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2017 iMac Pro: Helicon Focus

2017 iMac Pro

The data on this page and others was painstakingly obtained, made possible by the support of OWC / MacSales.com and B&H Photo. Please order through our links via these companies and/or subscribe—thank you.

See the MPG recommendations for iMac Pro, backup, peripherals. Not sure which Mac to get or how to configure it? Consult with MPG.

Helicon Focus is an alternative to Zerene Stacker for focus stacking.

Helicon Focus, version 7.0.0 Jan 15 build

The prior version did not scale at all (see results further below); this new version is awesome, scaling to 10 CPU cores as well as one can hope for with a real program, given the drop in clock speed of a 10-core CPU (Turbo Boost reduction) and the overhead of using all those cores.

This test is for the new improved “Method B”, which the developer says is slower but much better with difficult stacks. It uses 28 16-bit 45-megapixel images from the Nikon D850. See Nikon D850 'Focus Shift shooting' feature for Easy Focus Stacking.

One might hope for about 4X better performance (18 vs 4 cores), but the 2017 iMac 5K takes 2.3X longer, which is a huge gap. Kudos to the folks at Helicon for solid work on scalability.

* Photoshop runs scripted tasks without much optimization. It is not even able to run in the background without glitches, constantly forcing itself to the foreground, making it impossible to do anything else. Running a script in Photoshop essentially idles the machine for other uses while the job runs.

Results below with macOS 10.13.3 including the Apple Supplementary Update. See the results from more systems with macOS 10.12.2 further below.

2017 iMac Pro 18-core vs 2017 iMac 5K: focus stacking in Helicon Focus

The 2017 iMac 5K takes 88% longer than the iMac Pro 10-core or in reverse, the iMac Pro cuts the stacking time by 47%. The iMac Pro is visibly remarkably blazingly fast—fun to watch even, as the stacked image takes shape.

2017 iMac Pro vs others: Helicon Focus version 7.0.0 Jan 15 build
f9 @ 8.0 sec focus stack 28 frames, ISO 31; 2017-10-23 18:20:34
NIKON D850 + Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED

[low-res image for bot]

Helicon Focus, version 6

Version 6 did not scale across CPU. Also, ecause of a bug in command-line rendering the GUI was used, which is what most people would use anyway.

Helicon Focus behaves strangely on the iMac Pro, utilizing about half of its CPU time in system calls—this suggests poor scalability, perhaps by busy-waiting code.

As can be seen, the 2017 iMac 5K beats out both the 2013 Mac Pro and the iMac 10-core showing plainly that the value of more CPU cores depends heavily on the software.

2017 iMac Pro vs others: Helicon Focus
2017 iMac Pro
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