My New Mac Pro Workstation

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I have recently upgraded my desktop computer to the latest 8 cores 2.66Ghz Mac Pro with 16GB RAM. My previous desktop was a Powermac G4 with dual 1Ghz PowerPC G4. It served me well for quite a few years and the speed was tolerable until I got the 5D Mark II. The huge RAW files of the 5D Mark II brought the Powermac to it’s knees. It took over one minute to convert one RAW file and won’t run new software like Photoshop CS4 and Capture One Pro 4. It was far too slow. However, at that time, the new Mac Pro was not released yet, and I bought a Macbook Pro in the mean time. It was already a huge improvement over the Powermac G4. The Macbook Pro with 2.53Ghz Core2 Duo processors and 4G of RAM was speeding a long I thought. Converting 5D Mark II RAW files became much faster. It also ran the latest version of Photoshop and Capture One Pro at decent speed…..I thought.

Anyway, the Macbook Pro was always going to be an interim solution only and I finally took the pluge and bought the new Mac Pro. It’s a speed demon. Although I thought subjectively that the Macbook Pro was quite fast, when put to a stopwatch, it took between 18 to 35 seconds to convert one 5D Mark II RAW file to 16bit TIFF file with Capture One Pro. On the new Mac Pro, it took only 5 seconds on average to covert one RAW file. I occasionally would see the progress bar coming up in the Macbook Pro running filters like Gaussian Blur, but on the Mac Pro, I have yet to see the progress bar appear when running similar filters.

Of course the Mac Pro is also speedy with a lot of other tasks. It should help to speed up a lot of my work from now and hopefully should serve me well for at least a few years.

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6 thoughts on “My New Mac Pro Workstation

  1. For the purpose of comparison (or no comparison as some may put it), it took my Dell Studio Core2Duo 2.4GHz 4GB Vista 25 secs to convert a 5DII Large RAW to 16-bit TIFF. I don’t want to own a Mac Pro but I do want the performance of one in a PC … I’ve made this very clear—the numerous software I run do not run on the Mac platform. It’s not about the reluctance to move to a more user friendly environment but I don’t wish to relearn photo editing on completely new platform such as Photoshop and to a very small extend Lightroom which I use only occasionally.

    But damn, 5 seconds is extremely fast by comparison! Is there a PC platform that’s capable of such demonic speed?

    • Hi Pompo,

      The reason for using Capture One Pro 4 is that I prefer the RAW conversion quality compared to other RAW processor like Lightroom. Capture One Pro 3 used to be the industry standard in RAW conversion. However, Phaseone lost a lot of momentum after their long delay in releasing Capture Pro 4 and software like Lightroom and Aperture took the lead. I use both Lightroom and Capture One Pro 4 actually, Lightroom has superior workflow, but Capture One Pro 4 has caught up a lot, although still not as good as Lightroom for workflow. However, I prefer the RAW conversion quality of Capture One Pro and I think it’s the best I have seen so far.

  2. Roland (and anyone else who’s a hardcore RAW guy),

    I am curious. Very curious. What makes one RAW converter better than the other? Similarly, what does the better RAW converter produce in the end result that the other s/w does not?

    There has to be another reason to crave that 3-5 sec beast to convert my RAW files. I do know one thing though, these converters seem to convert them at the same speed so performance isn’t a distinct virtue anymore.

    • HI Jan,

      What makes one RAW converter better than the other? That’s a question that cannot be answered in a few words, but I’ll try to explain.

      A good RAW converter should do a few things right:-
      1) offer a good workflow
      2) provide a good set of image adjustment
      3) good RAW conversion quality – pleasing/accurate color, tonality and good noise reduction

      Now, let me try and make a brief comparison between DPP, Lightroom and Capture One Pro.

      DPP has pretty good RAW conversion quality. The color and tonality in general are good and noise reduction is also quite effective, you can get a good balance between noise reduction and detail retention. However, there is sometimes a problem with color management in DPP. It is especially noticeable when you try a process a photo with blue sky. Once your do RAW conversion and open the file in Photoshop, the hue of the sky changed significantly. It is simply not the “blue color” as seen in DPP before RAW conversion.

      DPP’s workflow has improved a lot over the years, but it still lacks significantly behind the competition. I for one simply find DPP’s workflow very awkward and not user friendly.

      DPP’s set of image adjustment are reasonable. Since Canon is the camera maker as well, they also have the advantage that certain features (like Picture Style, automatic lens distortion correction etc) are only available in DPP and not in other 3rd party RAW converter. However, for some mysterious reason, DPP lacks some pretty basic features like a “tint” slider in WB adjustment. It is impossible to dial in a WB setting by numbers.

      Lightroom has superior workflow, arguably one of the best in the market right now. Most people will be very happy with Lightroom’s workflow.

      Lightroom’s set of image adjustment are good too. More full feature and complete than DPP. It even has a Picture Style mode that simulates the picture styles from Canon.

      However, the RAW conversion quality of Lightroom is not quite as good as DPP or Capture One Pro. The color and tone are not as accurate or pleasing. The noise reduction is also not very effective compared to the competition.

      We finally come to Capture One Pro. The workflow is good, not quite as good as Lightroom, but much better than DPP.

      The set of image adjustment in Capture One Pro are also good, comparable to Lightroom at least. There are some features that Lightroom has that Capture One does not, but there are also features that Capture One Pro has that Lightroom does not have either.

      The RAW conversion quality is the prime leading point for Capture One as far as I can see. It has the best color/tonailty I have seen for RAW converters. The image output is simply more pleasing and better looking than the other RAW converters. The noise reduction algorithm is also very effective in balancing noise reduction vs detail retention.

      Well, it’s already a very long comment, so maybe we’ll discuss this in further detail another time.

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