Perform an experiment. Re-start the computer, only open LrC and a resource monitor. Do not open PS or any other software. Do some HDR processing, make a note of the time it takes to create the HDR and the maximum memory used. Then open PS, do some work in PS, and then back in LrC, perform the exact same creation of an HDR, from the exact same images, again watching the resource monitor and make a note of the time needed. What do you learn?

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Explorer ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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I'll give it a try. Thanks!

 

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LEGEND ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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Inquiry to members and a concern.

 

Subj: MAC M1 Unified Memory

 

So the M1 does not have separate memory for the GPU, it does not have RAM and VRAM, instead it has one pool of RAM to be used by both CPU and GPU. Trading of amount used between the two via requirements. What Apple is calling Unified Memory.

 

Appears this may be causing issues in LrC for heavy edits, While the 16 GB may have been enough when you had a dedicated GPU with it's own VRAM, say 8 Gb, The 16 Gb unified memory, comes up short.

 

Is this incorrect?

 

Also, LrC might be having problems communicating with the M1 units as to memory usage, tesulting in memory overflow. Is the unified memory not acting correctly with LrC?

 

 

https://eclecticlight.co/2022/03/01/making-sense-of-m1-memory-use/

 

 

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Community Expert ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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Buy it with as much RAM as you can afford for future-proofing. That is THE FIRST thing you should max out because it can't be upgraded later. This will also maximize the resale value down the road.

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Community Expert ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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The 14 inch you mention but with 32GB is fine for the workflow you describe. The rest are throwing good money after bad.

 

 

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Community Expert ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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@ricbravo wrote:

Both struggle to build 1:1 previews (worse on the Imac) and both take their time to build the HDR files made from 5 to 6 raw files from 50mpx camera (Imac can't barely do it),  Macbook gets the work done but fan works hard). 


 

That is generally a symptom of Intel processors. Apple Silicon works at least as hard, but with many more cores so that the work takes less time. At the same time, Apple Silicon has far lower power requirements than Intel, so the CPU runs much cooler in general. For many general tasks, the fans don’t even spin up. If you give it an intensive task that keeps the load high for a long time, such as preview generation, it takes much longer for the heat level to rise to the point that the fans reach maximum RPM and noise.

 


@ricbravo wrote:

It seems like the sweet spot for my work would be the Macbook Pro 14  with M1 Pro, 16 ram (or 32 for intensive Hdr and masking?) | 1Tb ssd | 10 core.


 

I use a 14" M1 Pro MacBook Pro with Lightroom Classic, and it’s a very good experience. Everything about it is a major step up from any Intel Mac…lots of processing power, very responsive, cool and quiet operation, long battery life.

 


@ricbravo wrote:

But do I need all this power? 


 

Specifically for photo editing, I think the M1 Pro is the sweet spot for Mac notebooks. On the lower end, the M1/M2 MacBook Air/Pro and M1 Mac mini/iMac are in some ways too limited. On the upper end, the additional hardware in the M1 Max and M1 Ultra are not likely to make that much difference in Lightroom Classic in most cases. Well, they will make a difference, but probably not proportional to the additional cost.  So I think the processing power of the M1 Pro is the best balance between power and price for Mac laptops. I got the 8-core to save money; the 10-core will be proportionally faster for anything that uses multiple cores, such as preview generation.

 

16GB of unified memory does meet the recommended (not minimum) level of Lightroom Classic system requirements. However, I think 32GB is a better sweet spot and that is what I have in my 14" M1 Pro. One reason is something you brought up: Wanting to run at least one more major application (you mentioned Photoshop) alongside Lightroom Classic. With 32GB I can open multiple Adobe applications and not run into memory issues. The one time I did, I think it was really a macOS memory bug.

 

Another emerging factor is Lightroom Classic using more GPU acceleration. In the last minor update, they added GPU acceleration for export, and they adjusted the memory system requirements to account for it. Export GPU acceleration works best when there is enough unused unified memory for the GPU to use as graphics memory. With 32GB unified memory, Lightroom Classic can have the 12GB memory it needs for basic operations plus optimal RAM caching, plus memory for what macOS and other applications want (which can push past 16GB total), with several GB left over for Lightroom Classic or other GPU-intensive Mac applications to grab the amount they need to fully enable graphics acceleration.

 

If you were looking for a desktop, I thnik the Mac Studio base model may be the best value because it comes with an M1 Max, 32GB unified memory, and 512GB storage. If you keep working files on external storage you might not need to upgrade anything on that model…$1999 and you just need to add display, keyboard, and pointing device.

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Explorer ,
Jul 06, 2022 Jul 06, 2022

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Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer and share your personal experience. 

At this point, I have a big photoshoot starting on the last week of July, that consists of two weeks of intensive shooting. Its sports, so a lot of sequences, long days of work and thousands of photos to go through every single day. I'll be using two Canon R5, and that means my current  Macbook pro will take forever to get the job done...

So I was ready to follow what seems to be general opinion : the MBP 14 / M1 Pro / 32gb ram / 1Tb SSD but there's no such configuration ready to deliver... it takes 5 to 6 weeks minimum and it costs 3000€.

I'm considering this 2nd hand (3 year warranty) option at 2000€:

MBP 15 2018 / I9 CPU: Core i9-8950HK
RAM: 32GB
Drive: 4TB SSD

GPU laptops: Radeon Pro Vega 20 4GB

It's 4 years old, but still a major upgrade from what I have now, right? 

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Community Expert ,
Jul 06, 2022 Jul 06, 2022

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In short, the 2018 MacBook Pro option might be an upgrade from the older MacBook Pro, but not necessarily over the iMac. Due to the reasons in the longer answer below, I am not sure if the 2018 MacBook Pro will be enough of an upgrade to spend 2000€ on.

 

The 2018 MacBook Pro will work, but compared to an M1, that Intel Core i9 is probably going to get hot and run the fans a lot during extended high CPU use. No problem with the RAM and SSD, and the GPU is good. But one of the problems with that generation of hardware design is that the more powerful Intel Core processors (i7 and i9) struggled to achieve and sustain their true top performance, they throw off a lot more heat than the case and cooling system was designed for. (Intel was unable to achieve the smaller, cooler chip designs they had promised years ago, but computer companies including Apple had already committed to thin/light cases designed for them, unfortunately.) Unable to be cooled, the processors throttle themselves down to a slower frequency…which means after spending the additional money on an i7 or i9, the maximum performance they could actually sustain was not really much faster than an i5 would have.

 

The 14/16" M1 Pro solves all those problems from both directions. Apple Silicon needs much less energy in the first place, so less heat is generated. If an extreme workload eventually does make it reach maximum temperature, the boxier design of the new 14/16" models allows for better cooling. The Apple Silicon CPU can then run as fast as it can for much longer, mostly silently.

 

The M1 Pro is the superior long term solution, but that is clearly a dilemma due to the long wait times for it. If it was me, I would skip the 2018 Intel Mac, order the M1 Pro, and just sweat it out until it gets here.

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Explorer ,
Jul 06, 2022 Jul 06, 2022

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thanks again! I was under the impression that apple was able to sort those overheating problems via firmware, but I was/am definetely worried about those issues. 

Meanwhile, I just found a MBP 14 available at Fnac, that almost fits the specs I'm looking for - the SSD its 512 instead of 1TB,  but I can get  an external drive for storage. And disks are like houses: the bigger, the more junk you keep inside...  

 

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Community Expert ,
Jul 05, 2022 Jul 05, 2022

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Both of those computers are at the end of their support from Apple. I have a pair of 2015 machines and a 5Dsr and have the same issues- just not really fast enough.

An M1 Mac would be a HUGE leap in performance. Don't buy one with just 16GB of RAM, that cannot be upgraded later. RAM is the first thing I would upgrade, to 32 or 64GB. Beyond that, any of the 14 or 16" models, or the Mac Studio with at least 32GB of RAM, should last you 6-8 years.

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Explorer ,
Jul 06, 2022 Jul 06, 2022

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Yes it seems we are on the same boat here... If you're also doing a lot of HDR you know how frustrating it can get work those huge files... 

At this point, I have a big photoshoot starting on the last week of July, that consists of two weeks of intensive shooting. Its sports, so a lot of sequences, long days of work and thousands of photos to go through every single day. I'll be using two Canon R5, and that means my current  Macbook pro will take forever to get the job done...

So I was ready to follow what seems to be general opinion : the MBP 14 / M1 Pro / 32gb ram / 1Tb SSD but there's no such configuration ready to deliver... it takes 5 to 6 weeks minimum and it costs 3000€.

I'm considering this 2nd hand (3 year warranty) option at 2000€:

MBP 15 2018 / I9 CPU: Core i9-8950HK
RAM: 32GB
Drive: 4TB SSD

GPU laptops: Radeon Pro Vega 20 4GB

It's 4 years old, but still a major upgrade from what I have now, right? 

 

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LEGEND ,
Jul 06, 2022 Jul 06, 2022

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The i9-8950HK just isn't that fast by today's standards. Whether or not it is fast enough is another story, but I think with thousands of 50MP photos, you're still going to be doing a lot of waiting (maybe not as much as with your current computers, but still a lot of waiting)

 

Now, I understand you are in a bind, you will have thousands of images and you can't get your hands on an M1 computer, so this 2018 MBP seems like the best choice to you (not sure I agree, but I'm not in your shoes). I think you can get, in 2 or 3 days a top of the line Windows computer, with extremely fast CPU, high end GPU, and anything else you want. Anyway, that would be my choice.

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Explorer ,
Jul 06, 2022 Jul 06, 2022

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yes, I know, the dark side calls... 🙂

I've been working with Apple since day one and every time I touch a windows computer, it feels like nothing makes sense so I don't think I'll go that way... Anyway, I'll still have a look at what's available... Thanks for your input. 

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LEGEND ,
Jul 07, 2022 Jul 07, 2022

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Anyway, I'll still have a look at what's available...

 

I have ordered computers from https://www.cyberpowerpc.com/, they have "Instant Ship Systems" promising free 2 day delivery (both laptops and desktops). You can choose systems with high-end CPU and high-end GPU. I have always found their computers to work well, mark me down as a satisfied customer.  Note: I have never ordered an "Instant Ship System", mine are always regular build and regular delivery.

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Community Expert ,
Jul 07, 2022 Jul 07, 2022

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Don't waste your money on an Intel Mac. The future is definitely Apple Silicon.

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Explorer ,
Jul 07, 2022 Jul 07, 2022

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Out of curiosity, I've kept searching and it seems that the "Ram issue" is definetely a big thing among photographers that upgraded to new cameras on the 50mp + region. Even more when they do heavy edits on huge Hdr files. Here's a great test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx6cJkJzvhA

 

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Explorer ,
Sep 15, 2022 Sep 15, 2022

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LATEST

Update:

Got the Macbook Pro 14  M1Pro 32gb 512 SSD - 3 big photoshoot done since I've got it - super happy. Fast, silent, gets the job done. 

 

Now it's time to upgrade the desktop (I'm still on myImac 5k 27 late 2015 |  3,3Ghz Quad Core i5 |  16gb 1867 DDR3  | AMD Radeon R9 M395X 4Gb | 3 TB Fusion Drive).

 I know the Mac Studio is the way to go but I'll be in the 3300€  area to get it set and ready to run. ( M1 Max chip with 10‑core CPU and 24‑core GPU, 512GB SSD 32gb + screen+external drive)

Other options (second hand with warranty)

a) Apple iMac 27" 5K - 2020 (i7-10700K/40GB RAM/512GB SSD/5500 XT 8GB  for 2000€

b) iMac Pro 27-inch Retina (late 2017) Xeon W 3GHz - SSD 1 TB - 64Gg AMD Radeon Pro Vega 64 16gb  for 2400€

Any ideas? Thanks!

 

Both with a considerable price diference for the Macstudio and it looks like pretty significant upgrade compared to my current machine...

 

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