So, after many months of torturous deliberation and painstaking self-justification, I finally pulled the trigger on the purchase of a new iMac. Or to put it more accurately, my first ever iMac. And at the risk of sounding like an obsessive Apple fanboy, I am quickly wondering how I ever coped without it.
I opted for the 27-inch Retina 5K display with the 3.2 GHz processor and, having upgraded from a 15-inch laptop for a lot of my work, it will come as little surprise that the difference is more than significant. Truth be told the difference is huge in almost every conceivable way - from how it looks to how it operates.
Working on it is nowhere near as daunting as I thought it might be. I deliberated for a long time about whether to get the 21-inch display and my advice to anyone in the same dilemma is 'go large'. Unless space is a major concern, I can't help but think that buying the 21-inch will leave you satisfied but perhaps not totally fulfilled.
A valuable aid to your workflow...
The speed with which it runs is a wonderful complement to that 27-inch display. Having endured the slow, cruel demise of my previous system, the rapid boot-up time of the iMac is a blessing that has, if nothing else, helped lower my blood pressure. You can jump between modules in Lightroom without hesitation. Plug-ins run smoothly. Switching between open programs is a breeze. Indeed it is a shining example of what Apple does best: making everything feel so intuitive and natural and comfortable, even for the most inexperienced of users.
And of course there is the display quality. I would be lying if I said this was not the primary reason for my decision to purchase an iMac. Some may say that prioritising a display over hardware specs is superficial but it all makes sense when you sit down to use it. At least for photography it does. The subtle colours and tones it renders is superb. You really do see your images in a different light. I've been coming across old photographs that I did not think were worth editing at the time and seeing new potential in them.
When it comes to fine tuning - spot removal, noise reduction, sharpening - it is unbeatable for its accuracy and clarity. Importing and exporting large numbers of files is impressively fast. Most crucially of all, however, is that I can tell that it is tightening up my entire workflow. This is a very important point for me. As a photographer I enjoy the process of editing my images and exercising different levels of creative control over them. But it is an old adage that you often find yourself spending more time in front of a screen than you do behind the viewfinder. I feel that the iMac is helping to redress that imbalance somewhat.
...that comes at a price
There is a learning curve though. Coming from a lifetime of Microsoft means that I have felt pretty helpless at time: getting frustrated when navigating Finder, not having keys where I think they should be on the keyboard, and generally trying to break a lifetime of old habits. There generally tends to be a solution to get you by but I have queried some of the default settings, e.g. not having a right click enabled on the mouse. Having to Google "how do I right-click on a Mac" will make you feel pretty pathetic.
And then there is the hefty price tag and the frankly outrageous cost of upgrading the specs. They say that you get what you pay for and that appears to be true from what I have experienced with the iMac. It is probably the best computer I have worked on but it is also, by some distance, the most expensive I have ever owned. That said, it's not that far off the cost of some lenses so in that regard the iMac could be seen as excellent value for money. But having to fork out £160 to upgrade to 16GB of RAM is difficult to swallow when you can buy that from Crucial for around £50.
Do believe the hype
As I said at the outset, I don't want to come across as having a pro-Apple bias. The fact of the matter is that I’ve never owned an iPhone in my life and only bought an iPad a few years ago. I shun the iPod in favour of my battered 10-year old MP3 player and I don't think I will ever be sold on the need to have an Apple watch.
But it would take someone with a much stronger Apple prejudice than me to not be impressed by the iMac. It is a stunning piece of contemporary design and it is making the editing process an extremely pleasant experience. I was even impressed by the way in which it was packaged.
Ultimately, I feel that the iMac is working hard to limit my computer-time and get me back behind the camera as soon as possible.
So don’t bash me for saying it, but I highly recommend the 27-inch iMac. Is it the only option for photographers? Of course not. But if you don’t want to sweat time researching all variety of PCs and monitors, then you will not be disappointed. For Apple newbies it will be frustrating at times but this is far outweighed by the rewards of being sat in front of such an impressive piece of kit.