I never understood the appeal of Macs until I dipped my toe in the water with my first Macbook Air in 2011. I'm still using that laptop today where in the same time period many PC laptops have come and gone, but sadly, that may not be the case for Apple desktops and laptops that you buy today.
YouTuber Luke Miani takes a tour through Mac history, taking a look at some of the best Macs for upgrading to (somewhat) modern-day specs, specifically talking about why the 2009 iMac, with its reasonably powerful (for the time period) graphics cards beat out its newer 2010 and 2011 brothers for running MacOS Catalina (with a hack from DosDude). It's a great way to keep machines from the junk heap when they could be otherwise functioning for light-duty photo work or storage.
Like Miani, I've upgraded the SSD in my Macbook Air to 1TB with a kit from OWC, and now it has more storage space than even my 2019 Macbook Pro and iMac. The speedier, newer SSD even makes the machine functional to edit photos on, albeit with an older screen that's not known for being the most color-accurate. That said, even the slightest of upgrades turns this old machine into a great commuter laptop that lets me edit photos on the way to work while only having to carry something the size of an iPad, with a lot more functionality for photo editing than an iPad because it can actually run Photoshop.
Desktops of similar vintage had a lot of room for customizations beyond just an SSD upgrade. As Miani shows, pulling off the front screen reveals some leeway to upgrade the memory, in some cases graphics processors and CPUs, and also the removal of the optical drive for better airflow.
While this is great for those still hoping to continue rocking their older iMacs, this sadly will likely not be the case for Macs going forward, at least not Macs you can buy now.
For one, with the announcement of Apple Silicon, there's definitely an end-of-life planned for Intel-based Macs. As software transitions to run on the new processors, more and more older Macs will be shut out of potentially important software for photographers, such as Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro (and yes, you can still edit 1080p video just fine on a 2009 iMac, something I was doing until 2018.) That said, this kind of transition could be a boon for companies that continue to support Intel-based Macs. This also means that if you buy any of the Macs available today, you might not get the 10 years you may be expecting out of them. They'll still be plenty fast, but they will likely not be able to run the latest and greatest software in just a few years because of the processor architecture changes.
More than this, many of the upgrades Miani talks about are just not possible. Apple's made a nasty habit of removing the ability to upgrade laptops and desktops, essentially making what you buy the final word as far as upgrades go, and making you pay for it all up front at the time of purchase.
Do you have an old Mac sitting around? Take a look at the video above for how to breathe some new life into your old workhorse.