Best iMac for Photo Post Production (Adobe Lightroom 3)

February 23, 2010 2 comments

photo 27 inch iMacUpdated: 7/11

How much is an extra 3-5 hours per week, not sitting in front of a computer, worth to you?

The Goal: To  decrease our current Adobe Lightroom  post-production work-flow time by 50%.

Requirements: Best iMac for Professional Photography Post-Production workflow.

As you may well know, processing thousands of RAW image files on a weekly basis takes considerable time and computer processing power. So, every bit of time-saving power you can wring out of your computer is better for you and your clients.

Consider your old machine, which is still probably relatively fast. In other words, you can cull 1000 images in 3-4 hours using Adobe LightRoom. If your images loaded twice as fast, and color correction and white-balancing speed was increased by even 30%, you could shave off an hour a week (conservative estimate). If you have an older machine, you could be saving more of your time otherwise spent in front of the computer.

Also, if you are using an older Mac tower with a G5 processor, you could see more significant performance boosts (as per the Apple specialist we spoke with), AND you can run Adobe’s Lightroom 3 beta and/or Aperture 3 at a significant speed boost. (You cannot run LR3 on the older IBM/MAC G5 processor).

Today we spent an hour or so on the phone with Apple asking questions and configuring the perfect machine for our needs. Then, we spent another hour or so researching all of the Apple computer resellers online to find the best price on this configuration for our new wedding photography post-production machine.


UPDATE: If you truly want to future proof your hardware, I would now recommend purchasing one of the iMacs with an i-core processor (i.e. i3, i5, or i7).

You can find the best deal online here: MacMall

Last Price Check: 7/11

27″ iMac – 2.7GHz
2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5
4GB DDR3 SDRAM | 1TB hard drive
2560 x 1440 resolution
AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics
List Price: $1,699.00
You Save: $85.07(5%)
Final Price: $1,613.93


Originally we thought buying the top-of-the-line quad core iMac 27″ would be the way to go. After all, we want the fastest possible machine for our needs so that we wouldn’t need to upgrade for several years. After speaking with the specialist at Apple we decided against the Quad Core and opted for the Core 2 Duo Processor, which saves us about $400. Mind you, we would have gladly spent the extra $400 if that meant we could shave off another hour or two a month processing images.

A note on Quad Core: If you are going to be using Final Cut Pro to edit video on a regular basis, then you would want the new Quad Core i7 machine or a Mac Pro tower, but since we edit video minimally the Quad Core would be overkill. Besides, this machine and configuration would more than adequately handle the odd video editing tasks we have.

The following is the final configuration based on best performance/cost specifically for a photo editing workstation:

  • iMac 27″ – Love the new 27″ LED screens! They are much brighter and consume less energy than previous LCD screens.
  • 3.o6 GHz Core 2 Duo
  • 1 Tb drive (upgradable later) – We only use the internal hard drive for images we are currently working on and use a Drobo (prices | Drobo store) in a mirrored RAID as an onsite archive.
  • 8 Gigs of Ram – Because we are working with large RAW files from a Canon 5D MKII.
  • 512 MHz video card – Along with the 8 Gigs of RAM, the upgraded graphics card should give you a boost in imaging speed.

We priced the machine through the Apple store, the Apple Education store (we have an association with the University of Texas), MacMall, and several other authorized Apple resellers, and found MacMall to have the best deal on this particular machine and configuration. You get free shipping and if you live outside of California you won’t have to pay sales tax.

You can find the best deal online here: MacMall

Make sure you configure and double check your iMac with the above specs to get the best bang-for-your-buck.

The new iMac. The ultimate all-in-one goes all out


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