14-Inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max Chip Hands-On Review (Podcast 762)

14-Inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max Chip Hands-On Review (Podcast 762)


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I mentioned recently that I had ordered a new 14-inch MacBook Pro computer, and although it took me just a few hours after orders started to be accepted on the Apple website, my delivery slipped by around a month from the starting delivery dates, so it arrived last week, at the start of December 2021, and today I’m going to share my thoughts on this new workhorse of a computer. My old 13″ MacBook Pro has served me well. I used it for five years, and it’s been around the world with me multiple times, so I was sad to package it off to Apple in part-exchange for my new MacBook Pro, but the $400 or so that they paid me for it is very welcome to help offset the ridiculously high price of the new computer, especially as I have bought this with my own savings this time, as opposed to using funds in my company. It’s a company purchase, but Martin Bailey Photography K.K. now owes me the money for this new computer.

Anyway, let’s start with some general information and observations. If you are a Mac user you’ll probably already have most of this information, so I’m not going to provide a full rundown of all there is to know about these new computers, but I will talk about the things that I have found interesting, starting with the look of the new MacBook Pro. There is a lot of power in the new Pro series, so I wasn’t surprised to find that it’s a little bit chunkier than the recent MacBook Pro releases. There is almost a retro-feel, as it reminds me more of my old 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2012 even more than my 2016 13-inch model, which was much thinner. Having said that, it’s still a relatively sleek machine, and with the power packed inside of it, I certainly don’t mind the slightly thicker design.

2021 14-inch MacBook Pro
2021 14-inch MacBook Pro

The extra diagonal inch of the screen size has increased the size slightly over my 13-Inch MacBook Pro, but it’s not a one-to-one increase, as the screen is now almost edge-to-edge filling the top panel of the computer. One surprise, that I could have guessed would be the case but didn’t, is that the new MacBook Pro has a notch, like those seen on the top of the iPhone screens.

As the top toolbar is often black, it’s easy to miss the notch completely, but as you can see in this photo of my MacBook Pro with Capture One Pro open, there is a gap in the menu as the Mac OS automatically shifts the menu items across to avoid them being hidden by the notch. This is a pretty sleek way of dealing with the gap in screen real estate, although a few times I have been caught by my computer user muscle-memory as I’ve instinctively looked for the second menu from the right, and didn’t find what I was looking for, because I was actually looking at the second menu from the left of the notch, and there were more menus on the right side of the notch.

Capture One Pro on 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro
Capture One Pro on 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro

Apart from that though, I haven’t really been bothered by the notch, and Apple has done a pretty good job of hiding its presence. When you go fullscreen in an application, for example, the full screen that you see will be moved down to avoid the notch, unless you reach up for the menu which is automatically hidden in fullscreen, but then the menu appears around the notch, rather than taking up a part of the fullscreen, so although in reality, the application you are running in fullscreen is not true full screen, in practice you hardly notice it, and it’s nice that menus appear without eating into what you were fooled into believing was your fullscreen.

If you look at these two screenshots, you’ll see that although on the actual screen you don’t see the black bar hiding the notch, in a screenshot, its presence is pretty easy to detect. You can also see that if it wasn’t for the notch and the hiding of it, full-screen images would actually be true fullscreen, but when you are viewing the screen with its black frame, again, it’s really hard to notice any of these problems. It certainly hasn’t bothered me over the last week of pretty heavy use of the new MacBook Pro.

Liquid Retina XDR

The color reproduction of the new Liquid Retina XDR screen is also something of beauty. Apple says that the new screen is “The best display ever in a notebook [and it] features Extreme Dynamic Range and a million to one contrast ratio.” I have still to calibrate my new display, but out of the box, it really is stunning to look at. It’s not as big a jump as when we first got Retina screens, but it’s a nice jump in the evolution of the hardware. Spec-wise it weighs in at 3024 by 1964 pixels, which makes it just shy of six megapixels and has a resolution of 254 Pixels Per Inch.

Engraved Logo

I also found it interesting that Apple chose to add a very nice deeply engraved logo on the underside of the new MacBook Pro, which again, feels somewhat retro, but I thought this was a nice touch, although obviously purely cosmetic. Notice too that there is no grill or any holes on the underside to act as cooling vents. The two dark lines on either side, and I believe also along the back edge is where the MacBook Pro spits out its warm air, and despite its much higher spec, it generally runs much cooler than my 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro, which generated a lot of heat which was always noticeable when sitting the computer on your lap.

2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Underside
2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Underside

Battery Life

Another very welcome change is the increased battery life. I generally work in my studio until 7 pm then after dinner, from around 7:30 pm until after midnight I work with my laptop on the sofa. My 13-inch MacBook Pro had a practical battery life of around 3 hours, so I would often find myself having to plugin it in just for the last 10 to 15 minutes before going to bed. If I attached an external Solid State Drive to my old MacBook Pro I could expect the battery to run down in just over an hour.

The specs for the 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro have a battery life of 17 hours for video playback and 11 hours for wireless web browsing. In practice, I’ve so far been able to use it unplugged for eight to nine hours, and there was still around a third of the battery life left, so I’m pretty confident that the specs are not far out. I’ve also spent an evening with an SSD attached working on photos, and the battery life was fine, so this is all very welcome.

Missing Touch Bar

My 2016 MacBook Pro was the first line in which Apple introduced the Touch Bar, and I did select that option, as I wanted to see how it would change my use of the computer. The Touch Bar came with mixed reactions, and many people complained about the lack of the physical escape key. Personally, although I quite liked the Touch Bar, I have to admit, I think the idea was better than the practical uses that the Touch Bar brought. Even though many companies did integrate their software with the Touch Bar, I found that I continued to do most of my interaction with the computer through the keyboard and mouse, and rarely reached for the touch-bar. It just never really caught my attention enough to use.

2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Function Keys
2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Function Keys

Even in applications like Apple Photos where you could scroll through images with the Touch Bar, I rarely used it, so I wasn’t overly saddened by what appears to be a decision by Apple to discontinue the Touch Bar. There are no Touch Bar options with this recent release of the MacBook Pro and the word online seems to be indicating that Apple has abandoned the Touch Bar and will not be including it in future models.

The Magic Keyboard

Another very welcome design change comes in the form of the Magic Keyboard. My old MacBook Pro was one of the first to use what Apple called the Butterfly Keyboard, which sounded like a good idea, and I didn’t dislike the action. The keys didn’t move far, but there was enough feedback to make using the keyboard a relatively good experience. My problem with the Butterfly Keyboard came after two years of heavy use because certain keys started to repeat themselves when pressed and sometimes just didn’t enter the character pressed. I found myself making more typos than usual, and after struggling for a few months with it, I had to send the computer in for repair. I then found that two years on, after similar usage, over the last few months I noticed a few more repeated and dropped keystrokes.

2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Japanese Keyboard
2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Japanese Keyboard

This was one of the major reasons that I decided to jump on this release, as my Apple Care ran out two years ago too, and I didn’t think it would be worth throwing more money at my 13-inch MacBook Pro, knowing that anything I did now would still only have a shelf-life of two years. The new Magic Keyboard has great keys though. They feel nice to type with, and I’m relatively confident from the feel of the hardware that this keyboard isn’t going to break after just two years of use.

Sounds Amazing!

Also, don’t let those thin strips of speaker holes in the 2021 MacBook Pro fool you into thinking that this machine has small, tinny-sounding speakers. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the sound that this little machine can boom out. Until now, when I was making music, I would often create something in my living room using my headphones, and then play it to my wife but be disappointed by the lack of depth in the sound. When I really wanted her to hear something properly, I’d have her also use the headphones. With the new MacBook Pro though that’s no longer necessary. The sound from the six speakers with four force-canceling woofers provide 80 percent more bass than previous systems and half an octave lower bass.

MagSafe 3 Power and Thunderbolt 4

Apple has also backtracked with the power for the 2021 MacBook Pros. My previous MacBook Pro had four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack, which I was happy with, including powering the computer via one of the four ports. Apple has though now gone back to the magnetic connection with the MagSafe 3 power port and I have to admit it’s nice to have that back. That reassuring snap and the little green light, or the orange light to let you know that the computer is charging, is really nice. It’s also better if you should catch the cable, as the MagSafe port will pull away from the computer more easily than trying to pull out a cable, especially if you pull it sideways. You’d be more likely to pull the computer off the surface it’s sitting on than pull out the cable, but that’s no longer the case with the return of the MagSafe port.

2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Magsafe Power Connector
2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Magsafe Power Connector

The headphone jack has moved from the right to the left edge of the computer, and on the right side, we now have just one Thunderbolt 4 port and an SDXC card slot. Like Canon omitting the GPS unit from all of the cameras that I buy, I seem to be missing the usefulness of the SD card slot on Apple Computers as well. When I had an SD slot in the past, I was using CF Cards. For two years while I had my 13-inch MacBook Pro with no SD card slot, I was actually using SD cards in my EOS R cameras, but now that the SD card slot is back, I’m now using CFexpress cards in my Canon EOS R5, so from my perspective it has no use. I might buy one of those memory cards that sit flush to the edge of the computer if I start to run short of internal storage, but I splurged on the 4TB SSD option for my new computer, so I probably won’t even need the SD card slot for external storage.

There is a new HDMI port as well which is welcome. I use HDMI quite often to connect to projectors, and I can also get great image quality on my 60-inch 4K TV over HDMI, so I was happy to see this additional port.

SSD Speed Tests

While we’re on the subject, that internal SSD is another very sweet piece of engineering. The SSD in these new MacBook Pro is marketed as supporting up to 7.4GB/s read speeds, which is absolutely insane! Using the Blackmagicdesign Disk Speed Test we can see that the read speeds are more than double my five-year-old MacBook Pro and the write speeds are more than three times faster!

M1 Max Chip is Off the Charts

I decided to go for the higher-end Apple M1 Max chip over the still amazing M1 Pro because it doubles the amount of memory you can use from 32GB to 64GB, and the memory bandwidth also doubles from 200GB/s to 400GB/s. The GPU also sports 32-cores in the M1 Max over 16-cores in the M1 Pro. Keeping this in perspective, the M1 Pro is also an amazing piece of engineering and definitely no slouch, but I figured I’d go for the best available in the hope that I can get a few more years out of this computer, while, of course, increasing its computing power to perform my daily tasks faster.

In Capture One Pro for example, even with my images on an external, although very fast SSD, the images appear on the screen instantly as I move between shots. There is no lag as the images res-in, they are just there straight after the switch. In music applications, my old 13-inch MacBook Pro would often stutter and sometimes become unusable with some software instruments, but with the 10 cores and processing power of the new MacBook Pro, it never misses a beat.

Geekbench Benchmark Results

We won’t geek out on the results of the Geebbench benchmark tests that I ran, but here is a 9 screen-shot merge to show the results for the CPU tests for my 13-inch MacBook Pro on the left, my Late 2017 iMac Pro in the middle, and my 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro on the right. This was unfortunately downsized by WordPress when I uploaded it, so the fine details will be difficult to see, but if you click on it to open the image in the lightbox on the blog, you can click to zoom in and read the small text. Besides, even just looking at the overall score you can see that the 14-inch MacBook Pro is close to double the power of even the iMac Pro, which is amazing!

Geekbench Merged Results
Geekbench Merged Results

No Face Recognition

There is just one area where I think Apple completely dropped the ball with this latest line of MacBook Pro computers, and that is the continued addition of the fingerprint reader on the power button instead of moving to Face Recognition-based security. My fingerprint changes with the seasons and I have never been able to use my fingerprint for more than a couple of months before I have to rescan it on any of my Apple devices, be it a MacBook Pro or my iPhones. Seriously, I scanned my fingerprint when the 14-inch MacBook Pro arrived and in less than a week my fingerprint is no longer recognized.

2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Finger Print Reader
2021 14-inch MacBook Pro Finger Print Reader

Maybe I’m deformed, and have unusually non-descript fingerprints, probably from too much typing! But I am absolutely tired of scanning and rescanning my fingerprints almost constantly throughout the year. If Apple had included the same Face Recognition technology that my three-year-old iPhone has in my brand new MacBook Pro, I would have been the happiest Apple user on the planet. As it stands, I’m probably not that far down the list of happy users, because everything else about the 14-inch MacBook Pro is absolutely amazing!

I do need to get more than four to five years of use out of this machine though for the price, but I’m relatively confident that the technology will deliver the performance I need to do my work for at least the foreseeable future. I’m happy with my purchase, and I hope you found my observations useful.

I’m sure most people would buy these computers directly from Apple, but if any of you have a reason to buy from my friends at B&H Photo, you can use the link https://mbp.ac/mbp14 and help me to pay for mine with the small affiliate payment that this would lead to. Failing that, if you still want to help out, consider a Patreon contribution which also unlocks all posts and gives you access to our private community and lots of other benefits. Thanks also to our new contributors Dane, Dan, Jay, Warren, and Ulana! Your contributions along with the other supporters are very much appreciated!


Show Notes

If you have a reason to buy from B&H, you can support the podcast by buying with this affiliate link: https://mbp.ac/mbp14

Music by Martin Bailey


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Mid-Spec iMac Pro Review – Wow! (Podcast 601)

Mid-Spec iMac Pro Review – Wow! (Podcast 601)

Having just taken delivery of my brand spanking new iMac Pro, today I’m going to share my first impressions of this awesome machine, with a few comparisons to other Apple computers of recent years to give you an idea of the perform these new Pro machines can provide.

I’d like to start by explaining a little about the specification of the iMac Pro that I chose and my reasoning. First of all, my old iMac was four years old, so from a Finance perspective, it has just fully depreciated. As a business owner that’s important to me. As a photographer, it was also important to me that I had started to feel a bit of stress with my old iMac through 2017, and felt it was time to think about a bit of an upgrade.

Configuration Strategy

When I buy a new computer, I generally like to throw in as many upgrades as possible, but if you do that with the new iMac Pro, it will cost you over $13,000, and as much as I like to run a nice powerful machine, there is no way I could warrant that kind of money.  So, I looked at the options and tried to make an intelligent decision about each component. I was talking with Don Komarechka last week after we talked on his podcast, and Don was telling me that the computer he built four years ago with a 12-core CPU really wasn’t maximizing on all of those cores, and when your software is using less than all of your cores, you might as well have a faster CPU.

The options for the new iMac Pro range from 8-cores at 3.2GHz up to 18-cores at 2.3GHz. Because I don’t see me really being able to capitalize on lots of cores, I figured it was probably wise to go for the 8-core CPU because it’s faster at 3.2GHz so will probably speed up many of the processes that I run that won’t really use more than all 8 cores. Plus, this is double my old iMac with 4-cores, so I figured it would still give me a significant boost in performance. I basically had to keep reminding myself that I was buying a pro-spec desktop computer, as a photographer that deals mainly with big files, but not necessarily crunching huge processor intensive jobs like 3D rendering, and I don’t do enough video to really benefit from more than 8-cores etc.

My next decision was the amount of memory, and again, I decided to double the 32GB in my old iMac to 64GB in the new iMac Pro. It was $800 to double this to 64GB, but quadrupling it to 128GB was $1,600 and I figured I could live without that. So far I’ve been keeping an eye on memory usage and rarely using even close to all of my 64GB, so at this point, I’m happy with my decision. 

Next up was another $800 to double the size of the internal SSD drive from 1TB to 2TB, and again, a decision to forego paying $2,800 to go for the 4TB version. I was actually pretty comfortable with this from the start, as apart from when I had a rogue program create a 1.2TB log file recently, that filled my 3TB hard drive on my old iMac, I have never really used much more than 1.5TB, as I store most of the stuff that I don’t use often on my Drobo connected by Thunderbolt, and by doing that a bit more aggressively, I can’t see 2TB ever being a problem. I’ve actually at this point pretty much got everything that I need installed, included some very large music production software and soundbanks, and I have only used 700GB, so I’m in good shape in this respect.

My old iMac had 4GB of Graphics Memory so following the same doubling-up strategy would have made me happy to stick with the standard 8GB Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics card, but photography related programs like Capture One Pro and Photoshop really do get a boost from more Graphics memory, so I decided to upgrade this to the 16GB Vega 64 version of the Radeon Pro, and I’ll show you some numbers shortly to illustrate that this was a pretty good decision.

A minor detail, but I also went for the Space Gray Magic Trackpad 2, rather than the Magic Mouse 2, as I don’t really like to use a mouse. The trackpad has been my preferred interface for many years now, and I love how I can use lots of different gestures with the Apple Magic Trackpad, speeding up how I use my computer in many ways.

Although I bought my iMac Pro in Japan, for what feels like an infinitely larger amount, if I dial my choices into the US Apple website, I see that my configuration comes to a cool $7,249. Not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but when we consider the power of this machine and the fact that it’s Apple and simply beautiful, I’m not too uncomfortable with this.

Unboxing

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the iMac Pro arrived. The delivery dates quoted when I ordered it was between Dec 30 and Jan 7, so when I received a notification that the customized iMac Pro had shipped on Dec 22 for delivery on Dec 24 I was pretty happy, as it gave me time to work on setting it up and writing this review over before I get busy again from the New Year.

As you can see from this three image stitch (below) the iMac Pro comes in a relatively compact package. This is actually smaller than a 27″ display box from other manufacturers. In the middle image, you can see that there is just a little padding between the outer box and the white box inside, and then a little bit of molded cardboard protecting the screen, which is wrapped in a kind of paper-cloth and has a protective plastic cover inside that.

iMac Pro Unboxing
iMac Pro Unboxing

Of course, the package is so small because the entire computer is packed inside the display in true iMac style, so despite the power, there’s no need for the big chunky desktop tower or even the cylinder in which Apple put the Mac Pro. 

In the next image (below) we can see that on the back of the iMac Pro, we there is a range of interfaces available, which from left to right are the earphones jack, an SDXC card slot, four USB 3 ports and four Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C  ports, and an Ethernet port. The inclusion of the USB-C ports was a part of my decision to upgrade, as my 13-inch MacBook Pro has these, and I am now using External SanDisk Extreme 900 SSD drives to store my current year of photos and all of my Final select images on, so that I can use them while traveling and then just plug them in to the iMac when I get home.

iMac Pro Back View
iMac Pro Back View

Although these SanDisk SSDs were fast over USB 3.0, they scream over USB-C because they are USB 3.1 Gen 2, with a logical speed of up to 10Gbps. We’ll move on and look at the actual speed of these drives in a moment. Basically though, now that I can move these drives between my two main computers and stay on USB 3.1 Gen 2, I get to run them at their maximum speed regardless of which computer I’m on, which is great!

Everything Space Gray!

It may not be obvious from the photo of the back of my iMac Pro, because of the light pouring into my office studio, but Apple decided to make the iMac Pro available only in Space Gray. That suits me fine because I have been choosing Space Gray for my other Apple Devices since it became available. My iPhone, iPad Pro and MacBook Pro are all in Space Gray.

Space Gray Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2
Space Gray Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2

Purely aesthetic of course, I was also happy to see that Apple had exclusively included a Space Gray Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 with the iMac Pro. I am really happy to now have a Numeric Keypad on the keyboard again, although I’ve just about gotten out of the habit of using it now after 7 years without this feature.

I always used to enjoy using the numeric keypad when doing accounts and calculations, or just entering numbers in general, so it took a lot of getting used to not having this when I first switch to Apple. Now I have this back I think I’ve only used it once, but I’m sure I’ll slip back into my old ways in the coming weeks.

I was surprised at how thin the Magic Keyboard is, actually sitting a millimeter or so lower than the Magic Trackpad 2, which is also very thin, but it feels great to type on. I am of course preparing this blog post on the new keyboard and it’s very comfortable to work with, and incredibly stylish, so it looks great on my desk in Space Gray.

Black Lightning Cable Included

There is a black Lightening cable included, that at first, I could quite figure out. Some site’s are making a fuss about it being the first black lightning cable Apple has made, which to me isn’t necessarily exciting since you can buy third-party Lightning cables in a variety of colors. 

Then though, as I reached for a cable to charge the new Space Gray Magic Keyboard, I realized how much, in comparison, a white cable now stands out on my desk, so I plugged in the black cable, and it actually looks really nice. Of course, it also hit me then, that I need a Lightning cable to charge the keyboard and trackpad, which is why Apple included it. All in all, I realized that it was not only necessary but quite a nice touch for it to be black given the overall dark color palette used for this new Pro iMac line.

Performance Tests

So, enough about the appearance, let’s look at some performance numbers. I’ve not tried to be overly technical or scientific in my tests, but for the main benchmarking, I’ve used a program called Geekbench to gather some metrics from the four Mac computers that I currently still have access to.

Rather than me reeling these off here, if you are interested in looking at the details of my benchmark tests, you can see them on my public Geekbench page here. We will compare the main scores here though, so the below image shows how the 8-core iMac Pro CPU fairs in comparison to my late 2013 iMac, my late 2016 MacBook Pro 13-inch, and my mid 2012 MacBook Pro 15-inch.

Geekbench CPU Results
Geekbench CPU Results

The first thing that I noticed from these results is how much more powerful the Xeon processor in the iMac Pro is compared to my still very respectable i7 processor from my four-year-old iMac in single core mode, despite the i7 being a 3.5GHz CPU and the iMac Pro being a 3.2GHz CPU. The i7 single core scored 4366 compared to 5005 from the Xeon 3.2GHz CPU in the iMac Pro. This means that when I’m working in programs that don’t really make use of multiple cores, I’m still going to benefit from the speed of the Xeon processor, even though it’s essentially 0.3GHz slower. 

Of course, the main benefit is going to come when using programs that use multiple cores, especially when they are able to use many if not all 8 cores, and we can see that the Multi-core score really knocks it out of the park compared to my earlier 4-core machines. The iMac Pro clocked a very respectable 31090 compared to 14866 from my iMac, and 13190 from my 4-core MacBook Pro. 

It’s also worth noting that my newer 13-inch MacBook Pro only having two cores is significantly slower than my old 15-inch MacBook Pro with double the cores. This is to be expected of course, as the 13-inch MacBook Pro is really a compromise. I went for the 13-inch MacBook Pro for its size, more than power, although I must say, I have not really found it to be much slower in practical use than the 15-inch MacBook Pro with 4-cores.

The other comparison I was able to do with Geekbench is to compare the graphics processor speeds, as you can see in this following screenshot (below). The OpenCL score of my non-Retina four-year-old iMac with 4GB of video RAM is 36242 compared to a whopping 175507 on the iMac Pro with the upgraded Radeon Pro graphics card with 16GB of video RAM.

Geekbench Compute Results
Geekbench Compute Results

I have a 32-inch 4K display from BenQ attached to my iMac, and to be totally honest, my non-Retina four-year-old iMac really struggled to drive this display. The new iMac Pro though can drive up to four external 4K displays and two external 5K displays, so the BenQ 4K display is now as happy as can be sitting attached to my iMac Pro.

Multi-Display Nirvana!

Curious, I ran the Geekbench benchmark tests on my iMac Pro both with and without the 4K external display attached and found that the performance was unchanged. In fact, in some cases, the performance actually improved with a second display attached, but the amount was small, so probably just natural variance from other services running on the machine.

iMac Pro on Martin's Desk
iMac Pro on Martin’s Desk

In short though, if you need to run multiple displays, and have found this taxing on your system with previous generations of the iMac, particularly I imagine pre-5K iMacs, like my old one, then you needn’t worry about that with the iMac Pro.

I won’t spend any more time going through these results for now, but if you are interested, as I mentioned earlier, you can dig into my results and compare them to other computers on the Geekbench website here.

Internal SSD Speed

One other important thing for speeding up a photographer’s workflow though is the speed of the internal hard drive, or better still these days, a solid state drive or SSD, which is what now comes as standard in the iMac Pro. Using a fast SSD to work from will speed up your image processing more than any other single factor, although the CPU clock speed and amount of RAM and video memory also play important parts in the equation.

The one thing I regretting scrimping on in my old iMac was the hard drive. I took a gamble on Apple’s Fusion Drive hoping that the built-in SSD accelerator component would give me respectable performance, but my four-year-old iMac gave me a write speed of just 67.5 MB/s and a better but still relatively poor read speed of 568 MB/s. 

By comparison, the SSD that I have in my new iMac Pro is giving me a whopping 2808 MB/s write speed and 2476 MB/s read speed. These speeds almost make me want to run my Capture One Pro catalogues from the internal SSD on my iMac Pro, but my external SanDisk Extreme 900 drives still give me 754 MB/s write and 860 MB/s read speeds over USB 3.1 Gen 2, so I’m going to continue to work from these drives to enable me to move easily between computers.

iMac Pro Internal 2TB SSD
iMac Pro Internal 2TB SSD

I tested my drive speed with the Blackmagic Design’s Disk Speed Test application, available for free from the Apple App Store.

Capture One Pro Startup Speed

I also compared the amount of time it takes Capture One Pro to open my Finals catalog on both my 13-inch MacBook Pro and the new iMac Pro. The first time I switch computers, on the MacBook Pro, launching the catalog from my external SanDisk Extreme 900 SSD, it takes 28 seconds. Then from the second time I open the catalog on the MacBook Pro, it takes 12 seconds.

By comparison, on the iMac Pro, running the exact same catalog from the same external SSD, these times are exactly halved. It takes 14 seconds to open the catalog the first time, then just 6 seconds to open it from the second time onwards.

My Finals catalog is currently weighing in at 11.7 GB and contains 7800 images. My 2017 catalog containing a few images under 22,000 currently weighs in at 40.4 GB. My 2017 catalog takes around 11 seconds to open on the iMac Pro, and around 22 seconds to open on my 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Instant Image Display

The most important thing for me to note here, and probably the most important thing for any photographer to keep in mind, is that I’m completely thrilled by the fact that once my images are loaded into Capture One Pro, and the previews are generated, most of the time, the images display instantly when moving back and forth through my images with the computer arrow keys. Occasionally there is like a half a second lag before the image res’s in, but never more than that.

I have my Preview Image Size set to 3840 pixels wide in Capture One Pro preferences, which is 4K resolution. You might wonder why I haven’t set this to 5120 for 5K resolution now that I’ve got a 5K iMac Pro, but my reasoning is that I generally review my images with the toolbar displayed in Capture One Pro, so I don’t really need the full 5K resolution previews. Also, my tests have shown that even on the 5K display, the images appear clear and pretty much instantly in both preview sizes. 

My other reasons are that I actually display the images on the 4K display attached to my iMac more than the iMac screen itself, and keeping the previews at 4K instead of 5K helps to keep my catalog sizes down. The larger my previews are, the larger those catalog files get. Also, for a significant amount of time, I open these catalogs and view the images on my MacBook Pro, and 3840 pixels wide is more than enough for that screen too.

Before we move on, I’d like to stress once again how important the ability to view images instantly is to me. We look at thousands and thousands of photographs each year. If we count the number of times we view images during the many iterations of our editing process, we’re likely viewing images millions of times. If it takes a number of seconds for these images to appear as we work, that soon mounts up and introduces a lot of stress into our workflows. 

As my old iMac gradually slowed down, I’ve honestly found myself pretty stressed as we’ve progressed through 2017, and I simply didn’t want to start my winter Japan tours in January, knowing that I’d have to come home and try to rush through my processing between each tour in an environment that caused me stress.

I should clarify that most of that stress was actually coming from how slow the 4K display was running on my non-Retina iMac, and not from Capture One Pro, but I do like the 32 inch screen, and it will now work great with the beautiful new 5K display of the iMac Pro, with its one billion color support.

Built-in Speakers

The built-in speakers aren’t that important for me because I’m a bit of an audiophile and have a pair of very good quality Onkyo speakers either side of my desk, which I always use. Having said that, I couldn’t resist taking a listen to the built-in speakers, and although they’re a little tinny in comparison to my Onkyo speakers, they give a respectable sound. If you don’t have any external speakers or just want a clean, uncluttered workspace, they’re probably more than adequate. 

The only scenario, when I can see me using the internal speakers in my workspace, is when I’m working at my music workstation opposite my main desk, and I pump the audio from that setup through the same Onkyo speakers, so I might need to activate the built-in iMac Pro speakers in order to listen to something from the iMac at the same time.

To Encrypt or Not to Encrypt?

One final thing that I want to do, but I’ve run out of time for as I’m already late getting this episode out, is that I wanted to report on any drop in speed of the SSD after turning on FileVault 2 encryption. 

Having changed the SSD format on my 13-inch MacBook Pro to the new Apple File System (APFS) introduced with High Sierra, which enables higher performance encryption, among other things, I checked to see if turning on FileVault and encrypting the contents of my SSD slowed down the read/write performance at all, and I was very happy to see that there was no change. 

So, I’m going to turn on FileVault on my new iMac Pro too, just as soon as I’ve finished recording this Podcast. It will probably take about six hours to encrypt the data, but once it’s settled down, I’ll run the Disk Speed Test again and add the results as a note in this blog post, to keep you in the loop. Sure, this is more important for a mobile computer that a greater risk of ending up in the wrong hands, but if there is no change in performance, I can’t think of a reason not to turn FileVault on.

UPDATE Dec 29, 2017: OK, so I turned on FileVault 2 on the iMac Pro, and let it run overnight to get everything encrypted, then retested with Blackmagic Design’s Disk Speed Test this morning to see if the speed changed. As I suspected, basically there was no change. The Write speed actually got a 0.97% faster, and the Read speed got 0.99% slower. With less than 1% variance, in both directions, we can say it’s basically unchanged. For reference, here is the screenshot of the test after turning on FileVault 2.

iMac Pro Internal SSD with FileVault ON
iMac Pro Internal SSD with FileVault ON

Conclusion

So, as we start to wrap this up, I’d like to add a few extra thoughts. I’m sure some of you will wonder if I regret not going for the higher multi-core CPU models, and all I can say for now is that I’m currently very happy with my decision to go with the standard 8-core CPU. It’s still way faster than my old iMac, and for a predominantly still photography photographer, having the power to view my photos instantly, which this machine gives me, is amazing.

Right now, I’m thinking that my customization pennies were spent in the right areas, with an internal SSD that’s big enough to hold everything I need without going the whole hog for the 4TB option. The additional video memory taking me to 16GB also seems to have been money well spent, playing a part in getting my images on screen quickly.

At the end of the day, this is a professional line of desktop computers that will deliver pretty amazing power even without the upgrades I chose, but if funds allow, the areas I upgraded are probably money well spent. I’m sure I would benefit occasionally from having more power, but I really can’t warrant spending any more than the already very high price that I laid out for this computer with my customizations.

I also think that adding these few extra customizations will help to future proof my investment. Ideally, I’d really like to not have to replace this machine in four years, like I did my old iMac, which in case you are wondering, is not going to go to waste. I’ve moved that to the other side of my studio and it’s now driving my music producing workstation. It won’t be retired after just four years.

If you aren’t an Apple user, you probably didn’t really need to listen to this, if you even got this far, but if you are interested in this new Pro lineup from Apple, I hope you found this useful.


Show Notes

See Martin’s Geekbench results here: https://mbp.ac/geekbench

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


The iPhone 6 Plus – Thoughts from Iceland (Podcast 441)

The iPhone 6 Plus – Thoughts from Iceland (Podcast 441)

Two days before I left for my 2014 Iceland Tour, I picked up my shiny new iPhone 6 Plus, and have used it for panos, video and photo sharing etc. over the last two weeks, so this week I share my thoughts on the iPhone 6 Plus from 2 weeks in Iceland.

This year’s Iceland Tour & Workshop was absolutely amazing, again. The group was incredibly talented and fun to travel with, and my experience was enhanced somewhat by the bigger and better iPhone 6 Plus that I took possession of the day it went on sale, just two days before I jumped on a plane here in Tokyo, and headed across the globe to the wild and wonderful island of Iceland.

I’ll start my travelogue series next week, and work you through the tour with images from each day, and concentrate more on the photography aspect, but as I still need a few days to complete my final selection of images, I figured it would be a good chance to update you on the new iPhone. I’m not going to dig deep into specs and technical details as I would a normal camera, because that’s not how I use my iPhone, but from a consumer perspective, here’s what I found.

First of all, one of the questions I’ve received the most so far is why did I go for the larger screen iPhone 6 Plus? The first and foremost reason for this was so that I can view and show my images much larger and more beautifully with this larger screen. I also like to read on my iPhone, especially when traveling, and the new large 5.5 inch screen makes this much more comfortable.

To put things into perspective, here’s a photo of my old iPhone 5 with its 4 inch screen, which was a nice increase over my older iPhone 4, but as other companies released smart phones with larger screens, Apple seemed to get left behind. The wait was worth it though, as in true Apple style, the new iPhone 6 is beautifully designed, and now comes in two larger screen sizes. The 4.7 inch screen, and the Plus that we can see on the left (below) has a lovely big 5.5 inch screen.

iPhone 6 Plus with iPhone 5

iPhone 6 Plus with iPhone 5

To be totally honest, I was a little bit apprehensive when I ordered the larger screen Plus, especially without actually holding one beforehand, but any of you that have been listening for a while will know that one of my Mum’s famous mottos was “If you’re gonna ‘ave one, ‘ave a biggun!” meaning a “big one” of course. I’ve kind of lived that mantra most of my life, in various interpretations, and it’s always worked out good for me.

This time too, there was no reason to worry. I simply love the big screen, and the iPhone 6 Plus fits surprisingly comfortably in the front pocket of my jeans or jacket pocket. I’ve heard of people bending theirs by putting them in their jeans back pocket, but I have never put my phone in my back pocket, and never will, just out of habit, so this isn’t something that concerns me.

Lightroom Mobile on the iPhone 6 Plus

Iceland Collection in Lightroom Mobile

Iceland Collection in Lightroom Mobile

As I said, one of the main reasons I wanted the larger screen was to show photos bigger and better than was ever possible with the smaller iPhone screens. Don’t get me wrong, when that is all I had, I was happy enough with it. People just tend to bring the phone closer to their face with the smaller screen, but the iPhone 6 Plus just takes the image viewing experience to a whole new level.

Before I left Japan for Iceland, I double checked that all of my portfolios were synched to the new iPhone in Ligthroom Mobile, as I’d restored a backup on my old phone. They were all there, no problem.

I created a new collection called Iceland 2014 in Lightroom on my Mac and set it to sync with Lightroom Mobile. Then as I shot new images that I liked during the tour, I just added them to this collection with the B key on my keyboard, because I’d made it the Target Collection.

Then whenever I had wifi at a hotel, the collection would sync with my iPhone, and I could show my photos as I went along.

Because I also set up Lightroom Mobile on my wife’s iPhone, she was also able to see my new photos as I made them, because they automatically synched as I added images to the Iceland collection.

I know there are other ways to sync photos between computers, but this also enables me to browse the photos and change ratings etc. while traveling, and I can also check shooting settings from older photos to give advice to the group as we arrive at new locations, so Lightroom Mobile really works for me in this situation.

Image Stabilized Camera

One of the other reasons I went for the Plus over the standard iPhone 6, was the optical image stabilization for the camera in the Plus model. I don’t really do much shooting with my iPhone,  but I use it like many consumers probably do, to capture memories, more like snapshots than the photos that I shoot with my digital SLR cameras.

Actually, while I’m out with my iPhone and my DSLR, I tend to use the iPhone to shoot panoramas more than anything else. Here (below) we can see a panorama that I shot with the iPhone 6 Plus up in the highlands of Iceland. This is straight out of the camera, and I think pretty good for a camera phone. There are a couple of flare spots below the sun, but I am shooting straight into the sun at that point.

iPhone 6 Plus Panorama

iPhone 6 Plus Panorama

Sometimes as you pan across the scene to make this kind of image, if people or objects are moving, the rolling shutter can cause them to become a little bit deformed, like these few people that I circled in this shot. You can see that the one in the middle has a bit of a pin-head, and Henry there in the blue jacket is a slim guy, but isn’t quite that flat. (Click on the images to view larger and see more detail.)

iPhone 6 Plus Rolling Shutter Anomalies

iPhone 6 Plus Rolling Shutter Anomalies

Of course, these are JPEGs, and can be quite heavily compressed, causing digital artifacts and nasty blotchiness as in parts of this photo. The water I can understand more, but the sky was stationary, so I would have hoped to see slightly less blotchiness up there, but hey, it’s a phone camera, right? (Again, click to view large to check out the details.)

Öxarárfoss with Blotchy Artifacts

Öxarárfoss with Blotchy Artifacts

All in all, the camera probably outperformed my expectations. It’s saves standard photos at 8 megapixels, and panoramas up to 43 megapixels, which is a hefty size and could easily be printed very large if you get a shot that deserves to be printed.

Video

The other thing that I found myself doing a lot was shooting video, which is really pretty good with the new optical image stabilization, except for issues that occur when there is a lot of movement. To show you what I mean, both good and bad, I’ve put together a quick video of iPhone 6 Plus video clips from the tour for you to take a look. Keep an eye out for the rare beautiful blue sky day when I shot a little from the moving bus. You’ll see the entire scene kind of morphing as the camera tries to keep up with this much movement.

I haven’t really played with the Slo-mo video yet, although that looks like fun. I did shoot some of my video at 60 frames per second, but turned that off when I didn’t need it, because I figured that could be what was causing the video to shudder when there was a lot of movement.

Just a Couple of Issues

There are a few things that I’ve not been totally happy with, so I thought I’d mention this before we close. The first one was that as my hands dried up from the cold in Iceland, my fingerprints must have changed or something, because I found that Touch ID stopped working within just a few days. I rescanned my fingers, and it worked again for a few scans, but then stopped working again.

I found myself tapping in my security code 99% of the time, and even now that I’m home, because it will take my hands a week or so to get back to normal, I still can’t use my fingerprints for the Touch ID. It worked fine for the few days before I went to Iceland so I know it’s the cold and my skin that has caused the issue, but I didn’t think it would be this bad.

I also am not a huge fan just yet of the on/off switch on the right side of the phone. At first it feels ergonomically better to have the switch on the side, especially now with the bigger phone, meaning that you’d have to change your grip to push a button on the top of the phone as before, but I often hit the on/off switch after I’ve put the phone down on a surface, and find myself pressing the volume buttons on the left side of the phone as I grip it to turn the screen off. This isn’t a big problem, and I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but I can’t help wondering if this couldn’t have been designed a little better.

That is absolutely all that I can think of that isn’t absolutely perfect. Everything else just works. I can’t say I can see any noticeable increase in speed from the 64 bit iOS and faster processor, but then I was never unhappy with my iPhone 5. I don’t play a lot of games, except for collecting cars in CSR Racing, and although that looks beautiful on the larger screen, I probably just don’t have a good baseline for comparison of speedy graphics etc.

Very Happy!

OK, so that’s really all I have time for this week, as I get back into things after my Tour. I am generally very impressed with the iPhone 6 Plus, and I’m very happy with the large screen. Yes, it’s a much bulkier phone than before, but the look on peoples’ faces as they view my photos on that large screen is priceless, and the user experience is much better in my opinion.

There are lots of things that have been added, like horizontal views for the Mail and Calendar apps etc. but I’m sure other people will be talking about this stuff in good time, and there’s plenty of information about all the new shiny features on Apple too, so I’ll just keep this to my photography related experiences.

Iceland 2015

Before we finish, I did want to mention once again that we’ll be getting into my Iceland Travelogue episodes from next week for a while, so stay tuned for that. Also note that I have now set the dates for the 2015 Tour & Workshop, so do check that out if you are interested in joining us. It really is an amazing tour that you will absolutely love!

Iceland Tour & Workshop 2015

 

Something Big is Coming!

Also, note that something big is coming on October 15! I can’t share any details yet, but if you love photography, you’ll love this. Take a look at https://mbp.ac/5dd

Something Big is Coming!


Show Notes

Iceland 2015 Tour & Workshop: https://mbp.ac/iceland2015

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


New Kid in on the Block – a 27″ iMac (Podcast 395)

New Kid in on the Block – a 27″ iMac (Podcast 395)

Last week I took delivery of a shiny new 27″ iMac, and having just about got it set up how I want it, I wanted to relay my thinking behind the purchase, and a few important things that I’ve learned from a Photographer’s perspective, especially with regards to the quality of the screen, which has in short blown me away.

This episode is brought to you by Squarespace, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website, portfolio or online store.  For a free trial and 10% off, go to squarespace.com and use offer code MBP11

First a little background; I was a Windows user since 1994, but I’ve also been using Macs since college here in Japan from 1995, and bought a Mac mini back in 2006 to enable me to create this Podcast in the Enhanced Podcast format. I actually replaced that Mac mini as the old one became slow, and then in January 2011, almost three years ago now, having become somewhat annoyed with Windows for a number of reasons, such as no native 16bit printing, and the lack of ability to put USB hard drives to sleep among other things, so I decided to jump ship completely to the Mac platform.

I bought a MacBook Pro, and told myself I’d give it a year, and if I was still happy with the decision, I would buy a Mac Pro to live permanently in my office/studio. At the time I was thinking of the Mac Pro that was a tower style Mac that looked similar to a lot of Windows based tower style desktop computers. It didn’t take me a year to decide whether or not Mac was for me. I knew before very long at all that I was never going back to Windows.

iMac in a Box (Top View)

iMac in a Box (Top View)

It’s not that I’ve got anything against Windows really, I am just happier with the Mac hardware and Mac OS than I ever really felt I was with Windows. The only thing I missed was the Accounting module that tells me exactly how much each print I make with my iPF6350 large format printer costs, and I also cannot access my business account Internet banking with anything other than Internet Explorer. To overcome both of these problems I use Parallels, and I start it solely for these two reasons, and nothing else.

So, why didn’t I buy a Mac Pro after the first year? Well, basically, for much of what I do, the MacBook Pro and now the MacBook Pro Retina do pretty much everything I want. I have a tendency to max-out new computers I buy, especially now that the MacBook Pros can’t be upgraded, so my powerful Retina laptop has been great, and even encodes video pretty fast, but there was one problem with my setup that has needed a solution since I switched to Mac.

I had been using my MacBook Pros with my external Eizo display when in my office, but the laptop screen was always so far away that I had to move my windows to the Eizo to do pretty much everything, and after switching from the 17″ MacBook Pro to the smaller 15″ Retina screen, this started to become a real problem. By this point I was using my first MacBook Pro as a server in my office, backing up to Backblaze etc. but continued to plug my Eizo into my main Retina computer to do work in the office, and there are times when I need to leave it all connected to do jobs like copying my entire image library from one drive to another or rebuilding all of my Lightroom Previews, so this, coupled with the not ideal display situation, meant that I needed to make some changes.

As with camera equipment, I don’t buy anything new unless the upgrade or new addition to my kit enables me to solve a problem. I now had two main problems to overcome with my office computer situation. I needed a second large screen, and I needed second powerful machine for the jobs that caused me to have to leave my MacBook Pro in the studio overnight, or for multiple days sometimes.

With my office/studio being on the 3rd floor of our apartment, I generally start work answering email etc. while still at the dining table after breakfast, and I come up to the office at around 9am. Then after dinner at 7pm, unless I need to come back upstairs for a meeting or to finish something off, I stay downstairs, and work from the sofa. That keeps me close to my wife but I can still get stuff done, which means having to leave my computer in the office was a problem.

My Options and Thinking

So, I have been weighing up my options slowly over the last few years, then more seriously this year since I got the MacBook Pro Retina with the smaller screen, and here is what I was comparing. First, I had to decide which Mac desktop I would buy. The Mac Pro hadn’t been given a major upgrade for years, so it was obviously ready. I waited for this for a while, but nothing surfaced until a few months ago when Apple announced the upgraded Mac Pro that we’ll see start to hit the stores in a few weeks time. This is a monster of a machine, a black cylinder basically that can be packed with a huge amount of computing power as well as 4k monitor support.

As I said, I tend to try to max specs out when I buy a new computer, but maxing out a new Mac Pro would probably make too big a dent in my bank balance, and frankly, I’m already close to being happy with the amount of computing power I have, so I could not warrant the expense of a mid to high end spec Mac Pro when they become available.

The other option of course, was buying a second external display, and plugging that into my MacBook Pro along with my current Eizo monitor. That of course only solves half of my problem, in that I’d still not have a reasonably powerful computer in the office, plus, a 27″ Eizo CX model would cost me around $1,200 or $1,800 if I went for the CG model with the hardware calibration, but I probably wouldn’t do that, as I don’t think it’s worth the additional cost.

Now, I seriously considered this option. I love Eizo displays, and have been very happy with my current 24″ display for more than 5 years now. But, that’s a lot of money to spend when you consider that it only solves half of my problem. So, I kept thinking that the iMac would be a great compromise.

It has a beautiful screen, and a pretty powerful computer built right in! The problem for me, for the longest time, was the glossy screen. My first MacBook Pro had the matte screen, and I liked it a lot. The Retina screen on my current MacBook Pro is glossy, and although it’s a beautiful screen, you have to be careful where you sit, or the reflection can be very distracting.

In my office I sit to the right of the window, so there are no light sources behind me but I do have a plastic covered first-surface mirror leaning against the wall behind me that is very reflective, especially when the sun comes out, so the glossy iMac screen would have been a problem, until now. When the new iMac was announced, I was really happy to see Apple singing the praises of a new 75% reduced reflection screen. I didn’t have time to go into town to actually take a look, but from what I read online, this looked to be the real-deal.

Mac in a Box

Mac in a Box

After a little more serious consideration, I decided to go for the new 27″ iMac. I almost maxed out the specs, so it has a 3.5GHz Quad-core Intel i7 CPU, that boosts up to 3.9GHz, and 32GB of RAM. I didn’t go for the SSD drive, because $1,000 for a 1GB drive just didn’t seem worth it, especially when you consider the other option of a 3TB Fusion Drive for an extra $350. I didn’t know the size of the SSD component in the Fusion Drive when I ordered this, but a closer look through the system information app shows me that it contains a 128GB SSD drive and a 3TB hard drive. Data that you use a lot is automatically stored on the SSD drive to speed up the entire system, and the hard drive used for slower storage.

NVIDIA CUDA DriverI also maxed out the video card, going for the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory which cost an extra $150.00. Remember that some graphics related applications like Photoshop and Premiere Pro now make good use of the Graphics Processor to accelerate processing, so having a lot of video RAM is no longer just to make games run faster and smoother. Note too while we’re at it, that I install the NVIDIA CUDA Driver to give Premiere Pro access to the full power of the Graphics Processor.

Set up from Scratch

When you buy an Apple computer here in Japan, if you customize it, it seems they are assembled in Shanghai, and shipped across. I ordered my new iMac on October 31, a Thursday and it arrived exactly a week later, on November 7. I decided not to migrate my data from my MacBook Pro because there are a few things broken that I didn’t want to chance being copied to my new iMac.

Mini Freezes

There was only one negative experience as I set up my new iMac and that was that for the first few days I experienced a lot of mini-freezes. The mouse would lock up, and sometimes I actually had to do a force reboot to get the system working again. After a bit of trial and error, I’ve come to the conclusion that this was probably due to my old Drobo initially being connected via Firewire, going into the iMac via my Belkin Thunderbolt hub, which has a Firewire port.

I switched the Drobo over to USB, and I haven’t had any more problems over the last few days, so I think that was the cause. My Drobo 5D of course is still connected via Thunderbolt, going directly into the back of the iMac, and I have my external Eizo monitor connected via the extra Thunderbolt port on the Belkin hub.

Eizo vs iMac Screen

OK, so let’s also touch on the quality of the Eizo display compared to the new iMac screen. I have been a huge Eizo fan since my first 17″ Eizo screen that I bought some 12 years ago. I tell you, I almost cried when I first saw my photos on an Eizo screen, the quality was that good. Eizo have continued to improve their screens of course, and my current 24″ wide screen Eizo display, although now some five years old, or maybe even a little more, is still very nice, but it is getting a bit long in the tooth.

I say this, kind of out of loyalty to Eizo though, because the 27″ screen on the new iMac actually beats the Eizo. I honestly didn’t expect this, and I’d love to compare the iMac to a new Eizo, and I’d also like to compare the last generation of iMac screens with my old Eizo, but with what I currently have available to me, the iMac screen wins.

It’s going to be difficult to appreciate the subtle differences in this image, but here you can see the iMac screen on the left and the Eizo screen on the right. They have both been calibrated with the X-Rite i1Pro 2, and you can perhaps make out with this photo on the desktops, that the iMac has slightly more vivid colors, and is more punchy.

iMac to Eizo Comparison

iMac to Eizo Comparison

Now, punchy isn’t always a good thing, especially if that punchiness is not there in your original images. Straight out of the box, the iMac was actually a little over the top for my liking, and calibration brought that down and under control. The colors are now very similar to the Eizo, but the main thing that impressed me, was the iMac screen’s ability to display rich texture and detail.

Think of the punchiness out of the box as the difference between a consumer print and a fine art print. Most printers and printing services aimed at the consumer do all sorts of nasty automated enhancements to images as they print them, so that your average happy snapper gets images back that make them go “wow!”. Us photographers on the other hand either add the “wow” when we shoot, or in post processing, so we don’t need any arbitrary enhancements during the print process. It’s the same thing with most computer displays out of the box, and this is one of the main reasons we need to calibrate them.

Back to the Eizo comparison though–my first MacBook Pro screen always seemed nice, but it definitely paled next to the Eizo. I could see much more detail and texture in photos on my Eizo screen, so I’d kind of come to think of the Apple displays as being inferior. The Retina screen on my current MacBook Pro changed that of course. The Retina screen is incredible, and shows much more texture and better gradations, and although I wasn’t expecting the iMac display this much detail and beat the Eizo, it does.

In this next photo, I brought up a Snow Monkey shot from 2012, because my old MacBook Pro never really showed the fine gradations in the snow in the background of this shot, but as you can see here, the Retina and iMac displays both show the shot very similarly.

iMac, Retina and Eizo Comparison

iMac, Retina and Eizo Comparison

If you open up your browser window and click on the image to view it as large as possible, you will probably also notice that the Eizo display has lighter shadow areas. This is great for seeing detail in areas that might otherwise be a little on the dark side, but they don’t print. When I print, the shadows will plug up a little, and actually look more like what we see here on the Retina and iMac displays, so I think the days of me using my Eizo display as my final soft-proofing screen before I print may be coming to an end.

Don’t worry about the difference in color temperature between these example images by the way. I’ve shot these images at various times while setting up the iMac, some with the sun shining into my studio, and other while it was overcast, so the wall behind my displays varies quite a lot, but they are correctly white balanced.

This photo also of course gives you an idea of the difference in screen real-estate that I now have. Basically, the Retina display and my Eizo was my old configuration, with the Retina a little bit further back on my desk. I would do most of my work on the Eizo, so I was always sitting at an angle, which I didn’t like, but now, I can sit straight on, and the iMac display is so large that I can have multiple application windows open at one time and not even have to switch between them. I’m currently writing my third Craft & Vision ebook, and I can’t wait to start writing again as soon as I have released this week’s Podcast episode.

Lightroom is Lightening Fast!

So, as photographers, one of the major jobs we need to do on our computers is processing large batches of images. As software gets more advanced and more resource intensive, we start to notice it slowing down, and this is one of the main reasons we end up having to upgrade our computers every three or four years, but most of us at some point, have had to run our workhorse applications like Lightroom on slow machines, and this can be incredibly frustrating.

Earlier, I said that I didn’t really need the power of the Mac Pro, especially when I considered that I was already happy with my MacBook Pro for most of the stuff I do. Still though, I didn’t want to buy something new, that I will have to keep for probably four years, only to find that it was a little bit sluggish. I didn’t expect it to be, but I was blown away by the speed at which I can work through large batches of images in Lightroom.

When I moved my Lightroom catalog to the iMac, I deliberately didn’t copy my Previews folder over, as I wanted to create this again on the iMac, but I also wanted to do some speed tests, and not having any previews makes that easier. This isn’t a scientific test, but here are my findings.

When I had already had Lightroom create standard previews for the images in a folder, I can navigate through images full screen in the Library module without the “Loading” message displaying at the bottom of the screen for the majority of the images. For a few, the Loading message displays for about half a second. The image is either there in full resolution from the start, or the quality snaps in after that half a second.

If I’m in the Develop module, which always creates a new Preview unless you’ve just created one, the Loading message displays for a fraction of a second longer, but still under a second. That in itself is very impressive, but what’s even more impressive, is when I view images in a folder that I have not yet created any previews for, literally, with gray thumbnails instead of images, it only takes a fraction of a second longer. In the Library module, we’re probably talking one second, and in the Develop module, we’re talking maybe a fraction over a second, and even for 120MB TIFF files, it doesn’t go over 1.5 seconds.

We’re talking basically stress-free image editing here, and if you are wondering, yes, I already have all the other software that I need installed, so my machine is no longer a fresh install. My MacBook Pro Retina is fast, and that is running on an SSD, but it still takes about three seconds for the images to res-in in the Library module. It’s actually faster in the Develop module on my MacBook Pro for some reason, usually taking just over a second, so still no complaints, but the iMac just doesn’t make you feel as though there is any wait at all.

Widescreen Lightroom Rocks!

Another thing that I really like but wasn’t quite expecting, is how incredibly comfortable Lightroom feels on the not only large, but wide aspect screen. With a 27″ display sitting on a desk, the chances are you are sitting pretty close to it, so although images look spectacular full-screen, you don’t feel as though you are missing much by having some of the Lightroom menus showing. I’m always quick to hit SHIFT+TAB to get rid of all of my menus on a smaller screen, but on the iMac screen, as you can see in this screenshot, it’s really not a pain at all to have some menus showing.

Widescreen Lightroom Rocks!

Widescreen Lightroom Rocks!

Also, because the screen is a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, with the two side menus and the top menu the image fits perfectly in the space left over. In fact, with the 27″ monitor being this high quality, and images in this view being roughly the same physical size as an image displayed full screen on my Eizo 24″ display, I’m quickly finding that when going through images in Lightroom I don’t really need the second screen, so it’s becoming more useful when doing other tasks like having multiple Web browsers open as well as Excel and email etc.

Syncing Email with ChronoSync

On the subject of email, there was always one problem that I wanted to avoid and was partly a reason for me sticking with one main computer for a while, and that is the syncing of data between the two computers, especially email, as I’m using that on both computers, switching at least twice each day. This is not a problem is you use IMAP for all of your email, but I have a lot of locally archived email, so I need to copy this between computers to stay in sync.

You might recall that I use an application called ChronoSync to synchronize my images with my external hard disks, so I was happy to see an article from the people at Econ Technologies, the makers of ChronoSync, when I searched for ways to synchronize email between two Macs. I won’t go into detail here, although I will link to the article, but basically, you have to create a few synchronization jobs, then a container to run all of these jobs with one click, and then launch that container to sync your email every time you switch computers.

This may seem like a bit of a pain, but I’ve been doing this for a few days now, and I’m pretty happy with this method, at least until I find a totally automated method. Basically all I have to do is run the synchronization job after breakfast, before I come upstairs, and then run it again when I go back downstairs in the evening. It takes about a minute and a half to run, and that’s to sync the difference between a bunch of mailboxes total 17GB. I know, I should clear out my mailboxes.

Lightening Fast Wake-up Speed

Another thing that I really like about the new iMac is that it wakes up from Sleep mode in just a few seconds. It goes to sleep when the monitor goes off, and I have my system setup to turn off the display when I move the mouse to the bottom right hand corner of the screen or after 10 minutes of inactivity using the Hot Corners feature. Then when I come back to the computer, I tap the space bar on my keyboard, and it wakes up and displays the login screen in just a few seconds. It also wakes up over the network just as quickly, so I can do those email syncs without having to come up to the studio to physically wake up the iMac.

My two connected Drobos and Time Machine backup hard drive go to sleep with the computer too, but then also wake up very quickly, so as long as I don’t power the computer down totally, I can access my images on the Drobo over the nextwork from anywhere in the house. Note too that while I am doing a Backblaze backup of all of my images from a trip, that can take a few days, I just select not to put the computer to sleep with the display in the system preferences.

And on that note, I switched my Backblaze backup from my old MacBook Pro to the iMac by selecting to Transfer the Backup State from the Backblaze menu. It took just under two days for Backblaze to run through the 5.2TB of data that I have backed up and confirmed that they were the same files from my old system, and then backup the new stuff from the new iMac as well. Now that I’m fully backed up, I’m allowing the iMac to sleep when I’m not using it.

The last thing that I wanted to note is that despite the iMac containing a very powerful computer, it has generally been very quite so far. The fan has so far only kicked in once, when the mouse had frozen and something was obviously putting a lot of load on the CPU. When it did kick in, it was quite loud, so I’m hoping this doesn’t happen a lot, but so far, even when flicking through image after image in Lightroom, the fans stay off and you can’t hear any noise from the iMac at all. In fact, it’s really hard to believe that there’s even a computer inside there at all.

Expandability

In fact, before we finish, I should also touch on expandability. I mentioned earlier that I have a bunch of stuff connected via the USB 3.0 ports and Thunderbolt. Although it’s difficult to actually change out parts yourself with an iMac, this is really the reason I max these computers out when I buy them. That way, I can get the maximum life out of them. Pretty much everything else that I need is already connected via USB and Thunderbolt, and these offer virtually limitless expandability.

I know that the new Mac Pro will have Thunderbolt2 instead of plain old Thunderbolt, but I’m happy enough with what I have here. It’s going to take a few years for companies to really maximize the benefits that Thunderbolt 2 brings, and I don’t mind hankering after the next best thing for a few more years after that, while I get my four years out of this iMac. If I can get four years out of a desktop style computer, I’m happy, and so is my tax accountant.

Thumbs Up!

All in all, I can say without a doubt that it’s a big thumbs-up all round for the Apple 27″ iMac. I knew I was going to love this computer, but I didn’t know I was going to love it this much. The new low reflectivity screen has certainly been worth waiting for, and all the power under the hood, or more to the point, hidden conspicuously behind this incredible display, makes it the perfect computer for someone that needs power, but not necessary a Ferrari.


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Show Notes

Here a link to the synching article on the ChronoSync web site.

Music by UniqueTracks


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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All Marketers Really Are Liars! (Podcast 345)

All Marketers Really Are Liars! (Podcast 345)

It’s been a busy week, hence the late Podcast. Sorry about that! This week was made a lot busier though by a few unfortunate (to say the least) events involving lack of clarity, and sometimes total opacity, in the marketing of big name companies, so here goes, with a rare but very much needed MBP Rant-Fest!

The main reason I’ve been busy this week is that I’m working hard on the planning for the Pixels 2 Pigment seminars, which are now open for booking, so if you are thinking of joining us to learn how to take full control of your digital workflow and color management, remove the stress from printing and free up mountains of time to enjoy your photographic life to the full, sign-up today, while there are still seats available!

Leadoff Hitter – Canon

Canon EOS 1D X

Canon EOS 1D X

OK, so I am going to put our good friends at Canon in the batter’s box first, although this is something that I already mentioned in our recent Canon EOS 1D X DSLR review. You might remember that pretty much the only negative comment I had about the 1D X was not about the camera, but about the software, specifically EOS Utility’s lack of support on the Mac OS X 10.7 platform, for tethered shooting with the newly added Ethernet port.

I have since been to the Canon Inc. offices for a different reason, but while I was there, I was able to meet with someone from the camera product team and I couldn’t help but mentioned this. I was told that they do of course understand the importance of supporting the Mac Platform and seemed somewhat embarrassed about the situation, but they said there was nothing they could do about this on this occasion.

Just Give Us a Heads-Up!

My main point to Canon was that I understand the complexity of software R&D processes. I worked in Software Development for 15 years. But when you can’t provide support for something, especially a new flagship feature, it is common courtesy to let your valued customers know. It didn’t need to go into the more permanent User Manuals, especially as an updated EOS Utility will be made available at some point, but a little bit of paper in the first few batches of boxes out of the factory, telling people that EOS Utilities does not yet support Ethernet Tethering would have been enough. They could have apologized, softening the blow somewhat, and guided people to a Web page to check for updates or even sign up for an email notification when the support was made available.

I also know that it’s policy with many large companies to not give out firm dates as to when software updates will be available, and of course it’s against corporate policies to promise something that you possibly cannot deliver, but I doubt very much that Canon will not be able to develop the necessary software to support Ethernet tethering on the Mac OS X. If they weren’t confident that they’d fix this with an update, they would have a much, much bigger problem on their hands with false representation, as it clearly states in the manual that all of the tethering features that you have when using a USB cable, are supported over Ethernet.

Next Batter — Adobe!

OK, so next to the plate is Adobe. If you follow my blog, and not just the Podcast feed, you might have seen a post that I couldn’t help but throw out there earlier this week, about why I have to dump the Adobe Creative Cloud. I’ll paraphrase a little here, as it was quite a lengthy post, which I suggest you read if you are using the Creative Cloud and could possible be away from the Internet for more than 7 days.

Creative Cloud Web Interface

Creative Cloud Web Interface

Basically, I noticed that my Creative Cloud subscription payments were being taken from my credit card on the 10th of each month, and this triggered a connection to my leaving Ushuaia in Argentina on a ship down into Antarctica on November 10 this year. I started to wonder what would happen if I had no Internet connection on that morning to authenticate my Creative Cloud license. I couldn’t see any way to force the authentication, or even tell if it had been carried out or not, so I called Adobe Support.

Well, I was told that basically there is no way to force the authentication process, and if it didn’t happen before I left Ushuaia the software would stop working. I’d literally be dead in the water. Having discussed this in the comments of my blog post and on Google+ it turns out that although the guy I spoke to was wrong about the grace period, I would have probably up to seven days using the software, it would then stop working until I could get an Internet connection again.

There is no way to pay in advance and set a longer license period. Hell, they sell 3 month prepaid licenses off the shelf in computer stores! Why can’t they do the same online! Or even just do a yearly subscription! I would stick with the Cloud if it wasn’t for this problem, so signing up for a year in advance would be fine!

Just Buy a New License!

Oh no though, the guy on the phone’s first bit of sage advice was for me to buy an additional standard Photoshop license (because that is the one application from the suite that I can’t live without)! When I told him that I owned a full CS5.5 Master Suite license, his advice changed to cancelling my Creative Cloud subscription, and buying a new upgrade license for the Master Collection instead.

I have to tell you I was flabbergasted! Other than telling me about a poxy 5% discount that they were already throwing out during the five minute wait time on their non-free dial support line, and making that sound like he was doing me a favor, there was no offer to discount the three months subscription fees that I’d already paid, or any assurance that this problem might be fixed in the coming months. There of course is that fear of a false representation law suit again, so I understand that part, but I couldn’t really believe what I was hearing.

My point here though, is the same as with Canon, there was no mention of this when I signed up for the Creative Cloud Subscription. As a cautious business owner, I sat down and did the math. I won’t go through the numbers again here, as they’re in the earlier blog post, but basically, if Adobe stays on their roughly 18 month upgrade cycle, along with the discount for the first year of the Creative Cloud subscription, I stood to pay a few dollars extra over 18 months for the Cloud subscription. I could live with that though as there was no lump sum payment up front, and I’d have the benefit of rolling updates and some Web services as a subscriber.

If I can’t get some way to authenticate my license in November though, and this will happen again possibly in February and May next year, on other lengthy tours, currently my only option is to dump the Creative Cloud, and go back to a standard license. If I have to do that, I will be asking for not only the poxy 5% discount, but also a refund of the subscription fees I’ve already paid.

And, I should reiterate that I love Adobe products, and generally like the Adobe experience, but on this occasion, I think they’ve failed. If not in the implementation of the cloud, they sure failed by not providing this information up front. I did think about this possibility when I signed up for the Creative Cloud, but foolishly expected that a great company like Adobe would have all of those bases covered, and if they didn’t, they’d have made it obvious on the subscription sign-up pages. I was wrong.

Apple on the Plate!

OK, so that’s two strikes, and now Apple are on the plate. Having read about the new AirPlay Mirroring feature that was released as part of the Mac OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) release a couple of days ago, I decided to finally buy an AppleTV box. I often show visitors photos and videos on my large TV using an HDMI cable, which I have to draw across my living room to my MacBook Pro or iPad, which doesn’t look great. With AirPlay Mirroring though, you just hook up the AppleTV, turn on the MacBook Pro with Mountain Lion installed, click the little icon that will appear when an AppleTV is detected on the same network, and your desktop miraculously appears on the TV screen. Totally wireless. Totally smooth. Or so I thought.

I initially connected up my third generation iPad, which worked flawlessly. My iPhone 4 is one generation too old to support displaying the screen, but music and videos etc. play flawless too, over WiFi. But for the life of me I could not get my 18 month old MacBook Pro to work. I can use AirPlay from iTunes and the music comes out of the TV, along with Album Art etc. but I could not share my screen. After a few hours messing around with this, at 1am, I posted a quick comment on Google+ and went to bed.

When I got up this morning, there was a link from a kind Google Plusser, Daniel Yates, alerting me to the fact that my 18 month old MacBook Pro, was one generation too old. I bought it a few weeks before the Thunderbolt versions were released, and AirPlay Mirroring doesn’t work with my hardware. I’d read through all the blurb about AirPlay Mirroring on Apple’s Mountain Lion new features page, and all I’d seen was that enables you to mirror the screen of a MacBook Pro to an AppleTV. I keep my eye’s open for those little 1’s and 2’s next to words, and read footnotes when I notice them, but I’d noticed nothing.

Hurumph!

Hurumph!

Apple Steal a Base…

As I was preparing for this Podcast, I went back and triple checked, and finally noticed a little faint number 1 after the AirPlay title, and low and behold, at the bottom of the page there was a footnote pointing out that for AirPlay Mirroring to work, you need an early 2011 MacBook Pro or later. If I wasn’t aware that the MacBook Pro line was updated after I bought mine in early 2011, I would have still been flummoxed, I imagine most people know the difference though, so we’ll let that drop. This little “1” was probably there all along, and I just didn’t notice it, so I’ll give Apple credit for providing this information, but they certainly made it easy to overlook.

So, I guess I can forgive Apple, assuming that the little “1” was there all along, but it sure feels like a crafty little bunt giving them enough time to scramble their way to first base, or maybe more like a steal, while the pitcher was looking the other way.

It’s not all bad in this case though, as I’d wanted an AppleTV anyway. Since learning about the compatibility problem, I’d resigned myself to the fact that it’s not going to give me AirPlay Mirroring from my MacBook Pro, but at $99 it’s still a great little addition to my collection of Apple devices. It will enable my wife to rent movies easily even when I’m not around, and I can still show photos and videos with home sharing, because they’re stored on my MacMini that I have turned on all the time as a file server.

For the sake of this rant-fest though, the fact still remains that it was AirPlay Mirroring that tipped the scales on both the purchase of the AppleTV and the upgrade to Mountain Lion. It was this shiny new feature that pushed me that little bit further prompted me to buy that little black box, and the well camouflaged number 1 against the section header hadn’t been enough of a warning.

Happy Ending

AirParrotIt turns out though, again, a testament to the power of social networking, just as I was finishing up this post and ready to start recording, another kind GPlusser, Jeremy Hodges came to the rescue, with a link to an application called Air Parrot, that literally gives you the same, if not better desktop mirroring from Mac machines via the AppleTV, and yes, it works with my MacBook Pro. It’s $9.99 for a single license, so I tested it and bought it straight away. Brilliant! Thanks Jeremy!

The Crux of the Matter

So here’s the crux of the matter — I know that All Marketers are Liars, Seth Godin told us all about this. It’s the stories that they tell that make us want to buy things. But I for one am getting pretty tired of large corporations spouting about all the nice new bells and whistles, and often truly useful new features, that they are building into their products, but then hiding the conditions under which these new features will work, either behind a bit of a smoke screen, or on some support Web page that you have to be told about when looking for answers on long phone calls with support engineers.

In two of these three cases, these major players had failed to readily provide information to their “valued” customers ahead of the purchase. It took me a whole morning trying to get the Ethernet Tethering to work on the 1D X before I called support and heard that it didn’t work. Canon’s hands were tied in letting people know about this proactively. As someone with fifteen years in software product development, I feel for them, but that doesn’t help the customer that has just spend thousands of dollars on a flagship camera and lots of their valuable time trying to see what they’ve done wrong.

All Adobe can do when I ask them about the major flaws in their new baby, the Creative Cloud subscription model, is ask for more money! Do they think that photographers, you know, one of the major users of Photoshop, will always be within 7 days of an Internet connection? Sure, probably 99% or more of them will, but what about the other one percent? I don’t know the number of Photoshop users world wide, but I’m sure it’s got to be around 10 million, which would give you potentially 100,000 very annoyed users if we all jumped to the Creative Cloud and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, with no Photoshop.

Make Us Feel Good, Not Like We’ve Been Tricked

I market products myself, with my fine art prints, photography tours and workshops, and go to great lengths to ensure that people understand exactly what they are getting. I go to greater lengths to remove obstacles that would harm my customers impression of me and/or my products. No body ever asked me how easy it is to take my fine art prints out of their postage tubes. But you know what? If you just roll a print up, and put it in a tube, it expands to fill the tube, and it gets damned hard to take out.

So, all of my rolled prints get a little piece of paper rolled around them with the words “tear this away to unroll your print” printed all around it. This stops the print from unrolling inside the tube, so when the customer opens the tube, the print can be slipped out freely.

MBP Fine Art Print in Tube

MBP Fine Art Print in Tube

Sure, the above companies do great packaging too, especially Apple, who make un-boxing their products a major part of the generally excellent user experience, so I’m not saying that they do this stuff wrong. My point is, that even a little guy like me goes to great lengths to make my customers happy, even when they don’t expect it. I’d just like to see a little more transparency in these big companies marketing techniques, so I don’t have to feel as though I am being tricked into buying something from a company that I have decided to place my trust in.

I hope you could tell that parts of this week’s Podcast were a little tongue-in-cheek, but there sure is a good sized dollop of disdain at the root of all this.


Show Notes

Air Parrot for AirPlay Like Mirroring: http://airparrot.com/

Sign up for Pixels 2 Pigment: http://www.pixels2pigment.com/

Seth Godin’s Book – All Marketers Are Liars – on which the title of this week’s episode is based: https://mbp.ac/sgamal

Music by UniqueTracks


Audio

Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.