About every three years or so, I upgrade to the latest Mac model, and while my iMac is a few years old now, I recently got the new M1 Apple MacBook Pro. It’s nice, but there’s something I’ve learned throughout these many upgrades that’s especially important to consider now, as I know many photographers are thinking of upgrading to these Mac Studios machines. The specs are really good, and the cost isn’t as nearly high as the “Mac Pros,” but they have similar if not better performance.

I’m not getting one, and I’m not recommending them.

Not for photographers anyway, because I think it would be a waste of money. Here’s why: Think about the programs we use and what we do on our computers for photography. I primarily use Lightroom, Photoshop, Photo Mechanic, and a handful of plug-ins. When I used them on my 3-year old MacBook Pro, I would move a slider (say in Lightroom), and it did whatever I wanted it to instantly. For example, if I wanted to make my photo brighter and dragged the Exposure slider to the right, my photo got immediately brighter. I didn’t move the slider and then sit and wait. It was instantaneous. Same on my iMac. In Photoshop, when I open an image, add a Gaussian Blur, an Unsharp Mask, Use Camera Raw, Duplicate a layer, etc., it all happens instantly. On my old MacBook Pro, on my now getting old iMac, and it works exactly the same way on my new M1 Macbook Pro that cost thousands of dollars.

Is it faster? I guess.

Really, as a photographer, how would I even know? The applications I use day in/day out are already so responsive there’s almost no way to tell it’s faster for the work I do every day. Maybe when I use a plug-in, instead of taking 6-seconds to process it, maybe now it only takes 4-seconds (A 33% speed increase), but I don’t really even notice it. It’s 2-seconds. I spent thousands of dollars on the upgrade, and I hate to admit it, but besides the battery life (which is far better than my old MacBook Pro), I really can’t say it’s noticeably faster.

If I were a video professional, rendering video files every day, I would probably notice a big difference.

But I’m not. I’m a photographer and a writer, and I check email, and I use my Web Browser, and I make Zoom calls and run Keynote slideshows and all kinds of regular stuff where I don’t notice any real speed difference at all. If I was a full-time pro video editor, I am sure I would see a difference, but since I’m not, I don’t. I couldn’t recommend the upgrade to a friend who is a photographer telling them they should spend the money because I don’t think they’d notice the difference either. What’s worse is I hate to admit this to myself (or even worse, to my company).

I don’t want you to be disappointed. Like me.

I had heard so much about the M1-powered MacBook Pros; I guess I expected to really feel the speed, but with what I do…how could I? Is that Apple’s fault? Is it their fault I don’t do processor-intensive tasks, and so I don’t see the benefits? I don’t think, but I guess the M1 chip upgrade isn’t really necessary what I do.

The reason I’m telling you all this is if you’re considering buying one of these new Apple Mac Studio machines, take a look at what you do, and if getting one would really make a significant speed difference for you in your day-to-day work. Do sliders in Lightroom and Photoshop, and other photography programs produce immediate results, or are you waiting for progress bars to complete before something happens? Heck, ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a progress bar? If you’re not seeing progress bars (or seeing them infrequently), and you’re not waiting around for stuff to happen a whole bunch, what exactly would you be gaining?

Something to chew on this weekend. Have a good one. :)

Scott

P.S. Please note I did not mention PCs, nor did I compare the Mac to PCs in any way. There’s no reason for you to in the comments either. If you’re not interested in a Mac, there’s a lot of other stuff on the Internet to see today. Don’t be “That Guy” – just keep scrolling.

About The Author

Scott is a Photographer, bestselling Author, Host of "The Grid" weekly photography show; Editor of Photoshop User magazine; Lightroom Guy; KelbyOne.com CEO; struggling guitarist. Loves Classic Rock and his arch-enemy is Cilantro. Devoted husband, dad to two super awesome kids, and pro-level babysitter to two crazy doggos.

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