Recently I showed off an i5 iMac to a group of AIPA (Advertising and Illustrative Photographers’ Association) members while Andrew put that and a custom-built i7 PC through its paces. Needless to say, I don’t agree with everything he says, as I wrote about on my last Apple Watch on the NZ Herald, but I thought it would be interested to post his comments in full (reader’s comments are also welcome – and yes, I get to vet them, so keep ’em seemly):
Andrew Hales, professional photographer and AIPA member, wrote “Photography has always been a two part process; there is the medium used to capture the image, and there is the process of taking the photo.
“In the world of negative based film photography this meant processing the film in a dark room and turning the negatives into prints.
“Digital photography is no different, a process has to occur that turns the RAW data from the sensor into a viewable image. In your phone, or point and shoot camera, this is done by software you have little, to no control over.
“A professional photographer however often uses specialist software to take control of this process. It’s the difference between dropping a roll of film of at the chemist for automatic processing, and doing it yourself in the darkroom.
“Just like having a properly equipped darkroom is important for processing film, having a proper computer is important for processing digital photos.
“Being creative types, a lot of photographers took a lead from designers and printers and bought into the Apple system. This worked well when the Mac Pro was a well built stand alone computer and Adobe wrote software that performed better on Apples processors. But the world of Mac computers has changed, the iMac has become more consumer focused, while the new Mac Pro is aimed at high end video editing and needs attached high end storage solutions to be usable. Apple now use the same intel processors as everyone else, along with monitors based on LG panels, the same as the best from Dell or HP, or even Eizo, and of course Adobe now writes it’s code to favour Windows based systems.
“It means there is now a very strong argument for choosing a windows based workstation that you have built for you, instead of a Mac.
“It can be cheaper, you can get better performance, and the machine can be set up to suit your style of workflow and meet your needs. It also gives access to wide gamut screens and 10bit image display, something you can not do with an iMac.
“And of course it becomes progressively upgradeable, and is it worth mentioning the 3-5yr Warranties you get with the components?
“To put things to a test at a recent AIPA meeting I asked Mark to bring along a Mac, and Billy from Computer Lounge to bring a PC.
“I sent both a spec list before hand, based around my current work station, an i7, 16GB RAM, 2 x 256GB SSDs, 8TB of internal storage and 3 monitors, 2 of which are wide gamut running off an Nvidia 670GTX. Including my Wacom tablet, high precision mouse and keyboard and a few other bits, total replacement cost would be around $6500.
“Computer Lounge’s Billy brought along a 6 core i7 based computer with 32GB of ram, 2 x 256GB SSD’s and 8TB of storage. They added in 2 27in sRGB monitors with 2560×1440 resolution, a Wacom tablet, high end keyboard and even a mid range graphics card, all for just under $5,500.
“To give you an idea of how flexible things can be, I am going to build a system for a friend that uses an i7, 256gb SSD, 16GB ram, 2TB hard drive and a 24in Monitor for only $2,000. A similar spec and performance iMac costs $3,999.
“While Mark and Billy stated their case for Mac or PC, I used both to do some work in Lightroom.
“Since the Mac was only an i5 I found the results quite interesting.
“First of all, my own work station was a lot faster than the Mac at rendering and exporting photographs. The Computer Lounge system was even faster again, considerably so. I’ve since worked out I can upgrade my computer to match for about $600.
“What was interesting was working on individual files, there was very little, if any real difference. For those on a tight budget, or working at a more enthusiast level an Intel i5 based computer could be a good choice.
“Where the Mac was really let down however was being able to choose your storage options. The Fusion drive is fantastic, but you never know if the data you want to work with is on the fast SSD, or the slower spinning disk. With the PC I was able to chose where to put it, and affect performance accordingly.
“I was impressed by how quiet the iMac remained, previous generation iMac’s I’ve used have gotten very loud when pushed hard. This one made about as much noise as the PC did, that is none.
“A base model Mac Pro would have performed as well as the offering from Computer Lounge, and one of the dual CPU hexa cores would have been even faster. But if that is what you need, Computer Lounge can just as easily build the same thing, or faster. PCI based storage is readily available for any computer now, the only limit to performance is how much you want to spend.
“We then had an interesting debate with photographers from the audience, and it is clear there is lots of brand loyalty out there, along with some still mis-informed opinions about Macs and PCs.
“The only real conclusion we came to was Apple gives you a limited number of options, while having a system built for you gives you total freedom. “