Best Mac Studio for photo editing?

My iMac Pro is aging and Intel-based (gasp!). One of the newly-announced Studios is the obvious replacement, but which? Questions seem to be:

  • is the M2Ultra worth the extra (very substantial) cost?
  • if I get one based on the M2Max, are the extra 8 cores likely to be worth the money?
  • how much RAM is reasonably necessary (32GB, 64GB or, with the extra 8 cores, 96GB)?

I don’t edit video; I use Lightroom CC on subscription, so always the latest version; I have the Topaz and Nik plugins and I occasionally dabble in Photoshop. My camera has a 60MP sensor, so the files tend to be on the large side, particularly when stitched.

The ultra isn’t worth it unless you are using it to make money…my M1 Pro Studio is way, way faster than my 2019 iMac was…I have 32 GB and 2 tab internal and LRC is blazingly fast. For anybody not making money with it…there’s no reason to upgrade past that. My current year originals and LR catalog live on the internal drive, older years live on an external OWC ThunderBay mini which was selected for quiet rather than speed since mostly the older years images are archives at this point.

In reality…the M2 Pro mini is cheaper and while we haven’t seen any M2 tests yet…with the M1 the Pro was considered generally the sweet spot for non pros as it is faster than the base M1 but the extra performance for the Max was not much and the Ultra not much either…so you can save some money with the Mini if you want.


Thanks, @neil1. I want to drive 3 displays (27" and 2 x 24"), so I’d need the top mini model. In the UK at least, the M2Pro mini with 12-core CPU, 19-core GPU and 16-core neural engine, 32GB memory and 2TB SSD costs exactly the same as the M2Max Studio with 12/30/16, 32GB and 2TB SSD, so the Studio seems to be better value.

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I’d get more memory than a mere 32GB. Yes, Apple Silicon manages it far better than Intel Macs, so 32 is more like 64, but since the memory is on the CPU chip it can never be upgraded. I’d get at least 64GB now while you can to future-proof your purchase.

(Personally I’d get more RAM over the 2TB drive, as you can always add external storage, but you know your storage needs better than me.)

I can reinforce the comments make here - I moved from an iMac Pro (Intel) to the Mac Studio M1 Max (with a studio display). Plenty of power to do my photo editing. I have 64 GB of memory, but have never gotten close to using it all. My editor is DxO PL6 and I use the Deep Prime noise reduction a lot - you can choose how many images to process in parallel (between 1 and 8) - mine is set to 8, and that makes a difference in the Deep Prime processing. Ultra, I think, is primarily for video processing where all those cores can be used. I loved my iMac Pro - the best Mac I had ever used up to that time - but the Studio is much better.

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Yeah…in that case the extra ports on the Studio make it worth getting as the price is the same and the extra graphic cores might speed up things a bit…one of the comparisons I looked at said that export and pano/HDR merges were helped a little by the GPU cores. Whichever one you get you’ll be happy with it.

For some things more is better…but for LR and stills the comps I looked at didn’t help much with the extra 32 GB…bu5 you’re right…it does future proof things a bit more.

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Jeremy I still use my late model, top spec Intel iMac for most of my photo editing, I like it with the Studio display, 2 5k displays suit me fine. I do have a 32Gb M1 Max MacBook Pro which has never broken a sweat, never had the fan kick in despite running Capture One on 102 megapixel images, with Nik and Photoshop as needed. If I had another Studio Display I’d probably move fully to it, but that might take a while…

I guess I’d say that pretty well any M series Mac would be more than up for the task.

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Any of the new Macs will be fine. I have an M1 Max MBP with 32gb and regularly run Capture One, Photoshop and a bunch of others things without issue.

I come from the era when an unsharp mask on a 2mb file would see a progress bar appear for 30 seconds before slowly redrawing the screen… We’ve come a long way.

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Hi Jeremy

This might be of interest/use to you:


Have a look at ArtIsRight on YouTube.

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Last year I replaced my MacPro black bin (64GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 3.5GHz 6-Core) with a Mac Studio M1 Max with 32GB RAM and 2TB SSD.

I did consider a Mac Mini but by the time I specced it up, price was very similar to the Mac Studio. And I thought the faster ports etc would make a difference.

The Mac Studio is a bit snappier than my old MacPro, but not devastatingly quicker or anything. If I was to buy another I would go with 1TB SSD and up the RAM to 64GB. I work mainly from an external SSD which is slower than the internal SSD. but still much quicker than my previous external RAID HD.

However I have to say that Photoshop seems ‘laggy’ when opening images, no matter if they are on the internal SSD or the external SSD (I have tested both). I assume the issue is with Photoshop. Or I am being ‘dim’ with the settings!

I also drive x2 LG 27" UHD monitors with USB C. That all works fine with the odd glitch in panels being moved around when I open Illustrator to Photoshop, takes but a moment to reposition. I have no idea why that happens (I would have loved to have purchased x2 Apple displays but the cost was / is prohibitive).

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IMHO it’s Photoshop being laggy. After years of using Photoshop I have found this to be the case rather frequently no matter what version I was using

To me there is a definite “wait a few seconds” when I double-click on a PSD file before it opens. I have tried to Google it but I must be putting in the wrong search term… or it is just me! Otherwise it is fine on running on M1.