What camera should I buy ? What lens should I buy ? Those are one of the most often asked questions by beginning photographers. Some seasoned pros even have semi-perpetual posts on their blogs dedicated to the subject. It is quite understandable. Most people view cameras and lenses as important photographic tools (some even think that owning this magic combination of a perfect camera with perfect lenses will turn them into masters 🙂 ). Which makes it odd that rarely people ask the question: what computer should I buy for my photo needs? In the series of posts I will try to give you my thoughts on this subject in a coherent way. Coherent is always a struggle for me, so please be patient. You’ve been warned 🙂
These days, photographers have basically three different computing devices to choose from. They are: tablets, laptops and desktop computers. Let’s try to address this most basic question: what type of device ?
Tablets: Well, as much as many computer manufacturers (Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, …) would like you to believe this is not a good candidate for your main image editing device. Yes, I’m stating the obvious but I would like to get it out of the way right off the bat. Yup, you can take a picture using your iPad and apply some Instagram filters, which is ok for family snapshots but for serious work it’s just silly. The available apps give you some basic image editing capabilities but you won’t work on your new batch of awesome photos on these puppies. Just not enough processing power, not enough real-estate. However, this is now. Things may (and probably will) change in the future. Tom Hogarty of Adobe showed a couple of months ago a tablet version of Lightroom, which would give you fairly robust capabilities that could be later synchronised with your main Lightroom workstation. Pretty clever and in some cases may prove useful. Especially if combined with tablets on the high-end of the spectrum in terms of raw processing power. I’m thinking about Intel-based tablets using iCore CPUs (Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 for example). Those are essentially laptops in a tablet form which have enough fire-power to handle serious image editing tasks.
Laptops: Many people are using them for their photography needs but in my view they are the least desirable of the three classes of devices. Hey, wait a sec ! Why ?! Simple. Unless you are a pro whose business often takes you on the road for work, then there is no reason to buy one. Their portability is offset by: lower computing power relative to desktops, smaller display and keyboard (unless you connect to external devices but then what’s the point), lower reliability (ask any guy/gal expert in your IT department; there is a reason why large corporations are refreshing laptops more often than desktops), very limited future-proofing and last but not least, by higher price as compared to desktops.
Desktops: By now you probably figured out that I’m a Desktop Guy. Desktops give you the most flexibility with the most power and at the same time they are the most cost efficient of the three. You have endless customizing possibilities, you can upgrade components at will, they are reliable … in other words, they are workhorses on which you can rely day in and day out. Of course, as with anything in life, you need to know what you are doing when it comes to selecting (or even better, building) your desktop computer but when you do it right, you will have a great tool that will save you tons of money.
In the following parts I will focus on some other aspects of computer gear for us photographers. Stay tuned.