Are Apple's New Computers Poised to Change the Game for Photographers and Filmmakers?

The first Apple computers with the company's own chips are here, and they bring with them the promise of notable performance gains with highly impressive battery life. What will the benefits and impact be for photographers and filmmakers? This excellent video examines what we can expect.

Coming to you from Tyler Stalman, this great video discusses the benefits of Apple's new in-house M1 chip in the Mac mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air. The move is of huge consequence, as it represents Apple's first step away from Intel chips, and bringing both the hardware and software under the same roof should provide some notable benefits. I am personally extremely excited for this new chapter. My 2017 iPad Pro still offers ludicrous levels of performance, and I am very excited to see what Apple's own chips can do inside laptops and desktop computers. Another benefit is the massive gains in battery life. For example, Apple rates the new 13-inch MacBook Pro at 17 hours of battery life for wireless web browsing and a whopping 20 hours for video playback. Certainly, the promise of fantastic performance and such extreme battery life is quite exciting. Check out the video above for more from Stalman. 

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Alexander Petrenko's picture

Talented Adobe developers will find a way to make Lightroom run slow on any hardware.

Ryan Cooper's picture

I think in the near term and potentially also the long term that this pulls Apple more towards consumers and less towards professionals. This opens up the Mac platform to countless mobile apps. (Though I assume most will be a poor user experience as they are all designed for touch and not a cursor, at least until updates are made). But on the flip side, while the performance gains are cool, Apple just made it more expensive for pro software developers to also support the Mac platform which means, especially in the beginning, pro software will be much less available on the new platform. (forgive me if I don't trust that Rosetta is the magic solution Apple has suggested it is)

That said, if this forces Adobe to re-write their pro apps with new architecture, assuming Adobe prioritizes performance, this could create a massive chasm of performance difference between Mac and Windows systems. (Though I won't hold my breath)

Also I will be amazed if Apple doesn't have to thermal throttle when you have a tiny little CPU glued right beside a tiny GPU and tiny ram without any active cooling. This just seems overly optimistic to me. I'm sure it will work for menial tasks but if the CPU and GPU are spinning up to max clockspeeds I just can't see them doing it for very long before they have to be throttled to avoid melting the computer.

Eric Robinson's picture

What I find interesting is that in this current void we find ourselves in respect to hard information on both the real world functionality and current software integration through Rosetta 2 people just speculate and make stuff up. Im assuming that given the Mac Book Air is Apples most popular machine that this was one of the main reasons it was selected to be in the first wave of the new M1 powered Macs. The same could be said of the 13 inch MB. Both of these Macs are in reality the choice of the general computer and iPhone users, school/high school/ University students where battery life is important. They can now sit in a cafe all day and work/browse to their hearts content without fear of running out of juice! The other issue that's important from a marketing/sales point of view is the ease of the transition form the iPhone to the Mac given all the new features in Big Sur and that iPhone apps will now run on your laptop. They are perfect for those who may wish to start learning how to edit video. Neither are aimed at pro users. Just look at the number of ports they have! they are mass market Macs and will fly off the shelves, or so Apple hopes. I think Adobe sees potential for a new customer base for its CC apps. Just watch for special pricing for students. This could explain why Adobe have recently introduced Neural filters which are certainly not aimed at serious users, but fall into features that may interest the younger instagram user.
The only M1 Mac that could be said to interest pro users/photographers is the Mac Mini, but even there the 16GB Ram ceiling, and reduced number of ports will be deal breakers for many, but time will tell. Lightroom for M1 is to be released in the next couple of weeks followed by Photoshop next year. How they run on the new M1 Macs we will just have to wait and see.
I would imagine for high end machines a different chip may be used, the M2, and that will offer more RAM and connectivity, but again time will tell.

Greg Silver's picture

If the M1 can run iOS iPad apps flawlessly, then the iPad Air may be a video editing option for many as LumaFusion edits 4K very smoothly on the iPad. And in that sense, 16GB of RAM (or even 8) would be just fine.

Rk K's picture

It will be years before this is ready for professional use. Right now it's very limited in terms of memory, io, graphics and it's 4 cores only, even if they very fast ones.

Robert Teague's picture

I missed that. B&H lists the Mac Mini M-1 as having 8 cores. Does it come in both 8 and 4 core variants?

I just bough a new Mac Mini a few months ago, and I notice the new one is quite a bit more expensive than the old one. However, I probably will get one anyway.

Rk K's picture

It's a big.little design, it has 4 proper cores and 4 weak ones that only good for background tasks.

Robert Teague's picture

Thanks, I'm not a power user; I mostly use the Mac Mini for XCode compilation.

barry cash's picture

Let’s wait till at least one person can test them in actual use before we make any assumptions as testing marketing hype always proves to be flawed!

Eric Robinson's picture

For simple straight forward timelines I am sure you are correct, though I wonder how it would cope with the multiple streams of more complex projects. Let’s remember there is video editing and there is video editing! For editing a simple YouTube type video that uses one video stream and some stills I would imagine you would be sorted with any of these new macs and Im sure those are the customers Apple has in mind for these new macs.

Sam Sims's picture

Sadly, ever since around 2012-2013 Apple have been slowly dumbing down the pro user experience, especially when they drastically dumbed down Final Cut Pro. It seems more and more features from iOS are making their way into OSX. I’d still much rather own a Mac than have to use the abomination that is Windows 10 though.

Chris Rogers's picture

Nah. Their poised to leech more money from their user base though.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I predict these new machines will greatly outperform the AMD/Intel equivalent machines. The thing that impressed me was that one video a few months ago where an iPad sliced through Canon R5 video files where even $5K+ Macs and Windows machines struggled.