Photography and the New Mac Pro


The latest generation of Mac Pro computers from Apple is making an impact for more reasons than their new shape. Macs have always been the ideal system for creative professionals, and this model is no exception. Under the hood is a completely overhauled desktop computer designed to improve your workflow dramatically—especially true when it comes to photography.

For photography, resolution and the ability to see your images clearly are key, and part of the reason that the LCD screens on digital cameras have been given higher resolution and larger dimensions in recent years. The new Mac Pro is here to help by offering multiple-display support at resolutions up to 4K. This means you can set up a few ultra-high-resolution monitors for checking out all of your images and setting up a way to view images and edit simultaneously.

To ensure that your work isn't slowed down, the new Mac Pros have a powerful GPU backed by ample video memory. This graphics-specific hardware will utilize stream processors to alleviate stress on your CPU during intense graphics work, such as when editing photographs. Also, with a large helping of video RAM, large uncompressed RAW files can be loaded up and edited without the worry of waiting times or fear of additional layers that will crash a less powerful system.

Storage is another area where the digital photographer will see significant advancement. Replacing the conventional hard drive, the new PCIe-based SSD drives are flash based. With no rotating spindle, the drives are faster, quieter, and run cooler. This speeds up the access time dramatically so that information and images can be read from your drive almost instantaneously. Even applications such as Photoshop will see a speed boost in their load times from the solid-state drive.

The Mac Pro will also utilize the speedy 20GB/s transfer rates of Thunderbolt 2. Thunderbolt 2 will speed up the import of files from memory cards and external drives. This can reduce the time it takes to move a recent shoot onto your hard drive and back it up. With the ability to daisy-chain devices, you can also hook up additional external hard drives and other peripherals, making the cataloging and archiving of your photographs a snap.

For wireless devices there is both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity to hook up your camera or video device. You can even set up wireless transfer of images easily with compatible memory cards.

Besides the hardware, Mavericks—the latest version of Apple's OS X—includes a plethora of new features as well as older features about which you may not have known.

A couple of the newest additions include App Nap and speakable automation. It works by slowing the apps that you currently have in the background and optimizing the use of the CPU and memory for your current work load—for example, if you send an image to Photoshop from your image manager or RAW editor, the computer’s power will be refocused onto the photo you just loaded and not on background apps. And then, for speeding-up repeated actions, you have the ability to set up spoken commands.

Although not new, another useful tool for photographers is AirPlay. It enables you to set up a TV or other device as a display, wirelessly. This can make large groups much easier to manage, since you can show multiple people your photos without having them crowd around your computer screen.

ColorSync is an older application, but it is incredible. It is a powerful display-calibration tool that will make setting up multiple displays and working with printers much easier. It allows you to quickly create new color profiles for each display, with a very intuitive interface, or just load ones up that match your printer and paper choices.

Digital photographers have depended on Apple computers for years. The new Mac Pro line keeps up the tradition with a solid and powerful desktop that will enhance your work and impress you with its many functions. Now it is no longer wishful thinking to have a fully functioning Mac desktop computer that can handle multitudes of images, high-end file processing, and still leave room to play your favorite music. Whether you have it in your studio or home office, the new Mac Pro will be the best assistant you’ve ever had.

Practical Uses

Color Critical Work: With ColorSync built-in, setting up your monitor to be as close to your other devices, like printers, is easy.

Multiple Displays: Running image management such as Bridge on one screen and Photoshop on another can speed up your work on a batch of images without having to switch programs—incredibly useful.

Tethering: Fast I/O ports mean photographs will show up almost instantly and be ready for editing. Also, the small size of the computer allows you to place it on a portable desk or workstation easily for convenience around a studio.

For Compositing: With massive amounts of memory, large composite images can be manipulated easily without putting a great deal of strain or drag on your system.

High-Res Scanning: The ability to process high bit-depth large film scans will help when shooting large format film and scanning it in. This strains many computer resources, and the latest Mac Pros are designed to handle this input.

Medium Format Photographers: Large image sizes mean a lot of memory. Also, those who shoot tethered can benefit from the smaller size of the computer and the faster interfaces for transferring data.

Wedding Photographers: With tons of memory cards from a single wedding, the fast interfaces will reduce the time it takes to start working with your images.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does the new multiple-display support help me work with photos?

Simply put, improved workflow efficiency. If you have it set up you can quickly move between your file-management or image viewer, like Adobe Bridge, on one screen and your photo-editing software, like Photoshop, on the other. Both apps will also function with full screen support. This will let you see other images and make decisions without having to constantly minimize windows and apps.

2. What is Thunderbolt 2 and how will it enhance my photography?

This is a new interface for all of your devices. It is an extremely fast 20Gb/s connection that can be daisy-chained for connecting up to 6 devices (5 + 1 display) on a single port. Also, it is fast enough to allow for external PCIe chassis and cards to be used. This means that the transfer of images from your latest shoot will be lightning-fast.

3. What about native file support for my camera? How is Mavericks with new models, in case I just want to do quick checks without opening software?

The great thing about Apple's operating system is that it constantly receives updates with RAW compatibility updates. This means that previewing your files will likely never be an issue.

4. I shoot film. Why should I consider a new Mac?

Well, if you do extremely high-resolution scans you will see a notable improvement while working with the large uncompressed files. The Mac Pro has massive memory capabilities, meaning that any open files will be ready for editing with no need for buffering, moving from one corner to the other.

5. Why should I use ColorSync and similar utilities? My monitors look just fine.

ColorSync and other utilities allow you to make the color perfect for your setup and lighting conditions. Believe it or not, the type of light bulbs in your house can cause the colors on your screen to look different. Also, if you add or replace a monitor in a multi-display setup, using ColorSync allows you to match them all up for smooth editing.

6. There aren’t any FireWire ports. What about my old drives?

Thunderbolt is compatible with numerous other interfaces, including FireWire, with the use of adapter cables. This ensures that all of your older devices will still work with the new machine.

7. What kind of monitor should I use with my new Mac Pro?

Ideally, you should pick up a 4k-capable Thunderbolt monitor. This uses the best of the best right now, the speed and quality of a Thunderbolt interface as well as the high-resolution 4k displays at the high end of the market. Also, with Thunderbolt you can daisy-chain multiple items on the same port as the monitor.

8. Are old my accessories still usable?

Yes! The new Mac Pro features Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi for using all of your accessories and devices without issue, including the wireless keyboard and mouse from your previous computer. Also, the standard USB ports allow your devices to easily transfer over.

9. Should I worry about my application compatibility?

Generally, this isn't a huge issue. Software companies like Adobe are quick to offer updates so that their software remains supported, but you should always check to see whether your specific apps are compatible.

10. Will a new computer truly speed up my workflow?

This depends on the configuration, but the new computer should run very smoothly and naturally. Also, while many newer features (12-core processing) aren’t immediately supported by software, in the coming years support will become standard, and your computer along with it.