Apple M1 Macs and Photo / Video editing

Darmok N Jalad

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Heck, even the old Mac Pro Xeons would be allowed to run up to 80C before fan ramp up, so I think the thermal rating on chips is so conservative that something else is more likely to fail before the processor. Even then, the chips are all designed to throttle before they hit the danger zone. I think an M1 Air will last quite a long time.
 
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Hey pretty much completely off-topic, but figure there's some expertise here since it's artsy. :)

My buddy is looking to get a computer for an audio studio in his home. Looking for something pretty durable. I can definitely speak to Mac's for durability, do you think the M1s would be candidates for this? If not, what should I look for recommending? He's asking me because I'm technical, but my experience with audio is very limited...
 

Hypilein

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Apple's Logic is a really nice piece of software that is already native to M1. Garageband, while limited also offers enough functionality that most basic audio tasks can be achieved (multitrack recording until 255 tracks), support for many audio unit plugins.

I work as a music teacher and used to own Logic (version 8 so way back). Nowadays I just use garageband but the virtual instruments that came with logic can still be used.

I've not got an M1 Mac yet, because I'm waiting for the higher end models hopefully coming out this year, but for audio work I've never reached the limits of my current 2014 MacBook Pro. I guess if you load in multiple huge sound libraries it becomes a different beast, but if you just want to record and edit your own Band Garageband is really all you need and the M1 will be plenty powerful enough.

If working with sample libraries, maxing out RAM is important though.
 
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Apple's Logic is a really nice piece of software that is already native to M1. Garageband, while limited also offers enough functionality that most basic audio tasks can be achieved (multitrack recording until 255 tracks), support for many audio unit plugins.

I work as a music teacher and used to own Logic (version 8 so way back). Nowadays I just use garageband but the virtual instruments that came with logic can still be used.

I've not got an M1 Mac yet, because I'm waiting for the higher end models hopefully coming out this year, but for audio work I've never reached the limits of my current 2014 MacBook Pro. I guess if you load in multiple huge sound libraries it becomes a different beast, but if you just want to record and edit your own Band Garageband is really all you need and the M1 will be plenty powerful enough.

If working with sample libraries, maxing out RAM is important though.

Oh awesome, precisely what I needed. I'll get some more details from him. I don't think he's looking to go all pro (he like me is an Army officer) so the M1 might very well work for him. My Mac Mini is in the military postal system, so who knows when it'll get here, but I'll soon be able to try it out myself. Super excited :)
 

Darmok N Jalad

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Oh awesome, precisely what I needed. I'll get some more details from him. I don't think he's looking to go all pro (he like me is an Army officer) so the M1 might very well work for him. My Mac Mini is in the military postal system, so who knows when it'll get here, but I'll soon be able to try it out myself. Super excited :)
I can tell you the non-military postal system isn’t doing much better right now.
 

grcolts

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My concern is how Darktable is going to run on the new Macs. Theoretically it should be just a recompile (if you're nerdy) or a new binary to download if you're not but I REALLY don't want to go back to Lightroom and I would strongly prefer to stay with Mac OS. I like it better for personal use than Windows and I'm not willing to deal with maintaining a Linux computer anymore (although I suspect it's considerably easier than in the 90's and early aughts).
Not sure how darktable works with it yet, but I did read where Affinity Photo is extremely fast on it.
 

ex machina

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Apple's Logic is a really nice piece of software that is already native to M1. Garageband, while limited also offers enough functionality that most basic audio tasks can be achieved (multitrack recording until 255 tracks), support for many audio unit plugins.

I work as a music teacher and used to own Logic (version 8 so way back). Nowadays I just use garageband but the virtual instruments that came with logic can still be used.

I've not got an M1 Mac yet, because I'm waiting for the higher end models hopefully coming out this year, but for audio work I've never reached the limits of my current 2014 MacBook Pro. I guess if you load in multiple huge sound libraries it becomes a different beast, but if you just want to record and edit your own Band Garageband is really all you need and the M1 will be plenty powerful enough.

If working with sample libraries, maxing out RAM is important though.

Agreed. I'm currently mixing a Logic Pro tune for a friend that has 33 tracks on my 32GB 2012 iMac, a mix of 5 different sample-based instruments, 6 or 7 virtual synths, many, many plugins for efx and compression/expansion, yada yada, and 9 or so vox tracks. In order to get all that to play smoothly I've had to change some settings and pre-render most of the plugin content, but I'm guessing the new Apple ARM machines aren't going to break a sweat doing same.

It's probably too late to help now, but Hypilein's comment about RAM is important, especially since you can't upgrade RAM in the new Macs. Drive space is also important since sample libraries eat up a ton of space. Anyway, hope this helps.
 
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My concern is how Darktable is going to run on the new Macs. Theoretically it should be just a recompile (if you're nerdy) or a new binary to download if you're not but I REALLY don't want to go back to Lightroom and I would strongly prefer to stay with Mac OS. I like it better for personal use than Windows and I'm not willing to deal with maintaining a Linux computer anymore (although I suspect it's considerably easier than in the 90's and early aughts).
Found this on Reddit:
Bit late to the discussion but my M1 Macbook Air runs Darktable faster than my Core i7 gen8 Ubuntu box. It works perfectly.

I presume that's on Rosetta2. Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/DarkTable/comments/k09qho
 
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Finally received my MacBook Air M1 (16GB RAM, 1TB SSD, 8 core GPU) after two months of waiting. Here are my initial thoughts:
  • Most of the hardware is very nice. I find it pretty cool how you can open the lid of the laptop with one finger. :) The material feels sturdy, and the touchpad works very nicely. Touch ID is a useful feature.
  • It is a pain to just have two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, and the dongle/dock situation is terrible. I knew having two ports was a downside, but I thought I could easily solve this by buying a dongle and connecting my monitor and USB devices to that. Well, no. Many dongles do not allow you to use external hard drives, SD cards, etc. at full speed, and only allow you to run your display at 30Hz when using a 4K resolution. There was also an issue where people bricked their new MacBooks just by using a dongle with USB Power Delivery. I guess I got lucky that this didn't happen to me. Also, with USB PD, the dongle will probably take up some of the power, so the 30W charger you get with the MacBook is not enough to charge the laptop at full speed. To make everything work nicely, I ended up having to buy a CalDigit TS3 Plus docking station for € 269. Ouch!
  • The fonts on Mac OS just look plain ugly to my eyes, when used on a "lower" resolution monitor (around 100 dpi). They look awesome on the built-in Retina display (220 dpi), but they didn't look good on my 27" QHD (2560x1440) monitor. Decided to upgrade my monitor to one with a 4K resolution (3840x2160, 157 dpi). Bought a relatively cheap one, but still: € 320. Ouch again! (I could sell my old one for € 175, fortunately.)
  • Having a fanless laptop is a delight. It also doesn't suffer from coil whine, so it is completely silent.
  • The performance is awesome, just like they said. Everything that is installed by default works very smoothly.
  • Rosetta2 works pretty seamlessly, but I do notice a delay when starting some non-native applications (like LibreOffice). Once they've started, everything is fine, but you do get a spinning beachball for a few seconds while the application is starting. Quite a few applications (like Firefox) have been recompiled for Apple Silicon already, but others (like Lightroom CC, DxO PhotoLab, RawTherapee) haven't.
  • Some of my favourite open source software just didn't work very well. The GIMP is unusable at the moment, RawTherapee is slow (for instance when dragging sliders and panning the image) and some fonts are not rendered well, QuodLibet (a music player) did not integrate well with Mac OS (media keys didn't work), etc. I ended up switching to DxO PhotoLab for my photo editing (which I'm very happy with, by the way; see my thoughts here) and converting my entire music collection from FLAC to ALAC so I could use Apple's built-in Music app. As for GIMP, I guess I'll just have to wait until the issue is resolved...
If you are considering buying an M1 MacBook, I'd say: if you can wait, please wait. Not all software is ready, and some issues pop up every now and then, which will hopefully be ironed out in the next iteration. The only reason I upgraded now, is that my old computer broke.

Also be ready to spend a lot of money. The price for the base model sounds nice, but then you realise you need more RAM, more storage, a docking station, a new monitor, new software... and you end up paying more than twice as much.

But all in all, I am quite satisfied with my purchase. Having a fanless and fast computer is very enjoyable. And being able to run DxO PhotoLab, which transforms my editing process completely, has been an unexpected bonus. :)
 

AaronE

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I have an early 2011 iMac 27". I can no longer update the operating system, stuck with High Sierra. Because of this I also cannot update my other software such as Lightroom, Photoshop, and numerous plugins. I love my iMac and would like to replace it with the same but the current models are still running Intel chips, which is fine, but I want to get the best, greatest, newest version so it will hopefully last another 10 years. So waiting for the M1 chip in the big iMacs. I will say, in 10 years of use my iMac has never missed a beat, never needed repair, never had a virus, never did anything it was not supposed to. It is the best computer I have ever had.
 
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I apologize if this has been mentioned already, but Olympus Workspace is Apple-Silicon compatible. I doubt that it is native M, but it probably runs under Rosetta 2.

Screen Shot 2021-03-10 at 5.48.42 PM.png
 

WT21

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I'm a couple of months in on my M1, and am still surprised by the battery life, complete silent operation even under load, and simply no heat. And the performance. Even though the next gen M systems are supposed to be absolutely killer, I don't regret the MBA purchase. I might get a desktop M when they come out, but I see me keeping the M1 MBA either for myself or give it to my daughter headed to college (depends on what work provides for me as a laptop at that time).
 

Hypilein

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As for GIMP, I guess I'll just have to wait until the issue is resolved...

Have you tried Affinity Photo? As far as I know it's M1 Native. Thanks for the report anyway. You strengthened my resolve to wait for the upcoming 14" MBP which is rumoured to have sd/hdmi/USB A and USB C ports as well as a magsafe charging port. Rumours also state, that the touch bar is on its way out and normal function keys are coming back. If all those rumours are true apple is basically reverting every stupid decision on the mac they've made since 2015 or so.

I am using a 2014MPB and it's in dire need of replacement (it's run a lot of hours as I also game on it). Can't wait for those new MBPs to come out.
 

Armoured

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I have an early 2011 iMac 27". I can no longer update the operating system, stuck with High Sierra. Because of this I also cannot update my other software such as Lightroom, Photoshop, and numerous plugins. I love my iMac and would like to replace it with the same but the current models are still running Intel chips, which is fine, but I want to get the best, greatest, newest version so it will hopefully last another 10 years. So waiting for the M1 chip in the big iMacs. I will say, in 10 years of use my iMac has never missed a beat, never needed repair, never had a virus, never did anything it was not supposed to. It is the best computer I have ever had.

There is a hack which allows some unsupported models to run Mojave and later (not sure about to which MacOS, possibly later than Mojave, but you'll have to do the research). I believe the iMac 2011 27" is the iMac 12,2.

http://dosdude1.com/mojave/

Obviously this is a hack and no external support. It depends what you want and how careful you need to be. At minimum you should definitely keep a bootable backup (e.g. external) drive.

It is not particularly technically difficult but you do have to read the instructions and follow them carefully.

I have no connection with this and it's free - I did use it to keep a MacBook Pro running on most recent for at least a couple of years (although note it was a sort-of backup machine and not critical to my daily needs). I found it pretty easy but there is one step in upgrading/updating system software that is not intuitive (you have to boot from an external usb in most cases after a system update and then run a small program to 'reestablish' the hack). None of this is as frightening as it may sound.

Note, I really don't think it's a long-term solution - but if you have a critical need it might get you through a bit longer on your iMac until other models come out and you can decide what works for you and what you're comfortable spending money on.
 
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Yeah, I was in the same boat. Actually almost literally. My iMac was the smaller model, but still 2011. I have the Mac Mini, and I'm overall highly satisfied. I got the 16GB / 256GB model, and it's not perfect - but a REALLY good value. I had some problems with Lightroom when stitching a real large pano, and I wish I got a bigger hard drive, but Lightroom CC, Photoshop, and Topaz Denoise, Sharpen, and Gigapixel all work without issue. Even in Olympus Workspace, I was able to use the update firmware portion, which I understand used to be broken.

I do a lot of photography for my unit, and going down would have been a problem, so I was a bit cautious, but I can report 0 problems with Adobe * (including Premiere and Premiere Rush). And when the M1 versions come out even better :)
 

grcolts

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I have an early 2011 iMac 27". I can no longer update the operating system, stuck with High Sierra. Because of this I also cannot update my other software such as Lightroom, Photoshop, and numerous plugins. I love my iMac and would like to replace it with the same but the current models are still running Intel chips, which is fine, but I want to get the best, greatest, newest version so it will hopefully last another 10 years. So waiting for the M1 chip in the big iMacs. I will say, in 10 years of use my iMac has never missed a beat, never needed repair, never had a virus, never did anything it was not supposed to. It is the best computer I have ever had.
Ditto for me too. My iMac is a mid-2011 and as you said cannot update newer software as it needs something more than High Sierra. Only thing I ever had to do to my Mac was replace the hard drive. So, am waiting for the new m iMacs to hit the stores.
GQR
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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I'm a bit late for this conversation. There's not much u can say or add on Apple's products and user experience, my first Apple product u ever bought was the iPad 2017 9.7" expressly for photo editing and it was a mixed bag mostly because of software implementation and ONE major hardware issue: the lacklustre support for external storage (and what I mean is the ability to handle 2 external storage, SD card support for import and backup/export drive) and without that the editing process would be import to the iPad storage (and if it's anything less then 128GB so help you God :p) edit then export to an external drive; the hardware problem I had was the 2GB RAM limit constantly game me crashes in trying tk preview more then 50 pictures either for import or export.
Yesterday I got my first iPhone, a used but very good condition iPhone 8 Plus 64GB (because I work in care I NEED fingerprint scanner and I have a terminal allergy towards notches and holes in the screen) as a slow roll-out plan to transition from Windows / Android to iOS / iPad OS.
The context is for the fact that hardware wise the world has been transitioning from x86/x64 to ARM architecture for decades now. As the world tries to go more and more wireless/battery power devices the more we, consumers, have been focusing on mobile phones, tablets and laptops. In terms of power efficiency ARM can not be beaten by x86/x64 no matter how much it shrinks it's manufacturing process scale or how powerful it gets. ARM has been catching in terms of Instructions Per Clock in the last 4 years to be even consider viable in server usage to save up energy. And it will come to desktop as well. While Intel has been sitting in its hands for over a decade and AMD tried hard to catch up (which it finally did with Ryzen) that the game has changed now. Software became apps and gaming is turning cross-platform multiplayer mobile more and more (to much of my distaste for them).
It is of a curious nature to say and see the demise of x86/x64 when it has been so dominant on PC and Laptops and, now, even consoles use x86/x64 architecture (and don't kid yourself Sony and Microsoft move tens of millions of them watch year, a significant capital and pressure on the curent chipset shortage). But x86/x64 has not been innovating as much as ARM architecture has, innovations like SoC design, modem connectivity and integration, wireless accessibility like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 4/5G, NFC (how many Windows based devices have al of this connectivity in one product?), camera and AI based photography capabilities (for how many decades we are stuck on 1080p/2MP crappy webcams?), battery life that can truly be all day work, security protection that's outside the business models (Face Recognition, Fingerprint Scanners, Iris Scanners) and other aspects.

Now the reason that Apple is switch from x86/x64 has been state a few times before: their frustration with Intel QC, which is not very explicite but it can be the performance of its products, the thermal envelop limitations that has started plaguing Intel since it started rehashing the 14nm design with so many + it started feeling like a math class (Intel argued it can't squeeze more them 4 cores in its i7 CPUs since the 5xxx era and when AMD showed it could be done with Ryzen they back flipped on that and started competing on core counts until, now, they realised that at 14nm there's only so much they can squeeze before the thermal capacity to cool outreaches what could be put in a laptop chase, where you have lower base clock i9 vs higher base clock i7 that can't keep the frequency advertised by Intel for more then a few minutes of load...I know, I have a laptop with that issue), to bad naming schemes that they just refused to fix to consumer's confusion (really Intel, why go with 10xxx and 11xxx and now add letters in the product name like G7), to Intel's ability to deliver the quantities needed, Intel has huge shortages of products in the last few years to the point that it was resurrecting 16nm and 22nm chipset products to free up the 14nm and 10nm nodes.

I do think that Apple switching to ARM was a stroke of genius that was inevitable from the rise of mobility/convince. And the genius part is making a product that actually rises up to 98% of the claims IF it fits your needs. The Rosetta translation from x86/x64 to ARM instructions is better then it had any rights to be and it showed Microsoft and Google how bad their products are at this (Surface X and Windows RT anyone?). It could be better but then that's why we get sequels. The truth of the matter is Apple's transition is more dependent on software development and support for the transition and last gen/first gen products in the move. Because the last transition did not go smoothly at all for Apple and lots of Power Mac users got burned on software update support.

I find myself on crossroads with Apple on how they stack their products for my needs. Here's the niggles I have with their current line-up:
*Apple iPad: great for retouching with the best pen support on the market for years now and good touc screen interface, the hardware has potential but they need to offer more connectivity support, please for the love of donuts and hamburgers we need SD (even micro) reader and/or a second USB C connector... Dongle life is not fun with a big/heavy drive hanging around.
*Apple MacBook (Pro or not): great storage capacity but with eye watering prices, better cooling and performance capability and more connectivity BUT WHY FOR THE NAME OF SAURON, SARUMAN AND SMEAGLE won't they implement touch screen and pen support...at this point it's not innovating but just catching up to the competition. With Apple's damn flawless palm rejection one could navigate with fingers and edit with pen without having to use flimsy (even though it may be the best in the industry) touchpad on the go?
= If they could take the hardware and OS of the MacBook and slap together the touch screen and UI and the pen support together and make it a 2in1 then you have the best portable product EVER.
*Mac Mini: not much to say, it looks like they aim these as the bigginers/budget option with a good starting price and the lack of upgradability is understandable given its size.
*Mac (Pro or Not): should have upgradability as a minimum for those heavy users who need more storage and memory, repairability and service. Having standard ATX power supplies, DDR RAM slots, SATA and M.2 slots would help a lot. I'm sure they can make ARM architecture work with defined standards that are already in the market, Apple has some of the best engineers.
*iMac: is one of the more unique in their product stack as it would combined the slimness and small design of Mac Mini with, PLEASE, touch screen and pen support OLED/Mini LED for the best editing station for those who prefer desk work. That's the place where Apple could justify an expensive monitor stand to work the way Microsoft Surface Studio does.

Software integrity has been a priority for Apple for a few years now and it's on to some great ideas, making all Apple computing devices work in similar ways and where you can transition one to another to do you tasks, feature integration like messaging across devices, even the nifty idea of AirPods switching from one device to another when you receive a call, file access and synchronisation across multiple devices as well (but i would live that to work withing 3rd party software like Lightroom, like importing on a Mac/iMac then continue to cull or edit on the iPad and then export for preview for family/friends on the iPhone for for example).

Microsoft messed things up with Windows and Windows Mobile, Google is not doing any better with Android and Chrome OS, and Linux as awesome as it is it's still a niche of a niche.
 

WT21

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Lightroom Classic is now native on the M1. Seems to be absolutely screaming on my M1 MBA. Of course, I'm only processing 16MP m43 images. I don't have images to test of the much larger MP, but i'm happy!
 

Gillymaru

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Updated this morning on my M1 Mac mini, nice and fast especially playback of videos. Also new feature enhancements added, good to see Adobe is using my subscription to do some worthwhile improvements.
 
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