Apple’s October Surprise

November 8, 2023 ·

Dan Wells

Overview

They’ve never released the Pro and Max CPUs alongside the base model before.

Apple, in a surprise move, announced four new computers on the night of October 30, 2023. Until about a week before the announcement, the consensus was that we wouldn’t see any Macs until early 2024, and the first of them were likely to be the consumer models such as the 24” iMac and the MacBook Air. Estimates on the Macs most loved by photographers, the MacBook Pros (MacBooks Pro????), the larger iMac (will it be a 27”, a 32”? – it disappeared at the Apple Silicon transition and hasn’t been seen since), the Mac Mini and the Mac Studio ranged from January to June or later of next year. Even January or March seemed unlikely, because there are enough consumer models that Apple was likely to use those release dates to focus on the Macs that usually release first, pushing the more powerful models to June or beyond.

Apple’s slogan for the Mac IIfx was “Wicked Fast” – some say the name stood for “II f*&*^&*expensive”…

         Apple  titled the event “Scary Fast”, a reference not only to the “Scary Fast”  tagline of the M1 Pro and M1 Max, but also much farther back in Mac history, to 1990’s “Wicked Fast” Mac IIfx   The announcements look good for photographers, with a couple at the higher end that look REALLY good. Initial benchmarks of the highest-end M3 Max configurations of the MacBook Pro suggest that they are  roughly as powerful as the current top of the line (M2 Ultra) Mac Studio, and the MacBook Pro is somewhat less expensive. The M3 Max MacBook Pro should also be more powerful and more practical than any top-end Windows laptop, including both gaming machines and workstations. The power and configurability of the M3 Max models will be a boon for photographers who like to take a single computer approach. 

Traveling photographers will love the SDXC reader and HDMI port, both new to the base MacBook Pro.

The changes to the base model of the MacBook Pro have produced a more appealing traveling computer for photographers. The 13” base model MacBook Pro has been replaced by a 14” model with a far better screen, MagSafe charging, a SDXC reader and an HDMI port (along with the same two Thunderbolt ports it has long featured). It looks $300 more expensive than its predecessor, but it also comes with a 512 GB SSD standard, which was previously a $200 option over a 256 GB base model (and expanding the SSD further has become $200 less expensive). Since few photographers accepted the 256 GB SSD, the real price difference is only $100 – and the screen and ports are easily worth the $100.

There is also one major “gotcha” – a machine that initially looks appealing, but is less photographer friendly than its predecessor – the M3 Pro version of the MacBook Pro. The M3 Pro processor took a couple of important downgrades that make it more of a “souped up base M3” than the “M2 Max lite” that its predecessor was. My recommendations to photographers (below in detail) focus on the base M3, the M3 Max and trying to find a leftover M2 Pro or M2 Max if you are interested in the M3 Pro. If you find a great deal on the M3 Pro, there’s nothing wrong with it – the low-end version is a slightly faster base M3, and the higher-end version is a faster version of the lower-end M2 Pro…

A colorful collection of iMacs – unfortunately still better suited to your dentist’s office or your kids’ school than to your studio.

While not a “gotcha”, the 24” M3 iMac is a very disappointing announcement from a photographic perspective. It is a simple chip swap of the existing (and disappointing) 24” M1 iMac. It is a desktop computer that shares its innards with a sub-1 lb tablet (we haven’t seen an M3 iPad Pro yet, but, when it arrives, it will probably be as similar to this iMac as the M1 iPad Pro is to the M1 iMac).  It’s an appealing, if pricey,  little home computer, it has a home in K-12 education and it’s a fashionable machine that looks good on highly visible desks (receptionists’ offices in medical practices are a classic home for the 24” iMac). Photographers often need more than this, and its value for money is poor.  By the time you have 24 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage in it, which is a minimum for any serious photographic use, it is $1899 or $2099, depending on GPU choice. 

There are better choices in most cases – $1600 or so (sales vary, but should be good in the near future) buys a M2 Pro Mac Mini with 32 GB of RAM and the same 512 GB of storage. $1850 buys a M2 Max Mac Studio in the same configuration. Either of these will be quite a bit faster than a base M3, both in CPU and GPU performance, and they will be only marginally more expensive after adding a very good monitor. The Mac Mini will be within $100 of the iMac with 8 GPU cores, and actually cheaper than the 10-core model.

. The least expensive color-managed, Adobe RGB, 27” 4K monitor I can find is an Asus ProArt model for $469. It’s almost certainly nowhere near as good as my $1500 Eizo ColorEdge CS2740, but I’m equally certain that it is much better than the iMac’s built-in display. It is a matte screen, not Apple’s annoying ultra-gloss, it aims at Adobe RGB (marketed as 99%, seems to measure close to that) instead of just the video-oriented DCI-P3. It also offers an extra 3” of workspace over the iMac. If you don’t have a keyboard and mouse around, and you are willing to forego Apple’s expensive “magic” peripherals, they aren’t expensive. A basic (e.g. junk) keyboard and mouse can be had for under $20 at your neighborhood office supply store. Something wireless with low profile switches and a slightly higher-end mouse like the “magic” pair is generally around $40. $80 to $100 will buy an entry-level mechanical keyboard and a high-precision mouse with multiple programmable buttons.

History

Going much farther back in Mac history – this was what my first Mac looked like. No, it didn’t run DxO Photo Lab…

         Both the M1 and M2 lines were led off by the MacBook Air and 13” MacBook Pro, machines that are unsuitable for a lot of higher-end photographic work due to their low 16 GB (M1) or 24 GB (M2) RAM limit. The original M1 generation included a Mac Mini on Day One, but that machine had the same 16 GB RAM limit as the two laptops. Since the last Intel MacBook Pros (and the last Intel Mac Mini) had supported 64 GB of RAM, these configurations were disappointing. These machines had the same basic configuration of 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, with 8 graphics cores. They were essentially two A14 processors (the chip from the iPhone 12) yoked together, except that they did NOT have twice the efficiency cores of the iPhone.  

The next M1 Mac to drop was an iMac that, if anything, increased the disappointment. Intel iMacs had always come in two screen sizes, with the larger one being a powerful computer suited for a lot of creative tasks (even without considering the expensive iMac Pro), while the small one was meant for home and K-12 education use. The M1 iMac, while intermediate in screen size at 24”, clearly followed in the “home computer” lineage. It was exactly the same computer as the MacBook Air, 13”  MacBook Pro and Mac Mini (and, for that matter, the M1 iPad Pros) in an iMac case. It was the only Apple Silicon Mac that was actually slower than one of its predecessors (it was faster than any configuration of the 21.5” iMac, but slower than most configurations of the 27” model). It was only available with 8 or 16 GB of RAM, while the 27” iMac could accept 128 GB. 

The M-series chips are so power efficient that they can be used in 11-inch iPads.

         The early M1 machines were stunning performers for what they were, which made waiting for higher-end models all the more difficult. The 13” M1 MacBook Air was just about as fast as the fastest Intel MacBook Pro of all, the 16” Core i9 model. It ran out of RAM much faster (not unexpected, since, even if ordered with maximum RAM, it had ¼ as much as the Intel model could hold), and it took a while for software to catch up with Apple Silicon, but, running optimized software and outside of RAM constraints, a $1000 MacBook Air could keep up with a $3500 MacBook Pro only one generation older. It was also clear that they were extraordinarily power efficient, because their battery lives were very long. We even saw an iPad running a full-fledged M1 before we ever saw a higher-end Mac running Apple Silicon. 

It took almost a year to see the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors appear, and the M1 Pro only ever showed up in 14” and 16” MacBook Pros ( the M1 Max was later the lower-end processor option in the new Mac Studio). Not only did the M1 Pro support 32 Gb of RAM, and the M1 Max finally support 64 GB of RAM, they had many more processor cores. The M1 Pro had either six or eight performance cores (three or four iPhones worth), while the M1 Max always had eight.  They only had two efficiency cores, which made sense on a powerful machine. The M1 Pro had 14 or 16 graphics cores, while the M1 Max had 24 or 32. 

There was never an iMac or a Mac Mini that used the M1 Pro or M1 Max, leaving a four month interval when the fastest Mac Apple sold for most tasks was a laptop. The higher end Mac Pros were faster IF your software fully utilized a huge number of cores, but many programs did not. These MacBook Pros began to answer the question of whether Apple Silicon would scale – until they appeared, it had produced some remarkably fast low-end computers, but nobody outside Apple knew whether it was just a very quick ultra-low power architecture, or whether it was more significant than that. The speed of the M1 Pro and M1 Max showed that Apple Silicon was scaling. In March of 2022, we saw the M1 Max and M1 Ultra (essentially two M1 Max chips roped together) appear in the very fast Mac Studio.

Only a few months after the Mac Studio completed the M1 lineup, the first M2 chips appeared in June of 2022. It was a familiar lineup – the 13” MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. It was also a familiar chip – four performance cores, four efficiency cores, eight or ten graphics cores. The only change in the core configuration from the M1 is that cut-down variations with fewer than eight graphics cores disappeared, and ten graphics cores were an option. Again, it was two iPhones yoked together (except for the efficiency cores)  – the difference is that they were iPhone 13 Pros. They had an improved RAM limit of 24 GB, and they were about 15% faster than their M1 predecessors. The Mac Mini did not make an appearance with these low-end laptops, and neither did the iMac.

This time, it was a lot easier to predict what was coming next. About seven months later, the M2 Pro and M2 Max appeared in the 14” and 16” MacBook Pros. They had ten or twelve total processor cores – the disappointment was that the extra two cores over the M1 Pro and Max were not the two performance cores that would have made a difference in most pro workflows – they were a second pair of efficiency cores. The way the Mac manages cores, as far as I understand, is that tasks that don’t need a lot of power (e-mail, etc.) run on the efficiency cores, while Photoshop and friends run on the performance cores. Whether your Mac has two efficiency cores or eight (the M2 Ultra wound up with eight) doesn’t affect how fast that big export with fancy noise reduction runs. The M2 Pro has 16 or 19 graphics cores, while the M2 Max has 30 or 38. Yes, 20 instead of 19 , 32 instead of 30 and 40 instead of 38 would have made more sense – I don’t know where those graphics cores went… They offered the 15% performance improvement over their M1 counterparts that one might expect, with a little extra graphics boost, since graphics core counts were up a bit. 

The M2 Ultra followed five months after the laptops, and it is exactly what one might expect – a double M2 Max, complete with a useless eight efficiency cores (if you have anything that wants eight cores, it’s going to run on the performance cores anyway). No more graphics cores went missing – it comes in 60 and 76 core versions.  

There were two pleasant surprises in the M2 generation – one is that the M2, M2 Max and M2 Ultra come in an additional, higher RAM configuration (for some reason, the M2 Pro does not). In the M1 generation, each chip came in 1x and 2x RAM configurations – the M1 came with 8 and 16 GB, the M1 Pro had 16 or 32 GB, the M1 Max had 32 or 64 GB, and the M1 Ultra had 64 or 128 GB. In the M2 generation, everything except the M2 Pro also had a 3x configuration (24, 96 or 192 GB). The second surprise was that the Mac Mini re-emerged, with M2 and M2 Pro models, alongside the 14” and 16” MacBook Pros – the M2 Pro Mini was a welcome addition. The iMac remained MIA, with the nearly three-year-old original M1 iMac the only option. 

Analysis and Configuration Suggestions

This is where things stood as of the morning of October 30, 2023. Until the second half of October, it was where most observers expected things to stand until January or so, when the cycle would begin again. The base M3, represented by the 13” MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air (and maybe the iMac) would debut first, followed a few months later by the M3 Pro and M3 Max in the larger MacBook Pros (and the Mini?), then the M3 Ultra in the Mac Studio and Mac Pro. Photographers weren’t expecting the relevant Macs until March, June or at worst October of 2024. There would probably be a January launch, but it was expected to be the usual group of base models.

A Family Portrait

Apple decided on an October Surprise – not only did the M3 chips come earlier than expected, the model lineup was very different. The M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max processors all made their debut, and they are the world’s first desktop/laptop CPUs fabricated on TSMCs brand-new 3nm process. They largely share cores with the iPhone 15 Pro series, although the core configurations are divergent enough that it is no longer easy to say “this is really X number of iPhones”.

You can’t even see the pixels on this Standard Pixel sensor – the features on the new M3 chips can be a thousand times narrower.

 For an interesting comparison, the Standard Pixel in many of our cameras is 3.76µm, or a little over a thousand times as wide as the smallest feature on these chips (1 µm is a thousand nanometers) . The scale of an individual atom is in the range of 0.1nm – the minimum feature size on these chips is something like 30 atoms across! We first saw this process in the A17 chip in the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max a couple of months ago, and they’re now making large chips for full-scale computers with the same process. There is some doubt as to how much smaller features on a chip can get, due to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Quantum mechanics is already an important consideration for chip designers, and there will be a limit to how far we can go without fundamental changes in design. Fundamental means something like “solving this problem is worth the Nobel Prize in Physics”.

The MacBook Air (now Airs, because a 15” model slipped into the M2 generation) were NOT updated.  My best guess, similar to that of others who follow Apple, is that the chips are in short supply, and the Air sells in huge numbers. If Apple had introduced it, availability might have immediately shot to months in the future? Better (for Apple) to use the limited chip supply on other Macs they can meet demand for. There are two generations of TSMCs 3nm process – this first one may actually perform better, but the upcoming one has higher yields, reducing supply constraints. Could they be holding back the Air (and the Mac Mini?) for the higher yield processor generation?

The 13” MacBook Pro, the other stalwart of processor introductions, was discontinued, replaced by an appealing lower-end version of the 14” MacBook Pro that uses the base M3 (the 14” MacBook Pro now uses three separate processor lines). The 14” and 16” MacBook Pros were replaced when they were only nine months old, and the new line features M3 Pro and M3 Max versions. The big news for photographers is those MacBook Pros. Some of the MacBook Pros look stunning, especially with the M3 Max chip – more on them in a moment, but I’m trying to choose which high-end configuration to order, and am seriously considering one with every possible upgrade in hopes of getting five or six years out of it). I like having a laptop as my primary computer, which means being able to edit 100 MP files and prepare them for printing on my laptop. As far as I can tell, the top-end M3 Max is a very serious contender for the most powerful laptop in the world, and it should perform almost exactly as well as a top-end M2 Ultra Mac Studio

 The M1 iMac that never got an M2 upgrade was replaced with an M3 model, but the restrictions remain. The Mac Studio was not replaced – it’s five months old, and it’s only about four months since it became readily available – so a replacement is likely still well in the future.  The replacement is likely to be a REAL fire-breather, because of what Apple did to the core configuration in the M3 Max (remember that an Ultra has been EXACTLY a double Max). Unless Apple does something unexpected with the Ultra this time, we are looking at a world-class workstation in an 8 lb package that pulls under 350 watts from the wall. There ARE more powerful workstations available, but not close to the expected price, or to the livability.  The Mac Mini was not replaced. As with the MacBook Air, Apple may want to use their limited supply of M3 and M3 Pro chips in high-margin MacBook Pros instead of relatively inexpensive Minis.

The most interesting machines are the 14” and 16” MacBook Pros, which are really three models (although they look like two). There are some large performance improvements in this lineup, but there are also more places to get confused. Earlier generations followed some basic configuration rules that, once you understood them, made choices fairly simple. The M3 Pro and M3 Max are all over the place, with all sorts of dependencies (if you get this processor, these are your RAM choices)… There are even dependencies WITHIN a processor series – the two versions of the M3 Max have entirely different RAM choices.  I’ve put together a configuration guide below:

M3 Base (14” MacBook Pro)

The Touch Bar is gone for good – I always thought it had potential, but it ends up being more annoying (accidental strikes) than useful.

The base M3 machines are pretty simple, with the same 1x, 2x, 3x RAM configurations we saw in the M2.  You always get four performance cores, four efficiency cores and 10 GPU cores. Choose 8, 16 or 24 GB (if you’re reading this article, you’re probably a photographer – make it simple and choose 24 GB). Choose between a 512 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB SSD – it depends on your preference between carrying external drives and Apple’s absurd storage prices (the 512 GB configuration is risky if you use large catalog files and may or may not also be slower). Add $20 for a 96 watt power adapter and you’re done.  

It looks like it’s $300 more expensive than the M2 base model, but $200 of that is that the base SSD is now 512 GB, which used to be a $200 upgrade from a pathetic 256 GB base configuration. You pay an extra $100 for a much better screen and function keys instead of the Touch Bar. You probably want to do that – both the screen and the keyboard are real upgrades – but, if you would rather save the $100, there are still old Touch Bar models in stock at various dealers (and there should be for a while). 

There is one “gotcha” compared to the higher-end models, but it’s actually an improvement compared to the old 13” machine.  It’s a minor issue, if an issue at all for most users (since this machine is unlikely to be the center of a multi-monitor studio setup – there’s the M3 Max for that). Overall, the new port configuration adding MagSafe, HDMI and SDXC  is an enormous improvement over the old Thunderbolt-only 13” machine, which had the same monitor limitation.

There are two Thunderbolt ports, but they are Thunderbolt 3/USB 4, instead of Thunderbolt 4. This means that the old limitation of one external display on base M-series machines is still there. The one display can be anything up to and including Apple’s 6K Pro Display XDR, but it won’t support an 8K display, even if you could find one, and it won’t support two external displays. There is a lot of grousing about the dual external display limitation online, but it’s generally not a big deal – if you’re using a bunch of screens, you probably want to be above the base model for other reasons.  What I haven’t tried because I don’t own a base model, but SHOULD work, is the setups at universities (and maybe some other venues) where there is a monitor built in to the podium that mirrors the projector. I’m quite sure that the dual monitors in that configuration are fed by a splitter, so the Mac will see them as one display. For most presentation environments, the HDMI port is a huge boon – no more needing to remember a dongle because of HDMI-only cabling that runs through walls and ceilings, and will be there for a long time. 

For relatively simple photographic tasks, or as a field computer if you have something bigger at home (like a Mac Studio), there is a lot to be said for the base M3 MacBook Pro. It only comes in a 14” size, but that’s what you probably want if it’s your field computer, Get 24 GB of RAM, and don’t overspend on storage (1 TB or even 512 GB) if it’s a field computer. You probably WANT to keep your images on an external SSD in the field, so you can plug the drive into your big editing machine. It’s fast enough to ingest and keyword your photos, and for a lot of light editing as well. It is even fast enough to be an only computer if your needs are relatively simple (you have a ~24-26 MP camera and don’t do anything too wild). The RAM is the limit you need to be aware of. It’s $2219 with 1 TB, $200 cheaper with 512 GB, both after Apple has nickel and dimed you an extra 20 bucks for the 96 watt power adapter.  

It’s significantly preferable to last year’s base model 13” MacBook Pro, because it picks up a much better screen, ditches the Touch Bar for function keys and adds useful ports – MagSafe charging, an HDMI port and an SDXC card reader. The alternative, depending on how pricing shakes out as dealers clear out their stocks of last year’s models, is a 14” (or 16” if it’s going to be an only computer) M2 Pro MacBook Pro. That will be faster, even if it’s the 10 core version (six performance cores versus four and 16 GPU cores versus 10 will more than cancel out the generation jump from M2 to M3). It can be had with 32 GB of RAM (highly recommended), and it has the same screen as the 14” M3 base model, with a slightly better set of ports (one more Thunderbolt port, dual external display support and the Thunderbolt ports are slightly more versatile). The M2 Pro is certainly preferable to the base M3, and is probably worth spending a couple of hundred dollars extra for. Right now, it looks like the M2 Pro is selling for $200 more than the M3 in an identical configuration – that could change quickly in the coming weeks.

M3 Pro (WATCH OUT – you probably want an M2 Pro instead!)

The M3 Pro model is also relatively simple to configure, although there’s one more choice to make, and there is a VERY important “gotcha” related to that choice. The first choice is 18 GB versus 36 GB of RAM (these are very weird numbers because this chip is using THREE memory channels), but treat it as 16 and 32 GB and almost certainly choose 36 GB). This is a basic 1x versus 2x RAM choice. RAM speed on the M3 Pro has actually gone DOWN slightly compared to the M2 Pro models – the M2 Pro used four memory channels, each at 50 GB/s, while the M3 Pro only has three. The SSD choice is the usual one, and, as usual, it depends on how willing you are to pay Apple for overpriced storage, versus carrying external drives. One catch is that many cloud services, including iCloud Backup and Dropbox, won’t recognize external drives. 

The ”gotcha” has to do with choosing core configurations. The M3 Pro comes in 11 CPU/14 GPU core and 12 CPU/18 GPU configurations, while the M2 Pro came in 10 CPU/16 GPU and 12 CPU/19 GPU configurations. At first glance, that looks fine – the GPU cores on an M3 series chip are substantially more powerful than those on an M2 series chip, so the loss of one or two GPU cores will easily be compensated for by per core speed. It looks like the lower-end version picks up one CPU core, while the higher end version stands where it was. 

See the SIX efficiency cores (long rectangles at lower left center)? They’re the key to the M3 Pro’s “gotcha”

NOT SO FAST (literally)! The M2, M2 Pro, M2 Max, M3 and M3 Max all have four efficiency cores – surely the M3 Pro does as well?  NO, it has SIX efficiency cores for some reason. That means that the 11-core version doesn’t have the expected seven performance cores – it has FIVE (only one more than a base M3). Similarly, the step-up model, which would be expected to have eight performance cores, only has six. Unless you are comparing a base M2 Pro to a step-up M3 Pro, you LOSE one or two of the important performance cores. Base to base, it’s six versus five, and step-up to step-up, it’s eight versus six. 

For tasks that use CPU speed (which is true of a lot of photographic workflows), a base M3 Pro should only be about the same speed as a base M2 Pro, and a step-up M3 Pro will actually be SLOWER than a step-up M2 Pro (the extra pair of efficiency cores may make checking your e-mail during a large export faster, but they shouldn’t affect the export itself).  We’ll have to wait for reviewers to benchmark these machines to be sure, but the M3 Pro looks like a step backwards in CPU performance (although coupled with improved GPU performance). If it benchmarks as expected, between the trade of performance cores for efficiency cores and the lost RAM channel,   M3 Pro customers may want to grab a recently discontinued M2 Pro MacBook Pro instead, especially if you can find the 12-core version with eight performance cores!

The M3 Pro is a tough sell, with the trade-off of performance cores for efficiency cores. In almost every case, a similarly configured M2 Pro is a better bet. It’ll be at least as fast, and it is likely to be cheaper. Right now, an M3 Pro with 11 cores, 36 GB of RAM and a 1 TB drive is $2599. So is an M2 Pro with 12 cores, 32 GB of RAM and a 1 TB drive. Because the M2 Pro has three more performance cores and better memory bandwidth it’ll probably be around 1.5x as fast. The same holds true for the version with the 2 TB drive. If you’re looking at the 12-core M3 Pro, make sure to check not only the 12 core  M2 Pro, but also the M2 Max, either of which will outperform it. You lose a little bit of GPU performance (except with the M2 Max), but the CPU gain is probably worth it. The M2 Max also has the option of 64 GB of RAM (or even 96 GB, but if you want that much RAM, you probably want a M3 Max). The only other feature that has changed between the M2 and M3 generations is a modest increase in display brightness, not worth it for the M3 Pro performance core hit. If you want a drive larger than 2 TB, and are willing to pay Apple’s prices, you probably also want a M3 Max.

If you can no longer find an M2 Pro, there’s nothing wrong with the M3 Pro – consider the base model a significantly upgraded base M3, not equivalent to an M2 Pro. Configurations are tough to align because of the RAM, but the extra cores on their own are probably worth a couple of hundred dollars. 36 GB of RAM is probably worth about $200 over 24 GB, while 16 GB and 18 GB are equivalent and both are too constrained for most photographic work. The upgraded 12 core version is a slightly faster version of the BASE 10-core M2 Pro, and is probably worth about $100-200 over the 10-core M2 Pro, and about $100-200 LESS than a 12-core M2 Pro.

M3 Max-

         This is the spectacular machine for photographers who prefer to work with a single computer. Here is where the configuration gets really complex, because the CPU, GPU and RAM options interact oddly. In the M1 and M2 generations, once you had decided on a Max chip (likely because you wanted more RAM, which only the Max offered), you simply needed to choose how many GPU cores you wanted – the two versions of the Max were otherwise identical. A Max chip always offered 8 performance cores in its CPU, although the M1 Max had two efficiency cores and the M2 Max had four. The Max always had RAM options in multiples of 8, and they were always four times what the base processor offered in the same generation. 

         What has gotten complicated is that the two versions of the M3 Max differ by far more than their predecessors did. About all they have in common is four efficiency cores and their video acceleration and neural engines. The “smaller” M3 Max comes with 10 performance cores, six memory channels (300 GB/s bandwidth) and 30 GPU cores. The big M3 Max not only has 40 GPU cores, but also increases the performance core count to 12 and the memory channel count to eight. There’s a lot more here than just choosing a GPU. The RAM options also interact with that choice, due to the memory channel divide. The smaller model offers 36 and 96 GB options, while the larger one offers 48,64 and 128 GB options. 

The mighty M3 Max – the only laptop CPUs I’m aware of with more “big” cores are AMDs Dragon Range – and those aren’t really laptop chips.

         The good news is that both should offer a substantial performance upgrade over their M2 Max (and especially M1 Max) predecessors, with the 12 performance core version being especially notable. Apple claims (and they’re usually pretty accurate) that each individual M3 performance core is about 15% faster than an M2 performance core, and 30% faster than an M1 performance core overall. Unlike the base models, which keep the same number of performance cores, or the Pro chips, which actually lose performance cores by trading them in for efficiency cores, the M3 Max adds 25% or 50% more cores. It’s not quite as simple as multiplying 1.25 or 1.5 by 1.15 or 1.3 to get the expected performance (adding cores doesn’t scale perfectly), but it’s close. The 12 performance core version should be somewhere around 1.5x as fast as an M2 Max, and 1.8x as fast as an M1 Max. The first benchmarks actually show the big M3 Max keeping up with the M2 ULTRA, at least in Geekbench (single-core is faster on the M3 Max, multi-core is within the margin of error). That’s a HUGE generational performance improvement, and it’s coupled with a couple of additional GPU cores and a per-core GPU speed improvement.

         The multiple differences between the versions of the M3 Max make configuring one especially difficult. The 14 core model has a huge gap between its two RAM options, and 36 GB may not be enough for a lot of heavy workloads. If the 36 GB version is enough, the alternative that may be hundreds of dollars less is last year’s model with a 12 core M2 Pro or M2 Max with 32 or 64 GB (a 64 GB M2 Max will probably end up cheaper than a 36 GB M3 Max). 96 GB is more than adequate for all but the very heaviest of photographic workloads, but the $800 RAM upgrade is very expensive, and there’s no intermediate choice.

The alternative to the 96 GB version is the very fast 16 core model with 64 GB, which is actually $100 cheaper than the 96 GB 14 core. I’d ignore the 48 GB option on the 16 core – if you’re buying a machine that fast, you want at least 64 GB. Finally, the 16 core version with 128 GB of RAM is either overkill or future-proofing for almost any photographic task, but it’s very expensive. A 16 core with 96 GB would be easy for Apple to make (it works in their complex RAM math), but they don’t offer the option, leaving only the expensive 128 GB upgrade. 

The M3 Max should neatly outperform the previous generation at every turn, and there are three configurations that stand out. The first is the base configuration (14 cores, 36 GB of RAM and a 1 TB drive – upgrade the drive to 2 TB if you like – if you want 4 or 8 TB, it’s also worth paying for the next processor up). If 36 GB of RAM is enough, it’s a good deal. It should be about 1.3x as fast as any M2 Max (certainly not worth it if you have one of those), 1.5x as fast as  an M1 Max (questionable, but a nice upgrade from an M1 Pro, particularly if the M1 Pro has 16 GB of RAM), and MUCH faster than any Intel Mac (GO FOR IT). The 96 GB RAM upgrade is almost always too expensive to make sense (see below).

The next sensible configuration is the full-bore processor with 64 GB of RAM. The 64 GB upgrade is only $200 from the 48 GB base RAM, and the full-bore processor with 64 GB is actually $100 cheaper than the smaller processor with 96 GB. This is an EXTREMELY fast machine, and it could even be a worthwhile upgrade from an M2 Max in certain circumstances. 1.5x-1.6x as fast is noticeable. Coming from an M1 Max, it’s close to twice as fast, and it should actually keep up with an M2 Ultra Mac Studio in CPU-based tasks (the 76-core Mac Studio GPU will be faster, although the 60-core version may be close). Choose from 1 TB, 2 TB and 4 TB disk options – if you’re going to pay for 8 TB, get 128 Gb of RAM as well.

It comes in elegant black aluminum – I wonder if this is a tribute to Apple founder Steve Jobs’ NeXT computer – about as elegant looking a computer as ever there was.

There’s only one configuration left, and it’s full of overpriced upgrades (128 GB and any large SSD), but it is also the most powerful laptop ever made, according to early benchmarks. No Intel or AMD laptop chip can touch the first few leaked performance results, and the ones that can get within 20% are basically desktop processors that can use well over 100 watts of power until cooling gets the better of them. The GPU is not going to beat the highest performance laptop GPU of all (the Nvidia GEForce 4090), but it’ll come close, and the GeForce 4090 is capable of using about 175 watts of power (on its own, without the CPU). It should beat any OTHER laptop GPU currently on the market. This is the one case where it may be worth paying for 8 TB of internal storage (there’s a reasonable argument on a machine where everything else is maxed out). Choose your storage, probably either 2 TB , 4 TB or 8 TB – I wouldn’t go below 2 TB even if you’re storing all your libraries on external drives. For the workflows that want a machine like this, the catalog files alone are huge, and the file sharing services that demand internal drive space are important.

A similarly configured ThinkPad P16, Dell Precision 7680 or HP ZBook Fury will not be much cheaper, and these four machines are the elite of mobile creative workstations. By the time you configure a high-end gaming laptop with this kind of memory and storage, it may be slightly cheaper, but it will probably not be under a single warranty (you are likely to have replaced manufacturer-provided RAM and/or SSDs), and it will not be as well engineered for reliability as the Mac or one of the PC workstations.  There is an important argument for the Mac unless you have to have Windows due to a Windows-only application (and, in that case, why are you 5000+ words into an article about Macs)? 

92 Billion transistors and 8 memory channels… Is this a laptop chip or a server chip? 

The M2 Max at full throttle uses about 90 watts (CPU and GPU combined), and the M3 Max should probably use less due to efficiency gains from the 3nm process. The big Intel and AMD machines with comparable performance are using close to 300 watts, This has two effects – one is that there is no way of cooling 300 watts in a laptop chassis sustainably. Those machines can hit their maximum performance for seconds to a few minutes, and will then have to slow down substantially, even if plugged in. Even a very large gaming laptop can’t cool itself at full power, and the smaller the chassis, the further off it is,. The workstations are better, but that is because they use more power management (the workstation versions of GPUs in particular are neither clocked as high, nor as power hungry, as their gaming cousins).

The workstation will have lower peak performance, but higher sustained performance, than the gaming laptop – and it’s likely to last longer.  The second difference is that neither gaming laptops nor PC workstations can run at full power on batteries, even briefly. The Apple Silicon machines will run at full power all day long if plugged in, and they can reach their full power on batteries. They’ll drain the battery really fast under a high sustained load (exporting a large folder of photos or a single export of a long 8K video, for example), but a typical day of photo editing will yield surprisingly good battery life. The processor will run fast for a bit during a filter or an export, then drop back to a very efficient speed during the (much longer) time when you are working on the next edit. 

The iMac (if you must)

The svelte iMac is a GREAT home computer -that’s one of the things it’s made for. I might put it at the edge of the kitchen, rather than in the middle? This looks rather accident prone, and like it’s probably on its third keyboard in two weeks.

         There is really only one configuration of this iMac that makes any sense for photography, and only one choice to make within that. You want 24 GB of RAM, and you probably don’t want to pay Apple for more than 512 GB of storage, since external storage is no inconvenience at all on a desktop computer. I would still avoid 256 GB versions, because applications have  to live on the internal drive, and 256 GB is too small. The iMac is not fast enough to need to store your library on the internal drive (a library where the greater speed of the internal drive would be noticeable deserves more RAM and more cores). The only reason you might want more internal storage is cloud services that don’t like external drives. Choose your GPU option based on whether your workflow uses GPU power – or better yet, choose a M2 Pro Mac Mini or an M2 Max Mac Studio instead and don’t worry about it!

The Future

         The easiest future Apple release to predict is the M3 MacBook Air (and the iPad Pro, which is closely related), but even they could have a catch. There may be a second version of the base M3, based on a different TSMC process with higher yields. It could be so similar that Apple doesn’t even mention the difference, and the MacBook Air and iPad Pro simply share the specifications of the iMac, although the iPad’s choices will be constrained in some manner. Even a small variation in specification could just share the M3 name. It is also possible that a second version has some modest differences in core counts, or a subtle change in something like the Neural Engine, and Apple calls it an M3 with some suffix… If the specs of the MacBook Air and the iPad Pro are not identical to the new iMac, they’ll be very close. These machines are due early next year, with the exact timing probably related to TSMC’s ability to produce the chips in quantity. Apple would love to do a January release on these best-sellers, and they’ll aim that way if they can get enough chips. The most recent MacBook Airs were released in June of 2022 (the iPad Pros are October, 2022), and they don’t want to let the MacBook Air get close to two years if they can help it.

         A Mac Mini with the M3 and M3 Pro also seems obvious, with timing dictated by chip yields – when they have enough chips, they’ll update the Mini. It’s possible that they’ll wait until they have an M3 model on a higher-yield process. The question there is exactly the same as it is with the other high-volume machines awaiting the base M3 – will they use the existing chip, use something on a new process that is so similar that they continue to call it just “M3”, or use a new chip that is called M3 with a suffix? It is possible that the M3 Pro version will get the existing chip, while the base model gets something on a modified process.

There a lot of machines waiting for base M3s – possibly enough to make a higher yield version worth it – while the Mini is the only machine clearly waiting for the M3 Pro. Whatever they do, it’s at least mostly a question for people who care about chips and chip design. I’d expect the Mini’s photographic performance to be very similar to the M3 iMac and MacBook Pro for the base model, and to the M3 Pro MacBook Pro for the upgraded model, and for features to differ at most in details. The chip question mostly matters for release timing – it’ll be when they have sufficient quantities of both the base and upgrade chips.

         The next easiest machine to predict is the Mac Studio. I would expect it at WWDC in June, but the M3 Max is so fast and so close to the M2 Ultra that Apple may try to get it out in March or even (unlikely) January. Some of the configurations seem obvious – there will almost certainly be M3 Ultra configurations based on a doubled version of the fully-enabled M3 Max (24 performance cores, 8 efficiency cores, 80 GPU cores). RAM options in that configuration will probably be 128, 192 and 256 GB. This will almost certainly be a MONSTER – it should be between 1.5x and 2x as fast as the M3 Max MacBook Pro. It will compete with the fastest desktop PC workstations.

         The question about the Mac Studio is not the top model, it’s what Apple will do with less expensive models. Will they bother putting the 14-core M3 Max in a Mac Studio? Will they bother with a 28-core M3 Ultra? Since the two versions of the M3 Max vary by so much more than previous Max versions, is it worth it to give the little one the Ultra treatment? I could actually see a lineup where the two options were the 14-core M3 Max and a 32-core M3 Ultra. If they’re having yield problems with the fully enabled M3 Max, I could see them reserving it for the much more expensive top-end MacBook Pros instead of the midrange version of the Mac Studio – but the Ultra is expensive and they would want it to be as fast as possible, so they’ll use the fully enabled version there. The only chip I can confidently predict will surface in a Mac Studio is a fully enabled M3 Ultra – at least one M3 Max variation will as well, but perhaps not both, and it could be either one. A 28-core Ultra is also possible, but probably the least likely of the four possibilities. One advantage for Apple in staying away from the 14-core Max and potential 28-core Ultra is that it avoids introducing extra memory complexity. 

There’s room in the huge Mac Pro case for two Mac Studio CPUs. Not least because there’s room for two entire Mac Studios...

         After the Mac Studio, we get into very speculative machines. What will they do with the Mac Pro? It has been relatively untenable since the release of Apple Silicon, and the Apple Silicon Mac Pro didn’t help. Sharing the specs of the Mac Studio for $3000 extra is not a way to sell very many Mac Pros. Will they bother with an M3 Ultra upgrade, or will they let it languish? Or do they have a way of connecting more than two M3 Max chips? A “double Ultra” M3 Extreme would play into a small but lucrative market that needs enormous RAM capacities or phenomenal processing power. 

Such a machine would support 512 GB of RAM, and there are markets that 512 GB of RAM addresses that the current 192 GB RAM limit does not. The 64 CPU cores and 160 GPU cores are probably faster than any single CPU and GPU on the market today. While it’s probably a $20,000+ computer, it serves a market in animation, science, architecture and high-end modeling (of anything from proteins to galaxies to explosions to economies) that is used to paying even more than that. There are few still photographers who need, want or can afford such a machine – but some video pros might have a use for one, especially with its capacity to accept huge amounts of very fast storage via PCIe cards as well. It has another advantage over its competitors – it will plug into a standard 15 amp outlet, use a standard 1500 VA UPS and cool itself in a standard office. 

A giant Windows box – this one (from Titan Computers) uses two AMD Epyc processors and FOUR 2000 watt power supplies. Most configurations won’t beat a hypothetical “double Ultra” in CPU power. Its eight GPUs would far out-power 160 Apple cores, though.

None of those three things are generally true of multiprocessor Windows boxes that it would compete with. Some big workstations only require a 20-amp circuit – which is standard on most outlets in commercial buildings (using 5-20R outlets) but not in home offices and smaller or older buildings. The only special care required if you already have a 20 amp circuit is making sure that nothing else is on the same circuit. Such a workstation should be connected to a 2200 VA UPS, most of which require a less common 30 amp outlet (although some use a standard 5-20P plug on a 20 amp circuit).

Other workstations require 30 amp or 220 volt power connections and a 3000 VA or larger UPS, which inevitably uses an unusual outlet unless it is hardwired. Even some workstations that use a 20 amp circuit are loud or hot enough that they should be housed in dedicated spaces. A hypothetical M3 Extreme Mac Pro would be far more “livable” than most comparable workstations, and could even be installed in a home office or home-based production studio without needing electrical work. Would Apple build such a machine? A simple M3 Ultra Mac Pro would probably launch alongside the Mac Studio, while something more ambitious would come with or (more likely) after the Mac Studio.

Could Apple bring back something like this 11 inch MacBook Air for the education market? Maybe even with an A17 instead of an M chip?

On the other extreme, rumors of a low-cost Mac laptop, largely for the education market, have cropped up again. It would have to sit below the MacBook Air. An older model M1 MacBook Air can already be had for as little as $899, with an M2 going for $999, at educational pricing. What could they do to go even cheaper? One possibility would be to return to the plastic cases of the iBook (and many early PowerBook) lines. At least as of a few years ago, MacOS would run on a standard A-series processor – the Mac Mini they supplied to developers to begin porting software before the M1 shipped was running on an A12Z, which was an iPad processor. The A17 Pro processor in the latest iPhone 15 Pros is only about 12% slower than the original M1, according to Geekbench results. Could Apple throw an iPhone processor (or a very close relative with an iPhone-like two performance and four efficiency cores) in a low-cost Mac? They could certainly use a smaller or lower-end display – an 11-inch MacBook Air lasted well into 2016, so such a screen size is not without recent precedent.

Will ye nae come back again? We never knew how much we’d miss the iMac Pro until all the iMacs we had were 24” home computers

Finally, the most photographer-oriented of the speculative Macs… Will we ever see a higher-end iMac again? Or is the iMac permanently consigned to being an iPad on a stick? The 24” iMac case is incredibly thin (in Apple’s own words), and may well be thermally constrained to the point of not accepting any processor above a base M-series chip. Why does a desktop computer need to be especially thin, anyway? Apple could and should use a different case on a more creative work focused iMac, for cooling as well as a larger screen. 

There are at least two reasonably likely iMac designs. They are very loosely similar to the 27” non-Pro iMac and the iMac Pro, but there are at least two important differences in the situations. First, both the 27” iMac and the iMac Pro used CPUs that wouldn’t fit in a laptop. You got a substantial performance boost over any MacBook Pro, especially at the higher end, because the desktop CPUs had higher clocks and more cores. Of course, the iMac Pro used Xeons that were nothing like any laptop CPU.  Even the lower-end CPU options in the 27” iMac were clocked higher and stayed at higher clocks more of the time. The final generation 27” iMac used chips ranging from a 3.1 GHz 6-core with a 4.5 GHz turbo to a 3.9 GHz 10-core with a 5 GHz turbo. The comparable MacBook Pros ranged from a 2.6 GHz 6-core to a 2.4 GHz 8-core. The turbo speeds were actually the same as the iMacs’, but the iMacs stayed in turbo longer.  Second, the iMacs were user-upgradeable. They came with very low base RAM, but adding more was simple. Some models even had upgradeable storage. No new iMac would have upgradeable RAM or storage, and all except a hypothetical VERY top-end model would share a CPU with a laptop, with very similar performance. You’d buy an iMac for the screen size and quality, not to have better speed or internal expansion than a MacBook Pro.

  One of the two possible models  would take the place of the old 27” non-Pro iMac, and use the guts of the 16” MacBook Pro with a few extra ports (USB-A, gigabit or 10G Ethernet, maybe an extra Thunderbolt port or two).  The 27” iMac has historically been in the same price range as the largest MacBook Pro, and this would probably continue – expect pricing within a few hundred dollars of a 16” MacBook Pro with similar specs. The last time a 27” iMac existed, the base model was $1799, but was stuck with a 256 GB SSD that couldn’t be upgraded. A model with a 512 GB SSD and other choices available started at $1999, and it seems reasonable that Apple could start a new one between $1999 and $2299. (with 18 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD).

 The most expensive base model of the final Intel-based iMac (fastest CPU and GPU)was $3199 before you started adding RAM and storage. It came with only 8 GB of RAM, but was user-upgradeable – knowledgeable users didn’t pay Apple for RAM. Storage was soldered on (with some odd exceptions that were very difficult to access), and it was easy to drive the cost over $4000 by paying Apple for storage, then spend another $500-$1000 on RAM. It was possible to pay over $6000 for one by ordering maximum RAM and storage from Apple.

 One important difference is that there won’t be a $3199 base model with the fastest CPU and GPU this time – an M3 Max physically won’t accept 8 GB of RAM, and why would you want to anyway, since the RAM can’t be upgraded? The minimum RAM on M3 Max configurations will probably be 48 GB (as it is on the MacBook Pros), and I’d expect a starting price for a full-powered M3 Max very close to the 16” MacBook Pro’s $3999. Default storage will probably be 1 TB, and it’ll have enough Thunderbolt ports that there’s no reason to go for any more storage except for annoying cloud storage systems that insist on keeping their local folder on the internal drive. If Apple chooses to go this route, the machine could launch any time, since it is heavily based on the existing 16” MacBook Pro.

The other possible upper-end iMac would use the guts of the Mac Studio. In the Intel days, the 27” iMac and iMac Pro used very similar displays (I think I remember the iMac Pro having some additional brightness or contrast when it came out, but the regular 27” got the same display a year or two later). The chassis were actually quite different inside, despite looking similar. Apple could do the same thing again if they decided to launch a pro model and an ”advanced amateur” model, OR they could give the Pro a larger screen (32”?). Essentially everything about the Mac Studio is already ready for an iMac Pro, EXCEPT that Apple will want to start with the M3 generation Mac Studio, setting the launch of the iMac for any time at or after the launch of the next Mac Studio (WWDC?). 

What is actually possible or likely? Most Mac-focused analysts say that we’ll see something along these lines at  some point. Apple say there won’t be a 27″ iMac, but is silent on anythnything larger Timeframe estimates range from mid 2024 well into 2025. I’ve seen rumors and analysis ranging from “basically a Mac Mini (so M3 Pro only with no Max option) in a super-thin chassis”, all the way up to a full-fledged 32” 6K iMac Pro with Mac Studio innards. Apple may be testing many things, or nobody may have seen anything at all, and the analysts are just going for the logical possibilities based on a few whispers.

Trying to explain the RAM configurations – the story becomes complicated

The key to understanding why memory options suddenly got weird is the distribution of memory channels. If you see that this M3 Pro has THREE channels (represented by the three black chips), the rest makes sense.

         This is at the end of the article because it is seriously geeky. Unless you are wondering why the RAM capacities of the new Macs are all over the place and seem to make little sense, while previous generations all made sense, stop here, decide whether you need a new computer, and then go take pictures… If you ARE confused by the weird RAM options, and are wondering whether it is anything besides Apple trying to dig deeper into your pockets, this is my best understanding of it. There actually IS method to their madness (not that they aren’t also trying to dig deeper into your pockets)!!!

         There IS an explanation for the RAM options that works for all of the M1, M2 and M3 generations, but it is quite complex. The number of RAM channels has always differed across the processor options, but it has always been predictable in powers of two (2 in the base model, 4 in the Pro, 8 in the Max, 16 in the Ultra), until this generation. Each channel gives you 50 GB/second. I had previously thought there might have been half as many channels, each offering 100 GB/s, but the new M3 Pro with 150 GB/s bandwidth keeps that from working 

 The base model has always had two channels, and you get 2×4 (8)GB and 2×8 (16) GB options, all at 100 GB/s. In the M2 generation, Apple added 2×12 (24) GB This hasn’t changed – the M3 is the same as the M1 and M2. The Pro has historically had four channels, and Apple didn’t offer a third option in the M2 Pro, so you get 4×4 (16) GB or 4×8 (32) GB, but not 4×12 (48) GB, all at 200 GB/s. This changed this year, as the new M3 Pro only offers a 150 GB/s of bandwidth, and the 18 GB starting capacity doesn’t divide neatly by 4. The M3 Pro appears to be a 3 channel chip, and the options are 3×6 (18) or 3×12.(36).

 The Max has always had 8 channels, and the unit sizes are the same as the base chip, leaving two or three choices, each 4x what you get in the base chip – 8×4(32) and 8×8 (64) GB, with 8×12 (96) GB added in the M2 generation. With the fully configured M3 Max (the 16-core version), it’s still an 8-channel chip, but they’ve changed two of the choices. The lowest option is no longer 8×4, but 8×6 (48) GB. The old familiar 8×8 option remains, so the popular 64 GB is an option. For the highest memory configuration, they are using 8×16 (128) GB instead of 8×12 (96) GB, all at 400 GB/s. The final catch is that the 14 core version of the M3 Max is a 6-channel chip, NOT an 8-channel chip! The options are 6×6 (36) GB or 6×16 (96) GB at 300 GB/s. They could offer 6×8 (48) GB, or even 6×12 (72) GB, using existing chips, but they choose not to. Even though both the M2 Max and the 14 core M3 Max reach 96 GB, they get there in different ways. The M2 Max is 8 channels at 12 GB/channel, while the M3 Max is only 6 channels at 16 GB/channel. 

There will almost certainly be a 16-channel M3 Ultra (both the M1 Ultra and M2 Ultra are 16-channel chips with 800 GB/s of RAM bandwidth), and there could very well be a 12-channel version as well, based on the cut-down M3 Max chip. Historically, Apple has offered both versions of the Max doubled in Ultra form – but the two versions of the Max have historically differed only in number of GPU cores, not in CPU cores and RAM channels as well.   The high-end version will almost certainly offer 16×8 (128) GB and 16×16 (256) GB options. Will they offer something else as well? Will the M3 Ultra Mac Studio start at 16×6 (96) GB, or even at 16×4 (64) GB? Will they offer 16×12 (192) GB? There are likely to be three RAM options, but there is an argument for any of 64, 96 or 192 GB as the third option (my best guess is 192 GB, then 64 Gb as the second most likely). Will we see a 12-channel M3 Ultra Mac Studio, and what would its RAM configurations be? 12×16 (192) GB seems very likely as the highest option, and 64 GB or 128 GB are both unlikely, because neither number is divisible by 12. My best guess is that the lower option will be either 72 or 96 GB, both of which are easily reached with existing chips.

Conclusion 

All of the “October Surprise” Macs are reasonable introductions, and a couple of them are very welcome. The base 14” MacBook Pro corrects some major omissions in its 13” predecessor, and the M3 Max pushes the state of the art in what is possible in a laptop. The iMac is a reasonably nice upgrade to a machine that is not designed for us in the first place. The disappointment is that the iMac that IS designed for us hasn’t come back. However much Apple protests that the 24” iMac straddles the 21” and 27” niches, it doesn’t. It’s a direct heir to the 21” iMac that does little for 27” users, let alone iMac Pro fans. The M3 Pro is the only disappointing chip in the bunch, and it is only worth it if the pricing starts moving close to the base M3. 

Dan Wells

November 2023

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Dan Wells, "Shuttterbug" on the trail, is a landscape photographer, long-distance hiker and student in the Master of Divinity program at Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Cambridge, MA when not in wild places photographing and contemplating our connection to the natural world. Dan's images try to capture the spirit he finds in places where, in the worlds of the Wilderness Act of 1964, "Man himself is but a visitor". He has hiked 230 miles of Vermont's Long Trail and 450 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail with his cameras, as well as photographing in numerous National Parks, Seashores and Forests over the years - often in the offseason when few people think to be there. In the summer of 2020, Dan plans to hike a stretch of hundreds of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, focusing on his own and others' spiritual connection to these special places, and making images that document these connections. Over years of personal work and teaching photography, Dan has used a variety of equipment (presently Nikon Z7 and Fujifilm APS-C). He is looking for the perfect combination of light weight, ruggedness and superb image quality.

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