Replacing your computer: a photographer’s perspective

As a modern photographer, a computer is essential to life. It is your comms centre with clients if photography is your job, your image filing system, your darkroom, your image display device and so many more things. With the new Macbook Pro 16” laptops just released, it seemed an ideal moment to look at this. The time comes, as it did recently for me, when replacing your computer is necessary. I thought I would look at the process.

Mac or Windows?

Ah, the eternal question.

My personal recommendation is Mac. Mac is just plain better for photographers. For example, a Mac computer will open a RAW file on the desktop. It does not need any kind of app like Lightroom to ‘understand’ the image. Mac OS (currently Catalina) will open the file natively.

Mac apps are nicer to look at all day, more helpfully designed and do not require things like ‘drivers’ to cause you problems down the line.

The downside is that, sometimes, the software that you want to use is only written for Windows. This does not happen often nowadays though. A similar issue arises with the iPhone vs Android debate, but usually the other way round. For example, Profoto’s flash control app is only available in iOS not Android at the time of writing. If you want to edit video, such as this one of our New Zealand photo tours, in Final Cut Pro you need a Mac.

Desktop or laptop?

My view here is simple.

If portability is your number one priority, then obviously you need a laptop.

If it is not your number one priority, a desktop is usually cheaper and better. Laptops excel at making things small, but that technical and engineering skill costs money, as does the whole battery onboard issue.

My personal choice is an iMac Pro on my desk and a Samsung tablet. I went with the Samsung tablet because (a) it was MUCH less expensive than an iPad Pro and (b) at the time, it was the only way to have a tablet with a file manager that allowed connection to external drives. New iPads can do that to some extent as of the latest update but the price differential remains.

My desktop machine has 4TB of storage inside so I no longer get annoying messages from any of the apps or the OS concerning lack of space when I have uploaded a large shoot and want to get to work. Also, the iMac Pro has 4 Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports and 4 USB 3.0 ports, the elusive headphone jack, a high speed UHS II card reader (unlike any other Mac) and 10 Gigabit ethernet capability. Yes, it is an expensive machine (although your money does get you a 27” 5K display as well, of course) but my view is that it will last at least 2 years longer in useful life than any other Mac I could buy and be worth more at the end.

The main advantage of the iMac Pro in computing terms is the multicore performance. Most photographic apps are not the best at using multiple cores – YET. They are better now than as recently as a year ago, and will only get better. Certainly the Pro iMac streaks through tasks like applying masks in Lightroom that caused my previous, Late 2015 iMac to cough, stutter and ramp up the fans as though it were an aircraft taking off. The Pro is smooth (the red mask goes on like real paint) and remains eerily silent.

If you are replacing your computer, I do recommend trying to see the iMac Pro in action. They’re not commonplace but if you are lucky enough to have a local Apple Store (unlike us here in NZ where there aren’t any!) then do pop along.

Printer or no printer?

Very much personal preference. I do not own a photo printer because I very rarely print my work. Clients only want digital files in my areas of practice and so no need to have one for that. This means that it is cheaper and more cost-effective for me to outsource the printing when required rather than have one gathering dust, with expensive inks drying up and expensive print media going unused.

This may not always be the case, but just now and for the last few years it has been.



So, in essence, my feeling is that if you need to edit a lot whilst on the road, of course you need a laptop. If you do not have that need, you could easily get a machine that costs less than a laptop but offers higher performance. If you want a long-lasting, stable, encrypted system that will deliver the capability for stills and video, then the iMac Pro is my choice when replacing your computer, with the standard iMac Intel Core machines right behind it.

Why not talk to us about coming on one of our luxury New Zealand photo tours – contact me here!


Replacing your computer makes it much easier to edit.

Bridal Veil Falls, New Zealand

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