Thanks to the super high-resolution sensors we see today in digital cameras, a fast computer is absolutely essential for an efficient post-processing workflow when working with RAW images. If a few years back a standard PC or a mid-range laptop were good enough for post-processing images, 30+ MP RAW files can put a huge burden on processing power and make a high-end machine seem obsolete. In addition, most commercial software targeted at professionals has also gotten pretty heavy, requiring more memory, faster storage and high-end CPUs and GPUs for a smooth, delay-free experience. Having spent most of my adult life in information technology, I have always been building my own PCs. In my recent articles and reviews of storage equipment, a number of our readers asked me to share my preferences for a solid, future-proof PC build that could take pretty much anything you throw at it for post-processing large numbers of RAW images and video. In this article, I want to talk about my ultimate PC build for photography and other needs, and discuss my personal preferences for working with Lightroom catalogs and RAW files in terms of file management and performance optimization.
Having been using the Microsoft Surface Pro for several years now, I was psyched to see the launch of the Surface Book, along with the Surface Pro 4. When I first heard about the Surface Book, I thought “here goes another laptop again”…until I saw the screen detach from the keyboard, revealing that it was a two-in-one hybrid machine. That was certainly unexpected. A laptop and a touchscreen tablet hybrid with a powerful 6th generation dual core Intel CPU, dedicated NVIDIA GPU, up to 1 TB of SSD memory and up to 16 GB of RAM. A true powerhouse in a very compact form factor, ideal for traveling and photo editing on the go. I knew it was something I had to test and review.
When it comes to photo editing, both PC and Mac platforms can be very powerful and highly capable, with each having its own list of pros and cons. Choosing one platform over the other can be a difficult choice, because there are so many different aspects and variables to consider. Hardware, software, operating system, cost, design / aesthetics, simplicity, ease of use, stability, upgrade options, resale value, size and weight are some of the factors one might look into on both PCs and Macs to make the ultimate choice. And what makes it even tougher, is that some of these factors can carry very different weights. For example, cost and hardware are often the two major factors that influence purchasing decisions the most. So let’s take a look at a number of above-mentioned factors and see which platform is potentially a better choice for photography needs.
Here I am, sitting at a cozy coffee house. Not just some coffee house, too, but a place where a lot of young people hang out – students, mostly. They come here for a cup of coffee much like people do at Starbucks overseas. Like me, they also come here to work – I’ve seen more MacBooks here than I did in iDeal (official Apple product distributor in Lithuania, similar to iStore / Apple Store). But I don’t have a MacBook. Perhaps that is why through the corner of my eye I notice a young girl looking my way. Now, my Julie has no reason to worry. The girl is not interested in me whatsoever. What caught her eye is the computer on my lap. She notices me noticing her and immediately says – “What sort of computer is that? It’s pretty.” Right. So this might not help my self esteem, but the girl is indeed correct. I appreciate a good design and, well, this thing looks the part. Coupled with the bright blue keyboard, certainly good enough to attract attention.
Whether you want it to attract attention or not is a different matter. More importantly, though, it’s not all looks and no substance. Quite the contrary, in fact – Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is ready to give someone a bloody nose.
One of the biggest challenges that we photographers face when traveling is productivity – being able to import, access and back up captured photographs and sometimes even edit them to be posted online or provided to a client. While we have plenty of gadgets today to accomplish this task, the world seems to be divided between three camps – full-featured laptops that come with bulk, weight and very little battery life, highly mobile tablets that pack enough battery life to keep you busy, but don’t have the juice to run anything serious, or “ultrabooks” that fall in-between, being a compromise in terms of weight, bulk and performance.