The best iMacs are popular among photographers, videographers, and other creatives, because they have lovely screens, and do an amazing job of running resource-hungry editing software like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro. But which is the best iMac for you?
Well, the official answer is pretty simple. The 2021 24-inch iMac is the only iMac sold on Apple's site today.
Lucky, it's a very nice iMac indeed. Running Apple's latest M1 processor, it's beautifully slim and can be bought in seven different color options. It's a shame you can't spec more than 16GB of RAM, though, and that may become an issue if you work in hi-res image and video resolutions.
If that's the case, then, you may still prefer the 2020 27-inch iMac. Since this March, Apple has no longer sold this model directly (replacing it with the Mac Studio M1 Ultra and its matching Studio Display). But retailers still have quite a few in stock.
And this iMac remains a great choice for photo and video editing, thanks to its large screen size, impressive picture quality, and powerful specifications. Not to mention that it can be specced with up to 128GB of RAM.
In the same light, the Apple iMac (27-inch, 2019) might also be worth considering. We look at all three models of iMac below and compare their pros and cons. And of course, if and when Apple releases a new iMac, we'll update this article accordingly.
In the meantime, read on to discover the best iMac for photo and video editing today. Or, if you need a bit more background first, jump to our section on what to look for.
The best iMacs for photo editing in 2023
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The 24-inch iMac is the best iMac around for the casual user. Not least, it's the only one Apple officially sells right now! That said, it's pretty darned impressive nonetheless.
It comes with Apple's M1 chip, which is supremely fast and efficient. It has the same eight-core processor as its MacBook cousins, but pairs it with a 23.5-inch Retina screen boasting a huge 4.5K (4480 x 2520) resolution and an eye-popping 500-nit brightness. Factor the DCI-P3 color space coverage, plus Apple's excellent True Tone technology, and this display is a great choice for creatives wanting a top-notch viewing experience.
The main drawback here is that the M1 chip can only be specced with a max of 16GB of RAM. This can soon be devoured when you're editing high-resolution, multi-layer image files or 4K video, especially if you've got several web browser tabs open at the same time.
You won't be able to add more RAM in the future. So if you want a truly future-proofed iMac, the 2020 27-inch model (below) is still the safer option. Assuming you can get hold of one, and providing you spec it with 32GB RAM or more.
Read our full Apple iMac M1 (24-inch, 2021) for more details
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Yes, Apple doesn't officially sell it anymore. But plenty of retailers still have them in stock. And so if you want an iMac primarily for photo editing or other creative work, then the 27-inch, 2020 model remains your best bet.
For a start, it has a big, beautiful Retina screen, with 5K resolution which will allow you to see every tiny detail in your images. Not to mention one billion colors and 500 nits of brightness.
Its 10th-generation Intel Comet Lake processors aren't as fast as the latest M1 chip, but they're pretty speedy nonetheless. And along with the fast solid-state drives, up to 128GB RAM, and powerful AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards under the hood, you'll get quick and responsive performance, no matter how many RAW images you have open on your screen.
The 27-inch 2020 iMac offers good connectivity too, including two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, four USB-A slots, an SDXC memory card slot, and a headphone jack. The built-in screen is simply stunning with a Retina 5K (5,120 x 2,880) resolution.
Finally, you can buy it with up to 128GB RAM, unlike the first iMac on our list. Note that processor performance is important for video, but for photo and video editing it's good to get as much RAM as you can, as pro-level tools will eat it up pretty quickly.
Read our full Apple iMac (27-inch, 2020) review for more details.
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It's getting a bit long in the tooth, and again, this model is no longer sold by Apple directly. But if you can get one from a third-party retailer, the 2019 iMac 27-inch still offers great performance with cutting-edge components. All packaged up in a brilliant design that will look great on anyone's desk.
You can choose from 8th- and 9th-generation Intel processors, with up to 8-cores for fantastic multitasking performance. Yes, it's not the most powerful iMac now, but it's arguably the best value, and the best iMac for photo editing if you can't quite stretch to the 2020 iMac or 2021 M1 models. And you can use the spare cash to add more RAM: it can take up to 64GB.
The best iMac for photo editing: what to look for
What should you look for when searching for the best iMac for photo and video editing? The key is to look at the specifications and suss out what you're going to need. While any modern iMac is going to be capable of editing photos with ease, some are more suited to heavy workloads or ultra-high resolution than others.
Screen size: For most photographers and video editors the 27 -inch is the way to go. The extra room gives you luxurious space for both your image and the various editing palettes around it.
RAM: For iMacs, 8GB is now the baseline spec, and while this is just about adequate for light image editing, open a bunch of tabs open in your web browser while adding several layers to a high-res PSD file and watch what happens to the performance. Given that RAM is not user-upgradable in a regular (non-Pro) iMac, we'd strongly recommend speccing 16GB or more at the point of purchase, to maximize the useful lifespan of your new machine or, better still, 32GB.
Graphics card: This is important for video editing. The entry-level 21.5-inch iMac is best avoided, even if you can find it still on sale, as it doesn't have a dedicated graphics card. All other iMacs get proper Radeon Pro graphics, though the 27-inch iMacs use newer, faster models (that extra space gained from a having bigger screen makes room for more powerful internals). And the 2021 iMac gets the formidable shared graphics processing power of the M1 chip.
Storage space: Storage is also an important consideration because, unlike Windows laptops, you cannot open up and replace the hard drive of a regular iMac. 256GB is the default capacity for the 21.5-inch models and the entry-level 27-inch. This really isn't enough to give you sufficient storage space for the lifetime of your usage: upgrading to at least 512GB is a must. If that's not financially feasible at the point of purchase, you can always invest in an external hard drive, which is a more affordable way to give you more space to keep your photos. Look for external hard drives that include SSDs (Solid State Drives) and use the Thunderbolt 3 port, as this gives you the fastest possible transfer speeds.
Apple iMac Alternatives
How about if you like the Apple ecosystem, but an iMac doesn't take your fancy? Maybe you are happy with your existing monitor, or you have invested in the sublime Apple Studio Display. Then you can make your own iMac of sorts with one of Apple's separate desktops.
Apple's latest desktop computer puts outrageous power under the hood with Apple's latest benchmark destroying M1 Max and M1 Ultra processors. With up to a 20-core CPU and a 48-core GPU you can fly through any photo and video editing with ease. Not as convenient as just an iMac, but it still manages to remain small and compact, so you won't have to find too much space for it on your desk. Check out the full Mac Studio review.
Apple has updated the Mac mini M1 for 2023 with the introduction of its own in-house M2 chipset with M2 and M2 Pro options. This allows the Mini to fit with any tiny footprint you can easily fit into your setup. But don't let the size fool you, the M2 and M2 Pro chips are very powerful, and more than capable of photo and video editing without breaking a sweat. Check out the latest Mac Mini M2 deals
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