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Thread: Best current computing options for MF

  1. #1
    Senior Member Ed Hurst's Avatar
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    Best current computing options for MF

    Hello chums,

    After finally deciding that my 2009 Mac Pro is no longer worth investing in (it has developed a problem again and I am tired of throwing money at it), I am going to have to buy something new.

    Would appreciate sage advice about the best solution. I am reasonably brand agnostic (have liked using Macs - and have dozens of hard drives that are Mac formatted - but will go with the best solution). My current machine has 32gb of RAM, which at times is not enough... I am attracted by the idea of using a laptop for a range of reasons, but want to get one that will still do everything I need - which requires a pretty demanding spec.. The latest Mac Book Pros are not supplied with more than 16gb of RAM, and can't (I think) be upgraded in this regard, so I think that rules them out. So, at the moment, I think I am caught between compromising on the flexibility of a laptop and getting either an iMac or another Mac Pro, or looking for a Windows laptop... Of the latter, I know little, but am willing to learn.

    Basically I am looking for at least 64gb of RAM, a fast processor, enough internal storage to have plenty of virtual memory when required - the usual stuff. Screen size is important to me too for use in the field.

    Advice based on current technology will be hugely appreciated.

    Thanks all!

    Ed

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    I really love these new solid state drives. A laptop can now boot up and log in and be ready to use in 30 seconds.

    Their capacity is smaller than a spinning drive, so you may want to look for a laptop with dual hard drive bays. The second drive would be to hold your pictures. In the future, you could replace it with a solid state drive once the capacity goes up and the prices come down.




    --Steve.

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    I really like the surface book if you can live with less ram. But the solid state drive makes up for it. And you get a pressure sensitive pen with a great screen.

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Why do you need so much RAM?
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    Senior Member Ed Hurst's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by jerome_m View Post
    Why do you need so much RAM?
    Good question! My star trail images sometimes involve me stacking over a thousand files, each of them a 16 bit TIFF. I find that RAM is a bottleneck that determines whether or not the machine can handle the task at all.
    Ed Hurst, www.spiffingpics.com
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Hurst View Post
    Good question! My star trail images sometimes involve me stacking over a thousand files, each of them a 16 bit TIFF. I find that RAM is a bottleneck that determines whether or not the machine can handle the task at all.
    Why 16 bit?

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    Senior Member ErikKaffehr's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Hi Ed,

    I am also on a MacPro from 2009, now with 32 MB RAM and two SSDs.

    If you would go the Windows route, here is some good info:
    https://www.pugetsystems.com/solutio...ation/post.php

    What is written above also applies to Macs mostly.

    Best regards
    Erik

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    Subscriber and Workshop Member MGrayson's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Ed,

    I have a 2013 MacBook Pro with 16 GB and a new iMac5K with 48 GB (64 GB is easy, I just haven't done it yet). Nothing I've done with MF files has stressed either machine, but I haven't stacked 1,000 of anything. The laptop is twice as fast and the iMac four times as fast as my 2009 Mac Pro (granted, that was the 8x2.26GHz - not a particularly fast model)

    In your case, I would either find someone who does exactly what you do, or better, borrow the hardware for a usability test. What does and doesn't work is idiosyncratic.

    The latest SSDs are much faster than those from a year or two back, and it's possible that an application hungry for RAM might page to disk without a huge speed penalty. I don't know, which is why I recommend trying it.

    I will say that I'm very happy with the combination of the iMac with its high resolution screen and a second NEC monitor with wide color gamut.

    Good Luck,

    Matt
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    I'm with Matt on this one. The most progress the last few years has been made in the area of data transfer. Just being able to get good read/write speeds means you ask a lot less from your RAM during batch processing. Still, if you are stacking that many images I would also take all the RAM I can get, but a well integrated, fast SSD can definetely help a lot too.

    I have used a top of the line Dell XPS 15 for a while on an assignment and can only say good things about it. The only downside is that the battery is not as good as in the Macbook Pro. But the screen is very good for a laptop and the processing power is ridiculous for a portable device. I don't know if you can upgrade the RAM in one of those, but that might be a good option. It's not super portable, but definetely fine for travelling. But the Macbook Pro is about as good in my opinion and is due for a major overhaul, rumoured for as soon as october, when it should get quicker RAM (maybe the 32gb option will come back?) etc and a better screen. 64 gb is not easy to get in an off the shelf solution, but custom made laptops often have inferior screens. So, I would be searching for an already suitable laptop that you have the option of upgrading the RAM if necessary. If a lot of RAM is your primary concern, then a workstation is still the way to go, I'm afraid.
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Hurst View Post
    Would appreciate sage advice about the best solution. I am reasonably brand agnostic (have liked using Macs - and have dozens of hard drives that are Mac formatted - but will go with the best solution). My current machine has 32gb of RAM, which at times is not enough... I am attracted by the idea of using a laptop for a range of reasons, but want to get one that will still do everything I need - which requires a pretty demanding spec.. The latest Mac Book Pros are not supplied with more than 16gb of RAM, and can't (I think) be upgraded in this regard, so I think that rules them out. So, at the moment, I think I am caught between compromising on the flexibility of a laptop and getting either an iMac or another Mac Pro, or looking for a Windows laptop... Of the latter, I know little, but am willing to learn.

    Basically I am looking for at least 64gb of RAM, a fast processor, enough internal storage to have plenty of virtual memory when required - the usual stuff. Screen size is important to me too for use in the field.
    As far as laptops go, there are a few options, the first is the "fully custom" route, which involves those made by Sager, Clevo or Eurocom (all really the same OEM). These are the most customizable laptops and use "off the shelf" parts that you can replace yourself if need be, everything can be taken apart if you have the tools, and you can put desktop-level components into them like 6700K processor.

    Next are mobile workstations like the HP Zbook 17 G3 or Dell Precision 7710, which have more limited options but are built for stability, and offer color-accurate 4K displays (some other types of laptops offer this too), but they're also rather pricey due to Xeon/Quadro component use. You do, however, get enterprise-level customer support for that premium.

    The most optimal choice in terms of money/performance are gaming laptops like say the MSI GT series. If you can get over their appearance of a Ferrari as imagined by Michael Bay, you can get some very decent components that will also receive excellent cooling, since these models are often provisioned for sporting a whole two graphics cards, but they also weight the most of any notebook.

    Whatever your choice, modern notebooks have come to a neck race with desktop performance, but you still end up paying nearly twice as much compared to a compact PC, whereas the old adage used to be "twice the price for half the speed".

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Ed,

    These people are in Melbourne - they know what they are talking about

    https://imagescience.com.au/knowledg...g-applications


    Cheers
    Pete

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    I have a 2012 retina Macbook Pro (16gb RAM/768gb SSD) and a 2013 Mac Pro (64 GB RAM/1 tb SSD/2xD700 video cards) that I use with a Promise RAID 5 thunderbolt 2 (only does TB 1 on the MBP) setup. I don't do stacking like you, but I do large panoramas, and I think I'm convinced at this point the Mac Pro was overkill and I'm not sure I see performance gains commensurate with the $$ difference. If you need RAM, I'd probably get a new 5k iMac and upgrade the RAM as needed, but the Macbook Pro is a very capable machine (at least with D800E/D810/Hasselblad H4D-40 files). BTW if you decide to go the Macbook Pro route, I'd hold out for a little as the current retina MBPs haven't been upgraded in some time and according to sources like macrumors.com they are do for an update possibly as soon as next month. If I were in the market for a Mac in general, I'd also maybe wait until they start shipping with Thunderbolt 3 ports, but that's just me.
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    Senior Member Ed Hurst's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Thanks everyone for the wonderful advice. I'll update you all on what I do and how it works out :-)

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    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    iMac 5k 32GB Ram (or 64GB) ... I use mine as a complement to my MBP Retina with 16GB Ram 1TB SSD. I also run a secondary wide gamut NEC monitor for critical colour processing but TBH the iMac is great. I've considered the MacPro towers to replace my 8 proc Mac Pro 2008 (similar issues to you I suspect) but in reality the iMac does everything I need when associated with external thunderbolt or USB 3 storage solutions.
    Last edited by GrahamWelland; 15th September 2016 at 20:01.
    Remember: adventure before dementia!

    As Oscar Wilde said, "my tastes are simple, I only like the best"
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    With the combination of engineering and a photography I've used many, many different computers and operating systems. Including switching back and forth between Apple and Windows machines. Currently I'm back with a home built windows machine for a couple of reasons. First you get a tremendous bang for your buck by putting you dollars exactly in the spots that gives the best Lightroom / Photoshop / etc performance. But also the ability to upgrade is fantastic. Part of the reason I stopped buy Apple products is that I was getting tired of putting stuff in the landfill just because I needed a faster cpu or more ram.

    In case anyone wants more details I wrote up a blog post on my research and the components I choose.

    DIY Photo, Video & Time Lapse Processing Computer Build — Bill Evans Photography

    I've already upgrade my internal hard drive from 4TB to 8TB and upgrading from 32GB of ram should be easy when and if I need to. In addition my motherboard should be good for the next 1 or 2 generations of intel chips plus I could easily upgrade from my 6 core to 8,10, etc. And finally, many of my past Apple computer ran incredible hot when processing videos or exporting from Lightroom. The Mac Mini would run at 100C and this isn't the best environment for good reliability for a cpu or internal storage devices. Now my all important storage never exceeds 40C and my cpu rarely touches 60C.

    I just thought I'd share an option that's working great for me, I'm not trying to start a religious war. Bill

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    Subscriber Member tashley's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by tcdeveau View Post
    I have a 2012 retina Macbook Pro (16gb RAM/768gb SSD) and a 2013 Mac Pro (64 GB RAM/1 tb SSD/2xD700 video cards) that I use with a Promise RAID 5 thunderbolt 2 (only does TB 1 on the MBP) setup. I don't do stacking like you, but I do large panoramas, and I think I'm convinced at this point the Mac Pro was overkill and I'm not sure I see performance gains commensurate with the $$ difference. If you need RAM, I'd probably get a new 5k iMac and upgrade the RAM as needed, but the Macbook Pro is a very capable machine (at least with D800E/D810/Hasselblad H4D-40 files). BTW if you decide to go the Macbook Pro route, I'd hold out for a little as the current retina MBPs haven't been upgraded in some time and according to sources like macrumors.com they are do for an update possibly as soon as next month. If I were in the market for a Mac in general, I'd also maybe wait until they start shipping with Thunderbolt 3 ports, but that's just me.
    I have the same kit and have come to the same conclusions. For a while on the Mac Pro I had a Pegasus RAID array and that made much more difference to the speed of photo editing than anything else, but it failed and it p***d me off big time. I have also used Surface Pro and found it close to what I'd hoped, but eventually very irritating. And I've been experimenting with an iPad Pro and LR Mobile, which is generally a very positive experience but there is a syncing bug in it that they perpetually fail to sort out and which means your edits on the iPad don't make it onto the Mac when you try to sync them using Creative Cloud. Many people seem to have this problem and no one seems to have found a solution.

    a 5K Imac super-specced and with some really fast external storage seems to be the answer for now. But for me, I'm waiting for the next Macbook Pro and then I will run two LR catalogues, Working and Archive, with Working on the SSD of the laptop and Archive on an external RAID. From time to time I will import Working into Archive and then delete everything from Working. This will let me keep good backups, have really fast speeds for current work and good speeds for Archive work.

    One last word of warning: I replaced my internal SSD on the Mac Pro with an OWC 1tb SSD and after just over a year it failed and failed bad. I will never trust OWC again, or Pegasus....
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    I'm right now also considering what to add to my studio (Mac workstation vs PC). At the beginning I was locked on MAC + 5K screen (and upgrade it to the most powerful specs that available).
    But then I started to seek for review and head to head benchmarking.
    The bottom line that the MAC has its pros. and cons. and the pc has it own pros. and cons..

    I really can't tell what is better, I think both machine after all are equal in performances.
    The advantage in MAC that you get well-tested platform that has been integrated "perfectly" both HW and SW at development stage and production stage.
    The advantage in PC that is much more powerful HW computer and more flexible for changes and multiple platform support as the same amount of money.

    The disadvantage in MAC that you need to stick to their platform for best performances.
    The disadvantage of PC that you have a powerful HW that does not passes integration as a system (whole unit) before it produced.

    Sorry that I can't help you.

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by tashley View Post
    I have the same kit and have come to the same conclusions. For a while on the Mac Pro I had a Pegasus RAID array and that made much more difference to the speed of photo editing than anything else, but it failed and it p***d me off big time. I have also used Surface Pro and found it close to what I'd hoped, but eventually very irritating. And I've been experimenting with an iPad Pro and LR Mobile, which is generally a very positive experience but there is a syncing bug in it that they perpetually fail to sort out and which means your edits on the iPad don't make it onto the Mac when you try to sync them using Creative Cloud. Many people seem to have this problem and no one seems to have found a solution.

    a 5K Imac super-specced and with some really fast external storage seems to be the answer for now. But for me, I'm waiting for the next Macbook Pro and then I will run two LR catalogues, Working and Archive, with Working on the SSD of the laptop and Archive on an external RAID. From time to time I will import Working into Archive and then delete everything from Working. This will let me keep good backups, have really fast speeds for current work and good speeds for Archive work.

    One last word of warning: I replaced my internal SSD on the Mac Pro with an OWC 1tb SSD and after just over a year it failed and failed bad. I will never trust OWC again, or Pegasus....
    Interesting comments/story. I used to take 3 backup 480GB OWC SSD with me on photo trips. Then one day two (YES TWO) drives failed at about the same time. One was a 6G and the other a 3G. OWC replaced both of them as defective, but the damage to my image backup and confidence had been broken with their SSD. I also will not buy OWC SSD's again. I now use the Samsung T1.

    So far my 480GB internal boot drive is on a PCI card which I bought from OWC. I had better watch out!

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by algrove View Post
    So far my 480GB internal boot drive is on a PCI card which I bought from OWC. I had better watch out!

    Yes that is a mild statement ... make a bootable image copy today ....

    My OWC PCI 480GB drive failed and I lost a small but important part of my LR catalog and files when it stopped being recognized. It was replaced under warranty
    and the replacement runs as a scratch memory disk for LR and PS ... nothing of permanent value on it.

    Samsung SSDs hold my boot drive.


    Bob

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    OWC is currently running a huge sale (well over $1000 off list price) on brand new hex core 2013 Mac Pro Units with the intermediate GPU at around $2900. I purchase one last month and am very happy with the performance. My MacPro is brand new and qualified for Apple Care.

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    Subscriber Member tashley's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by algrove View Post
    Interesting comments/story. I used to take 3 backup 480GB OWC SSD with me on photo trips. Then one day two (YES TWO) drives failed at about the same time. One was a 6G and the other a 3G. OWC replaced both of them as defective, but the damage to my image backup and confidence had been broken with their SSD. I also will not buy OWC SSD's again. I now use the Samsung T1.

    So far my 480GB internal boot drive is on a PCI card which I bought from OWC. I had better watch out!
    One other thing worth noting is that the OWC internal ssd drives for Mac Pro are a non standard form factor and he quote I got for data recovery was terrifying as a result of that...
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    Senior Member darr's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    In July I purchased a new Apple 27" iMac with Retina 5K Display (Late 2015) from B&H Photo:

    27" Retina 5K IPS Display
    5120 x 2880 Screen Resolution
    4.0 GHz Intel Core i7 (Skylake)
    8GB of 1867 MHz DDR3 RAM
    1TB Flash Storage (SSD)
    AMD Radeon R9 M395X GPU (4GB GDDR5)
    802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
    Thunderbolt 2 + USB 3.0
    Magic Keyboard & Magic Mouse 2 Included
    Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan

    Added a 64.0GB OWC Memory Upgrade Kit from OWC/MacSales.

    I also added a couple of WD External Drives: WD 4TB My Book Studio USB 3.0 External Hard Drive

    I shoot two medium format backs (39mp and 50mp), not as complicated as what you do, but just the same, I work multiple layers at times and do not have a lot of time to waste. I could not be happier with my new iMac configuration. Best of luck to you Ed.

    Kind regards,
    Darr
    "Creativity takes courage." ~ Henri Matisse
    Darlene Almeda, photoscapes.com

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    My new MacPro was factory equipped with only 256 GB flash drive so I looked into the options for upgrading to 1TB. I decided against the OWC upgrade because it is a non-standard configuration that does not even meet the performance of the Apple 1 TB flash drive. A better solution for me was purchasing the same chip used by the factory from a company in southern CA - about the same price as the OWC setup. The Apple System Software identifies my 1 TB Drive as being Apple.

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    Subscriber Member tashley's Avatar
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by fotophil View Post
    My new MacPro was factory equipped with only 256 GB flash drive so I looked into the options for upgrading to 1TB. I decided against the OWC upgrade because it is a non-standard configuration that does not even meet the performance of the Apple 1 TB flash drive. A better solution for me was purchasing the same chip used by the factory from a company in southern CA - about the same price as the OWC setup. The Apple System Software identifies my 1 TB Drive as being Apple.
    Interesting. Might you be able to share the co. name? I am so over OWC.
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    I've had both PCI and SSDs from OWC fail. They replaced both, but I didn't trust them and sold them on (telling the buyers why).

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Interesting to hear stories of OWC SSDs failing. I've never bought an SSD from them, but I've bought plenty of RAM from them over the years and never had a prob with their RAM (at least to date, knock on wood). I did have problems with an OWC Elite Pro dual thunderbolt RAID enclosure. It crapped out after only about 2-3 months (would unmount during reading/writing) and started causing kernel panics on my 2013 Mac Pro. They sent me a replacement internal cable, saying the one it shipped with wasn't up to spec, but that didn't fix the issues. I back up all my RAID arrays, but it was a nice wake up call and friendly reminder that RAID 1 in a single enclosure isn't a suitable backup by itself haha.

    FWIW the only 3rd party SSDs I've bought have been samsung (840 series) and they're doing fine, although they don't see heavy use. Haven't had a problem with any of the 2 Pegasus units I have yet either, again knock on wood.

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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    I have been using a Surface Pro 3 for a while now, and it has worked out fine for me so far.
    If I was buying a new laptop, I would get a Surface Book.
    I don't think Mac should be the only option considered.
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    Re: Best current computing options for MF

    Quote Originally Posted by shlomi View Post
    I have been using a Surface Pro 3 for a while now, and it has worked out fine for me so far.
    If I was buying a new laptop, I would get a Surface Book.
    I don't think Mac should be the only option considered.
    This has been my preferred travel computer for quite a while and I'm also quite happy with it. A bit light for hard core processing but a great travel / backup machine.

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