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Mac on a ‘budget’?


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I need a computer in a bad way. I’m currently editing on a MacBook Air, and for the longest time only used LR as it was all I knew. By and large, she got me by, but now as I delve more seriously into my photography, I’ve been using Photoshop more and more and my old faithful Air just can’t keep up.

I would like to stick with Mac as that’s what I’ve been using for years. I really know nothing about graphics cards and processors and all that. I keep my photos on an external HD and backup to backblaze. This method seems to be working for me, but I’m open to alternatives. My external HD is not a SSD, so maybe I need to upgrade there as well?

Primary needs: the ability to use Photoshop efficiently. I use a lot of actions in PS. My other main computer use is managing my social media accounts and website. I would eventually like to get more into graphic design and maybe some video editing (more for my personal use with family/friends), so a computer that can also manage that on a decent but basic level would be nice.

Budget: is it even possible to stay under $2K? I’ve just purchased a new camera and lens, so my husband is rightly questioning ‘when does this photography stuff start earning us money?’ But he also recognizes my need for a better system and would rather spend the money on something that is going to last a while, vs. something we’ll need to upgrade/replace in just a few years’ time. I’m just trying to find the middle ground (unless a surprise wealthy benefactor wants to gift me a iMac Pro!)

My big question really is: what’s the best I can get for a mid-level cost? Is it worth considering a Mac mini? Am I asking for the impossible?

Thank you for your help!

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Is it possible to stay under 2K with a iMac? Sure. But you need to have realistic expectations. Yes, an iMac with upgraded features will perform better than a stock model, but that increases your cost.

As for "When does this Photography Stuff start earning money?" It doesn't. LOL!! Photography calls many, but selects very few. Very much like the Music Business, you can have a guy playing the Blues in a dive-bar making $50 a night, or the Justin Bieber's of the world singing "Oh Baby! Baby!...Oh Baby-baby!!!" and have pots of money thrown at them. It's not fair, at all. It's even worse if you are an official business who pays their taxes. On the flip-side, Cutesy Name Photography who charges $25 a session for 5 edited photos doesn't make money either. To make money in Photography, you need to be really good at marketing / business and networking. You. Need. To. Hustle and have a different way-of-thinking.  Just having a FB Biz-Page or Website with a cute logo who HASHTAG LOVES-LOVES-LOVES their client's doesn't help, nor leads to long-term riches. I speak from experience. I've seen many "Businesses" rise and fall over the years; both online and in-person. Anyway...this is a whole other topic, back to the original question.

Fortunately, Photoshop actually runs SLOWER on a iMac Pro than a regular iMac! Spending $4000-$8000 will give you LESS performance than a $2299 iMac with upgraded options. Why? Photoshop is not programmed to take advantage of the features that make a iMac Pro so fast. Now if you were using Adobe Premier to edit 4K video, THAT'S a whole other story. For PS? Save your money.

When I recommend things here in "Ask Brian," I have a 7-8 year time-frame in mind. I hate wasting money on this sh*t. The impulse buys or my favorite, "It's just as good as..." NEVER work out. Save up and buy the quality item. The one that you want. Even if you have to wait another 6 months. Your computer will last another 3-4 years if you buy it right the first time. Now, I get it. I'm not made of money either. It's taken me a LONG time to get where I'm at, and with the US-Tariffs from China, all the computer hardware prices have risen $300-$500. Fortunately, Apple has maintained their prices, though they were high to begin with.

Let's talk numbers and what you are looking for. What is your MAX Budget? You want a iMac or are sticking with a laptop? I will say this, a 21.5" iMac is a complete waste of money. They can't be upgraded after the fact (easily) and contain slower items (motherboard, hard drives, video cards, etc.) that make them a glorified iPad. So they are off the table as far as i'm concerned.

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My max budget is $2500. I love the portability of a laptop but it seems I can get better bang for my buck in a desktop. Is that a correct assumption?

We currently live in Japan (my husband is military), and our local on-base store currently has two iMacs available that I’m considering. One of the biggest pros is that I can purchase them tax free. I’ll post the details and prices if I can upload the images correctly. Is the higher priced one worth the difference? Should I be considering something else all together?

Thanks so much for your help!



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13 hours ago, Misha said:

I love the portability of a laptop but it seems I can get better bang for my buck in a desktop. Is that a correct assumption?


Between the two, the more expensive one is a better buy. Not just because the CPU is faster, but the 8GB Graphics Card plays really well with PS CC. Getting a Graphics Card that performs well with PS is almost as important as the CPU chip. 

Between the two, I’m not a fan of a Fusion Drive and prefer a SSD. But it sounds like your choices are limited for now. 

I would also purchase a 32GB RAM kit to increase the RAM from 8GB to 40GB. RAM is fairly cheap now and a 32GB kit from Crucial.com should be around $150. 

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