Yes, this is an actual 3D Mandelbulb fractal, created natively inside of 3dsmax 2012, using the Alpha version of the newest PathTracing render engine plugin, Corona Renderer. Corona looks like an incredibly promising and powerful plugin render engine for Max. One of the most amazing features it boasts, in my opinion, is the ability to create and render true 3D fractal objects, like this Mandelbulb, directly inside of the 3dsmax environment. You could then combine the fractal with all of the other standard features available to you in 3dsmax; like particles, polygonal or nurbs geometry objects, models, render materials, etc. This particular Mandelbulb was created at only about 6 iterations. I have no idea how complex or detailed the bulb could get if I crank up the iterations, but I'm sure it would tax the render engine after a while.
Corona is a Progressive Path Tracer rendering engine, but it can be customized to render with some other useful algorithms, and can also be easily configured to render with completely unbiased results, like Octane or Maxwell. Corona uses only the CPU, but it does so with incredibly fast and efficient results, even with unbiased parameter settings. I was able to render this Mandelbulb in under an hour, for example, with unbiased HDRI lighting, and glossy reflective surface materials. That's amazing. I wish it was able to take SOME advantage of my GPU, because I have a fast card, but I was very shocked at how fast this engine is even without GPU accelleration. This really opens a whole new world of possibilities to 3dsmax users who are interested in fractals or mathematical rendering. Corona is free to download in Alpha. Don't know if plans for the future will keep it free, or what the price point might be when it gets out of Alpha, but for now, it's incredible and very interesting to experiment with. I wouldn't recommend using an Alpha renderer for production, however.