Good, fast and mac-compatible rendering software isn't easy come by, and when you think 'affordable', it's even more difficult.
My 3D background is Rhino, which I learned to use on a PC, but being a Mac user I obviously welcomed the fact that the Mac version is currently under development. The only thing missing now was a program that would turn those carefully built 3D models into shiny, mind-blowing illustrations that would give my designs the missing professional edge. Being a designer means I am familiar with industry standards and the persuasive power of a good rendering, however, many of my projects are of personal nature without the financial backing of a commercial enterprise.
Bunkspeed's Hypershot came across as the perfect solution to the problem, and their 3 step system meant I could start rendering for less than 100 pounds provided I am happy with the rendering size restricted to 800 x 450 pixels. Professional users can upgrade to higher resolutions, but hey! this is just the beginning... I also appreciate the fairness of Bunkspeed, as they recommend that companies with restricted budgets should consider buying only one pro version and a few web versions, so that the designers can set up their renderings in the web version and have the pro version do the rendering over night.
But let's see the product itself: Hypershot is used by various car manufacturers, and I believe we all came across those images somewhere on the web or in some magazine and believed they would be real photography. I suggest having a look at their website's gallery to get an idea.
However, the best thing of Hypershot is that with very little learning you can achieve those results too (depending of course on the 3D model). Bring your model from Rhino, Lightwave or even Sketchup (the list of compatible software is of course much longer), start navigating around, apply materials, chose a background... with a little bit of practice you'll soon be amazed by the results.
Stop moving around for a moment and Hypershot keeps rendering in the working window, quite often you just have to wait a little and in a few minutes you can save a perfectly presentable rendering in jpg or tiff format. Sometimes of course that means that, especially with more complex geometries, you have to wait a few seconds before doing what you want to do, navigate or apply materials, because the image can be quite pixelated in the beginning.
The secret of Hypershot's speed is, that compared to more sophisticated (and much more expensive) software, it's practically cheating. No radiosity, so fiddling with light sources, Hypershot is using the HDRI background images as light maps. I found that this is a bit restrictive when you want to render interiors (like a room), where it would be easier if you could place a light source exactly where you want it to be, but for everything else there is nothing more you could ask for. You can adjust the behavior of every material, do decals, adjust brightness of image and background, gamma control, rotate the light map around the object... there are endless options for creative control. Want to have a car model where you can open and close the doors? Import the doors as separate 3D geometries and you can move and rotate them independently.
New software to me is, apart from a means of achieving the desired results, always a journey into the unknown. With Hypershot, expanding your creative abilities and deliver top class renderings really is like a game that you'd get hooked on, and it definitely has the wow-factor!
Make sure your modeling skills will keep up! And go getting the trial version!